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Themes in Christian Spirituality V: Exploring the Uncharted Waters. "Crisis, Prayer and Action."



Introduction


In this posting on Themes In Christian Spirituality, I have chosen to touch on matters that have been raised over the eight months I have taken this course. I have broken the topics into eight sections: Shivering In The Darkness, God Is With Us, Letting Go Of Our Pain, Pray Pray Pray, Purpose Through Christ, Accepting Grace, Example For Others and A New Language For The Age. I will conclude by expressing my optimism for the future in both Christianity's ability to articulate the message of Jesus Christ with new languages, signs and symbols and the fact that we have the courage to care for others on our journey through life.


Shivering In The Cold Darkness


Life is not antiseptic. A clean break from most problems is rare and there are times when we "wade through the swampland". The journey that Episcopal Priest and Academic Alan Jones (1940- ) describes in his book, Journey into Christ, is clear evidence of this reality. We get cut by the rocks and soon find ourselves alone shivering in the cold darkness. When things in life are going well, we tend not to think about our choices as deeply as we do when we have been bloodied by abuse, loneliness. illness and poverty. Our frailties are exposed and our choices demonstrate our abilities or inability's to cope with our dilemmas.


This is when one is best served by being able to reflect on not being cold, but how to look for warmth and to replace their insecurities with peace of mind. Sometimes the choices are obvious and sometimes they're not, but I believe that in prayer, we can experience God. Knowing this is key to making the rougher parts of the journey a little easier. Above all, one should take heart when the wrong decisions are made.


On the Christian journey one is offered and re-offered the opportunity to relieve their pains by being comforted by the fact that the One who offers them solace also suffered the indignities of life. Because of this they will realize that they are not alone, both in their struggles and joys. If this call to action is not accepted, then it is difficult to keep moving from the cold darkness into the warm light.


God Is With Us


God is with us both in good times and bad. at our darkest moments. Methodist and Spirituality writer Jean Blomquist, (1936-2022) like many people has wrestled with her dark and painful moments, both spiritually and physically. What comes out of her experience for me is her deep Faith which, even though it was tested by insecurity and doubt, won out.


I believe what won the battle for her, as it did with Jacob in the Bible, was her innate knowledge that, in her struggles, she was not alone. Though sometimes shaky, she kept her connection with God. She accepted what she could not change and adapted to her reality. What she could fix, she made better. The Wisdom, of course, is knowing what things in life we can and can not change. Many of us, unfortunately, live in an existence in which we hopefully earn from our mistakes and then move on.


Letting Go Of Our Pain


Like the Fisher King in the book The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden, we tend to live our lives holding on to our emotional and psychological scars. Sometimes these wounds never allow us to mature on a spiritual level. Jungian Analyst and Psychotherapist Robert A. Johnson (1921-2018) aptly describes the inability of Western Man to adequately express their feelings. Such a loss of expression is a clear loss of personal fulfillment.


I believe that no one is truly complete if they can not express what hurts and what makes them feel vulnerable. However, I also realize that our psyche would want to bolt at the thought of having to display such emotions. On the journey of life, as a sign of maturity and fulfillment, there could very well be a point when all people are confronted with the need to heal their wounds. I believe that it was only at this point that the Fisher King could die in peace. The sooner the wounds in our lives are taken care of, the greater our chances of living in peace.

Pray Pray Pray


I think that by praying, we have the opportunity to alter our spiritual course. For instance, when we pray for courage to get through a difficult situation and somehow we experience an outcome that brings us either the strength to vanquish our fears or the sense of peace that we need to face the challenges ahead, then we have experienced effect of prayer. We have become transformed by an act where through interaction with something that is other then ourselves; we have changed.


Such transformations can range from simple feelings of peacefulness to an outright Divine Intervention. There is nothing like the power of prayer. I remember the peacefulness my father exuded when he faced death at the age of fifty-one. I believe that through his prayer he was able to accept his future, as frightening as it must have seemed to be for him. He somehow could look beyond the moment to the other side. I could only hope to face my own death with such dignity.


I believe that prayer is a way of looking at the moment of crisis beyond what is currently happening. To use modern language, prayer is a cellphone, during ones hour of need, which connects us to the journeys end. The joy and peacefulness that we can experience after prayer is the sense that rescue is not too far off and our heavenly home is near by. It is good to remember that prayer is present for us at all times and not just in our hour of desperation. Being in touch with the God is always available to us and we are promised that if we call, God will not disconnect.


We Find Purpose Through Christ


I believe that Jesus Christ, who is God, is with us as we live out our lives. That Presence, that Spirit, is ours for the asking. However, not everyone recognizes or accepts God. I believe that our responsibilities, as Christians, is to demonstrate love and care for all people, especially those among us who are in need of help to find God. It still, nevertheless, must be understood that their life are theirs alone. Their particular Faith Journey, and personal decisions that come from it, should be respected. Let us remember that only God knows the future.


So what does tomorrow bring? Even the best plans can not prevent the surprises that life brings to us. We make the decision of where to attend university, where to live and who we will become our best friends. Most of the time, we make such decisions with little thought. However, the same people, I believe, if given a chance to reflect on their decisions may find that their movements in life has a cohesiveness to it. Their Life Path has not been random. If they reflect deeply enough they may discover that it was and is indeed purposeful.


Unfortunately, not everybody is thinking in this manner. Some people experience a lack of purpose and direction. They may even become depressed and see there journey as hopeless. If they don't bring themselves out of this mindset, they are apt to live their life in despair or even worse, consider suicide.


It is here where I believe that people are capable of encountering God in their darkest moments. Jesus told his Disciples that He would be with us always. So, God is in the darkness because the darkness is part of the journey and I believe that we pass through the darkness not alone, but with God.


It is through our Christian Faith, living as Imitators of Christ that carries us to journeys end. With this in mind, I think that our purpose, as devout followers of Christ, is to journey with the Crucified; those who are in Crisis. Jesus tells us, "Whatever we do to the least of my brothers (and sisters) that you do unto me ".


Accepting Grace


As for myself, I believe that I have taken advantage of some of the opportunities that God has offered me. To date, my involvement with my Faith Community, through my parish activities, is a testament to just that. I've been blessed with the opportunity of meeting and then engaging in the lives of many people. I've learned to become a teacher and a friend to more people then I could ever have imagined.


I believe that what I am doing is part of the God's plan to guide others on their Faith Journey. I hope to utilize my talents by bringing out courage, faith and hope in others. This Grace which comes from God and it can be best understood as yet another sign of God's influence in every persons life.


Mother Theresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) was an example of someone who reveals God's Grace. She was someone who lived with and for God in all things and places. She stood as a role model for many of us to keep looking for God, even in the most horrid of places.


I believe that Grace is a natural result of living in the presence of God; and many of the Saints seemed to have been aware of this. As Alan Jones put it, "God is both the journey and the journeys end". I believe that when we acknowledge God and choose to live as a follower of Christ, we receive the Grace which will give us the abilities to live out a righteous life.


Be an Example for Others


I can not overemphasize the importance of having a Mentor who can be an example in how one should live a life of Christian action. Father Frank Abbass (1931-2019) was the one who taught me about journeying with a Faith Community and how I could be a Spiritual Guide for others. Between 1992 and 1998, he took the time to sit with me and discuss not just what I'm doing, but also probing the deeper questions of my purpose in Ministry and what it means to me.


We attended gatherings together and I was keen to see how he interacted with Parishioners. He was affable and not ridged in his approach to Ministry. He taught me that when a we gather in God's name, we partake in prayer. Every word and action is liturgy.


Father Frank Abbass taught me that talking to neighbour is talking to God. Parish work is pure prayer because it acts in the Spirit of God. For me, Christian action begins with prayer. Father Abbass gifted me, a normally introverted person, with the courage to be more outgoing and active in my approach to Ministry. He set the bar for me. He was my example and his Mentorship proved to be most invaluable from that day onwards. Father Abbass imparted upon me a proper way to Minister to the Faithful; to be truly Pastoral.


A Language For The Age


If we don't continue to talk to people in a language that will tell the story of God and His creation and continue to speak about the Good News of Jesus Christ, then other sets of narratives and images will replace them. As mentioned earlier, communication with God is vital if we want to still be reminded of our quest to return to Him.


The words we use, and the signs and symbols of our faith, that a loving creative entity, greater then ourselves, created us iscould be in need of some adjustment; so as to explain the Christian story in this present age. If language loses its meaning the messages can become muddled and incoherent. Other stories are told and the connectedness between the creator and the created fades, while human energies begins to focus on a journey that may go nowhere.


The language of capitalism with its symbols and signs of rugged individualism is an example of the new religion that accepts the notion of winners and losers and the idea that heaven is the possession of accumulated wealth. The Christian Faith is forced to share the world stage with ideologies and theologies that can be counter to it principles of egalitarianism. A language that is both contemporary and able to speak to all people is required if the Church wants to continue to be the moral voice of the ages.


In Conclusion

"But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit." 1 Corinthians 6:17

The reason why we have uncharted waters is because things in our world are continuously in movement. People pass through, while others stay to only unexpectedly leave when we least expect it. Scientific and social paradigms can shift our point of view and make us question our previous ideas and notions about almost everything. However, as an optimist. I believe that Christians will speak the language of the age to tell the story of Jesus Christ.


I learned from Author Anne Gordon's (1941 - ) wonderful book, A Book of Saints: True Stories Of How They Touch Our Lives that many Visionaries who respond to God's Grace have transformed the world. Our current age is no different than previous ages and I believe that Visionaries, like Mother Theresa, will give sight to the Spiritually blind. As long as Christians are active members in society, then their message will be shaped to tell the authentic Christian story in a language that is clearly understood today.


Everyday I witness our faith presented on the internet and even though it shares the same space with other sites that are counter to the basic Christian ethos, it is still there and its presence is very powerful. Christian sites exist in many locations around the world and there messages quite often are clear and very much to the point.


My prayer is that we never lose sight of the importance of both the journey and the journey's end. As Christians, whose faith is founded on the belief of God as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, it is comforting to know that our Faith Journey, into these uncharted waters, is buoyed by the simple fact that we never travel alone. Such faith will give us the courage to endure the inevitable trials and tribulations that will naturally come our way, and the hope to look straight ahead into a certain future; one in which we are united with God.

End.


Originally submitted as a Final Paper to the Rev. Tom Maddix as a Master of Theological Studies course requirement 554v - Taking a Chance on God - Major Themes In Christian Spirituality


Published on April 24th, 1997 {Revised November 15th, 2023}


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