Christian spirituality, it doesn’t start with you – Sermon 4/5

It’s not uncommon today to hear people talking about spiritual things – or talking about spirituality. Not every uses this kind of language – and not everyone is comfortable taking about spirituality. But there are plenty of women and men in our culture who believe that spirituality, or spiritual things, are important to life – and who are interested in exploring such questions.

As with many other subjects, it’s a challenge to discuss about spirituality because there are very different ideas out there about what it means to be spiritual. But I want to begin this morning by reflecting on what I think is one of the most common approaches to spirituality in our culture. And to do this, I’d like to begin with some words I found on the website of the Wellness Centre at a Canadian University. It seems to me that these words capture a very common understanding of spirituality that is “out there” today. So here on the screen is the definition given:

Spirituality is unique to each individual. Your “spirit” usually refers to the deepest part of you, the part that lets you make meaning of your world. Your spirit provides you with the revealing sense of who you are, why you are here and what your purpose for living is. It is that innermost part of you that allows you to gain strength and hope.

As this quotation makes clear, spirituality in our culture has to do with our deepest identity. Spirituality has to do with finding meaning and purpose in your life. Spiritual questions are questions that relate to something deep inside you – the core of your being, where you find energy and hope and joy.  Continue reading

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the Spirit of the future – sermon 2/5

Let me begin with a question this morning. When you think about the future, what do you imagine? When you think about the future, what do you feel or think or imagine? We could answer this question in terms of our own immediate future – in terms of what’s going to happen in my and your life in the next 5 to 10 years – what do I feel or think or imagine in terms of my own future. But this morning I’m inviting us to think more widely about the future – to think in terms of the future of our society.

Let’s think about Canada 100 years from now, in the year 2114. If you were to think about what Canadian society might look like in a hundred years, what do you imagine. On Canada day, July 1st, 2114, what will Canadian society look like?

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 2.43.42 PMMaybe we can help ourselves think about this by doing so in terms of a question you might be asked for a poll, for a sondage. You might get a phone call at home, and be asked a series of questions – and one of the questions might be something like this. Are things in Canada getting: Much worse, worse, better, or much better? What would you say?  When you think about the future, what do you imagine? Continue reading

the Spirit in Creation – nature and spirituality (1/5)

carlise-beavertail-canoe-paddle-lWhen we think about our spiritual lives – when we think about our relationship with God – each one of us will have special moments that stand out for us. Each of us will be able to think back to particular moments when we felt a special closeness to God. Moments when we were particularly aware of God’s love; moments when we were particularly aware of Jesus’ voice calling us; moments when we were particularly aware of the Spirit’s gracious moving in our hearts and lives.

I’d like to begin this morning by describing one of these moments that I have experienced.

I was on a retreat with a group of students from Regent College, more than 15 years ago. This retreat was taking place on Galiano Island, which is one of the Gulf Islands just off of Vancouver Island. And as a part of this retreat, a small group of us rowed from Galiano Island over to uninhabited Wallace Island. The rowboat we used was actually a replica of an 18th century Spanish boat. As you may know, the first European explorers around Vancouver Island were Spanish, and so this replica rowboat was a reflection of that European heritage.

In any case, about twelve of us rowed over to uninhabited Wallace Island. And when we got out of the boat, our professor sen each of us to find our own place on the island to sit and to pray and be silent and reflect. So I walked some ways through the thin forest and found a little spot looking westward out over the water. About 8 feet down below my feet there was the shifting and wavy salt water. I could see blue starfish clinging to the rocks under the waves. Up above me it was a sunny, near cloudless day. There was a breeze blowing in from the open channel that I was looking out over. Continue reading

Michelangelo’s David?

When you hear the name Michelangelo, different things might come to mind. Michelangelo was a towering figure of the Renaissance period. He was a poet, a sculptor, a painter, an engineer – history has been very kind to the memory of Michelangelo. When you think of Michelangelo the artist, you might think first of the vaulted ceiling of the Sistine chapel, which he painted in various scenes – including the well known Creation of Adam. Or perhaps when you think of Michelangelo the artist, you think of one of his most famous sculptures – a sculpture that is of particular interest to us given our present sermon series – of course I’m talking about his sculpture of David. Most of us have only seen pictures of Michelangelo’s David, though a few may have seen the original in the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy.

That instantly recognizable statue of David is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture. Michelangelo’s brilliant and beautiful sculpture is intended as a celebration of youth and of strength and of the human form. The sculpture presents David in a posture of defiant, yet relaxed readiness – readiness to fight Goliath. David’s sling is slung comfortably over his shoulder. Continue reading

I Believe in the Holy Spirit

A sermon preached today, in a continuing series on the Apostles’ Creed.

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This morning as we come back again to the Apostles’ Creed, we turn to the third and final section of the Creed. Already we have thought through “I believe in God the Father.” We have considered “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son.” This morning we come to the words: “I believe in the Holy Spirit’. 

The creed, we recall, is not simply a statement of right thinking and right belief. It is, rather, a statement of our fundamental human trust. Our trust is in God the Father, who created us and loves us. Our trust is in Jesus Christ, the Son, through whom God delivers his decisive ‘Yes’ to the human. And, finally, our trust is in the Holy Spirit.

We trust this God, who has shown his face to us.

We trust this God who has shown himself trustworthy.

We trust this God who will finally judge and will make all things new.

This morning as we consider our trust in the God’s Spirit, our belief in the Holy Spirit, it may be helpful to consider for a moment the language of spirituality that pervades our culture. You can’t get past a magazine stand; you can’t get through a book store or a television program, it seems, without some mention of spirituality. Even in our education system and within community organizations, you can’t escape references to spirituality.

This modern notion of spirituality is in many ways a vague idea. It’s difficult to pin down what exactly people mean today when they talk about this spirituality. Nevertheless I think we can give some general idea of what it is. Modern spirituality is rooted, it seems, in a deep dissatisfaction with the way things are – many in our culture have the feeling that there must be more to life than what they experience in the day to day, the week to week. There is dissatisfaction in relationships, dissatisfaction with how we have thought about our bodies, dissatisfaction with the technological answers our society offers to nearly every question, dissatisfaction with our distance from the natural order – there is a profound sense that there must be more to life.

Putting it positively, the language of spirituality expresses a desire for a closer relationship to nature, a deeper sense of the mystery of the world – it expresses a longing for authenticity (to really be myself), a wish for deeper more meaningful experiences of community, and a desire for relationships that are not so superficial.

How do we respond to this contemporary interest in spirituality? Continue reading

A Twofold ‘Yes’

A sermon preached yesterday – March 15th – in a continuing series on the Apostles’ Creed.

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After a two week hiatus we come back today to the Apostles’ Creed – we continue our series of reflections on the faith we confess. Through this series we have been reminded that the Apostles’ Creed is more than just a statement of right belief. The creed is also a statement of our fundamental human trust. Every human life is built on trust. And the creed helps us as a community of faith to give voice to our most basic trust God – in the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

                                                                                            

This morning we are back into the second section of the creed – in which we give expression to our fundamental trust in Jesus – in this particular person – our faith in the one who is God’s Son, who is Lord, who is the anointed one.

 

And today we come to additional words that are used to describe Jesus. Here they are:

conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary

 

What are we to make of these two statements? What do they mean? What is the creed helping us to say when we stand together with one voice and declare that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit – that he was born of the Virgin Mary.

 

Well it may seem strange to hear it, but this morning I would say that these two statements of the creed can best be understood by thinking about the word ‘Yes’.

  Continue reading