Epiphany 5B, 2009
A Liturgy is also available
A ‘SPIRITUALITY’ ON THE JOURNEY OF DISCERNMENT
In the gospel story we heard from the storyteller we call Mark,
there are four distinct movements.
The healing of Simon Peter's mother in law.
The healing of many people who lived in Capernaum.
A brief solitary prayer.
And the transition to Jesus' public ministry in other towns of Galilee.
From these four movements or life experiences,
Mark is creating a story of a person - the historical Jesus -
who is constantly on a journey, inviting others to reimagine the world.
The journeying is important.
Indeed, one of the really important phrases from modern scholarship
I resonate with, comes from a bloke called Walter Wink.
In an article called ‘The Son of Man’, Wink names some of the issues
he reckons we need to ponder as we think about the historical Jesus:
• before he was worshipped as God incarnate,
how did Jesus struggle to incarnate God?
• before he became identified as the source of all healing,
how did he relate to, and how did he teach his disciples to relate to, the healing Source?
• before forgiveness became a function solely of his cross,
how did Jesus understand people to have been forgiven?
Wink is saying there is an important difference between
the ‘historical’ Jesus and the ‘heavenly’ Jesus or Christ of faith.
And if that is not important enough, this phrase:
“The implications of [this thinking is] profound. We are freed to go on the journey that Jesus chartered, rather than to worship the journey of Jesus... We can take Jesus out of the ghetto of the churches and offer him to anyone looking for a guide to true humanity” (Wink 2000: 177-78).
Going on the journey rather than worshipping the journey.
Journeying is important. For individuals and for a congregation.
The story of our journey as a congregation over the past few years
has been filled with celebration, with effort... and with a bit of frustration.
We've encouraged honesty in our thinking, becoming theologically vulnerable
when much of the religious/church life in this city
expects people to suspend their disbelief for a membership within a community,
or for at least an hour or two each week.
We've opened ourselves in reflection and concern
in the face of international crises such as the Tsunami and Bali.
As well as to those who have suffered loss through
illnesses, and a changed ecumenical relationship.
Even as we have tried to nurture and care for ourselves.
And we’ve reached out to the local communities in various ways:
• Community BBQs and Spring Fairs, and
at the start of the war on Iraq, the Peace Tree in Carruthers St.
• Second-mile Christmas projects, both here and overseas,
• The St James Wellbeing Centre, and after some initial decisions taken,
the independent Centre for Progressive Religious Thought.
When I think of these events, these deeds, these stories and more...
I am both inspired and amazed.
This is a congregation on a journey.
A journey which has taking us to the fore of an important international ‘progressive’ grassroots movement.
A movement which in its local expression, explores
ministry, religious rituals and community,
in the light of what we now know about the historical Jesus
and the unexplored bits of the Jesus movement traditions.
A journey which tries to make our broader community a better, more just,
and compassionate ‘humane’ place in which to live.
Even with our rough edges, and I reckon we have a few,
there is much to be thankful for today.
As the children start to return to our Sunday Club program,
and groups start back with planning meetings
and Church Council faces new and challenging decisions,
I would like to think our shared journey over these past nine years
have also been a gathering of strength for your continuing journey, here.
So the challenge this morning, if we would be challenged,
is to begin to wonder and think together
about how we can move on from here
with a spirit of focused courage, as a community - a people - of a ‘progressive’ faith.
Because as many of you feel, and the Joint Nominating Committee knows (I hope),
we are at an important moment of transition.
From a former theology which shaped ‘church,
to a newer way of being in community.
Commenting on a similar moment of transition in society in general, David Tacey,
in his book, The Spirituality Revolution, says:
“The secular is being besieged by repressed sacred impulses, but religion as it stands cannot relate to these impulses because they speak a different language... and so has marginalised itself from society and life, a tragic situation that has prevented it from showing leadership in the rediscovery of God” (Tacey 2003: 177).
Tacey’s understanding of spirituality is ‘either/or’ - either spirituality or religion.
A religion you have when you don’t feel religious!
Well, I reckon we need a more inclusive model of ‘spirituality’ than Tacey’s.
One that offers an important leadership role in religion,
but “beyond the ghetto of the churches” (Wink 2000: 178).
A model that encourages all of us to explore what it means
to connect to the sacred within, to nature, and to neighbour.
A spirituality of ‘progressive’ discernment.
That’s the important journey we need to continue!
And we can gain courage and strength for this journey
by finding in ourselves those powers that were evident in the sage we call Jesus.
As Walter Wink has said in another important comment:
“(Jesus) was not God in a mansuit, his every step predetermined from all eternity, but a human being seeking the will of God in the everyday decisions that shape life (and) living...” (Wink 2000: 178).
We could do no better than to share in that same journey
and in that same discernment, in our own time and place. Now.
The challenge is to shed all the accumulated baggage, while
not slipping backwards into some ho-hum, all-purpose ‘middle’,
symbolised by the one eye we keep in our car’s rear-view mirror!
For this journey to continue we will need
a sense of expectancy,
a glimpse of future possibilities,
a vivid imagination – and plenty of niche courage!
For Creativity God's creation in this place is not done.
Tacey, D. 2003. The Spirituality Revolution. The emergence of contemporary spirituality. NSW: Sydney. HarperCollins.
Wink, W. 2000. “The son of man” in R. W. Funk (ed). The Once and Future Jesus. CA: Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press.