Demystifying mysticism by Richard Rohr

This is an excellent meditation sent to me today. It is by Richard Rohr, who is a Roman Catholic priest, and is adapted from his book Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi.

I like the way he promotes the need for an experience of God for the ordinary Christian, often feared by Protestants (Methodists were called, as an insult, “enthusiasts”) or seen as undermining the church hierarchy by the Church of Roman.

Enjoy!

Trust Your Own Experience. Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The most unfortunate thing about the concept of mysticism is that the word itself has become mystified—and relegated to a “misty” and distant realm that implies it is only available to a very few. For me, the word simply means experiential knowledge of spiritual things, as opposed to book knowledge, second hand knowledge, or even church knowledge.

Most of organized religion, without meaning to, has actually discouraged us from taking the mystical path by telling us almost exclusively to trust outer authority, Scripture, tradition, or various kinds of experts (what I call the “containers”)—instead of telling us the value and importance of inner experience itself (which is the actual “content” the containers were made to hold). In fact, most of us were strongly warned against ever trusting ourselves. Roman Catholics were told to trust the church hierarchy first and last, while mainline Protestants were often warned that inner experience was dangerous, unscriptural, or even unnecessary.

Both were ways of discouraging actual experience of God and often created passive (and passive aggressive) people and, more sadly, a lot of people who concluded that there was no God to be experienced. We were taught to mistrust our own souls—and thus the Holy Spirit! Contrast that with Jesus’ common phrase, “Go in peace, your faith has made you whole!” He said this to people who had made no dogmatic affirmations, did not think he was “God,” did not pass any moral checklist, and often did not belong to the “correct” group! They were simply people who trustfully affirmed, with open hearts, the grace of their own hungry experience—in that moment—and that God could or would even care about it!

Of course I would place Francis of Assisi in the long line of pentecostal or charismatic Christians before either term was used.

No #assistedsuicide. Since NL euthanasia law passed in 2002 its now acceptable for disabled babies to be given lethal injections

Since the Netherlands euthanasia the law was passed in 2002, it has become acceptable for disabled babies to be given lethal injections.

Commenting on the medical practices in the Netherlands Dr. Herbert Hendin, of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said “the Netherlands has moved from considering assisted suicide… to giving legal sanction to both physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia… from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress, and from voluntary euthanasia to nonvoluntary and involuntary euthanasia.”

soynentgreen

When I watched the film Soylent Green in the 1970s it was then regarded as a horror. I never thought I would see its approach in my lifetime.

A pregnant Mary and Joseph in a dilemma. How is it that one dream was enough?

First, here is the account in the ESV version of Matthew’s gospel.

Matthew 1:18-25
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’
22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

So I was thinking recently, how was it that one dream was enough for Joseph considering the anguish he will have experienced?

Gerard_van_Honthorst

Joseph would become hugely important yet he is given little space in the gospel accounts. It is as though this man stands briefly on the sidelines of the Jesus story, hidden in the shadows. But even if that is how it seems, Joseph is nevertheless a large figure of a man. His words are never recorded in the Gospels. We may not see him but we do see what sort of a family and what sort of marriage he builds. He would live out his life as a husband to Mary and a father to The Saviour.

How was it that a dream was sufficient for him then? Was there still room for faith to be expressed? I have been reflecting upon that mystery.

Joseph did not have the benefit of some waking, visible, phenomenon such as we see on occasions in the Old Testament. He was not even half awake and given the benefit of a revelations such as was had by Peter or the complex and full revelation given to John on Patmos.

I was thinking about these things and kept asking myself the question how it was that one dream was enough.

I eventually came to my conclusion based on hearing the account of countless numbers of people of the years as they have described their personal encounter with Jesus. I think Joseph knew it was not merely a dream but a revelation from God. It was not intended to fuel an argument or convince a third party, it was to speak to that one man. And he heard, and he believed and trusted. An authentic encounter with God is something a person does not forget, but more than that, they will never be the same again.

Nick Clegg is still bullish in his support for a law that could silence charities and campaigning organisations

nick-cleggJust yesterday he said:

I am unapologetically enthusiastic about a measure that will do a great deal to safeguard the integrity of the democratic process.” [3]

This reads like something from George Orwell’s 1984 – the current draft law would do pretty much exactly the opposite! The Commission of Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, supported by over 60 charities and organisations, and chaired by the former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries, says:

“There is no doubt that…part 2 of the Lobbying Bill risks profoundly undermining the very fabric of our democracy and significantly limiting the right of organisations – from charities and community groups to think tanks and blog sites – to speak out on some of the most important issue facing this country and the planet.” [4]

Other Lib Dems, particularly in the House of Lords, do seem to be starting to listen. [5] But Nick Clegg is the party leader. For us to win, he needs to change his mind. This Friday is our best chance yet to put pressure on him, with a public meeting in his backyard and a massive petition signed by hundreds of thousands of people.

You can add your voice here:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/fix-or-scrap-the-gagging-law

PS: Nick Clegg is refusing to attend his constituency meeting tomorrow and is sending a “representative” instead. That probably says a lot about how much pressure has been put upon him! Let’s hope his “representative” reports back to him how big the petition has grown.

NOTES
[1] You can find out more details about the event here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/538477552906549/
[2] A massive range of charities and voluntary organisations have criticised the gagging law. See this open letter, for example:
http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Chloe-Smith-non-party-campaigning-final.pdf
[3] This is how Nick Clegg responded to the gagging law in a recent debate (see column 1074):
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131119/debtext/131119-0001.htm#13111942000015
[4] Foreword, Non-Party Campaigning Ahead of Elections by the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement:
http://civilsocietycommission.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/civil-society-commission-report-WEB.pdf
[5] The government seems to have delayed the legislation because it was worried that if it didn’t, some Lib dem peers would join forces with Labour and Crossbenchers to vote the law down. And several Lib Dems, including senior figures like Lib Dem minister Lord Wallace, have acknowledged the concerns raised in the report the the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement. Several Lib Dems MPs also voted against the gagging law when it was last debated in the House of Commons, though a large majority voted in favour. See for example here:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10428847/The-governments-lobbying-bill-will-be-paused-for-six-weeks.html

Thanks to 38 Degrees for the above information.

On Sunday preached words of Jesus in Mark 6. Then saw this John Cleese video which sounded similar but with more laughs

Without repeating the whole of my Sunday sermon (go to yorkelim.com if you want to get notes or hear it), I will mention here the words of Jesus in Mark 6:30. I like it in the English Standard Version: “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”

When we unpack what he said we come up with a series of invitations:

  • “Come” … with me
  • “By yourselves” … alone
  • “Apart … private
  • “Quiet (desolate) place” … to secure privacy
  • “Rest” … after toil, even though interruption was to come
  • “A while” … not forever – better burn on than burn out

I like the way John Cleese puts it. He talks about what creativity is and how to stimulate it, but many of the principles are the same as Jesus will surely have had in mind their creativity as well as their recovery.

In the 21stC those that are ignorant about religion are going to stand on the sidelines in bewilderment as religion shapes their world.

The UK media generally seems to be ignorant of religion globally. Perhaps it is because they are ignorant about religion in this country and what is happening in UK churches. I have assumed this ignorance is laziness resulting from a failure to understand church life or any life of faith.

There seems to be a disinterest in the media regarding global issues unless they fit into a neat, limited, criteria. There is a complete ignoring of the global growth of the Christian Church. 70,000,000 Anglicans, compared to 600,000,000 Pentecostals. Not that I am knocking the Anglicans, but 600,000,000 all within the last 100 years, yet it is hardly mentioned and almost unheard of in this country.

Pentecostalism is the largest movement among the poor globally, bar none. Fascism is dead, Communism is mortally wounded but Christianity is growing.

In the twenty first century religion will drive politics and will be the pivot point for economics and war.

Atheism is so twentieth century!