My & Our Spirituality
Pentecost 1, b, 1 Cor. 12:12-26
June 3, 2012
As our worship service drew to a close last Sunday, and Mary Lu and I stood at the foot of the chancel while Patrick played the closing notes of the hymn of invitation, there on your faces with quivering lips and tears on your faces, you said something important about your spirituality and our spirituality as a congregation. Over these 4 years Patrick's music has moved us and has drawn us closer to God. We will miss him. And we pray that our new organist will also be able to help us draw nearer to God in a similar fashion…undergirding our spirituality.
Famed historian of Christian spirituality, Urban T. Holmes, has developed a typology for understanding our spirituality. His typology was taken into a work by Dr. Corinne Ware in her book Discover Your Spiritual Type: A Guide to Individual and Congregational Growth. You may have noticed that in the handouts on the last page is a spirituality wheel for discerning and discussing spiritual types. Reflecting on our experience with Patrick's music, many of us would affirm this statement: “singing warms and unites us and expresses the soul’s deepest heart.” In Holmes’ typology those of us who make that affirmation are expressing an aspect of our spirituality which is more heart oriented than head oriented and more with respect to God's being revealed than God's mystery, an expression of the 2nd Quadrant’s spirituality.
Why, you might ask is this anything more than of passing interest? Understanding what feeds us spiritually as individuals is very helpful in orienting ourselves towards sources of sustenance and nurture. If I have learned through my experience of listening to him play the organ that Patrick's music is going to open me up to a wonderful sense of God's love and care, then I can make plans and provision for that kind of experience in my spiritual path.
Likewise, if we were to discover through a concerted look at our individual preferences for spiritual nourishment, if we were to discover that music of the style and the intensity Patrick shared was a commonly held value, then we as a congregation would likely make it a priority that his successor be in that same vein.
In fact, as a part of our New Beginnings process the remainder of this year, we hope to be learning a great deal about ourselves individually, about ourselves as a congregation, and about the community that surrounds us. It seems quite appropriate, then, to start out with a careful look at what it is that feeds us spiritually.
That's why we have provided these printouts of Dr. Ware’s Spirituality Wheel. I am hoping that a great many of you will take these home with you, read through the instructions, then fill out your own spirituality wheel and one that you think would represent our congregation as a whole. If you are willing to do that and get your results back to me we will have the information we need to be able to answer some important questions about what feeds us as a congregation spiritually and what areas of ministry we might well develop next. I hope you will take the 10 min. or so to complete this form. It would be helpful if you put your name on the forms, as well, but I'd rather have a response with no name then no response.
As we heard from the apostle Paul's letter in first Corinthians a few moments ago,[i] what is true about there being different spiritual gifts is also true about there being different spiritual dispositions or ways of connecting with God.
But God has so arranged the body…the congregation…with different preferences in how best to sense God’s presence and guidance…. But there should be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
We should not seek to change one another to fit into a particular mold, but in love we should learn from one another and we should plan together for a community life that spiritually feeds everyone as well as we possibly can.
1.)Some of us are best inspired by a rousing conversation in a church school class discussing some theological perspective or biblical injunction; a thoughtful sermon; an analytical book. This is what we would call a thinking spirituality- a Quadrant 1 spirituality on the last page of your handout. These people often are big time readers. They may be drawn to theology and to the historical development of religious ideas. They are attracted to speakers who can offer clear and cogent statements on the relationship of the Christian faith to issues of the day. Those expressing this spirituality are extremely important to the congregation because they are the ones most concerned with keeping our thinking clear and our relationship to our heritage faithful.
2.)Others of us are fed spiritually by wonderful organ music or entranced by the singing of the choir or the playing of the handbells- a feeling spirituality, a 2nd Quadrant spirituality, that highly values relationships with God and with others. This spirituality is more attuned to feeling God's love, forgiveness, and one’s freedom in Christ. Our sisters and brothers who represent this form of spirituality help keep our community connected and they tend to be some of our best evangelists in every good sense of the word, wanting others to share the wonderful experience that they have known.
3.)Some find they are closest to God when they sit in complete silence for a long period of time in a candlelit room- a mystic, Quadrant 3 spirituality. People drawn toward this type of spirituality are by nature contemplative, introspective, intuitive, and have great vitality in their inner world and often less interest in the outer world. Of all the four quadrants this may be the one that we in contemporary Western Protestantism do the worst job of providing for in our worship time. For the mystics, there is never enough quiet. What these sisters and brothers bring to our common table is a passion for inner transformation and renewal of the spiritual self. Out of their rich experience and their passion for more of God for themselves and for us all, they pour forth books and articles on spirituality and soul work without which we would all be so much poorer.
4.)And still others find themselves closest to God when they are out engaging in some important work in the world, marching for justice, building a ramp for a newly wheel chair bound neighbor, or rebuilding a peasant’s home on a mission trip to Central America . This is an activist, Quadrant 4 spirituality. These Christians have a passion for bringing the kingdom of God to light in tangible ways: feeding, healing, and actively caring for others. They find the presence of God palpable in the camaraderie of others transforming society into its God intended Shalom. Worship is fruitful for such activists when it inspires and energizes them and others to get out and do that faithful work.
So do you think you can now name which is your own main spiritual type? Did you spot our congregation’s as a whole? A hope you’ll take the time to fill out that form at share it with me.
Let me make a couple of points very clearly. First, we are not saying any one of these spiritual types, any one of these approaches to God, is better than another. They're different and they are all important. In fact, were any of these approaches to God was missing, the church as a whole community would suffer from the lack of that missing piece.
Secondly, this exercise does not force you into one only Quadrant. As you fill out your form and add spokes to the wheel you will hopefully find some spokes in every quadrant. My own quadrants 1-4 came out with 10,10, 12, and 8. So I come out a bit higher on the mystic scoring, but everything is in the mix.
Because one quadrant has more than the others does not mean that you are forever trapped in, say, a dominant thinking spirituality. In fact, one of the important learnings of this process is that the quadrant diagonally across from our dominant quadrant often becomes an area where we might well find new ways to connect better with God.
That's because, and this is my third point, a spiritual growth goal for the individual and for the congregation as a whole, is to grow in our appreciation of all four ways of becoming aware of and serving God. The image of the circle is appropriate in that we want to stay within the circle. If any single one of these approaches becomes our only approach there are spiritual dangers to being so myopic. What we want is a well-rounded or as one writer put, “a fully orbed Christian spirituality.”[ii]They we reach that noble goal is by uplifting and celebrating each every pathway drawing us closer and closer to our God.
Will you pray with me….
Gracious God who has provided us with such riches in our spiritual lives, grant us the wisdom and the guidance we need, to continue growing our connections to your Spirit…faithfully attending the practices that have served well, and ever open to the wondrous new way that You open before us. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
[i] The choice of this passage, a number of ideas herein, and a few phrases in my sermon are drawn from my colleague, Rev. Tom VandeStatt of the Congregational Church of Austin’s sermon, “A Variety of Spiritual Gifts” published on their congregation’s website.