by Pastor Doug Kings
I am on the road this week as we drive to our retirement home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I will continue to edit the eNews and write my Reflections blog post through the end of the year. After that, as many have urged me to do, I will continue writing in some format yet to be decided. There will be a notice about that as we get closer to the time.
Today I am posting a piece written a few years ago by Henry Galganowicz, a retired Episcopal priest in the Bethlehem, PA area. He offered these thoughts to his diocese as it prepared to elect a new bishop. It was a call to think—and act—outside the box and recognize that the church today is being called to be and do something different. It is very much in harmony with my Reflections last week and my sermon this past Sunday.
What if: things are not the way we think they are? What if we don’t have to do things the way we’ve always done them? …or the church has told us to do them? What if there’s more than that? What if we thought for ourselves?
What if we understood, and admitted, that what we think and say about God, Christ, the mysteries, is just a way of talking? That is, our scriptures, theology, creeds, doctrines, are not reality, not the way things are; they are just our limited perceptions and concepts, not exclusively or absolutely true. There are other truthful ways of seeing, thinking, and practicing.
What if: we didn’t take the Bible literally? What if we understood we’re not supposed to take it literally? What if we paid attention to the fact that nowhere in the bible does God, nor any human author, ever say it should be? What if we understood that most of it is not historical, but mythical, poetic; profoundly meaningful, but not something we could capture on our smart-phone cam. What if we accepted that God is the God of all people, not only Jews, Christians, or Muslims? What if we admitted that our scriptures are not the only scriptures, nor necessarily the best?
What if: there is no original sin? What if we paid attention to the fact that the Garden of Eden story never mentions original sin? that the Jews, who wrote the story, have no concept of it; neither does Islam, our younger Abrahamic sibling; nor did Jesus ever say anything about it? What if we admitted that Augustine ‘sampled’ Paul, and made it up? giving us the single most negative image of humanity of all the world’s religions? What if we don’t need to be saved? What if Jesus didn’t die ‘for’ our sins, but to show us we are already saved?
What if we are not who we think we are, namely our egos? Our ego is our unenlightened, surface personality. Our ‘small self or little ‘i’; our sinful side. Our ego cannot love, our ego does not get enlightened. It will try to trick us into thinking that it can and does. Our ego can twist virtually anything inside out, even hiding behind pious churchy language to make us believe we are never good enough, or hiding behind our conscience instead of informing it. The ego is interested in sin, guilt, and punishment. It is the ego which is famous for pride, narcissism, ambition, the 7 deadly sins. The commandments are addressed primarily to the ego.
What if we are actually more than that? What if Jesus is our mirror, so we are like him, eternally and unconditionally beloved sons and daughters of God. What if we cannot be separated from God, because we are already embraced and enfolded in God, and God is already in us? What if that’s what baptism is really about? Not a sectarian, conditional, invisible bar code for access to the love of God, but the outward visible reminder that we are all, already, One with God and each other? All: all races, all colors, all genders, all creeds/none, all religions/spiritualities/none.
What if that’s what the Eucharist is for and about? that access to God is open and unconditional, at all times and places, that we are all fed and nurtured by God, who is always closer to us than our breath.
What if the unified field of existence is love? what if, in some way, shape, or form love is the source of everything, the envelope, the big picture? Again, if we are like Jesus, who was filled with the Holy Spirit of love, then we too are created with the inherent capacity to love, i.e., to have compassion, lovingkindness, empathy. What if, then, our life purpose is to love? All people, my neighbor, my self, my enemies. That’s the mission, the ministry, the job description. The goal is unconditional love, but the work is lifelong.
What if our calling as Christians is not be disciples or followers of Christ, but to be Christ, to and for each other? In order to become the Christs we were created to be, our ego has to be transformed, overcome, fried, like Jesus on the cross. That takes a lot of work, energy, trust in God. We are eternally unconditionally beloved children of God, but don’t let it go to your head.
What if we believed that these things are made for us, not we for them? If our scriptures, theologies, creeds, liturgies, practices do not support and promote our consciousness as eternally unconditionally beloved sons/daughters of God, with the inherent capacity to love, and do not teach us how to love, we need to reform, reinterpret, change them. The Sabbath is made for us, not we for the Sabbath. Our relationship with God is about our life, not about being churchy. The Church is responsible to us, not we to it.
Much more can be said; more details, explanations, nuances, questions to be asked. But this is a taste of seeing what may be true in a different way. Many already do.
I hope you can spend some time pondering and contemplating Galganowicz’s ideas.
Blessings in your life and ministry.