I am indebted to John Philip Newell and his book: A New Harmony for the insights that lie at the heart of this sermon. Listen to the sermon here
It was a beat-up 1969 Chevy Nova, I bought it for $640 in the hope that it would last long enough for me to complete my undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia. At the age of 32, I had enrolled at UBC in the hopes of obtaining an honours degree in Religious Studies. I couldn’t really afford a car. But nor could I afford the time it would take to travel on public transit between the university and the bank clearing house where I needed to work the evening shifts in order to pay for my education. I was living in a shabby basement suit, where the rent was cheap and the parking non-existent. When I was lucky, I found a spot in the alley behind the house, when I was unlucky, I’d have to park a few blocks away. Walking in the dark alley at night was frightening to say the least. Often, I would encounter an old woman, who as near as I could figure out was living rough.The back alley had a number of old sheds and garages against which this old woman would sometimes create a sort of tent out of old clothes and cardboard. We never spoke to one another, but we did recognize one another.
I knew that she belonged in the neighbourhood and she knew that I belonged in the neighbourhood. Neither of us was comfortable in the back alley at night, and it was almost a comfort to run into one another, rather than an unrecognized stranger. One morning as I was hurrying off to class, I heard the old woman moaning underneath her makeshift tent. I quickly unlocked my car and drove off to the University to study the religions of the world. My first class was Ancient Near Eastern Mythology, the Prof gave a 2 hour lecture on the development of Mono-Theism. I then had a 3 hour seminar in the methodology of Religious Studies. The seminar was made up of the my fellow honours students. The nine of us were receiving private instruction from the professor of Jewish Studies. Among my fellow students was a young man who would become one of my best teachers. Sannidhi was a Hindu who I suspect has traveled this earth in many incarnations. Sannidhi possessed a wisdom beyond his 20 years of age. Sannidhi taught me the Hindu understanding that all gods are but pale imitations of the ONE God who lies at the very heart of all that is. It was from Sannidhi that I first learned the Hindu description of the God that I have come to love above all other descriptions of God. I’ve shared it with you many times: God is beyond the beyond and beyond that also.Continue reading →
Thinking about this Sunday’s epistle reading, Galatians 3:23-29 and wondering how we might re-imagine the Apostle Paul’s insistence that in Christ “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Might it be that those of us who follow the way of Jesus need to consider subtracting our language about “Jesus Christ” as the source of our ONENESS in the One In Whom All Life Is Rooted? Can we begin to re-imagine language for what we mean by “Christ”? What can we learn from sisters and brothers who follow a different way to ONENESS?
John Philip Newell’s recent book, “New Harmony: The Spirit, The Earth, and The Human Soul” provides an Eastern perspective from which I’m looking anew at the Galatians reading. You can hear Newell reading from the chapter “Every Bush Is Burning” in which I trust preachers and seekers alike will find much to contemplate. Enjoy!