Thursday, July 16, 2015

Discovering Spiritual Awareness (series pt 4), "The Soul of the Cosmos" based on Mark 12:28-34 & 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Discovering Spiritual Awareness (series pt 3)

“The Soul of the Cosmos”

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO 7/12/2015

Based on Mark 12:28-34 & 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a


        This past week, I received a call from a seminary buddy who lives over in Westminster, telling me that a former class mate from seminary was going to be in town that evening and wanted to know if we could all gather for dinner and some catch up conversation.  Ultimately there were 5 of us from seminary gathering for this impromptu dinner.  It had been 30 years since the five of us had been in the same room.

        The evening went too quickly, catching up on reader digest versions of what had been going on in our lives these past 30 years.  At one point, our conversations touched toward Spirituality, as one would expect in a gathering of theologians. 

There was a discussion of how things are changing in awareness of spirituality and of how science is playing a major role in this.  In the earlier human experience, events such as a volcano exploding or an earthquake, was understood as direct results in a society’s behavior.  As we grew in our understanding of science we started seeing natural events not as a warning or punishment of God, but as explainable events.

        Then as humanity developed into what we call the industrial era, science once again re-defined life in general.  In order for industrialization to develop, there was a need to start understanding how elements acted independently from one another.  A visualization would be to look at the alphabet.  With the development of industrialization we stopped looking at the alphabet as a whole, but started to look at each letter individually.  We would see less correlation between A and B, and started to see just what A was made of and what it could produce by itself.  This was necessary for the growth of industrialization. 

This perspective of finding solutions to new challenges began to color the way that we approached religious and spiritual questions.  The Western world started to separate and compartmentalize the understanding of relationship between creation, humanity, and God; seeing each as independent of one another.

Science is once again influencing how we perceive relationships.  Through quantum physics, we are becoming re-acquainted with the understanding of the interrelatedness between elements.  Quantum physics is at the cutting edge of Western science…. Through quantum physics original goal of seeking out the elemental building blocks of the Universe (separate elementary particles), science has discovered that the Universe appears to be an undivided Whole.

        Like Einstein's Theory of Relativity, Quantum Physics reveals the Universe to be a single gigantic field of energy in which matter is just a 'slowed down' form of energy. Further, Quantum Physics has discovered that matter/energy does not exist with any certainty in definite places, but rather shows 'tendencies' to exist. (i.e. the 'Uncertainty Principle') Even more intriguing is the notion that the existence of an observer is fundamental to the existence of the Universe - a concept known as 'The Observer Effect' - implying that the Universe is a product of consciousness. (i.e. the Mind of God)  Quantum Physics, by Alex Paterson It is in this new understanding of the relationships between the elements that we are starting to redefine our spiritual relationship with God and creation.  Growing up I was taught that we live in a 3 dimensional world and that the 4th dimension was something beyond.  With Quantum Physics there is now a belief that there are as many as 12 dimensions that are all operating in conjunction with one another.

        As we think about our journey in spiritual awareness, Jesus when questioned by one of the scribes answered that the basic level of understanding our spirituality is to know that God is at the heart of it all.  Quantum Physics understand that at the heart of all matter is a “consciousness”, that the average person calls God.  It is out of this reality that Jesus says that we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  By doing this, we are conscious of the relationship of our “image” in the Divine. 

        But Jesus doesn’t leave it there, for this only requires an inward journey.  Jesus then says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Now Jesus is telling us that we have to look beyond ourselves.  I think the first part of Jesus’ answer is not too hard for most of us to buy into, as it seems pretty cut and dry.  It would seem pretty easy to love God, since God is the creator of all.  The idea of “agape” is implied as God through love, created all that exists, so it is pretty easy to say, since God loved us first, we should love God back, without conditions and something more pure than brotherly love, which always requires something in return.

         I don’t even think that the concept of loving our neighbor is too hard to understand, as it is in how we relate to those around us.  Yet, we see many evil things done to people in the name of God. Why?  Just a few decades ago, it was unlawful for a black person and a white person to marry one another.  A hundred and fifty years or so ago, we fought over ownership of human beings, both being justified by some through religious beliefs.   How can we has children of God, being made in the “image” of God, justify such behavior and believes? 

I must confess that I have always been uncomfortable with Jesus’ response of “love your neighbor as yourself.”  My stumbling block on this second commandment is in the phrase “as yourself.”  What does “loving yourself” mean?  If I love myself so much (narcissistic) then there is no room for loving another.  Or what happens if I think so little of myself that I truly don’t love myself?  This statement is based on an assumption that I have the self love that Jesus understands to be “pure love.”  The reality is that every person is damaged to some degree, so how does this “agape” understanding come into fruition? What is the yardstick that I can measure love by?

        In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul gives us some examples of what true love is like as a way to self-check our spiritual health.  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures. Love never ends.  Paul is speaking about this in the context of gifts, so I understand that “love” in this form is actually a spiritual gift.  In fact Paul speaks about three main gifts of Faith, Hope, and Love, but love is the greatest gift. 

I see in Corinthians Paul describing “agape”.  I would guess that this too is what Jesus was saying with “love yourself.”   To be able to love without jealously, or to love non-selfishly, of not keeping wrongs, and not to rejoice in others misfortunes all require our “giving up” or “letting go” of self.  There is a fear in giving up stuff that we hold onto internally.  Our most basic conflict as humans is found in “racism”, which is rooted in fear of loss of identity and power.  It finds its roots in tribalism, which is the most basic form of community. 

Ecumenicalism is a thought that found its life in understanding the inter-dependence and inter-relatedness of faith in God, as the one who creates all, as one who loves all, as one who cares for all.  It all works together, life, liberty, the right to pursue happiness.  The love of God, the love of neighbor – it all exits as an interacting force that comes from a consciousness that we in faith communities label as God.  Our spiritual journey of awareness is not static and its energy comes from our being made in the “image” of God.   To love yourself is to recognize and interact with your God image.  And the greatest of these is love.  Amen