By the time I got to Seminary, lo these many years ago, I was thankful to find a place I could give expression to all these theological and philosophical ideas, in a community that readily accepted these kind of discussions!
But by the time I graduated seminary, it was a different story. Don’t get me wrong… I didn’t not like talking theology anymore. But I learned to prefer more hearing stories of – and talking about – what God has done, or is doing in our lives!
I live not that far from the nation’s capital, between DC and Baltimore, Maryland. It’s not true that everyone around here is rich, but it is true that we are often surrounded by stuff – and access to more stuff – than many others, both in other parts of the US and abroad.
There’s nothing glamorous about poverty! Poverty sucks in many respects! Being food-insecure, and worrying about medical attention certainly is a terrible thing.
But I’ve noticed – and this is just my own non-scientific experience – that there’s a different sense people have of the “divine” in areas where material wealth is not as common as it is in areas like this one.
Again, this is a non-scientific observation, totally subjective… but still very intriguing to me. I’ve seen people in “poorer” areas often are more likely to have a much more personal experience of God, of Spiritual matters than those of us that dwell in richer areas.
Is there something to living in areas that have less material wealth with respect to our spiritual health?
And this made me think… made me question… How is it that we’ve lost that sense of the imminence of God? In Ghana, worship was an all-day event! It often went on for hours! Here we often can’t wait to get out so we can get on with our day!
I have a friend who’s decided to move beyond the “organized” church structures. It’s not that church structures are necessarily bad, or that one can’t find God in church. What he means is, the primary point of church ought to be to help people recognize that God is real and alive… not to perpetuate a “system”. For him, we’re living in God! God is all around… all the time.
Years ago, I talked with an Indigenous friend from the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana. He’s a traditionalist, meaning he’s keeping alive the teachings and traditions of his ancestors. And for him God lives in the creation! God is all around.
When we breathe, we breathe the breath of God! God speaks through the animals, the wind, the plants. There are energies and spirits that come in the name of the Creator! And we can “remember” this way of living close to the Creator.
His words awakened something deep in me, something I seem to forget the more I live in this area… something that seems to fall asleep as I am surrounded by “things”.
Brian McLaren wrote a book many years ago titled “A New Kind of Christianity”. He describes our understanding of Jesus as pre-digested, and spoon fed to us from across centuries. The Jesus we’ve heard of– and beliefs about Jesus – are often based on people’s interpretations of people’s views of Jesus.
For example, if we hear a church leader teaching on Jesus, we’re often hearing digested words from Wesley, or Calvin, or Luther, who themselves had digested words and ideas from Erasmus or Aquinas, who themselves digested works from Augustine, who worked through the works of Paul… who interpreted the words of Jesus (as taught by others since Jesus had died before Paul came in the picture).
But what if we saw Jesus through the light of the story unfolding from the beginning? What if we saw this story, not backwards through the predigested ideas and thoughts (as interesting as they may be) from our time back to the life of Jesus, but forward… from the mists of Creation, through the cultures and the stories they told about God… to the time of Jesus (he really was a product of his time, his people’s stories, his people’s God!)?
That’s what makes it sacred! The story weaves the sacred in and through the people, to his time… and you know what… that deeper “story” still moves and weaves the sacred through to our time!
And what if we told our story of God? It would be just as sacred!
The movie “Avatar” took the Oscars about 10 years ago. It’s about humans who travel to another planet to harvest some mineral or rock or something – “un-obtanium” (interesting name, huh).
Only the planet is populated by some species of beings that live in a manner we might call “Indigenous”. The corporate developers have figured out if they “grow” bodies of this species, then (somehow) connect real humans into these new bodies, they can use these people to enter this new culture and do two things; 1- try and convince them to do what the humans want them to do and 2- spy on these indigenous people.
Well, as the movie goes on, the main character not only physically enters this new world, but also enters it emotionally and spiritually as well. They teach him to see with his “spirit”, to be “in relation” with his surrounding, his environment… and the Divine energy in all things. He learns not to overpower and subdue nature, but to see his place in relation to it all. These people awaken in him the ancient part of himself.
Sure, it’s a movie… meant to idealize something, and get people to watch it. But I say all this because this is what I often perceive with regard to the Divine world. There’s a part of me that is being reminded more and more… there truly is a Sacred Mystery out there! God is alive… God is real! Only we forget this so easily!
I know you’ve felt it before! I know there’s been times you’ve “remembered” the Creator is all around. When the veils part, whether it’s in dreams, or in those eternal moments… whether it’s when you look into your kid’s eyes and see your ancestors, or hear the Sacred Stories and remember your origins, and perceive the Spirit leading you still… you know God is real!
But then we get back into our “world” of schedules and projects, deadlines, and rushing, and a million other things… then the veils returns to its place again, seeming to separate us from the Sacred Mystery that still waits, patiently, for us to “remember”, to hear with the ancient part of our souls.