The Spiritual Journey
I was five years old when my Grandmother Hattie died of cancer. After the funeral we all went back to our house to mend our broken hearts sharing stories, and partaking in the food and drink. After a while all the company had left for home, and it was time for us children to retire for the night.
I went to my room confused about the days events. My Dad followed me into my bedroom . He was concerned as to how I was handling all that had transpired throughout the ordeal, and tried his best to comfort me with a pat on the head. We sat silent on my bed for several minutes with his big hand rubbing my back, and looking at the night through the window in my room. The sky was dark and clear with millions of stars shining brightly.
My Dad was not a religious man, but did have a sense of a higher being…God?
My Dad stated,” pick a star in the sky and say a prayer to it, then Grammy will hear you and will know that you loved her.” He also said that I should ask God to” let her into heaven,” because she had been a fine mother and grandmother. With his paternal part completed, he left the room to leave me to do what was instructed.
The first thing I did was recall an exercise that the Sunday school teacher had taught us about Jesus on the cross. She had us hold our hands out to our sides for as long as we could to show how much pain that Jesus may have gone through for us. For some reason I held my arms out like she had instructed us in school, and closed my eyes. I’m not sure how much time had passed, but my arms were tired. I then picked out the star, and got on my knees and said, ” God, please take care of my Grammy, because I love her. Will you please take her to heaven with you. Amen!”
A feeling of great peace fell over me, and I knew that my prayers would be answered.
The classes on spiritualism has enlighten my perception in the spiritual concept, explaining the patterns of spirituality played out in different times, for different people, and the evolution individuals and cultures have experienced. The spiritual life is not a theory, but has to be lived to become a valid and functional benefit of the believer. An abstract concept that creates possibilities through faith, love, and an open mind.
Some individuals become spiritual through forbidden avenues, learning lessons the hard way. Spirituality may not get you to heaven alone, but will let you out of hell. Thank you for the enlightenment.
Rev. Mark England
Ordination with the Universal Life Church, is free, and lasts for life, so use the Free Online Ordination, button.
As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site to help train our ministers. We also have a huge catalog of Universal Life Church materials. I’ve been ordained with the Universal Life Church for many years and it’s Seminary since the beginning and have loved watching the continual growth of the seminary.
Try our new free toolbar at: ULC Toolbar
Search for the Historical Jesus
The search for the Historical Jesus course has been a delightful review/romp through the various theories surrounding this controversial subject. The instructor takes you through the various theories surrounding the search beginning with Reimarus and his school of thought and ending with current theories which have recently found fresh food for thought on the subject. The instructor’s expansion of ideas about Jesus’ kingdom theories and his approach to his role as a way shower and messenger is carefully explained to show how each could be a viable explanation of Jesus’ role on the world scene.
The search for a better representation of this important figure is a worthy journey and the only one that makes any sense. If we can determine who this individual was and how he viewed himself and his role, we might better appreciate his message of simplicity. His strong sense of mission and his insistence on establishing the kingdom of God was a message of timely import. He stated over and over again that the kingdom was within and not an earthly one that was hoped for by many.
The otherworldly persona placed on him and his role has been the product of other’s thoughts and philosophies under the guise of divine interpretation and is not wholly associated with his message. When historians and theologians create their own divine messenger, it is easy to attribute and manipulate what they thought was stated. The Jesus/God that was created was the product of Jewish thought intermingled with Greek metaphysics. There is no scarcity of documentation attesting to the existence of the God/man Jesus. The solidification of those theories eventually became a reality as a result of the decrees issued by the various Church councils. On the political side, all of this to insure that the emerging administrative church could take its place as an heir to the Roman Empire. On the spiritual side, the Fathers (theologians, philosophers et al.) of this organization were sincerely earnest in their quests to understand the divine nature of Jesus/God’s message and messenger. They endeavored to interpret doctrine and dogma in the best possible way for the Church and its followers.
The major challenge begins when one realizes that the subjects are on two different levels. The Fathers of the Church were dealing with their own conception of their deity or at least the one that came to be accepted as the “true” god. The search for the historical Jesus is a search for a “real” human being who had hopes, aspirations, ideals and a sense of mission or not. The human Jesus is the one that people can identify with as opposed to some “created” superhuman giant.
The value of the search is important because the closer we get to valid possibilities, the better we can appreciate those possibilities. This seems to be the only way to proceed because of the scarcity of first hand documentation. Jesus apparently did not write his teachings down but relied on oral transmission of his message to others and seemingly left it to their discretion to relate what was said and meant.
Historical research has a tendency to rely too heavily on its own definition of historical fact. Much of what we know of our own historical past is based on tradition and also fictionalized versions of those individuals we deem as great personages. The same situation applies to the individual we know as Jesus. The translation of apocryphal writings, some very fictionalized, present a very human Jesus. They present stories of his mother’s life and his childhood. They relate stories of his family life and how he was viewed by his peers and neighbors. Again no one person has played on the imagination of the world as has this person. The more we have a chance to know and experience Jesus, the easier it will be to make an informed decision about his mission and how it can influence our lives. Millions of individuals look to the New Testament as their leader and guide without questioning the authenticity of the writings. Many do not question anything relating to “accepted” scriptures not realizing that the canon of those scriptures was the result of a decision made by men and sanctioned by an organization. They were the result oftentimes of decisions motivated by bitterness and jealousies and petty rivalries.
This writer finds that the search for the historical Jesus is a worthwhile endeavor in and of itself and finds that delving into that search is both exciting and informative.
The role of the academic community devoted to finding the historical Jesus beginning with Hermann Reimarus’ investigations (1778/old quest), and continuing today with the Jesus seminar groups has brought to the forefront the necessity of finding out who the human Jesus was. The recently formed Jesus Project continues the search with promised results that will be as varied as previous attempts no doubt.
Prior to these endeavors, it seems that the existence of a historical/human Jesus had become irrelevant. Who needs to be concerned with humanness when we have a divine being to emulate? As was pointed out in the course, quite simply human and divine…they were the same or at least they were explained as how that could be. The years of establishing that fact was the result of the first seven Church councils and since that time, little alteration has been necessary. As time progressed and the farther we got from that fact, the need to reacquaint ourselves with the source became evident. There is ample evidence that suggests that each culture who claim to be Christian see their founder in their own light. In this case, people are not interested in the Jesus of history but prefer to “worship” their own conception of Jesus even if that conception is exaggerated or totally distorted. As an example, some Christians find the fact that Jesus was Jewish to be an affront to their beliefs. They prefer their “god” to be like them.
The value of the search for the Jesus of history forces us to confront falsehood and study this popular figure for what he was, namely a Jewish man from the Middle East who was responsible for relating a message that could change lives for the better. The simplicity of that message is astonishing and will remain so despite the efforts of so many to destroy it, albeit in good faith. The value of the various quests definitely lies in the fact of seeing this person as everything from a social revolutionary to a wandering peasant sage to a disillusioned teacher who was ushering in a new age. The search will go on under the guise of different theories with different names but the importance lies in the fact that the search continues. Seen in this vein, it seems that the search for a valid explanation of who the historical Jesus was is a separate study from what has been the search for our own cosmic significance.
The quest for the historical Jesus has transitioned to a quest for the Cosmic Christ. The search for the Cosmic Christ has become the quest of modern man in search for his own destiny. It is the time for our return to our beginnings and the realization of who we truly are and if Jesus can bring that about in our lives then it’s good to have someone or something to rely on until we find enough confidence to realize that we have to learn to stand on our own. Was it not said by Jesus through the gospels that “whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works.” Was this an allusion to the fact that we have inherited the right to become like the “Christed” one that he represented? Paul, in his letter to the Galatians refers to this progression when he says that “I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20) and again “I must go through the pain of giving birth to you all over again, until Christ is formed in you.” (Gal. 4:19)
As studies progress towards that inevitable conclusion with the pioneering works of Teihard De Chardin and Matthew Fox and many notable members of the scientific/religious community (the list goes on and on), we can conclude that the journey continues.
Essay by Mara Fonseca
Universal Life Church
Brother Joseph, Fr.
Final Essay for Masters, Christian History
One of the first striking elements of the course, which may or may not have been intended by the author, was the initial framing of the purpose of the course as one that ultimately explores history from a theological–revelatory perspective. Dr. Loy opens his lesson with an exploration of Paul’s historical assessment that the Greeks, Romans, and the Jewish people had participated in the historical preparation for the emergence of Christ. While I would argue that this bears no resemblance to the field of history per se, it does illuminate one perspective of how history is interpreted theologically. This is a striking continuance of how the gospels themselves reexamine and reinterpret the Hebrew Scriptures outside their Jewish theological and social contexts and within the Christian frameworks. In this fashion, what I am ultimately arriving at, is one of the most striking elements I gained from the course was an awareness of and appreciation for the continued tradition of interpreting historical events as the unfolding revelation of God’s direct involvement in human lives. While I am not a Christian, I can appreciate the vitality that such, what might be best termed, a “theohistorical” examination provides in assuring the continued potency of the faith and reinforcing the centrality of the theological belief that Christianity is the final covenant and revelation of God to humankind. In short, history is preparation for Christians—it is a place of continued discover of God’s will.
This sense of unfolding revelation and continued vitality was also illustrated in the course through its examination of the theological, how Christians came to think about and understand their faith, development over time. Dr. Loy does a superb job in exploring the diverse fruiting of thought that emerged after the death of Christ and the rise of monastic orders and the structured Catholic Church. One thing that I would suggest would be a continued discussion of this unfolding through contemporary times that examines the true diversity of theological strands that have framed the diverse Christian views; in this fashion, truly examining the past and current breadth of the unfolding revelation of God within the Christian faith.
I was also struck with the relationship between the unfolding of the Christian faith and Christendom—that is a Christianized political environment. Dr. Loy discusses at length the growing complexity that such merging led to liturgically; additionally following this it appears the Christian church also underwent significantly greater refining of complex theological issues such as freewill. On the one hand, Pope Gregory asserted that while we inherit sin, we do not inherit “badness”—thus human beings not only engage in redemptive behavior through the baptismal and continued participation in the Eucharist, affirming their relationship to Christ, but are charged with engaging in rigorous self-assessment to ensure they are engaging in right-acting behavior. What questions I was left with in this lesson (16) was the precise definition of sin from a theological level as Gregory saw it—are the seven deadly sins defined at this point, is sin reflective of something less tangible, how is it defined against its Hebraic origins? I also found this theosophical element a fascinating one in that, to some degree, it logically undermines the notion that one can interpret the unfolding of historical events from a revelatory and theologically preparatory way. Pope Gregory appears to address this aspect by holding there are exceptions to the predestined versus freewill argument by suggesting there was an “elect” exempt from free will. I would have liked greater clarification as to who reflected this.
All in all, I enjoyed the course and I appreciated Dr. Loy also attending to issues pertaining to women within the church, violence that emerged as the Church became a political authority, as well as defining the unique differences between East and West Christian structures and the source of this schism.
Ordination with the Universal Life Church, is free, and lasts for life, so use the Free Online Ordination, button.
As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site to help train our ministers. We also have a huge catalog of Universal Life Church materials. I’ve been ordained with the Universal Life Church for many years and it’s since the beginning and have loved watching the continual growth of the seminary.
Try our new free toolbar at: ULC Toolbar