A Way Home?
Readers of this blog, as far as I can tell, fall into four categories:
active in church land
one foot out the door
both feet out the door
"What's church land?"
Those who remain active in the church--belonging to a congregation, attending worship, offering their time and their talents to support the church and its mission--see the church's potential to have a positive effect in their lives. They recognize the abuses and the failings of the institution but hold out hope that the church as the Body of Christ can still rise above all that and be an agent of change and transformation in the world.
Those with a foot out the door doubt that the church can ever be better than it is. But they continue to feel fed by their association with the church--by the fellowship, by the music, by the ritual, by the uplifting message--and they remain committed at least to a tenuous connection, perhaps to see how they can help out, should things turn around. But at the same time, they're exploring their options should the ship go down. Are there other places out there that offer fellowship, music, ritual and good news?
Those of us with both feet out the door are fully engaged in exploring where the Divine can be found in the world. We're not disappointed. God is everywhere and grace is everywhere and the world, despite what the church says about it, is a sparkling, life-filled, hopeful place. But ... we can't help looking back over our shoulders toward the church. It sustained us for such a long time, and held such promise, even if it broke our hearts. We will mourn its inevitable passing, whatever hurts and disappointments we suffered at its hands.
Still others, with little or no church connection, and without curiosity about its strange and antiquated ways, wonder why we have to keep talking about the church at all. Why can't we all just move on? The church is yet one more human institution that has failed to deliver us from our humanity. In fact, its disingenuous claims and duplicitous presumptions serve only to mask humanity's shadow side, making the church not a sanctuary at all, but a dark and dangerous place whose demise cannot come soon enough.
But we all share one thing. We feel it as a hope, a hunger, a need, and sometimes as an aching in our hearts: we long to find our soul's true home. We want to live out the peculiar destiny of who we are, of what we're supposed to do, and of how to make our own unique contribution to the unfolding of the world. For some of us, the church takes us there; for others, it only takes us away. Regardless, one way or another, as Saint Augustine said, our hearts are restless, until they find their rest ... in God.
My guest in the Mystic Cave this week is Arthur Aghajanian. He is a writer, an art educator, and a Christian contemplative whose own restless heart led him on a spiritual journey away from the church to the religious practices and philosophies of the East, but then back again to Christianity, to claim the deep mystical tradition that underlies all religions. His journey is not only instructive for seekers everywhere; it is inspirational.
The mystical tradition, common to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, seeks the unifying and liberating experience of the One around whom we have tried to erect our fences and set our gates, who we have tried to name and make our own. But the Spirit blows where it will, slipping through the bars of the cages we build, always in motion, always free. The mystical tradition seeks that God, who cannot be captured by our beliefs and who will never be tamed by our practices, but who waits for us nonetheless ... until we are the ones who are found.
Perhaps it is this path, the path of the contemplative seeker, that will lead us beyond the contradictions of religious doctrine, beneath the hypocrisies of institutionalized religion, and into the very heart of the Divine, where there is only one reality: the One who calls us to our soul's true home.
Here's a link to this week's episode, "Into the Mystic: with Christian Contemplative Arthur Aghajanian." [Just press the Play button...]