My Starting Place
As a young Catholic boy, I wanted God’s approval even though God was an old white man who was all powerful, all present, but critical, demanding and frugal with love.
I opted for Jesus who became my role model and who taught me kindness, power, possibility and love.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life” - John 14:6
While my brothers collected baseball and football cards of talented players. I collected holy cards of the saints. They were my heroes. Their stories taught me courage, integrity, commitment, and the need for community.
At the time, I also decided my calling was to I be a priest. So in the fourth grade I built an altar and practiced doing communion with Necco wafers and Kool-Aid. In fact, my family occasionally still gives me Necco wafers for Christmas or my birthday.
The Baltimore Catechism or “Catholicism for Dummies” provided me with all the core beliefs of the Catholic faith. Unexpected, but fundamental to my finding God was a simple question: Where is God? And the answer in this catechism was God is Everywhere. For a young boy, this was awesome, but somewhat intimidating and confusing.
I was not sure I wanted God to be everywhere in my life. I mean, I was far from perfect and my hormones were raging. However, this simple answer that God is Everywhere laid the groundwork for me to question key dogma of my faith. I mean if God is everywhere, then God had to be present with Baptists, Jews, Mormons, Muslims.
I have to admit, when I raised this issue in my religion class, it was not received with very much grace. Nor did loving my Baptist neighbor as myself resonate too well with a church that promoted itself as the one and only true faith.
However, this did not stop me from attending Mt. Angel Seminary for high school boys pursuing the vocation of priesthood. After 4 years, I realized I needed more life experience and I began my wandering in the dessert.
Wandering in the Desert - clues to finding and knowing God
For me this was the time of the Vietnam War, taking on my draft board to become a conscientious objector to any war. It was the time for bell bottoms, folk music, college and expanded view of the world. I was challenging everything.
As a result, although there was Catholic theology that I found intriguing, the dogma no longer served me and I left the faith and began to explore other spiritual paths. During this wandering
• I learned to perceive chakras and interpret their energy
• I attended Quaker meetings and came to appreciate the power of silence.
• Workshops on human potential opened me up to new ways of knowing myself
• Unity introduced me to prosperity and beliefs that held me back from receiving, and Jesus showed up again
• “So I say to you, ask and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. Matthew 7:7-8
What I was discovering in my desert wanderings was that many of the core beliefs of major religions were very similar.
I then decided that if God is really everywhere, then we all share in God. And just maybe we do more than just share. Perhaps we are the One and in that oneness there is God. So I came home and found God.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T.S. Eliot
To become an ordained minister took 6 years of study and spiritual practice. It included bible study, world religions, quantum physics and neurological research, meditation, prayer, forgiveness and gratitude.
My theology and spiritual beliefs
• Together we are God.
• God is in us, through us and as us.
• We are united; we are one.
• No matter what, there can be no separation from God. Sometimes a situation or someone’s behavior or our own behavior blinds us from recognizing the God within us and within each other.
In preparing my words for today, I reflected upon the mission of your spiritual community and I asked how do we find God in all that you want to do. It is easy to find God in those we agree with. Many issues are controversial so how do we find God in those we don’t agree with. How do we find God in the hater, the abuser, the addict or just a family member or congregation member who is irritating or unreasonable or disagreeable to our personal truth or opinion.
What is radical hospitality if not the challenge to step outside our comfort zones and risk love in unfamiliar and uncomfortable places. I believe Rachel Naomi Remen offers a powerful spiritual practice to do so. And that is listening.
“When we listen, we offer with our attention an opportunity for wholeness.
Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person. that which has been denied, unloved,
devalued by themselves and by others. That which is hidden.
In this culture, the soul and the heart too often go homeless.
Listening creates a holy silence.
When you listen generously to people they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time. And in the silence of listening, you can know yourself in everyone.
Eventually, you may be able to hear, in everyone and beyond everyone, the unseen singing softly to itself and to you.
I believe that unseen singing is the God within us, as us, through us, waiting to be remembered.
Jesus was known to be a miracle worker. And when he said “I am the way,” I think he was saying that God is within us, as us, and through us and it is time for us to create our miracles with radical hospitality and in social justice, peace and healing.