- I don’t believe in a physical Father Almighty, though I suppose Creator/Spirit/Mind/Source (C/S/M/S) could choose to take that form in some very limited but specifically useful expression,
- Who fathered through the Holy Spirit an only-begotten Son of God who was physically or spiritually put together any differently than you or I.
- I do believe in C/S/M/S, that is the breath of life in all of us, in whom we live and move and have our being.
- I am much more inclined to believe in reincarnation than I am to believe in the actual resurrection of my specific physical remains (yuck!). Or let’s say I think “I”, whatever spark of C/S/M/S “I” am, can likely be reconstituted in any way, shape, time or place Creator/Spirit/Mind/Source desires.
- I have a completely unfounded faith and confidence – call it a firm suspicion and longing – in/for life everlasting.
For me, as for many people I know and love, the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds just don’t cut it. I live life between creeds. An important disclaimer: Growing up Mennonite, I was not raised in a creedal tradition. We didn’t talk about it much, so I didn’t really know why. I was aware of the creeds. I think we read them occasionally, incidentally, accidentally. We were just more concerned about following the teachings of Jesus about everyday life. Looking back, I am grateful.
Liminal space, the threshold, the doorway between – spiritual directors like to talk about that as the creative place to be, the place where C/S/M/S can act for our growth. It’s a place of wonder, of openness, but also of uncertainty and sometimes loneliness. It is a place of leaving behind, of preparing to move forward, of not yet having arrived. We live in liminal space and, I believe, in uniquely liminal times.
The people I connect with most don’t go to church anymore. Or they confide, when they know they are safe, that there is nothing there for them spiritually – that they go for the sense of community, but that their spirit is hungry for something no longer found there.
I participate in two separate and independent gatherings, one called Journey and the other called, of all things, Journeys. These groups both discuss questions of spirituality. They are composed largely of people who grew up Christian, and who, for the most part, no longer participate in traditional church. The average age in both groups, for whatever reason, is probably people in their early eighth decade (70’s, if you don’t want to do the math). At 60, I am a relative youngster. One meets in a church, sponsored and at least tolerated by a church, before the regular service. Few of the perhaps 50 participants stay for service.
Liminal space is restless, like the times after a revolution and before the formation of a new nation. These times lack definition and structure. They are creative and risky, uncertain. Traditional community is gone. There is something within us, like the Israelites in the period of the judges, that at least subliminally (interesting, the derivation of that word) wants a king, and probably a creed.
It is 2013. The world was supposed to end last year, just like it was supposed to end so many times before on so many calendars. Perhaps it did. Perhaps something truly tipped and the grip and bands of twenty centuries of Christianity (not Jesus, folks, but Christianity), broke, lost hold. The bands did not disappear. They did not dissolve in a flash, but they finally rusted through. And the staves of the barrel are loosening. The old wine is seeping and even running down the sides.
There is sadness, grief and pain in that loss. It’s the music that hits me hardest. So much incredible beauty, longing and hope, but with words that are hard to mouth and to articulate as we stand in this present doorway. One day, and even now, I hope it can be sung with affirmation, as metaphor that, like all good metaphor, touches deep aspects of our human and spiritual condition, not as hard dogmatic reality. I will not let the music go, or much of the scripture for that matter – language of healing and hope, full of C/S/M/S, beauty beyond beauty.
And there is hope and light in the doorway. I can’t, even if I want, rush through it. And the truth is I don’t want to. Younger people will move past, and they should. They will find their new creed and community. And I might, too, in time. But for now, I am at peace in the doorway, in this liminal space. Both feet are perhaps on the threshold. I am no longer in the past. But neither have I moved on into some hard fast future.
I trust a bright tomorrow. I trust the spirit of today. I am grateful.
© Two Trees in the Garden. All rights reserved.
So much of what has passed for the practice of Christianity must now be laid to rest. So much has only sowed the seeds of us vs. them, of the righteous vs. the wrong and evil ones. So much of how Christianity has been practiced through the centuries has resulted in separation, elitism and murder. So much of what has passed for Christianity bears no resemblance to Jesus. As you said, we are in a liminal space, and a risky one. New community around new and carefully tested understandings have the opportunity to enter that space and create new foundations. It will take much courage, and not all will stay in the room. Lovely reflections on being at the cusp. Thank you, Jerry.
Thank you, Gloria.
A lot of what you say resonates deeply. Still, I’m not ready to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We should Skype sometime. Would love to hear more about your communities.
Thanks, Leslie, and good to hear from you. Yes, let’s talk. I would enjoy that.
There is something about the early church that is in harmony with what you are saying.”1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 The same was in the beginning with God.3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1: 1-5). The earlier witnesses had a time (as we all do) expressing the essence of what they experienced and yet they persevered through persecution and martyrdom to ensure the good news was delivered to all parts of the earth. I myself prefer nature and simplicity to the stratification and razzamatazz of the structured 21st century church and somehow I believe whichever one we choose, it’s still okay. Thanks for sharing your journey, Jerry!
Ah, Carmen, thank you for your grace. I realize this post can grate pretty hard, depending on a person’s view. It’s the harsh lines and cut and dried access set up by creedal Christianity to which I object. The “God” I know (creative source, spirit, something way beyond any language except what we know in our hearts to be love), I know I am part of. I was made in that image. I was granted the ability to know and to choose. Do I want to be separate (an illusion, ultimately, and a dead end if it were true)? Or do I accept and rest and be and respond to the call that has always been there to be my part of all “that was made?” I choose that. Jesus chose that. The prophets put out that call. The Upanishads are full of that call home. I have no desire to destroy a faith that holds anyone together and on course in life. But I can’t bear in any corner of my heart or soul to see the sword of dogma wielded in the name of love in ways that divide, separate or exclude. I believe that Word, that beginning creative sound and beauty and energy will continue until it has reconnected with everything it created — coaxed it to connection no matter how long, no matter how far, patience without fear, confidence that knows nothing else.
What a gift to have responses from three incredible sisters of the South Bronx. I could never have imagined . . .