Saturday, 14 January 2012

Discipleship Lite

Now this is very important, and fundamental to the very nature of the Community here. So I'm going to have to lay this on the line. It's really not going to do anyone any good if I beat around the bush here.

Some people have asked me whether maybe the Beaker life is not challenging enough. They've been noting the lives of some of the famous disciples - Peter, for example, Stephen or maybe James. And they've noticed that quite a lot of them, on the whole, ended up dead at an earlier age than might have been expected. They notice that Paul, among his many adventures and brave preaching of the Gospel, ended up getting beaten up, flogged and imprisoned more often than is the average.They have suggested that, if the "Beloved Disciple" was that same St John that washed up having a Revelation on Patmos, then maybe that was a lonely place for the lad who spent the early days of the faith at the heart of a group of disciples to end up.

They have noted the long and nasty history of many of the people that followed on - and the lives being cut short, even today, of thousands of Christians worldwide - of places where they are persecuted, imprisoned, kidnapped.

And they've noted a long tradition of holiness and self-denial, of discipline and trying to act the right way.

And they've asked whether we're missing something in our daily life.

And I've said to them - yes, it's true. Apart from when battle breaks out over what scent the tea lights should be, we rarely get involved in any punch-ups due to our faith.

But I say, look at the struggles we go through every day. We work ceaselessly to ensure that every liturgy we use provides maximum personal fulfillment and uplifting experience. We'd not have time to do this if we were constantly battling the desires of the flesh.

And hungering and thirsting after righteousness is all fine, sure. But if it's spiritual experiences you want, then getting all holy first is a long way round. I mean, some of those saints had to work for years before they really got godly - and that's a long old wait for a blessing. We offer easy-access ritual providing a short-cut to beatific feelings.

But don't think we are immune to self-criticism. We are not afraid to take a long hard look at ourselves. After every act of worship we ask ourselves - did that work? Were people uplifted? Did they find themselves challenged - but not in a depressing kind of way? Were the music group in tune (answer - almost certainly not). Did we "break through" in a new and exciting kind of way - even newer and more exciting than we did last time?

But we don't want to go letting that spill over into our daily lives too much. After all, many Beaker People would find that, if they didn't carry on being grouchy, moaning and back-stabbing at work, they would be under stress. And stress is a bad thing. You don't want to go getting stressed, as if you do you'll be unhappy and not enjoy yourself. Much better to be yourself - no matter how sneaky and unpleasant that may be.

You see, it's not like we don't reverence saints. Of course we do. We love saints. Saints are great examples for us to look at. But they're just a bit kind of strenuous, aren't they? As Eustacia Vye remarked about St Paul, while he was excellent in the Bible he'd hardly do in real life. Going round denying self, living for God, being all things to all people - it's all a bit much. And we love Mother Julian of Norwich deeply, and will often reflect on a hazelnut in her honour (in appropriate season - we're not barbarians, after all) - but getting locked up in a brick cell so as to concentrate more on the divine is not my idea of a balanced spiritual life.

So I've suggested that if they want a more demanding spiritual life, maybe they could attend the extra-late Howling at the Moon and extra-early Saluting the Dawn (which can be carried out an any time of night, due to our dawn-simulator in the Moot House). With a bit of luck they should find that the sleep deprivation gives some lovely spiritual feelings.

1 comment :

  1. Well I can't say really, but I do know that a visit to this website is like a day with sunshine in it. Keep on trying, I think you are on the right track.


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