Between Two Worlds Day 11 (of 40)
I had a brief moment today as I was pondering the direction of our conversation and my post. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that part of this shift that we are experiencing is a shift from BELIEF TO EXPERIENCE. As I let the implications unfold in my mind I suddenly had this picture of the Church finding itself with no purpose whatsoever. If there is no need for belief would there be a need for church!
The brief moment of panic had nothing to do with feeling “what would I do without the church” in a sort of lost fear. It was more like the feeling one has when you feel required to say “I love you” in order to keep the facade of a relationship alive before finally admitting the truth of a dying love.
As quickly as the moment came it also evaporated away. Yes, if the church had to continue building itself on religious beliefs in a world that is transferring its allegiance to spiritual experience, then there would be concern about whether church would even be needed any longer. But in that momentary moment of panic I was reminded of my own experience and past posts and sermons on this topic.
I have written many times of the movement from moralism to mysticism.
When I think back on my experience as a child in the church and my early years in ministry it seemed that much pointed toward moralistic concerns–how we treat our brother or sister, our responsibilities to the earth, and our obligation to a Supreme God. It’s not that those are not still important concerns. But if one made a commitment to a morally upstanding life in obedience to God in the past, it seems that now we do the same as an extension of having a love affair with Life, with God, with the Sacred Presence. Obedience is a dying word, but engagement is becoming more delicious.
I have just enough religious training to know that if this is true, we are talking about a return to religious mysticism. It seems that the Church goes in great cycles and I wonder if the ancient tradition of Christian and other forms of religious mysticism is recycling itself. The funny thing is that religious mysticism doesn’t necessarily change our behavior. Our behavior just emerges from a different motivation. In traditional Christianity, as we have known it, we think about how we are going to serve God and neighbor. In mysticism our actions are in response to a deep and intimate love affair. God is not vertically above us, but lying in bed next to us.
This is why the ancient Christian mystics used to speak of being the bride of Christ and would use language and imagery that make a Harlequin romance blush. In mysticism one feels a deep union with God or the Universe. Jesus spoke the language of mysticism when he said, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” Christians often point to this as proof that Jesus is the unique Son of God and therefore worthy of our belief. But mystics point to it and say, “I want some of that too! How can I get it that?”
In recent years I feel like I have gotten a taste of some of the mystical honey. It is so sweet that I find myself searching for it like a bear pawing away at the hole in the trunk of the tree. Once you taste it you can’t ever let it go. You will wander in the forests forever looking for it.
I do wonder, “If this is the shift that is taking place will not our churches maybe find a new voice, a new purpose anda re-imagined life. Will the church be called to lead others to the mystical honey?”