Reflections on the Spiritual and Community
December 24, 2008
On the 1 January this year I wrote down some thoughts on spirituality and community and posted it at CapeConversation. During the course of this year my spiritual journey has drawn me closer to both God and some kindred spirits on a similar path, as I discover the ways and nature of God.
As I take time to reflect on this year, I can look back to the start with the desires expressed and thank God for the adventures, progress and grace that this year has given me.
For the record I’m re-posting my New Years Day 2008 posting….
Followers of God, a nomadic tribe – an alternative concept for an inclusive spiritual community
Since leaving a formal church back in the mid-nineties, I have often missed the collective part of my spiritual expression. Even though I’m blessed with family and friends, I still longed for some authentic reality to spiritual unity with others.
In today’s society the individual is highly regarded. Furthermore, technology has revolutionized the way individuals interact. These two factors have in some ways forged a pattern of multilayered community. Therefore, I can be part of many communities at the same time. (i.e. I’m part of a blogging community, a golfing community, a business community where I work in one country and my colleagues in another, my neighbourhood community, a large family, friends from my student days, the list can go on) However, I can dictate the level of commitment to each of these groups based on my own priorities. Some might put family first and others put golf first on the list. It’s the individual’s right to choose. So maybe, community in the “classical” sense has long gone out the window and all attempts to simulate it in a western culture at the beginning to the twenty-first century are futile. This is based on an understanding that I still wish to function in society as opposed to heading for a monastery or some form of asecular communal living. I’m just your average dude with a family, a business career and a desire to know God and experience this with other similar dudes and dudesses.
So, I want to have communion with others and express oneness and love for God and for each other, even if we find our view of God coming from different angles through a prism. In this post-modern environment, with the desire to be inclusive, it is a challenge to find an honest way to express community without falling into the trappings of simply becoming another “Church”.
The first reality that I face is that we each have a unique understanding of God. The second reality is that the spiritual journey into finding an intimate communion between the individual and God is paramount. Both these realities, I understand to be sacred to the post-modern ethos. However, there is a desire for experiencing the Spirit of God as a group united in love and acceptance of the commonality of the essence of God’s nature.
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God: but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is complete in us”. 1 John 4 vs. 11-12“
God is Love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4v16.
“I will cherish all living beings without exception because this precious mind of love is the supreme method for solving all problems and fulfilling all wishes. Eventually it will give me the supreme happiness of enlightenment” Geshe Kelsang Gyatso on the Bodhisattva path
So, we are each on our own path to enlightenment and experiencing God, and at the same time it appears that it is by loving one another that our experience of God will be complete. To say we love all living beings, and let’s take it a step further and include all of creation, is not that difficult as it is an ideal we all should have. However, to practice love/community with a smaller, intimate group of spiritual travellers, each on his or her own path, is somewhat more challenging.
The search for the God and his Kingdom is a journey both inward and outwards.
Jesus, In Matthew 6 gives the “pagans” a hard time for pursuing materialism and in verse 33 says: “But seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We are told not to worry about what to eat or drink or about our bodies or what clothes to wear. In other words, “lose your ego”. Then in chapter 7 we are told not to judge others. The ego thing again. I love the illustration, by Brian Mc Lauren, where the Kingdom of God is seen as a large circle with many smaller circles intersecting. All the smaller circles are included into the large circle.
So where am I going with this?
I see myself and many others searching for the truth as spiritual nomads. The journey is a way of life. Nomads are not lost but are happy in the understanding that there is no final destination in this life. This is on two levels. Firstly, in our personal spiritual journey and secondly, we have a missional calling to share the Love of God. However, as nomads we respect the paths others are taking, even if they are different from our own. We are all children of God.
Jesus was preparing us for this life in Matthew 6 and 7.
Nomads are a tribal people. In this post-modern era with communities fragmented, multilayered and looking for new ways to be real and relevant, possibly this metaphor needs to be considered. It allows for tents to be pitched together, travelling on paths together, sharing tales of journeys taken, we can celebrate together, share needs, worship in love and allow God to show himself through our love for each other. However, we are talking tents not buildings, tribe not membership, missional love not missional evangelism, spiritual not structural, freedom not dogma. There is no ownership. A nomadic tribe is on the move, sometimes together on a highway and at times we have our own private paths. We find the only commitment is to love each other.
This is the spiritual unity that I’m looking for. This is not a new-age type of everything goes idea but is centred on our love for each other as a way to experience God’s love completed in us.