I want to share my story, my journey, my pilgrimage. I hope my reflection on the current status of my journey will help you reflect on your journey. Having watched The Way with Martin Sheen, the image that immediately pops to mind is the 500 mile trek from Southern France to the Coast of Spain—the Camino de Santiago (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1441912/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago.)
The movie is about the loss of a son whose ashes are now being strewed along the path that he started but never finished. The movie is about relationships—the relationships that develop as Tom overcomes his isolated individualism and learns to relate to his fellow travelers. Pilgrimage is about relationships which are dynamic and unfolding.
If it were not for personal relationships in our current church faith community, I could well be at this point a member of what Bishop Spong calls the Church Alumni Association. My journey has led to a renewed study of mythology. Why? Because I now realize that the scriptures are not meant to be interpreted literally. God-experience can only be described in poetry and metaphor. I am watching one of The Great Courses Lectures on “Myth in Human History.” We have the misconception the myth = untrue. Not so. Myths are stories that speak to us of deeper realities. This is why we have to approach scripture as myth. The fall story cannot be taken literally in terms of modern understanding. Evolution is a process and underlies all processes. If we are emerging toward the ultimate Omega Point, then there never was a Garden of Eden. Among other things the fall story is an explanation for way things are the way there are. As evolving creatures, we are inherently flawed and have to, thought the power of God-love emerge into great love consciousness.
In addition, in trying to understand the scriptures, we have to be cognizant of the world view which prevailed at the time they were written. Spong writes:
“Christianity,” I began, “is a faith system whose scriptures are the product of the first century, which inevitably means that those scriptures reflect the world view of first century men and women. These scriptures assume that epilepsy, mental illness and muteness result from demon possession. They assume that sickness is a manifestation of divine punishment. They assume that God is a supernatural being, who lives somewhere external to the planet earth and that this God invades human history periodically in supernatural, miraculous ways to accomplish the divine purpose. These scriptures also assume that whatever could not be explained within the first century frame of reference must be regarded as a miracle. This of course means that people today, who want to literalize the scriptures as the ‘inerrant’ words of God, inevitably literalize a world view and a series of assumptions that no modern, educated person could possibly believe.”
This is the root of my current reaction to participation in healing ministry. My experience tells me that good things happen when we think about and pray for others. I have experienced this first hand. Recently, anticipating a meeting which had the potential to be quite contentious, I asked two church friends to pray for me. The meeting did not meet my worst expectations. I have seen prayer bring healing in unexpected ways. Having prayed with a friend who was in hospice dying of cancer and his family, I later learned that the healing occurred. He died; however, his wife told me that after we prayed with him, he came to peace and was able to make the final life surrender.
Yet I cannot take the healing stories in the New Testament literally. I must interpret them in terms of a modern worldview. Jesus’ overpowering love and compassion restored those with ostracizing skin diseases to membership in community.
I am getting some clues from the writing of Ilio Delio, Franciscan theologian who is well versed in modern scientific theory. How do we explain healing in this context–a context where God is not up there and out there but rather flowing through creation as expanding Loving Consciousness?
Healing goes well beyond creedal formulas. Healing rests in the very heart of God—Trinity is about loving relationships. I do not profess to understand the intricacies modern science but I do know that describing the God experience as the presence to us of loving creative consciousness makes sense. God is light and God is the Light of Love within us and all of creation.
Scientist Robert Sheldrake speaks of morphogenic fields. Forget the high flouting scientific language. Life is a matter of relationships where spirit and matter, matter and energy ebb and flow. Delio writes:
According to Sheldrake these fields of habitual patterns link all within the species. The more a group has a habit or pattern— whether of knowledge, perception, or behavior— the stronger it is in the field and the more easily it replicates in other members of the species. The novelty of Baldwin’s theory as well as that of Sheldrake is that creaturely agency plays a role in evolution. We are more than our genes; we are our relationships. Delio, Ilio (2013-04-15). The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Kindle Locations 951-954). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.
Wow! Healing does make sense in this context. Habits or patterns in a field—our relationships and community—replicate. When we have habits and practices of prayer for one another, we establish a pattern of love and compassion which permeates the other members of the field (group). There is synergy.
Again, listen to Delio:
Stephen L. Talbott’s article “The Unbearable Wholeness of Beings,” opened me up to the magnificent interdependence of living systems. His article reminded me of what I had known from my graduate studies in biology (but forgotten in the ensuing years)— that biological processes, for example, those of a living cell, do not operate like clockwork but like artful, choreographed rhythms. The whole is made up of interrelated little wholes. When examined closely, all parts of the cell reveal a dynamic integration of components. Delio, Ilio (2013-04-15). The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Kindle Locations 247-252). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.
Love is the fundamental energy of evolution. Beginning with Big Bang cosmology through quantum reality and biological formation, love shows itself as explicit God-consciousness in the person of Jesus and the continuation of Christ in evolution. This Love is God-Omega, the love that generates new life and urges cosmic life toward greater unity in love. What Teilhard reminds us is that evolution is the openness of life to the future. We are an unfinished species, corporately and personally, grounded in an infinite depth of Love; thus openness of our lives to love and what this means in terms of creatively reinventing ourselves as persons in evolution is the challenge ahead of us. Divine Love is the heart of an evolutionary universe, and this love is a constant birthing; it is the emergence of Christ in whom all peoples, religions, cultures, trees, flowers, stars, sun, and moon are gathered in one body of being-in-love. The God of evolution is a God of “newness” because God is a dynamic communion of Persons in love, becoming ever more deeply in love through the generation of the Word and Spirit. Evolution thrives not on “rugged individualism” but on communal interdependence. Delio, Ilio (2013-04-15). The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Kindle Locations 304-312). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.
I will conclude with one more citation from Delio:
Evolution discloses a new God, an immanent-transcendent fullness of love that inspires us to create anew, a new earth with a new God rising from within. The Gospels tell us of God’s faithful presence. We are invited to trust, surrender, and believe that this world can be different, that justice and forgiveness are possible for the earth community. God’s love is ever new, always with us yet ever before us. To live in this love is to be committed to the whole, to live in the whole, to think the whole, to love the whole, to be “turned to the whole.” Evolution is “wholemaking” in action, the rise of consciousness that realizes self-separateness is an illusion.
Delio, Ilio (2013-04-15). The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Kindle Locations 332-336). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.
If evolution is wholemaking in action, healing ministry is certainly nothing less. We are co-creators of wholeness and well-being. God as love enmeshed in creation flowing forth is all about shalom—wholeness, peace, well-being. Our patterns of prayer for wholeness for one another unlocks the flood gates of divine love flowing forth. God is making all things new in the Cosmic Risen Christ.
This is where I am at my current way station on the journey.