Friday, April 01, 2011

A short reflection on the Nture of Spiritual Experiences and Traditons

Luke 9 ... Reflections from the one year Bible reading for today...

"32 Peter and the others had fallen asleep. When they woke up, they saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, “Master, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials[a]—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 34 But even as he was saying this, a cloud overshadowed them, and terror gripped them as the cloud covered them."

I find in almost every tradition of the Christian Faith some of this propensity to turn experience... not fully digested and understood... into doctrine.

Richard Foster does a good job in my opinion in his book Streams of Living Water of honoring various Christian traditions... showing how we need the balance offered by the rest of the body of Christ and noting the tendencies towards distortions in the the different traditions he takes the time to explore.

There are a lot of people having powerful religious experiences these days. and there are debates about what all this may mean. If in the end we do not hold what we have experienced with great humility... we are in danger of becoming like Peter in this text. Confused at best...

I Corinthians 12 is clear... we need the whole body of Christ together and we need to be rooted in love and patience with each other.

There are others that when insecure about whether or not a movement of the Holy Spirit... and if it is from God... seem to me to be like the apostle John latter in this text:

49 John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group.”

50 But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.”

Truth is tested best when it comes against evil and is able through good to over come it... If you see that going on in a tradition of the Church that is not your own... support it and do not tear it down.

By saying all this I am not saying that we should be lazy about discernment. Instead I am saying that we need to pursue discernment with the counsel of other and do so with humility trusting that God is both working in our communities and outside of them.

The last thing that I will mention from this text is that it is centered on what everyone else except Jesus, Moses, and Elijah were focused on. Jesus going to finish his sacred work for us by going to die on a Roman cross for our sins... and to rise again that we might have life in him. The is no good Christian theology that is not Christ centered and centered on the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. This is the focus that God will call us back to again and again ... whatever tradition of the Christian faith we have encountered and are learning from:

While everyone was marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Listen to me and remember what I say. The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies.” 45 But they didn’t know what he meant. Its significance was hidden from them, so they couldn’t understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

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