Good News Today

Posted: February 19, 2016 in Sermons Year C - Advent 2015 to 2016

Epiphany 4C 31.1.16

Jeremiah 1: 4-10, Luke 4: 21-30

 

A couple of weeks ago I spoke about the line between mental condition and Spirituality becoming blurred and resulting in a confusion at best and a total loss at worst of any definition of Spirituality remaining. Last week I spoke about Joy and what I thought might be a definition of just what this joy that we seek is. Both these arguments are without a doubt pushing the boundaries of what we might consider the Christian Faith and our understanding of God and today I want to take this a bit further. This address is based on a piece of writing done by a Rev Dick Rauscher just over a year ago.

Rauscher explores the concept of God and suggests a way of articulating these concepts in the 21st Century. He calls this a Radically New Way To Think About God and I thought this tied in to our Luke reading today in that like Jesus returning home and encountering resistance at best and exclusion at worst to his teaching about who God was and how one might live a life of good news; Rauscher and progressive Christians today might just receive similar responses.

Rauscher suggests that whenever we enter into a conversation about God and Spirituality and even prayer, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that we have already challenged the fundamentalist position. By entering the conversation we have said that one can ask the existence questions to begin with. This says Rauscher is why, despite what some would have us believe, the Creator or perhaps even better, the Initiating Consciousness that created our universe, or if you like, the Ground of Being, not the being but the ground of being, we refer to as God, is in fact, ultimate mystery.

This then suggests that like Rauscher I would have to say that the concepts in this address are my thoughts and ideas, based on Rauscher’s work and thus not absolute truth. What this means is that we start with an understanding that no one knows for certain who God is, what God is, what God believes, or what God does or does not like. About now I should ask you what you are thinking, how are you responding? Do you feel uncomfortable? Are you asking; If God is this mysterious then what am I doing following the Jesus Way? How do I know what I am doing has any value at all then? Doesn’t the Christian faith say that I can know God through following Jesus? Isn’t that why the tradition says that he was Gods Son? Isn’t that why tradition also says he is God incarnate?

The question here is where do these questions come from and what is their need? I think they come from a place that feels uncomfortable with knowing that we do not know and this is a direct challenge to our being brought up in the tradition that says we should know. So, I would also suggest that the questions if you have any come from a place that is not about faith, but rather about an absolute doctrine, an absolute truth, in other words a place that does not exist.

Rauscher also says something else that is perhaps a bit more challenging. He says that the thoughts he shares in his article are not about faith. They are not even about religious beliefs. They are his ideas about God and prayer. They reflect where he is in his spiritual journey. I can identify with him every week when I write a sermon. I spend lots of time trying to ensure that I am not just articulating my prejudices or my likes and dislikes. The old subjective – objective argument looms large often, then I shift to acknowledging that what I write will always be subjective and I just need to be sure I make that clear. I am in my home town and what I say should always be a challenge to those to whom I speak.

So like Rauscher, I say to you; if these ideas make sense to you, I hope you can use them to deepen your spirituality. If they don’t, then let them go. When talking about God, one understanding of Ultimate Mystery will not fit everyone. And because God is Ultimate Mystery, it never will.

Now! Having given that ultimate disclaimer I want to claim the ability to articulate my experience and I do this on the basis of tradition. I think we can all agree that in the first century, people had “God experiences” and they talked about those personal experiences using words and worldviews that were commonly understood and accepted at the time. In other words they claimed the interpretive activity. They trusted their imagination, they explored what it means to live on the edge of knowing. They lived with ambiguity until they succumbed to fear and took time out to rest in the place of the conditioned absolute.

I think most of us can also agree that we are living in the 21st century and our worldviews are radically different from those of the 1st century. I think also that most of us through the science of evolution now know that everything in creation is evolving and “becoming” something new. Some might disagree with this hypothesis and that’s good but in the meantime we indulge the balance between complete mystery and the demand of our questioning minds in search of some sort of order. This is of course not claiming a linear progression for evolution despite our need for a measure of time, but claiming that evolution means constant incremental change be it serendipitous and that there is always something new, either built on and including the past or built on and incorporating the before unknown new. Evolution therefore argues that our human understanding of God should also be undergoing change and evolving. And this evolution means the God concept is open to development, advancement, growth, progress, progression, expansion, extension, unfolding, dying, rotting, and all those dynamic life examples.

If we resist this notion that our ideas of God must change, and some of us might prefer to do this, then we are most likely stuck in an authoritative religious belief that demands religious certainty or absolute truth at all costs. In this way faith moves from being rooted in trust, responsive to doubt and mystery resourced and becomes a belief that is rooted in absolute and unchangeable certainty.

So let’s acknowledge that we might be people of Jesus’ home town resisting change, and take a look at some of the ways we might define God, and Spirituality and prayer, using more modern, scientifically acceptable, 21st Century worldviews. Rauscher is helpful here and I have quoted extensively from his article.

I have tried to shape a framework behind this approach that is threefold. Maybe an acknowledgement of the trinity of tomorrow.

    • God,
  • Jesus
  • Spirit

 

 

This is not really new is it, or at least it doesn’t sound like it is but it is my attempt to root these new ideas in the tradition or the past, or what we already know and believe, but it is always and only this so that it provides a place from which to change.

 

The first element of this trinity is that God is the evolutionary impulse to ‘become’. For example, if God is incarnate in all of Creation, and the “evolutionary impulse to “become” is also incarnate in all of creation, everything is always changing and evolving; then it would make sense that God, could be referred to as the “evolutionary impulse to “become”. God is source, energy, and purpose.

 

The second element of this trinity is the human creature as the ‘evolutionary impulse becoming’. Since the goal of evolution appears to be the creation of life, consciousness, and greater complexity created through cooperation, and the purpose of evolution appears to be the creation of increased beauty, truth, and goodness, then it makes sense that our human desires and prayers should focus on those goals and purposes. We are the ‘evolutionary impulse becoming’ The Jesus Way is the good news that ‘the kingdom is already near’, it is already evolving, and becoming. Jesus reveals the source, is the energy and embodies the purpose.

 

The third element is that together God and the human creature Co-create the becoming. In this both God and humans could be self-reflective consciousness. And given that traditionally we believe or trust that we are created in God’s image and have the same self-reflective consciousness to create a form that creates our Universe, then it makes sense that we are co-creators with God or alternately we are of the Creating energy. For example, we use our consciousness to think of a bridge, and then we create the form called a bridge——the same bridge that we first created in our self-reflective consciousness. This is the work of the Holy Spirit or the manifestation of the Spirit of God.

This third element is where even more complexity comes in because as we discovered a couple of weeks ago the definition of Spirituality or lack of it doesn’t help us. I suspect it is because Spirituality has to be both impersonal and personal at the same time.

The first outcome of this Spiritual path or Jesus Way is that evolution has to be impersonal. It has to apply to the big picture and include the whole of creation. Using traditional concepts God’s grace in the Universe might be defined as the evolutionary spirit or the evolutionary impulse to evolve and become incarnate in all of creation. To say that a different way perhaps would be to say, that God’s grace is simply the ability for us to evolve or “become” whatever we can imagine and then co-create. In this way God’s grace is never personal but rather always at the level of creature and species and thus impersonal. The vocabulary used for things Spiritual is always in the plural, the collective and the shared.

But there is another part to this third element that takes this thinking beyond the realm of the impersonal and engages the personal. It is perhaps an attempt by evolution to address the purpose or the why question. It is a Rauscher puts it the fact that we humans are the source of unconditional love and compassion. Unconditional love and compassion are not manifest by God. Yes God is love as our tradition claims but its expression as unconditional and as compassion is not from God alone and this leads us to conclude that we are co-creators with God. Another pillar of this claim is to say that if the evolutionary impulse to “become” is impersonal, then the Creator, or Initiating Consciousness, has no ability to offer compassion, unconditional love, healing, or in any way “come down” and influence things here on this planet. This of course concurs with our view that there is no interventionist God out there manipulating the world. As the evolutionary impulse to “become”, the ‘Emmanuel’ the God with us’ needs us to have the ability and the responsibility to do those things!

This means that if we want compassion and unconditional love to exist on this planet, then we have to create them. If we want healing to exist, on this planet, then again, we will have to create the conditions for healing to take place. Here we remember that Jesus never asked God to heal, He healed those who needed healing.

I know these ideas and concepts are new for some and others will approach the issues differently and they probably feel radical, however if all this is up for interpretation then we need to engage in it for ourselves. It is no longer acceptable when a baby dies to say that God must have wanted them for another purpose, or when one prays for and finds a car park where one wants one to believe that such intervention is any more than a joke. The reality is that if we want compassion and unconditional love to exist as created “forms” on this planet, it is our responsibility to create them. If we want grace to exist as a created “form” on this planet, we will have to enable and support the conditions needed for “becoming” and “evolution” to happen. We need to be responsible creatures supporting and embracing change.

It now seem obvious that if we continue this line of thinking then when we want to eliminate the “forms” called hunger, violence, and suffering from our planet, then it is our responsibility to eliminate them. Asking God, or praying to God for those things is literally praying to ourselves.

Right about now all this seems too deep and complex and philosophical as opposed to simply handing it all over to a God up and out there, and it is, but we are not denying the past understandings but rather reinterpreting the concepts for the 21st Century.

In doing this we are attempting to articulate and shape a ‘form’, an environment, or a space for concepts that make sense, and work for humanity. The hope is that the ideas will deepen our spirituality and help us “become” and “evolve” into people of deeper compassion.

Now may the grace of an evolutionary impulse becoming, the love of an evolutionary impulse to ‘become’ and the fellowship of an initiating consciousness, be with us all. Amen.

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