Spirituality 201


     What follows are nine lessons designed to be a guide for self-study.  Many paragraphs are packed with enough, thoughts, concepts and data that many of them could easily stand alone.  They may be used as a stimulus to focus recognized thought patterns that students have about themselves, their relationship to God and their place within the many harmonies of creation.

     This study by no means attempts to be a substitute for the teachings of Jesus.  In fact, each session is based on the lessons he taught during his ministry.  There has been little attempt to proof text statements made in these sessions by citing chapter and verse from the New Testament.  It is hoped that each student will have a sufficient orientation with the biblical material that this would not be necessary.

     What will be missing from these sessions as they appear on the website are the discussion, questions and answers from the students, elements that often make the class time exciting and vibrant.  Each session lasts nearly an hour.

     Each year a class on Spirituality is offered during July and August at St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church.  The sessions are a no holds barred opportunity for people to discuss anything and everything that deals with every spiritual topic their imaginations can create.  People want guidance and no cleric, in spite of how learned he or she may appear, can deny thoughtful individuals who may be seeking unconventional answers to the questions that have resonated in the hearts and minds of men and women through the centuries.

     There is a great need for people to feel validated in spite of where they are on the ladder of spiritual evolution.    The Church with its frequent insistence on preaching salvation and exclusivity has not always been the loving Body of Christ to the people who stray from the path.  Many people have left the church because they felt judged by priests and pastors who have used fear and their own personal authority to “win” souls.

     Each of us is aware that there are moments when we act in haste, when we say things we wish we had not or we experience occasions when we do not use good judgment.  No skill can be learned without repeated failure.  Jesus made no judgments of sinners.  In fact, those for whom he reserved his harshest criticisms were the righteous who considered them among “the saved” under the Law of Moses.  He loved those who were not taking themselves so seriously, who did not pretend at their innocence and who were eager to learn new perspectives.  Jesus could teach them.  This is why the earliest of Christian movements was called, “the followers of the way.”

     One hope is that this course will enable people to understand that there can be no external judgments made of any of us by anyone.  The scales of justice hang inside ourselves since each of us knows who we are, warts and all. We must be gentle with ourselves and not be too hasty in using our skills of self-analysis.  Quite often our thinking is faulty.  We are too prone to judge ourselves by our faults and failures.  We cannot see the whole nor can we see ourselves, as others perceive us.

     We are made of the same stuff as God and as a wordsmith from Harlem once wrote, “God don’t make any junk.”  We cannot judge ourselves by either the moments we stumble or by the number the times we ascend the platform to receive our degrees, citations and certificates of merit.  We are all students here, attempting to live according to the framework provided by the distant seers who created our respective faith traditions.

     The new call in Spirituality 201 is for students to take a fresh look at God’s on-going presence in our world.   Could it be that our beliefs have been at the core of why God remains so invisible?  Could it be that in our desire to preserve our orthodoxy, we are the ones who have created the barriers to community?  Possibly.

     There is a new wave of seers that are loose in the world. Like the Master and his chosen twelve, their number is small.  They are pushing against the pillars of all that is sacred and no doubt with time and momentum, those pillars will fall.  All disciplines have grudgingly released there past time-honored truths to embrace the future with its new demands for paradigm shifts.  New insights bloom from the seeds sown by the risk takers who lived in another time.

     As Gamaliel once said concerning the Apostle Peter and the other disciples, “Fellow Israelites, be careful what you do to these men.  If I were you, I would leave them alone.  If what they are doing is of human origin, it will disappear, but if it comes from God, you cannot possibly defeat them.  You could find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38f)  With people like Gamaliel present in each generation, the door will always be open for those who have the courage to speak their truth from their new vantage point.

     Even Jesus said that we must pour new wine into new wine skins, a teaching the Church has often failed to heed. Be warned.  The seepage through the dikes of orthodoxy has started and there is little anyone can do to stop it.   Seepage always comes before the flood.