Makeshift Descriptions

July 16, 2007

One who truly knows their religion is well versed in the structure, history and vernacular of that religion. One who truly knows God cannot find the words to describe their experience. We must always keep this in mind whenever we are reading a religious text, reading a book or article, or hearing a sermon. The best any of these teachers can do is to create a “makeshift description” of their experience. If we believe that the Divine is One that transcends full human comprehension, then it is impossible for anyone to fully describe or document the feeling they have when God is working in them.

Some see this concept as one that dismisses the need for Holy Scripture. There is this concept that the Bible is perfect and infallible (I discussed that in more detail in my review of The Sins of Scripture). That concept is what needs to be dismissed. When the Bible is read with the knowledge that the writers were making an effort to explain their Divine experience, something that can never be completely explained, then the Bible can be used as it was intended. The Bible shouldn’t direct or dictate your experience with God. It should be used to enhance that which is already in you.

Often in my childhood experience I would become frustrated when something I read in the Bible was different from what I felt inside. Once I decided that I don’t have to agree with everything written in the Bible, I was able to look beyond the words and see the spirit behind the words. That is how the Bible should be read. We must first experience God for ourselves and try to find how our experience can be seen through Scripture. Scripture is made “Holy” because it is divinely inspired by God, not written by God.

The perception is that Holy Scripture is to be revered because it is the “Word of God.” In reality, it should be revered because it was written by those who were filled with the same Holy Spirit that is in us all. Engaging with that Spirit is what we need to do in our studies. We shouldn’t study to make our spiritual experience fit in a box called the Bible. We should study to see what can come out of that box, with the knowledge that it is only full of makeshift descriptions.

God’s Peace…

Br. Ashton J. Reynolds, OPC

I Need You to Survive

July 14, 2007

To borrow a phrase from one of my St. Anthony brothers, when you close others out of your life you are closing God out of your life. This concept is becoming more apparent to me as I journey through life. I have learned so many small, but valuable, lessons through random conversations I have throughout the day. We live in a society that is afraid of human interaction. We don’t speak to each other, we don’t make eye contact, and we dare not allow someone to sit next to us on public transportation. An increasingly popular theory is that the fulfillment of the Body of Christ comes by a constant increase in human self-consciousness. We cannot increase human consciousness without human interaction.

In order for us to fully appreciate the fullness of humanity, we must learn to embrace diversity. All too often, we limit ourselves to the demographic that is most like our own. We are confined by race, gender, age, sexual orientation and religion, among other things. How can we say we are in touch with God if we aren’t continuously striving to learn more about that which God created? The face of God is not limited to what our minds can perceive. So we should work to see God in the faces of everyone, even those people that aren’t like us.

Does that mean we must make every person we meet our closest friend and share with them our deepest thoughts? Not necessarily. But we should always seek the Presence of God in every person and allow them to see that Presence in us. In a translation of Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu says, “…the sage is ruthless, and treats the people as straw dogs.” Straw dogs are stuffed animals used for ceremonial purposes. When they are used, they are highly venerated. Once the ceremony is over and they are no longer needed, they are trampled and discarded. Now, discarding other humans would be a little harsh. But the importance of the quote is that we should be like the sage and treat the people we meet with the respect they deserve as divine creations. We should honor everyone we encounter so that we may gain fulfillment in our own lives. Once those people have fulfilled their purpose for our lives, we can move toward finding new human encounters to further our self-consciousness.

We must realize that we are not alone. We are all connected. Our connection transcends language, creed, doctrine and geography. Our connection is innately spiritual. I once heard Archbishop Desmond Tutu say, “I am because you are, and you are because I am.” We should have this feeling about everyone we come across. It is amazing the impact that others have on our lives. Why not allow that impact improve our spiritual lives?

 God’s Peace…

Br. Ashton J. Reynolds, OPC