The master passed by a preacher who said, “We should not be concerned with the world but with God.”
The master remarked to his disciple, “Wouldn’t it be better to see God in the world?”
“What do you mean?” said the disciple.
“The preacher creates a dividing line between ‘the world’ and God — implying that there are ‘godly’ concerns and ‘worldly’ concerns. But that line is an illusion and is the cause of much strife. Witness the wife who complains that her husband spends too much time at church, or the family that is neglected in the name of God.
That is why I say it is better to see God in the world. See God in your neighbor. See God in your wife and family. See God in your work, in your every action and in every person you meet. That way, everything you do will be a godly concern,” concluded the master.
As if to rebuff my previous post about getting out of the church habit, I found myself in church (albeit a different one) two Sundays ago and heard an interesting sermon about religion and relationships — one that I agreed on.
The point was that religion (or spirituality) is about relationship and not so much about rules and regulations. But people today have this whole idea backwards. That’s why people look at churches as a place where rules and norms are observed, instead of a place where one can relax and be oneself.
Come to think of it, that is a large part of what turns me off about church. Aside from mostly unenlightening sermons that make me tune out and doodle on the program sheet, it is the artificial nature of relationships. There is a large amount of trying to look good, of trying to live up to the ideals of what a Christian should be, a large amount of covering up one’s preferences and shortcomings instead of just being honest and open about them.
Followers of Jesus should remember that sinners flocked to him. They wanted to be with him. With him, they felt no judgement, no condemnation, only compassion and rest. This so irritated the Pharisees who did not want to have anything to do with “sinners”.
I would like to extend this idea to most religions — because there is indeed a tendency to have this “holier than thou” attitude when one is steeped in the protocols of one’s religion.
The true measure of one’s spirituality is not the amount of friends you have in your own religion, but perhaps, the amount of friends you have outside of it — who are aware of your beliefs and convictions, and yet enjoy and even yearn for your company nonetheless.
It has been a while since I’ve felt the need to go to church. Yes, I do go once in a while. In fact, I attended last Sunday because a friend of mine was speaking and I knew he’d talk sense. If he didn’t, at least I was confident that he wouldn’t drag things out to the point of boredom. But it has been a few years since I’ve really felt the need to “go to church” either for worship or fellowship or whatever.
Spirituality for me has become something very personal. It is not measured in how often I go to church or how involved I am in its activities. I used to think that way though, but no longer. Spirituality is in the moment. It is in the now. If you are not spiritual now, then you cannot be more spiritual in church (although it may feel that way). Spirituality is not a result of actions but comes by just being silent and still inside. It is an inner knowing of who you are — and a constant gratitude and celebration of your being.
When I was in high school (and still very much involved in church activities), I encountered a poem that I didn’t quite agree with at that time. But there was something in it that called to me. I kept that poem and even used it when I was teaching English literature a few years back. Reading it again now, I think I’ve come to understand it better, and I know why it called to me — because that was how I really felt in my soul.
Here’s the poem.
by Oscar Peñaranda
Here I am again
sitting alone in my car
nostrils and mouth sucking wafts
of wind rushing through open side windows
on a cliff hanging over the bay there is
music from the radio
that green monster of a gelatin sea
kisses white tongues of foam kneeling
to lick the shore serenading the lone
atop the jagged crags of rocks
there is music there also
they drown the chimes of distant chapel bells
come, take my hand
roll up your sleeves
and bare your chest before the naked sun
what I want to know is where
they ever got the barbaric gall
to call me
The master passed by a minister preaching against materialism. He was exhorting the congregation on the virtues of sacrificing their earthly desires for the rewards of heaven.
“Our treasure does not lie here on earth,” he said, “But it lies in the bosom of our heavenly Father.”
“Interesting,” remarked the master. “You preach against materialism but yours is even worse because you desire to bring it to the next life. You tell people not to cling to their possessions here by guaranteeing that they will have all those and more in the next life. You are after intangible rewards, but a reward nonetheless. What is so virtuous about that?”