[space]The Ground of Faith
Exploring Science, Mysticism and Experience Together

July 2005
"Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth"

Editors: The Rev. Michael Cocks and The Rev. Victor MacGill

Contents

Editorial

Note from the Editors

General articles

Episcopalian 'Catechism of Creation'

Culture and Spirituality
Victor MacGill

A Spirituality Beyond Culture
Paul Tillich

Theme Articles

Process Theology
Rev. Barbara Vincent

(Two Songs)

"Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth"
Michael Cocks

Editorial

Note from the Editors

This journal is affirming and supporting the life and work of the Christian churches, with their varying theologies, and it does so by giving examples of how science, mysticism, and human spiritual experience also affirm the core of Christianity. We present some items of general interest, and then articles to do with the theme of this issue: “Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth,” an echo of the story of the infant Samuel receiving guidance from God...

The St. Stephen quotations can be read as if they were the words of a modern mystic, and be found valid for us, or not.

We would like to draw your attention to some interesting and relevant resources. You might also like to check the identity of the production team. Submission of articles, and both positive and negative correspondence welcomed.

General articles

Episcopalian 'Catechism of Creation'

[Episcopal Coat of Arms][From <mailto:news@episcopalchurch.org> March 29, 2005 ]
[The logo to the left incorporates the Episcopal Coat of Arms, and is called the "Science Triad"]

This is published by the Committee on Science, Technology and Faith and prepared for study in congregations by Phina Borgeson.

The document is organized in question-and-answer format and posted on-line at <http://www.episcopalchurch.org/science/>. The document's three main sections suggest use in a range of situations, and have drawn praise from scientists and theologians, clergy and laity. "The goal of the Catechism is to remind people of the importance of the glory of creation and the ways in which it touches people's faith every day," said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina and editor of the Anglican Digest. "The doctrine of our creation is a vital part of our faith that's been too neglected in recent Christian tradition."

Nevada's Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is also a scientist specializing in oceanography, said the Catechism promises to be "useful in a variety of venues: youth groups, diocesan environmental commissions, and garden-variety adult education in the parish, as well as an educational tool."

Culture and Spirituality
Victor MacGill

Culture and Spirituality are intertwined. If a culture changes, the way the people see their world changes, and therefore, the way they express their spirituality will also change. So, if we look at how and why culture changes, we can gain a better understanding of how the expression of our spirituality changes over time.

To read the rest of this short article click on this link:
<http://www.vmacgill.net/culture.html>

A Spirituality Beyond Culture
Paul Tillich

[Paul Tillich]Paul Tillich: The New Being (1955): Transcribed from Paul Tillich’s sermon delivered on the eve of his retirement from Union Theological Seminary in New York in 1955.


Excerpt:

If I were asked to sum up the Christian message for our time in two words, I would say with Paul: It is the message of a “New Creation.” We have read something of the New Creation in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Let me repeat one of his sentences in the words of an exact translation: “If anyone is in union with Christ he is a new being: the old state of things has passed away; there is a new state of things.”

* * *

  [Editor's note:

The previous verse, 2 Cor 5.16 KJV: "Wherefore henceforward know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth we know we him no more." Paul is saying that he is quite aware that there had been a physical Jesus, but he is no longer concerned with that Jesus, but rather with the Risen Christ. In union with this Risen Christ there is a new creation in all whose consciousness is transformed. In fact, Paul is saying that he sees all people "after the Spirit".In his letter to the Galatians, chapter 2, Paul checks that the Good News that he preaches, is compatible with the Good News that the Jerusalem church was preaching. It was compatible.

This suggests that Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven being "amongst you", "repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand", that this was a major aspect of the teaching of Jesus. It suggests that both Jesus and Paul were mystics, and were preaching the gospel of spiritual transformation.]

* * *

A further excerpt from Tillich's sermon:

What is this New Being? Paul answers first by saying what it is not. It is neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision, he says.

For Paul and for the readers of this letter this meant something very definite. It meant that neither to be a Jew nor to be a pagan is ultimately important; that only one thing counts, namely, the union with Him in whom the New Reality is present. Circumcision or uncircumcision -- what does that mean for us? It can also mean something very definite, but at the same time something very universal. It means that no religion as such produces the New Being.

Circumcision is a religious rite, observed by the Jews; sacrifices are religious rites, observed by the pagans; baptism is a religious rite, observed by the Christians. All these rites do not matter -- only a New Creation. And since these rites stand, in the words of Paul, for the whole religion to which they belong, we can say: No religion matters -- only a new state of things.

Let us think about this striking assertion of Paul. What it says first is that Christianity is more than a religion; it is the message of a New Creation. Christianity as a religion is not important -- it is like circumcision or like uncircumcision; no more, no less. Are we able even to imagine the consequences of the apostolic pronouncement for our situation? Christianity in the present world encounters several forms of circumcision and uncircumcision. Circumcision can stand today for everything called secular, but making half-religious claims.

There are the great religions beside Christianity: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and the remnants of classical Judaism; they have their myths and their rites -- so to speak, their “circumcision” -- which gives each of them their distinction. There are the secular movements: Fascism, Communism, Secular Humanism, and Ethical Idealism. These try to avoid myths and rites; they represent, so to speak, uncircumcision. Nevertheless, they also claim ultimate truth and demand complete devotion.

How shall Christianity face them? Shall Christianity tell them: Come to us, we are a better religion, our kind of circumcision or uncircumcision is higher than yours? Shall we praise Christianity, our way of life, the religious as well as the secular? Shall we make of the Christian message a success story, and tell them, like advertisers: try it with us, and you will see how important Christianity is for everybody? Some missionaries and some ministers and some Christian laity use these methods. They show a total misunderstanding of Christianity (by doing so).

The apostle who was a missionary, and a minister, and a layman all at once says something different. He says: No particular religion matters, neither ours nor yours. But I want to tell you that something has happened that matters, something that judges you and me, your religion and my religion. A New Creation has occurred, a New Being has appeared; and we are all asked to participate in it.

And so we should say to the pagans and Jews wherever we meet them: Don’t compare your religion and our religion, your rites and our rites, your prophets and our prophets, your priests and our priests, the pious among you, and the pious among us. All this is of no avail. And above all don’t think that we want to convert you to English or American Christianity, to the religion of the Western World. We do not want to convert you to us, not even to the best of us. This would be of no avail.

We want only to show you something we have seen and to tell you something we have heard: That in the midst of the old creation there exists a New Creation, and that this New Creation is manifest in Jesus who is called the Christ.

Theme Articles

All of us may desire a direct relationship with God, and there are many theologies that consider this. Martin Buber in his I and Thou, J.H.Oldham's Real Life is Meeting, Paul Tillich and many others. The next article describes another such theology that has had much influence.

Process Theology
Rev. Barbara Vincent

Barbara Vincent's article is presented as a separated document so that it can be printed and more easily read. Here however is an extract:

During the first half of the twentieth century Alfred North Whitehead, an English mathematician, developed what he called a ‘philosophy-of-organism’ during his 'retirement' years as a Philosophy Professor at Harvard University. He formulated this metaphysical model of reality as a result of his work in physics and mathematics but drew also on areas such as history, sociology, philosophy and particularly from religious experience which had been an integral part of his background as the son of an Anglican cleric. His model, therefore, took account of the revolution in scientific thinking about the structure of matter that had taken place during his years at Cambridge and London Universities. For him (in his own words), "Reality is becoming; it is passing before one – a remark too obvious to make … you can’t catch a moment by the scruff of the neck – it’s gone, you know." "Hang it all! Here we are. We don’t go behind that; we begin with it."

[ Read the article ]

(Two Songs)

We love the immediacy of the songs of the Wild Goose Resource Group, two of which are reproduced here:

1. Don't tell me of a faith that fears
  to face the world around;
  don't dull my mind with easy thoughts
  of grace without a ground.

Refrain: I need to know that God is real!
  I need to know that Christ can feel
  the need to touch and love and heal
  the world, including me!

2. Don't speak of piety and prayers
  absolved from human need;
  don't talk of spirit without flesh
  like harvest without seed.

3. Don't sate my soul with common sense
  distilled from ages past,
  inept for those who fear the world's
  about to breathe its last.

4. Don't set the cross before my eyes
  unless you tell the truth
  of how the Lord, who finds the lost,
  was often found uncouth.

5. So, let the gospel come alive,
  in actions plain to see
  in imitation of the One
  whose love extends to me.

© Wild Goose Resource Group, Iona Community, Glasgow, G51 3UU, Scotland.
Used by permission.

1. Jesus Christ is waiting,
waiting in the streets;
no one is his neighbour,
all alone he eats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I am lonely too.
Make me, friend or stranger,
fit to wait on you.

2. Jesus Christ is raging,
raging in the streets,
where injustice spirals
and real hope retreats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I am angry too.
In the Kingdom's causes
let me rage with you.

3. Jesus Christ is healing,
healing in the streets;
curing those who suffer,
touching those he greets.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I have pity too.
Let my care be active,
healing just like you.

4. Jesus Christ is dancing,
dancing in the streets,
where each sign of hatred
he, with love, defeats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I should triumph too.
On suspicion's graveyard
let me dance with you.

5. Jesus Christ is calling,
calling in the streets,
"Who will join my journey?
I will guide their feet."
Listen, Lord Jesus,
let my fears be few.
Walk one step before me;
I will follow you.

© Wild Goose Resource Group, Iona Community, Glasgow, G51 3UU, Scotland.
Used by permission.



"Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth"
Michael Cocks

[Samuel listens to God]The Mystery we call 'Christ' or 'God' transcends Religion, transcends what the human mind can think up to say about that Mystery; -- that Mystery whom we worship, and to Whom we pray.

We may perceive Meaning in the present moment, in this Divine-human encounter, in a number of ways:

Stephen´s Prayer

[Stephen icon]“Lord, let me forget that I am me,
Let me know that I am with thee,
Let me not separate myself from thee
Because I am me.”

  When we are truly able to pray this prayer, then we are ready to recognise what we receive from the Father.

Note for new readers: The communications from Stephen the Martyr were mediated by Thomas Ashman, a Jew, in deep trance. Specialists in a number of fields have closely examined the records together with the fully documented reasoning from linguistics, sound Biblical scholarship, and historical research. There seems to be a consensus that the best hypothesis is that the communications are genuine.

"Where Thou leadest, I will follow"

[shepherd leading sheep]
A shepherd leading his sheep between pastures, near Bethlehem in southern Judea

§131 August 31, 1976 Stephen spoke these words:
  Where thou leadest, I will follow:
  if it be thy will, then I will follow, for you are my shepherd,
  and you do lead me beside green pastures.
  You do lead me beside still waters.

You will always lead as you have,
through death and through life,
and I am here because it is your will.

Teach me, O Father, more that I should follow Thee
  and not look either to the right or to the left,
  let me be one who would follow and walk in your footsteps.

Let me not be concerned with the fact
that I do not know where thy steps lead,
only that I may trust and love you.

  For if I do this, I need have no doubt
  of the destination being according to your will.

  For where else would your steps lead me,
other than the path that you yourself travel on my behalf, that I may follow.
If I know this, then surely goodness and mercy will follow me
all the days of my life, and I will dwell with you.

[my path]  Sometimes on this path I may feel the cold of the wind, and if I look to the left and see those that stand by my left hand, I may wish that I be with them.
  Other times I may look at those on my right hand,
  and I may wish that I were with them.
  But always Father, my foot is drawn and I must follow.
Let me see that where my feet are drawn, this is not penance, but my path.

Stephen on receiving from the unseen

§19 September 1, 1973
  Firstly, each and every soul does receive. Each one, when we feel love, is receiving. We all receive every second of the day and night, God’s love, sunshine, rain, food for the body, the mind, the soul, the love of others and much more.

  I receive also, I receive from you, I feel the willingness here with myself, to serve the Lord. To receive this feeling from others is a gift that comes to me from yourselves. Receiving is basically the awareness and feeling of God within you as you are within Him.

[father and son] When a child dresses itself, when a child eats, when a child plays with its toys, it does so in acceptance, not in wonder. For a child knows that these things are there as a right of love, by the grace and love of its parents. Therefore these thing can be enjoyed simply and without question by the child.

 Now take another child, one that does not know its parents, one for instance that lives with other children in a home for orphans. The child is told, “These are gifts to you from this or that organisation, this was given for our use from yet another organisation and a kind person has supplied you with this.” Each child, the one who knows its parents and the one who does not, has the same things. But the one who knows his parents, has what can be received by no other!

  So our first step in being able to receive is to know that there are not diverse organizations throughout the universe some mysterious union or club that supply us with these things. These things come from our personal Parent/Father. We should ask for grace to receive from the Father, for without this true concept of our Father, we become lost and we have not received.

  Everything without exception is received from the Father. The whole of the present moment is received. Knowledge, intuition, guidance are only aspects of what is received.

  Knowledge or memory was left behind when each of us incarnated. When we are ready for the recall of some of this knowledge, then we receive that recall, we remember, in differing ways, at different times.

  The Cell influences the extension of the Father, for the Father knows all and the Cell which it is part of knows all. The influence of this knowledge has been with yourselves a long time. Not everyone needs the same method, (trance), for this recall. Not everyone has that knowledge to recall.

[question]  A helpful friend once spoke to you saying. “If the answer were not yours, then the question can not be asked”. Fear not your questions, for what you ask is yours to know. I assist as your memory only in so much as I help the decision as to when you might recall. I even assist when I tell you that to progress further in conversation sometimes confuses. Be at peace with yourselves, for you know in your emotions what you should be and how you should be. Never let the mind persuade you against emotions in these things. I will depart now, God bless you all.

Ways of receiving knowledge, or recovering our memories

  Guidance and answers to questions are received in many ways. Visions, intuition, instinct, symbols, images, dreams, the spoken word, the written word and trance. These are but a few of them. Spend time quietly by yourself, eyes closed and pray for guidance. Some may call this contemplation, and we are often told that we must make our minds become blank. This is a mistake! We should let our minds act, let our minds receive, let our minds understand and let thoughts come and go. Allow an answer to arise from a question you have asked, you may be surprised at the wisdom it brings. For we can learn much from our thinking. Ideas that come into our thoughts are our receiving if we would just allow ourselves to accept what comes.

[contemplation] After contemplation, check and confirm your answer, for a true answer must satisfy the question. Confirmation does not necessarily have to come in words. The truth of what comes is either felt or not felt. If confirmation comes in like words, then what is felt when these words are seen or heard, is the confirmation, not the words themselves. Words help, they are seeds and these seeds when planted, will grow. They grow, not in thoughts, but in emotions and feelings.

 Words, and what words convey, are very minor and crude tools, feelings and emotions give us a greater range of expression and receiving.

  Remain open to receive, for you know that it is only at these times when you have remained open with no preconceived ideas, that what you receive is the most satisfying. Achieve this consciousness of openness and you will receive. Ask and you shall receive. One receiving or word or sentence in itself, is insufficient. Each true receiving or true purpose, must be the truth. The guide to truth is that there must not be any contradictions.

  So receive parallel to the receiving and check for errors. To follow just one instance of receiving, would not be wise. Remember, the message is the important part of receiving. What medium or instrument is used, (books, trance, painting, visions), is of little consequence. God bless you.

You can learn more about Stephen here.