Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Church, with no walls ... one God and one people.

What I believe ...






"A Church with no walls ..."
@Copyrighted Image 2010, Michelle C. of whatplanetareyoulivingon.blogspot.com.
All Rights Reserved.



I probably shouldn't be writing this when I am tired, but the words are flowing rapidly through my mind so I am hoping that perhaps they are divinely inspired.  Thus, I will try to capture all of these thoughts swirling about in my mind into something a bit more tangible, black and white ('ink').  First, let me start by stating that religion is not a subject I often choose to discuss with others, especially my parents.  For the most part, my philosophy on religion is "live and let live", meaning each person must travel the path they find best suited for the individual journey they find themselves on in this particular lifetime.  As for my parents, they are very old school and  quite frankly --at this point-- rigidly set in their ways. They have a strong belief in a higher power, that is to say they believe in God and as such they have found a way to worship that they are comfortable with in the Catholic faith. Knowing this about them, I feel no need to share my present day --after years of suffering and the subsequent spiritual evolution thereof-- ideas and personal beliefs on the subject of 'religion' with them.  For some reason, of late, they continue to press on this subject matter: religion and faith. So tonight, I shared my thoughts and feelings with them, but perhaps I did not accomplish the task in the most eloquent way? It's hard to keep the emotional element that comes with a deep pondering of the spiritual aspects of ones life, especially when you happen to be talking with your parents and basically saying --to their way of thinking-- that you reject "everything they taught you to believe." With this in mind, here follows the basic gist of the unemotional version of my thoughts on the subject matter of faith and religion, bearing in mind that to my way of thinking two are not mutually exclusive.


My parents wonder:  1) "Why don't you go to church every Sunday?"

2) "Why have you chosen to practice outside of the Catholic faith?"

3) "It says in the Bible that the only way to get to the Father is through the Son. Don't you believe in Jesus? Don't you believe that the Bible is THE Word of God?"


Okay, before I get into the semantics of religion, let me first say that I have come to believe that there is in fact a God, a Creator, and that He is first and foremost a loving and benevolent being. He loves us and He wants us to become the best that we can be in this life, as we continue our journey back to ultimately re-unite with Him, where upon the entire essence of our being will finally be HOME, that place where we belong.  Furthermore, I believe Our Creator is present in our lives.  He is there for us if only we ask for His help, His strength and His guidance. I, personally, believe the Creator does not particularly care which method we choose to utilize in expressing our belief in Him and our need to have Him present in our lives, whether this expression be an organized religion, of any faith (be it Lutheran, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism or ANY other), or be it merely a personal belief and relationship with Him on our own terms, outside the confines of any organized religion. What fundamentally matters is THAT we believe, NOT HOW we believe.

With the above in mind, I don't feel that one has to attend a church, or other religious places of worship, each and every Sunday in order to find our way back to the Creator and have him present in our daily lives. To my way of thinking, the opportunities for spiritual growth are all around us, each and every day ... in almost every moment. I find it rather ludicrous that some ardently believe that weekly attendance at mass, on Sunday, is a prerequisite for returning home to our Creator. I also find it rather hypocritical that some attend mass religiously on Sundays, only then to turn around and forget, by both their words and actions, that there is in fact a God every other day of the week. That being said, I do grant that religious institutions. churches and faith communities, can be useful in providing fellowship, community outreach and spiritual guidance should an individual choose to participate in them.  "If I am willing to admit that not all who attend mass regularly on Sundays are hypocrites, then won't you admit that perhaps many who do not attend church are, in fact, good people who can have a strong relationship with God?"

As for the Catholic Church specifically, for my part, I was personally tired with the ongoing guilt that I felt while attending the Catholic Church. This guilt stemmed from the ongoing issues I had with the Catholic Church on many of the positions they hold.  These issues came to a head when my husband and I decided to send our children to Catholic school. When my kids came home from Catholic school and started asking specific questions, questions that needed specific answers, I finally had to admit the truthful answers:  I don't believe that the Pope is the only person on the planet that has a direct line to God; I don't believe that the Pope is infallible; I don't believe that the Catholic Church is infallible; I don't believe that all birth control is wrong; I do think all priests should be allowed to marry; I do feel that women should be allowed to become priests; I don't think that we have to go to "Confession" in order to address our sins or to be forgiven; I believe that people should be free to love whomever they love, regardless of gender; I personally do believe in Jesus, but I don't believe that everyone has to believe in Jesus in order to be "saved." I believe that the Spirit of God is all around us, each and every moment, and moreover that the Holy Spirit is within all of us, while it has yet to awaken in everyone. I believe that there are many paths that lead to God, our Creator, and in the end that we will be judged by our actions in this life and by what is in our hearts, not by what man-made religious dogma we choose to subscribe to and the rules and consequences thereof. I believe in the resurrection of the body, in the sense that I believe that we are, each of us, reborn into a series of lives during which we hopefully, grow and progress spiritually until we are last worthy of the final journey home to our Creator ... That is to say that I believe in reincarnation.

In some respects, to me, the focus and bickering that goes on amongst individuals within and of various religions over differences in dogma and belief systems makes religion little better than "organized deceit", because this takes away from what should be the focus and the message: That there is a God, a Creator, one God for ALL of humanity. That this the Creator loves us deeply and that He wants us to love one another, to help one another along our journey in this life that we will in turn come to know Him more fully in our daily lives so that we may grow in the ways of spirit and eventually be worthy of completion our final journey back home to Him. It is Faith, in the form of Hope and Love that can move mountains. It is reaching out to the forgotten, the neglected and letting them know that they are not alone, that there is a God and that He is a loving, merciful and forgiving God. It is learning to forgive ourselves, to forgive others and to know that we are forgiven if we but ask and mean it in our hearts. It is not about rules and dogma; for these things are of men and they have led to some pretty horrible things being done in the name of religion, claiming falsely to have been done in the name of God.

I have said it before, and I will say it again:  "I am but an empty vessel waiting to be filled,to be used as I am needed", and while, I may not attend church every Sunday these days: when God calls on me, I answer His call. I have gone head  to head with very intelligent people, brilliant thinkers who claim to be staunch atheists and have over time, with God's guidance and grace, planted the seeds that have led these individuals to a belief in a Creator. I have reached out to those who have felt betrayed by God, because of failure to conform to or to meet the demands of organized religions , and led them back to see God's love for them, to know His forgiveness and to believe in Him once again. I have stood up for injustice when I have seen it (from a very young age), even at times when I knew that it meant that I might be physically hurt myself. I pray earnestly for those who I encounter or come to know directly, or indirectly, who are need of prayer ... most often for physical healing for some illness. I pray for these individuals daily, with formal and informal prayers, throughout the course of a day as they happen to enter my mind, not just on Sundays and not just in a church. When these people are uplifted and often healed, I cannot help but feel that others too see the hand of God and believe.

As for the Bible, I do believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. I believe that Bible was sent to us as a guidebook to help us find our way. I believe that the Bible is God's Living Word, that it is to say that the Bible is there to guide us in our own unique situations, that one passage, read by two different people in two different situations, may have a different meaning for each. I don't think that God intended the Bible to be a black and white set of rules that we would fight and dispute over.  And in absolutely no way does the Bible, or any other inspired Word of God (e.g., Quran) call us to commit violence in His name.  The latter runs so very counter to the nature of God, our Creator!

The Bible is also a rich tapestry of history, containing the story of where we have been as a people of God.  It details our weaknesses and shortcomings, but the Bible also reminds us of our triumphs and provides us evidence of the spiritual growth, we as a people have made thus far.  In sum, I think the Bible helps us to remember our past, such that we may continue to move forward, perhaps a bit more enlightened and hopeful, into our future.

Two of my favorite passages in the Bible are the story of The Prodigal Son, from the NewTestament (Luke 15: 11-32), , and the Story of Martha and Mary, from the New Testament. The story of The Prodigal Son reminds me that God rejoices over all of us choosing to live as His children, but He is overjoyed when a lost child, a sinner ... a non-conformist,finds their way back to Him.  This passage of the Bible reminds me that we should not be so quick to judge one another,to condemn one another. We should, instead, reach out to those who have lost their way in order to share God's gift of forgiveness with them and let them know that God loves them still.

The story of Martha and Mary reminds me that being a child of God is NOT about following the so called rules; it is about paying attention to God and what He is trying to say to each of us in our own lives, to heed God's call when He calls us to do His will here on Earth:  be that to reach out to someone in need, to bear witness to God's love and presence in our own life, or to pray for the needs of others.


As for the Bible "saying that Jesus said,  'No one can enter the kingdom of heaven but through me.' " ... This is the passage in the Bible that I find to be the most revealing:


"The Father Revealed in the Son

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   "


~Matthew 11:25-30


To me this passage says that in order to be worthy of returning to God, our Creator ... that is to reach the final stage of spiritual growth ...  you must be willing to forgo what you think that you know ... and like "little children", you must imitate the examples of Jesus in his life. And when you are at last willing surrender to this idea, you will be at true peace and you will at last find "rest for your souls."

It's not about "knowing Jesus" in the sense of acknowledging him ... believing in him ... it's about understanding what his life and way of living were all about.  Jesus is God saying ... I have tasted of your humanness ... I know your burdens ... follow me and I will show you the way, "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 

This is God being inclusive: not exclusive.  God is showing us the way (back to him) through Jesus, through his life and examples, in terms that we are capable of understanding.  To my way of thinking, it is possible to understand the ideas behind the life and experiences of Jesus without actually "knowing Jesus."  And that is why I personally believe that everyone does not have "to know" and acknowledge Jesus in order to return to our Creator.



So Mom and Dad, while I no longer choose to worship as you do, please know that I do believe in God and He is a bigger part of my life than you could ever possibly know. And while I no longer feel that weekly attendance at a church service, on Sunday, is necessary in order to be a good person and to have a strong relationship with God, our Creator: I have chosen, for the time being, to belong to a religious community, a Lutheran community, and my family attends mass as often as we can and want. I do the latter in order to help my children build a strong foundation for their relationship with God --as you did for me-- but I will teach my children that in a perfect world there would be a church, with no walls, one God and one people.



"Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. ...." "


~Matthew 12:24-26

2 comments:

  1. Sounds to me like you have a tremendous understanding of God...your parents should be proud.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Lorely. So nice of you to take the time to comment. I see that we share a love of writing poetry. I will definitely make the time to read some of yours. Peace & Love ... ~Michelle

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking a moment to share your thoughts. I'll read them and post them soon! God Bless! M