Spirituality and us. (Abridged)
There has been a request from a number of directions that as a congregation we should look into the topic of spirituality. So, I volunteered to conduct a service today around the concept. Firstly, may I remind you that hundreds of thousands of words have been written on this subject so that when I finish today most of them still remain to be explored.
However, I think this congregation knows more about spirituality than they realize. I think what I'm doing today, is revealing to you what you know already but didn't know it was called spirituality.
Some of us may think that spirituality is confined to what I would call “pious” people. And there’s a good reason for that. Initially, it was the pious, the people who withdrew from the world and spent their time in contemplation and prayer who were regarded as spiritual.
However, it is intended that all Christians live a spiritual life ….
That's what being Christian is.
What I want to speak about is the meaning of Christian spirituality as revealed in our readings this morning and during the sung prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving (Magnificat). In the latter we can hear the woman’s heart bursting with joy at the work of God in her life. The people of those readings didn't bother about terminology, they were concerned with one thing: their relationship with God and his work in their lives
Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise.
This person is so sure that God is to be relied upon, and so is stretching out to God, exuberant in gratitude, knowing that God is the only source of the goodness they have experienced.
And then the reading from Galatians 5 under the heading “Life by the Spirit”
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
This reading reveals another perspective on living a spiritual life - service. Service can take many forms and every time we make someone feel a little better about themselves and their situation, we are serving them.
And then for complete clarity, the Sermon on the Mount: (refer Matthew 5 - Blessed are the ….)
In this reading the presence of God in a person’s life isn't indicated in the way that the Psalmist thought. The Psalmist thought success and victory spoke of God and it’s true that all good things do come from God but goodness can take many forms and the Beatitudes spell that out. The words of this sermon point to a deeper view of spirituality. A view of our needing to throw away the values of the material world and seek an inner richness. But as average Australians living average Australian lives, how often do we recognize that we are serving others? Where or to whom do we look for relief from the things that distress us and cause us suffering? Do we feel blessed by God? Life can be difficult, so where does the strength come from to get us through it? Where do those time of great joy come from? And how good are we at acknowledging God’s work. “Look at that lovely rose!” “Yeah, good.”
Think about the last few weeks. Think about any time when you have felt as ease; relaxed, maybe rested. When did you notice a smile coming to your lips or when have you had a good laugh? Perhaps you have learnt something new and had the thought “Hey, isn't that something!”
Another possibility is that someone acknowledged you in some way or showed you respect. Or you may have had a chance to enjoy yourself. And then what about what you have been able to do for someone else? How have you been able to make someone else feel that life is actually ok.
I'm not talking about monumental experiences although you may have been fortunate to have had one of those. One of the readings I consulted makes this point: there is no immediate seeing of God’s actuality.” And then goes onto say that we establish bonds with the divine as it happens in the world. Our spiritual life happens in the world.
And while all of those experiences are spiritual, there is a need of something more: our acknowledgement of God’s hand in all that is good in our lives and our thanks for it.
Somehow the experience isn't complete until we praise God for his gift.
I know there is one more thing. For those people in each of the readings today it was a way of life.
So we don't leave our spirituality at home when we go to the shops and need to queue; we don't forget to grasp it when the computer won't co-operate; we remember we are creatures of the spirit when we are disagreeing with other people; we keep our spiritual life at the fore in traffic. Another reading I consulted reminds us that “Faith is a fresh act as new obedience.” It's day by day stuff. I know it's hard when the garbage truck wakes us up at 4am in the morning but it's our task that we remember that we are people of God’s spirit always.
The Brill Dictionary of Religion 2006 “Spirituality” Brill.
A New Dictionary of Religion ed. John R. Hinnells 1995 Blackwell. “Spirituality”
Theological Hermeneutics Alexander S. Jensen. 2007 SCM pp124,125
Sacred Attunement - A Jewish Theology M. Fishbane Uni of a Chicago Press. pp54,55