John 3: 31-36
“The one who comes from above testifies to what they have seen and heard.”
Sometimes that’s just a bit different from prevailing religious thought. It was for Jesus. That’s why he was killed.
What have you seen and heard? What is the truth of your spiritual journey in life? How do you give witness to that? Has it gotten you in trouble with prevailing religious thought?
I think of the many people who challenge me by giving witness to goodness, kindness, self giving, sacrificial love – by never saying a word. They simply live it. They preach by the way they live. I think this is the most authentic witness that we can give to “what we have seen and heard.” When someone is able to see that I am able to grab onto faith in the midst of crisis, when someone sees that I am concerned for others, when someone is fed and calmed by my presence – I am a witness to what I have seen and heard, I am a witness to what I have read, digested, what I have prayed and meditated.
What message is my life speaking today?
John 1: 35-42
Did you ever feel totally unconscious in life, like you were just going through the motions with little internal inertia? Perhaps the early followers of Jesus were feeling like that. Obviously they were seeking something, searching. Were they dissatisfied with where their life was? Jesus notices them following him and asks them: “What are you looking for?” Now, you would think that they would have responded with various requests, dreams for their lives, meaning, healing or whatever. But they don’t. What they say is: “Rabbi, where do you stay?”
I’m not sure that the disciples had a clue of what they were looking for. But there was something about this man that beckoned them, something about him stirred something within them. What they did do is act! Jesus says: “Come and see.” And that’s what they did. They put one foot in front of the other and spent time with him – having no idea where it would lead.
Sometimes life is like that isn’t it? Something just isn’t quite right, we’re not quite satisfied, yet we don’t know what it is that we seek. Perhaps in times like this what we need to do is act, put one foot in front of the other, walk outside the closed doors of our being and try something, something healthy for our bodies, minds and spirits. Who knows where it may lead?
“We have done no more than our duty.” (Luke 17: 10)
Sometimes love is like that. Sometimes life is like that. It’s not a matter of how we “feel,” or whether or not we’re excited about doing something for someone. Sometimes life and love is just about doing something good WHEN WE DON’T WANT TO, when we DON’T feel like it. In that, one’s love is proven.
Do something for someone today – even though you don’t feel like it.
Exodus 22: 20-26
Matthew 22: 34-40
Notice in Matthew that a scholar of the law posed the question as to which commandment is the greatest, after he found out that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees. He posed it as a test. But notice what Jesus does. He speaks to the great commandment, the great “Hear O Israel, . . . you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul and mind” But then Jesus combines this commandment with another: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Then he says that the WHOLE LAW is summed up in these commandments. Again, I imagine, the scholar of the law sat silent, unable to contest what Jesus had said.
In Exodus as well as elsewhere, what it means to love is spelled out. Our love of God is to be reflected in our love of others. As a matter of fact, even if someone says they don’t believe in God, but they exhibit love and care for others, they, in fact, are headed in the right direction.
Is the love that I claim to have for God reflected in my actions? If someone didn’t know anything of my “spirituality,” but only observed my behavior – would my spirituality be evident in my actions? Francis of Assisi said: “Preach the Gospel. . . . And when necessary, use words!”
How am I behaving today?
I must admit that I am not one of those who worry about “getting to heaven.” What does concern me is being a good person merely for the sake of being a good person. It’s the like the slogan that appears around the head of the roaring lion in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films: “Ars Gratia Artis” – “Art for the sake of Art.” That’s how I look at trying to be a good person. Being a good person for its own sake. And frankly, when I do so, my life is blessed by the knowledge that I am somehow making a positive difference in someone’s life. Conversely, when I fail at this, my energy is drained, knowing that I have depleted someone’s life force by what I have done or said that is negative.
“To do what is right and just is more acceptable than sacrifice. (See Proverbs 21: 1-6) I can go to all the spiritual retreats, conferences, 12 Step meetings, worship services, or read all the self help material I can, but if it is not reflected in how I go out of my way to treat others well, all of that means nothing. If I am to be a son of the Universe and be a force of good energy, lining up with my Source which is all good and giving, then my supposed “spirituality” will be reflected in my actions. “My mother and brothers are those who hear the Divine word and act upon it.” (Luke 8: 21)
Matthew 16: 13-20
Whether we know it or not, we all look for and use keys that help us unlock meaning in life. We use keys that help us make sense of life, love and our place in the universe. We use keys that give us direction.
What are the keys that you use? Do you in fact, have a set of keys that you use? Are they readings from your religious or spiritual tradition, the 12 Steps, various self help literature, . . . ? What keys have you picked up lately that are unlocking a richer experience of life for you?
Not only do we look for keys and use them, be we ourselves are a key. In this passage from Matthew, Peter is given keys. Each of us is a key that has the potential of unlocking good things for others. We have the potential of unlocking knowledge, wisdom, love, life and energy for others. Or, conversely, the key that we are has the potential to lock people in, to keep people out, to bind up the life force within them, instead of setting it free.
Am I putting the key that I am to good use in unlocking good things for others?
“What has been hidden from the learned and clever, has been revealed to the child-like.” See Matthew 11: 25-27
Walking a spiritual path is not about what we “know.” We can have a lot of knowledge about spirituality, various spiritual paths, world religions, biblical interpretation and the like – and yet be an absolute bastard to live with! J We can have a lot of knowledge about love and relationships. We can read book after book, but if we don’t exhibit patience, kindness and a self giving spirit, all this knowledge means nothing. What we “know” can sometimes get us in trouble. It can keep us too much in our head and not present to the little moments each day that call for our self giving love.
I work at a rather large suburban church. Of all the people on the staff it is our secretary/receptionist that I am most spiritually drawn to. She is the one on the staff that has the least “knowledge” about religion, church history, biblical interpretation and pastoral ministry. But of all of us, I think she exhibit’s the most authentic, kind, humble and spiritually self giving spirit on a consistent basis. I wanna be just like her when I grow up! J She “gets it!” She knows what living an authentic spiritual path is all about, even though she doesn’t “know” much about it.
I had a spiritual guide who once said to me: “If you want to know how I’m doing in my spiritual path, don’t ask those who listen to my talks, those I teach or those I guide. Ask my Partner and my family and those closest to me. They are the ones who REALLY know if my path is authentic or not!”
Amos 5: 14-15, 21-24
Religion/religious ceremony/worship mean nothing . . . unless it leads to loving action which helps transform the world into a better place. And ultimately that is what any spiritual/religious practice is about. But, unfortunately it gets sidetracked.
If religion gets too focused in on perpetuating the institution and ignores the needs of others any religious ceremony is useless. Religious service should not be about perpetuating the religion so much as it is about helping people and creating just structures – PERIOD!
Similarly, if a country gets too focused on self preservation to the detriment of the broader world community, then any flag waving and ceremony becomes meaningless.
Also, if we get too focused in on ourselves and our needs and wants to the detriment of those around us, any spiritual or religious practice in which we engage is in vain! Indeed if such is the case, our very lives are in vain!
“I hate, I spurn your feasts, says the Lord; I take no pleasure in your solemnities! . . . Away with your noisy songs! . . . But if you would offer me holocausts, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream!”
How is my spiritual practice making a difference in the world around me?
Last week I attended the wedding of a good friend of mine’s son. My friend has been through a lot in her life and, despite this, remains positive in outlook and loving in action. One very painful experience she suffered is that after around 25 years of marriage, her husband got on the internet and began seeing other women. As he did not stop this behavior, they divorced.
What struck me as I experienced the rehearsal dinner, the wedding and the reception is that my friend said very little in terms of words, toasts etc. Yet, her ex-husband wrote a beautiful tribute to his son which he shared at the rehearsal dinner, choking back his tears. Since the divorce he has not had much of a relationship with his son; but my friend has shared the rough and tumble of life with her son, the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows and she has been there in day to day, loving action. She didn’t need to share a lot of words, because it is her actions over the years that will be remembered in the heart of her son.
My Mom used to say “words are cheep.” On the one hand, words can be very powerful and inspire people to change. But words without action are indeed empty and cheep.
Are the words that I speak evident in my actions? Could someone know the kind of person that I am not by what I say, but how I act?