Warning…today I have wandered…like a train of thought novel. Sorry
Today, in church, I started to think about the trappings of religion. No matter what faith each has customs and symbols that are used. In Christianity there are many. Everything we say in church, everything in the church has meaning. Even the absence of things can have meaning. For example, the Roman Catholic community has many statues. They frequently have a Crucifix ( a cross with Christ on it). Some churches don’t have a cross at all. Some churches are plain and some are fancy. These kinds of symbols have grown up around the practise of each persons faith.
This is also true of other religions. A Jewish Synagogue has the Torah. Hindu temples have images of God. Buddhism has the absence of objects or statues of Buddha. There are many other examples.
Where did these things come from? What was their origin and idea behind them? For me it seems that over the centuries we have found things or ideas that we feel will draw us closer to the God we worship. We create an environment that we hope will enhance our experience of God.
Today I thought about how, in some ways, we have watered down symbols for convenience. We have let them become less than they were. In my faith communion is frequently given at a railing in the front. Ceremony has blessed the elements used and each of us takes them…essentially bread and wine. But can we see in this ceremony the event that precipitated it? I imagine most people do but I was distracted today by the communion wafers. Flat, tasteless representations of bread instead of the real thing. Most times this doesn’t concern me but today I wanted it to be nourishing and tasty as I am sure the original was. For convenience we have replaced real bread with something easy to use. We do use real wine. Some churches use grape juice. Maybe they do use bread.
How many other elements of worship have been changed over the centuries? I bet there are many.
I know that somehow I have gone off the track today but I can’t help wondering what would happen if this were really like a meal. I know that is illogical and that sometimes churches do an agape meal (communion at a meal). I suppose today I would have liked that.
Hope…something to cling to when there is nothing else. Suzanne Boyd
There are times when there seems to be no way forward. We can’t see ahead at all. Everything around us tells us that there is nothing that can be done. But somehow, we have hope. Hope allows us to get up in the morning. It helps us to sleep peacefully at night.
Some situations truly do seem hopeless. Someone is dying and there is nothing to do. What we can’t see may be that death is not the worst thing that can happen. In death itself there is hope. We will grieve. Sadness will rise up and swamp us often. But we are alive and will find hope in the rising sun. Each day will help us to see a future that is different. It may not be the one we planned but it is there. There are joys to be had and people to love.
The situation may seem hopeless but beyond it is a new beginning. We may have to change our hope to something different but it is there. Hope may seem lost but it is just waiting to be reclaimed.
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all. Emily Dickinson
Some people delight in complaining. They want to tell you what is wrong. They don’t want to fix it they just want to complain. Some of them are negative all the time but some are not. If you are part of a group plan there is always someone who wants to tell you why it won’t work. I hate to say it but probably the worst are church members. I think that part of the reason is that everyone who belongs think they own the whole thing. If there is one typo in the bulletin they have to point it out. Especially in some place where everyone can hear.
The hardest part about belonging to a church is that it is as imperfect as we are. I think that’s what turns some people off. The expectation is that everyone in the church will behave in a Christian way. Yeah, that’s not going to happen.
Church may not necessarily be important to your spiritual growth but a community of people is. If you can find a church that feels like home that is wonderful. If you can’t then at least seek our some like-minded souls who will support you on your path.
It is very difficult to grow in your chosen faith alone. We all need people who share their stories, their struggles and their journey. Connecting with others gives us insights that we would not find on our own. That is the same kind of support that some of us find blogging. We can gain support that way if we truly exchange our formation stories and our successes and failures. However, where faith is concerned, I think some sort of physical connection helps. Not everyone benefits from a place where we experience physical touch but as humans it changes us.
Don’t ever stop seeking the place that you can grown and thrive!
This morning the pastor at our church said in her sermon…spoken to God….“Let me not confine you in the narrowness of my mind.” This is a very profound statement.
Whatever your belief, if you espouse any God, this tells us where most of us want to be. We want a God who is like us. We want to create God in our image instead of the other way around. We want a God who thinks like us. We want a manageable God.
If God is like us then God has the same bias, the same prejudice and the same belief system. Then it is easy for me to point fingers at others and scoff at their beliefs. It allows me to pick and choose what God thinks. Aren’t I amazing?
This God can occupy a nice closed box in my mind and I will only let out what I deem appropriate. However, God is tricky and sneaks out of the box in and plants ideas that I don’t want to consider. He/she is constantly challenging me and widening my mind, calling me on prejudices and making me rethink my ideas.
It is abundantly clear to me that however much I could live with God in a box that is not going to happen. And in reality it would not be something I want.
I see a God who is infinite and intimate. I see a God whose mind I cannot comprehend. I see a God whose thoughts are so far above mine that the universe can’t contain them. Maybe this is not at all comfortable but this, for me, is God.
I am tired, sad and struggling. I can’t seem to shake the tiredness left over from my cold and the stress of traveling and my husband’s surgery. I have a strange habit of not reacting physically to something when it is happening but it always hits when things are getting better. I guess I should have expected this.
I have mentioned before that I am blessed to have four dear friends. I know that it is rare to have four and thank God for it. They hold me up when I am down. At the moment two of them are having problems to deal with. Things that maybe can be solved and maybe not. I feel so much grief for what they have been and are going through. If only I could help more or take away some of the pain. Sometimes the only thing we can do is be present but it doesn’t feel like enough.
For the last month I have had to cope with the things in my own life and it has taken me away from being present more than I wanted. I hope that things shift soon and become more manageable.
I don’t know that any of us could possibly have coped without having a deep faith in a loving God. When things seem impossible leaning on God is my only recourse. Somehow I can sense his presence in the midst of all the chaos. My friends feel the same and we all have the prayers of many to uphold us. At times is is possible to actually feel that support and love.
I know there are people who don’t have this belief and that is their decision. I wold find it lonely and fearful without it. I hope that everyone has something that they can hold on to in the midst of life’s trials. May you find that thing that gives you peace and strength to hold on.
Today after reading
I started to think about how we view and talk about prayer. I am somewhat of a eccentric Christian and have finally found peace after 77 years with my beliefs. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have questions. I will always have them until I “fly away.” But I am at peace about forming a relationship with God. Again, this does not mean that the relationship is perfect on my part. I am sure God’s side is ok.
We humans have spent centuries making a relationship with God complicated. We have created rules about prayer, rules about worship, and rules about anything else we could think of. I don’t remember Jesus mentioning any rules except:
Matthew 22:37-39 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
He broke many rules of his time. He ate with tax collectors, gentiles and women. He touched lepers to heal them. He excluded no one. He was radical. So often we have managed to turn him into someone I am sure he would not recognize.
So what about prayer? He gave us one prayer called “the Lord’s Prayer” because he was asked to teach us to pray. It is a wonderful prayer but it is not the only prayer. Prayer comes from the heart of the person praying. There is no rule for how it is done. It is simply pouring out your heart to a loving God. If you have a routine…fine. If you don’t…fine.
The thing about prayer is the person you know best is the one you speak with the most. If we speak with God about our day, our hopes, our distress, our job, our pain, our family….I could go on and on, then we spend time with God. Tell God what is on your mind and know that you are heard. That’s all there is to it and the more we do it the closer we become with the one who loves us.
Prayer is simple!
We all have bad things happen to us in life. When that happens some of dig deeper into a relationship with God. Some of us just let God go. They can’t believe that a loving, caring God could let bad things happen. Some are very angry at God and doubt his existence. This is a ‘both and” (see below) in that if you don’t believe in God how can you be angry at him?
I can understand this as the problem of terrorism, murder, rape, and other acts of violence do make us ask questions. This question has been kicked about in major theological circle for centuries. Some thinkers have tried to explain it but I don’t think that anyone has ever done it.
There are some things that we will never understand. I don’t know that I want a God who can be totally explained by someone. God is so very far beyond our very small minds. I don’t have any problem understanding that.
To accept this God we sometimes have to accept two things that are opposite each other but both are true. For me this is called both and. It can be called an oxymoron and there are some simple examples of this such as “found missing’ or “alone together.” We don’t have any problem with those but the problem of a loving God who allows pain is difficult to swallow.
I can’t explain it. For some reason I don’t feel that I have to…at least not to shore up my faith.
What is your take on this?