Saturday, March 31, 2007

It Takes Two to Gospel

Therefore, sisters and brothers, since the blood of Jesus makes us confident to enter the holy place by the new and living path opened for us through the veil--that is to say, the body of Jesus--and since we have the supreme high priest presiding over the house of God, let us enter it filled with faith and with sincerity in our hearts, our hearts sprinkled and cleared from any trace of bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Let us keep firm in the hope we profess, because the One who made the promise is faithful. - Hebrews 10:19-25

In a recent meditation by Martin Copenhaver, he wrote:

In other religions one’s encounter with God can be an individual matter.

Not so with Christianity. God created Christian community for the same reason that God created Eve: it is not right that we should be alone.

He wisely observed that the writer of Hebrews used plural pronouns. As a matter of fact, it seems to me that most of the instructions in the New Testament epistles are given to the group of believers, not individual believers. Beyond that, when the instructions are given to individuals they are generally about how to relate to others. Ours is a relational faith.

I also believe that our best faith practices are from internal to external. I think that we need always to be seekers; seeking better to know and be known by God. It is in self-awareness that we can come to spiritual growth. And that growth will necessarily make us stand out in the world, which is why we need to be in the company of like-minded seekers. Collectively we can make an impact on changing the world, saving it if you will.

When our faith practices are dictated by externally imposed directives they are weak against outside challenges. For instance, if a literal interpretation of scripture argues against the earth circling the sun (i.e. God made the sun stop moving in the sky for Joshua and the Hebrews) then Copernican theory becomes a challenge to true faith. On the other hand, if faith practices move the opposite direction, then when external forces push upon it internal faith finds a way to respond without a need to dominate the other. The strength found via internal spiritual practice can never be taken from the practitioner.

The risk inherent in internal spirituality is that it can be groundless, wandering in the ways of unchecked egoism. Thus I come back to my original point, we can't walk this path alone. Internal spirituality should drive us to find our place in the body of Christ, realizing that each of us is incomplete on our own. Ultimately, as someone once observed, it takes two to gospel.