Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Vibrant Spirituality

Note: when this was published in the local newspaper, the editor added to the title words to the effect of, "Go Hear God's Voice for Yourself." I felt this added to my article a sense of individualism I didn't intend. While we are capable and should believe to hear God's voice for ourselves, this should always outwork itself in the context of the wider Church community and the healthy boundaries this provides to our own subjective experiences.

Have you ever been in church and heard the song leader say, “Let’s sing it from the top again!” Some people leap for joy – some on the inside and some literally. Others though, feel like a part of them has died, “Really? From the top? Again? This song? Again?” The reality is we’re all wired to connect with God in different ways. When we turn worship into a song rather than a song into worship, we reduce worship from being the totality of one’s life lived before God. Not-with-standing that there is something powerful about lyric and melody, it is essential that we make space for people to connect with God in a variety of means.

Throughout Christian history there are nine basic pathways through which people have connected with God. A vibrant Christian spirituality celebrates these and will be naturalistic, traditional, contemplative, celebratory, intellectual, ascetic, sensory, service orientated, and justice orientated. Different pathways maybe more meaningful for one person than they are for another and there is something beautiful about this. For some it is the meaning, mood and melody found in a particular song that points them towards the Divine. For others it is stillness and quiet contemplation or the taste of bread and wine at communion. You may not even call yourself a Christian but have perhaps ‘experienced-something-to-deep-for-words’ when standing drenched in the glow of a sunset or when looking at a piece of art – somehow it seems alive, somehow you feel alive. In this moment you’re sensing God in your world. At the core of vibrant Christian spirituality is the conviction that when we tune into God’s presence we discover God’s voice speaking into our lives; a voice of love, of comfort, of beauty and of wonder.

At St Luke’s we encourage our community to lean into the spiritual pathways most natural and most meaningful to them and occasionally explore pathways that don’t come as naturally. In our Sunday gatherings we try to mix things up. Sometimes we use set prayers, other times interactive stations with reflection questions or art instillations. These are designed to create an opportunity to reflect and to point you towards God. Two out of three Sundays we sing together. In your world, work out how you best tune into God, and listen for God’s voice.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Down-to-Earth Faith

Some people are very down-to-earth. You’d describe them as grounded or as having their feet on the ground. They are people of common sense, people who are realistic about life and how life works. They don’t necessarily lack ambition, rather, they’ve a keen sense of the hard work needed to make a difference in the world and to make one’s dreams a reality. Other people have their head-in-the-clouds. You might describe them as day dreamers who drift from idea to idea with little understanding of the commitment or initiative required to make something a reality. They live for something off over there, in the future, in another space or place.  

The Christian faith is intended to be very down-to-earth. The overarching trajectory of the biblical story is down to earth; God always seeking to bring heaven to earth. In the Garden of Eden God walked with man, God dwelt with Israel in the tabernacle and the Temple, Jesus came from heaven to earth, Jesus’ prayer was that God’s will would be done on earth as in heaven, Jesus is coming back to earth, heaven and earth will one day be reunited. The Christian faith isn’t about escaping from here to there, from earth to heaven. It’s about partnering in God’s great mission of bringing heaven to earth. It’s a sleeves rolled up, hands dirty, get stuck in, feet on the ground faith. A faith that lives out of restored relationship and seeks to help restore people to right relationship with God, self, each other and the rest of our creation.

The final destination is this earth; renewed, restored, reconfigured and reunited with heaven. Not a golden city in the clouds. If you’ve got your head-in-the-clouds you’ll live this life, subconsciously assuming that ultimately it counts for nothing as long as you get ‘there.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. Life is a precious gift. It is to be engaged in, enjoyed, savored and celebrated. It is the opportunity to live out a down-to-earth faith, a heaven on earth faith, which in practical ways loves, serves, gives, encourages and reflects the love of Christ to the world around as a taste of how things will one day be.