Thursday, February 03, 2005

A NEW CHURCH FOR A NEW WORLD


Four holy persons came out of the desert: three men and a woman.
Copyright, Paschal Baute, 2005

The first holy man said: "I have found the Book of Holy Stories that has God’s answer to everything. We will follow it in everything we do." He soon had many disciples, and they distinguished themselves by following the Sacred Book to the letter. The Book was their guide to everything, a code-book of rules for life. They distinguished themselves by their love of this book and their ability to quote it for any occasion. The Book was revered and honored by many. Many became holy.

The second holy man said, "I have found wondrous feelings of Great Devotion in our worship. All our talk and songs will help promote and produce these Wondrous feelings." Many became his disciples, and they were well known by their ready feelings of Great Devotion and their magnificent enthusiastic worship. No one could sing and praise God the way they did. Their members were most likely to be transported into feelings of joy and even ecstacy. Many became holy.

The third holy man said, "We shall have Certain Authority of our Creeds and Traditions. We shall also distinguish ourselves by our officials having lines of authority directly descended from the original followers, and by officials required to be voluntary celibates. They will wear special clothes to distinguish their position, ranks and titles.� Now these holy men were greatly admired and had a large following. They were distinguished by the Rightness of their creeds, their many devotions, the singular history of their Traditions and their loyalty to their Supreme Leader. Many joined and many of these also became holy.

The fourth holy person, a woman, said, "We will find this mystery we call God by serving others wherever and whenever we can, with all the riff-raff of the world, especially the poor and suffering, even if we break some of the rules of the Ancients and don't always have special feelings. Furthermore we make no distinctions among ourselves or others.� She said anyone can do this at any time, without being in any way special, and that all people everywhere could find this Mystery of Divine Hospitality in welcoming the strangers and outsiders. “Sacred Books, Holy Devotion, or Following Holy Creeds and Distinguished Persons are useful but not necessary.� There was nothing noteworthy in belonging to this group except their gentleness and service of others. Many came to observe and admire her work, but few followed her.

(A brief pause when this story is used with a group, i.e., some questions when used as a lesson / homily: To which human needs did the four persons appeal? Why were some more successful in gaining followers than the others? Which of the groups gave their members feelings of specialness? Why did the third holy man have a large following? Which mystified themselves and their Way? Which of the groups was more likely to have pride and self- righteousness? Which of the groups was more likely to look down upon those who did not belong to their way? Which offered the most protection against sin and fear, uncertainty and guilt? Following which holy person requires more risk and vulnerability? Which of the holy persons, in your opinion, is the closest to the mission Jesus announced in Luke 4:18; or closest to His actual life? Which of these paths would others say you are now following by your life? Which group was the “most inclusively catholic?�
Pause for group discussion. Afterwards: now walk with us back through the door of your imagination for the REST of the story.)

Suddenly, an extraordinary event happened on the planet. An Angel of the Lord appeared to each of the four, and said, “Come with me and board my Heavenly Spaceship. We are going to another planet to establish a New Church for a New World. Curious, they boarded the spaceship and it ascended. As they circled the globe, the Angel asked each to examine the earth beneath to assess whether their faith had been effective for the health and healing of the One Human Family.

After some silence, the Angel then announced. “Your ways, although good and holy in themselves, are, whether you recognize it or not, not sufficient. The New World needs more than you have offered. You have the next hour to see if you can agree on what shall be the sole ritual for the New Church. If you can agree we will proceed to the new planet. If you cannot agree, we are going directly to meet the Face of God and your time of earthly service is completed.� The Angel paused for this directive to sink in.

“Now,� said the Angel further, “We do not expect you to figure all this out by yourselves without consulting the Spirit and Muses of your own traditions, so we suggest you each and all begin with a time of silent meditation. Then we will give you two tips for when you are ready to converse.� Later the Angel said: “First, the elements necessary are five. Second, we do not expect you to get all five, so we will give you the first, which is “Gather the People.�

(When presented as a story, the story teller pauses to have the community in small groups discuss this challenge. Often many will suggest some, but not all of the following)

The answer for the church of the New World is

1. Gather the People
2. Tell the Stories
3. Break the Bread
4. Celebrate the Faith
5. Welcome the Stranger

(The community now discusses whether these activities are the necessary signs, in their own faith perspective, of the New Church emerging)

Then the People of God there will decide and Wisdom for the New World emerges.

End of story, end of lesson. All Rights reserved, copyright, Paschal Baute, 2005