Abundant Life Two-Step

I’m reading Brian McLaren’s new book, “The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian.” (I like to think we’re on a pilgrimage, rather than a migration, but that may be semantics – or the fact that I am a company man.) I wanted to copy a couple of quotes here.

At the end of a chapter titled, “You Are Social Poets,” (quoting Pope Francis), McLaren writes,

…we need a common spirituality to infuse both our priestly/institutional- and our prophetic/movement- oriented wings. This spirituality will often be derived from the mystical/poetic/contemplative streams within our traditions. Without that shared spirituality, without that soul work that teaches us to open our deepest selves to God and ground our souls in love, no movement will succeed and no institutin will stand. (181)

Earlier in the chapter, McLaren argues that the prophets and contemplative streams are paths to ecumenical understanding and “growing mutual regard” (177). He also argues that our faith foundation gives us courage to face the reality of our situation, regardless of how dire, and to hold fast to hope. I have called this courageous holding force a flywheel in our individual and common life. Like two foci of an ellipse, contemplation and activism mutually inform and support act other in our life together.

I believe this is where my Psalm absorption stems from: a desire to stand on a firm foundation in these shifting sands. I have wondered of late that the Psalms might become a hiding place, a refuge from the storm – or a place to avoid reality. That may be a danger, but is not necessarily inherent in the practice. The way McLaren puts it, instead of throwing out religion, we opt for organizing religion in favor of organized religion.

There is great wisdom in this flywheel, this deep spiritual well of tradition. In the final chapter, “The Broken-Open Heart,” McLaren quotes Parker Palmer, from a Mar/Apr 2009 Weavings article. Palmer compares a heart broken into shards of pain, piercing others as well as the broken hearted one, to a heart broken open and expanded to make room for others in the tension of life, represented powerfully in the outward-stretching arms of the cross. Our religion, our tradition can show us all a path to this kind of pain-transcending heart expansion – called love.