There is this essential link between our faith (1) what we say we believe (2) how our beliefs affect us, and (3) how what we believe effects what we do! For our faith to be real – more than just some unhelpful abstraction – some vague esoteric theory – it must impact our living in terms of both what we actually experience and then how we live. That’s what we’ll be exploring today and over these next two Sundays as we talk about just what exactly is it that we do believe? How have we allowed what we say we believe actually to impact our lives? And then what are we currently actually doing as a direct result of what we believe and experience?
And so beginning today with just what exactly it is that we believe? It’s so tempting to think of our faith in God being about our having faith in a power that exists quite outside of our circumstances – something/someONE metaphysical/ supernatural. Someone we can call on to dip into our lives from time to time to fix whatever is troubling us. Is that what prayer is for you? I think we’ve all done that – all actually still tend to do that – especially when we feel threatened or scared! But that’s not always who and what God reveals of who God is, nor what God does. Not essentially. It seems that our following Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, Master, Guide, Friend, is about something so very much closer, so very much much more intimate than just our ability to call out to a Holy outside Power to step in to help us achieve our agendas from time to time.
There is a beautiful something that some – like American philosopher Ken Wilbur[i] and others – call the perennial philosophy or tradition. This views the truth of all the world’s great religious traditions as sharing a single, sacred origin – all flowing out from that one place from which all real and true knowledge of ourselves and others and even all creation grows…
Wilber writes how: ‘there is much evidence that this…is central to every major religion – Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – so we can justifiably speak of the ‘transcendent unity of religions’… Notice, it’s never uniformity because we are NOT all the same – but unity – a oneness that is both beautiful and God-given. An oneness root of our faith and of everything in creation as we are what we are created by God to be…
As Christians, we quite unapologetically see faith in Jesus Christ as the shortest possible route to bring us into our awareness of being in that place of beautiful God-given unity with everything. It’s our faith, our embracing of the holy rhythms of His birth, teachings, death and resurrection which is what ‘saves’ us from all of what would otherwise take us away from knowing our place within that one united holiness of God’s design for our lives and all creation.
Of course religious systems have historically portrayed God in different ways. In most early religious scripture God is at some point described as violent, exclusive, and judgmental – and there are some pretty scary stories about God like that in the Bible which when heard in isolation can take us to some pretty dark conclusions…
But also running throughout the Bible and all the world’s sacred texts is always this something SOOO much better, There is this ‘perennial tradition’: God’s longing for Holy Communion-union with us and all of ‘is’. God’s longing for inclusivity, non-violence, forgiveness, mercy, and healing. We know that’s what Christ’s word for peace ‘SHALOM’ actually means – the bringing back into wholeness all of that which because of our sin has been wrenched apart and broken. PEACE! Which is precisely what Jesus pronounced to his disciples at his first appearance to them after his resurrection.
The Christian hope is that our faith in Jesus Christ is constantly always evolving us toward an understanding of God and ourselves and others and creation that is actually so very much more about love and healing and hope than it is about damning punishment and condemnation. Our God is self-described in 1 John 4 as being most essentially sacred, radically inclusive love – love for ourselves, for others, and for all of creation.
In his seminal book The Universal Christ Fr Richard Rohr actually argues for the name of Christ being what he calls ‘a different name for everything’ as it all comes to be sentinent in its fullness!
And so back to this first point of our mini-series: Is that what you believe? Is that where your faith in Jesus Christ takes you? Oh, may it truly be so, and may you be very blessed as you realise this…
Next week, we will be looking at what difference our believing in that kind of God-created one’ness that we all share in Christ must make to us – what we can intentionally do to set about experiencing our place within that one essential unity of God’s love, before looking, on Sep 19, at how we get to live it out in our everyday living.
I’m so looking forward to going there with you, because next week is also going to be our first opportunity to gather for in-person worship in over 18 months, you know, with no provincially mandated restrictions on numbers nor the need to pre-register for contact tracing. Also, while not mandated by the Province, we are asking for folks please to be masked and, hopefully where medically possible, to be fully vaccinated.
But having said that, it’s been SOOO long since our last opportunity to gather for in-person worship and so are seriously looking forward to it. How I have been longing to say those words, that ‘ALL ARE WELCOME!’
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2021.
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[i] See e.g. his book No Boundary, Shambhala Publications, Incorporated 2001