Posted in Agape Project, church, Mary Magdalene, Raised Catholic

Resurrecting the church of the Magdalene Part VII

Today’s blog explores the gifts of both the Institutional/orthodox Church and the mystical, contemplative, interior church that I refer to as “the church of the Magdalene.” 

Continuing Yesterday’s Discussion

Apparently yesterday’s blog stirred the ire of some readers.  I will say it again, I am sorry if any readers took yesterday’s blog personally or thought I was shaking the finger of judgment at them.  As a Perfectionist/Reformer (on the Enneagram), I am predisposed to see the world through the lens of “How can this be better?” and in my professional life, the common target of this question is the Institution of the Roman Catholic Church.  Not because I hate it, mind you, but because I love it!  I want my church to be a place where all people feel welcome, accepted, loved and honored for who they are.  I am saddened when the very human Institution falls short of this hope.

Room for Orthodoxy

The Catholic Church as an Institution has stood strong and proud for 2000 some years and serves a very important role in the spiritual and religious experiences and beliefs of its members.  The Church as an Institution creates form, structure, predictability, unity of belief and practice.  You can go anywhere in the world, attend a Catholic mass and be able to participate.  There is great gift in this form and structure as it can create a sense of security and safety in an often unpredictable world.  We know where the Church stands on matters of morality, politics, and matters of social justice.  We also know the chain of command and our role within that chain.  The Institution of the Church creates order and for many people, this is important and necessary.  The Institution also provides sound instruction in what members are expected to believe and how they are expected to act.  Again, very important resources for many people.  The Church also provides a sense of belonging.  For those who qualify as “Catholic in good standing,” you know that you are accepted, you belong, you have a home and a community that you can turn to for comfort, support, guidance.  These are all good things that feed and nurture many.

The Mystical Church

Here is where it gets messy…..especially for some.  The Mystical/Contemplative church is pretty much the complete opposite from what is listed above.  Instead of creating order, it stirs up chaos.  Instead of offering rules, doctrine, strict guidelines, it invites us into our own personal discernement were we are called to discover God’s truth for us on our own (or with the help of a Spiritual Director).  The black and white rules of orthodoxy are replaced with the grey matter of relativity….the only absolute truth being God….or whatever we want to call that.  Instead of offering strict rubrics for worship and ritual, the Mystical church invites us to create our own.  Rote repetitive prayer is expanded to include imagination, dreams, writing, inviting us into a deeply personal and intimate dialogue with God.  In the Mystical church, instead of following the chain of command,  we are invited to take it “straight to the top”, by-passing the human element and going directly to God.  The final authority in the Mystical church is God, rather than the pope, cardinals and bishops.  The Mystical church belongs to all of humanity and there is no separation by religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.  All paths lead to God and all paths are honored as sacred.  In the Mystical church, decisions are made through prayer, careful discernment, collaboration and concensus.  Leadership looks more like a circle than a straight line.  Can you see how this might not be for some…..even many?

The Church in a Perfect World (as defined by Lauri Lumby)

In a perfect world (at least according to me) there would be room for both expressions of the Christian experience.  The Orthodox and Mystical churches would co-exist side by side in peaceful harmony and collaboration.  Leaders and members would be formed and educated through both sound spiritual formation (Who am I?  Whose am I?  What are my gifts and how am I being called to use them?) as well as religious formation (rites and rituals, dogma and doctrine, theology, scriptural exegesis, church history, the study of church documents, canon law, etc.). Spiritual formation would inform religious formation and visa versa.  Men, women, lay and ordained would all be included in this formation and leadership would be determined by the individuals’ specific charisms, not their gender.  Ordination might be more broad…..perhaps all would be ordained to their specific call in the world and in the Church.  Contemplation would be honored along side traditional forms of prayer.   Religious dogma would be tested against discernment and the call to compassion.  Primacy of Conscience would be valued in areas of morality with the final authority resting with God.  Worship would include some wiggle room….room for interpretation of worship to expand beyond the strict rubrics of the Roman liturgy.  I know, crazy, right?

Not in my lifetime

I realize that this vision of “the perfect Church”  will most likely NOT be made manifest in my lifetime…if ever.  And I have stopped beating my head against the wall of the Institution hoping they will hear the call to be open to the Mystical expression.  And perhaps I am just a voice calling out in the wilderness….but I know there are people who resonate more clearly with the Mystical expression and hunger for its nourishment.  So, here I am, offering it to those who would have it.    In the spirit of this offering, I just wanted to remind you of the March 15th launch of the Agape’ Project – a subscription based newsletter that will give those who want it, tools for sound spiritual formation through scripture, meditation and contemplation exercises and educational materials that help us to grow in our understanding of what the scripture writers might have been trying to say.  The newsletter is the culmination of my own 20 years of devoted prayer and contemplation, study and practice and I am humbled and honored to offer these tools in the hopes of helping others know the depth of love that arises out of the use of these kinds of tools.  Going back to the mission of Authentic Freedom Ministries, to help you:  Remember the Love That You Are!

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

 

Posted in church, Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Spiritual Practices

Resurrecting the church of the Magdalene Part VI

Today’s blog continues the discussion of what I call “the church of the Magdalene” – the inner, intuitive, contemplative, aspect of the Christian experience that got lost beneath the cloud of orthodoxy and the invitation to bring this aspect of the Jesus experience back into the open where it belongs. 

copyright Robert M. Place, Tarot of the Saints

Jesus went off to pray

In scripture, most notably in the gospel attributed to Mark, prayer is revealed to be the foundation and heart of Jesus’ personal journey.   Jesus is depicted as frequently making time, even in the midst of his very public ministry, for prayer.  “And Jesus went off to pray.”  This is a key component of Jesus’ life and his ministry that often gets overlooked in the shadow of his teachings, healings and debates with the Pharisees.  Prayer, as Jesus lived it, was not rote recitation of written or prescribed liturgical prayers.  Instead, Jesus’ prayer was an attunement with God.  It was through his prayer that he had come to understand his Oneness with God and the knowledge that each and everyone of us had access to the contentment, love and joy that he had experienced in this rediscovered state of union with God.  It could be said that this was “the truth” that Jesus came to teach us or “the way” he came to reveal.  It is through contemplation and meditation (aka prayer) that we too are invited to reclaim the peace and joy that Jesus came to know.

The church of the Magdalene and contemplation

Continuing my thesis…….I believe that it is through the hidden, interior, intuitive expression of the Jesus message (aka the church of the Magdalene)  that this tradition of contemplation and prayer has been preserved and seeks to be reborn into the world….accessible to everyone.  (I don’t know about you, but I certainly did not learn the contemplative traditions of Christianity from orthodoxy.)  If we are to really KNOW God, if we are really going to KNOW ourselves and if we seek to KNOW our unique gifts and how we are called to share these gifts in the world in service to God and to humanity…..we have to go WITHIN….to that intimate place of knowledge, understanding, wisdom and truth.  Prayer, contemplation and meditation are the tools that help us to get there.  The challenge in the Western world, however is that all kinds of myths and falsehoods have been strewn about regarding a personal spiritual practice.  So, in the hopes of clearing space in which we can all be free to explore, discover, cultivate and embrace a sound, personal spiritual practice…..here are some things it might help you to know:

Dispelling Myths

The following are myths that have been propogated in regards to meditation as a spiritual practice.  None of these myths (from my perspective as an experienced meditator and Spiritual Director) are true.

  • Meditation has a goal
  • The goal of meditation is silencing of the mind
  • There is a right and a wrong way to ”do” meditation
  • If you reach the state of peace, you did it right….if not, you did it wrong
  • An empty mind is the devil’s playground
  • Meditating makes you a ”better” person
  • Only enlightened/holy people meditate
  • Meditation is the path to enlightenment
  • Sitting in silence is the only valid form of meditation….or it is the preferred method
  • Meditation is an Eastern practice and cannot be practiced by Christians
  • Eastern meditation practices are dangerous
  • Lay people cannot meditate

Before embarking on a meditation practice, it may be helpful to know:

  • The goal of spiritual practice is “NO GOAL.”  Your job is to simply show up.  Striving after a goal (other than showing up) will prove to be an obstacle to your practice.
  • There is no right or wrong way to meditate.
  • If you find that state of inner calm and peace…..it is PURE GRACE…..not something you received because you finally meditated the right way or enough times.
  • There is a rich tradition of meditation and contemplation in the Western Hebrew and Christian traditions.
  • It is in the emptiness that we find God/Love/Truth…..and we are also invited to find God in the midst of the chaos.
  • Meditation can be receptive (listening, sitting, being) or active (expressing, moving, giving, processing,).
  • Meditation encompasses many formats and practices including but not limited to:  meditative reading of sacred texts, journalling, sitting in silence, movement (yoga, tai chi, dance, etc.), chant, listening to music, daydreaming, paying attention to our dreams, mindfulness practices, acts of service, making love, being present to our family and friends, being out in nature, creative expression, painting, drawing, cooking, cleaning, etc. etc. etc.
  • A spiritual practice is anything that helps us to connect with God, peace, love, joy, flow, compassion, harmony, forgiveness, mercy, ecstasy.
  • In the Western tradition, Meditation refers to the reflective thoughts in the mind.  In the Eastern Tradition, meditation is understood to mean sitting in silence.  Contemplation is the term used in the Western tradition to refer to sitting or being in silence with God.
  • The only danger in meditation or contemplation is connecting with your truth.  Warning:  Truth can be a dangerous thing if we are not prepared or if we do not have the tools to handle it.  As Gloria Steinem said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will kick your butt.”
  • Meditation may lead you to enlightenment, if that is your path in this life;  regardless, it will help you to be a happier, more peaceful and more loving human being.
  • From the Hebrew and Christian perspectives, meditation and contemplation will empower you to experience the Kingdom of God right here, right now, in this life.  You will discover that you don’t have to die to know the peace and love of God.
  • Meditation can be practiced by ANYONE……regardless of your race, color, creed, education, status, position of power, ordained or not, etc. etc. etc.

Getting Started

As mentioned above, there is no right or wrong way to meditation or to enter into spiritual practice.  I have learned, however, that there are certain things we can do that will help us to be successful in our goal of SHOWING UP for our spiritual practice.  Remember…the only goal is to SHOW UP.  The following steps may help you to do this. 

  • Set aside a regular time each day for your spiritual practice where you can be uninterrupted for 15-30 minutes.  For many people, this is first thing in the morning, but choose a time that works for your own personal bio-rhythms.
  • Choose a special place in your home or office that is designated as your place for your spiritual practice.  It might be a certain chair in your living room, your drawing easel, maybe you have the luxury of setting up a meditation corner or room.
  • Have the tools that you need for your practice near your chosen place – your journal, a bible, writing utensils, maybe a candle or incense burner, a blanket.
  • Turn off any potential distractions – phones, computers, pagers, etc.
  • Create a ritual that helps you to enter into your spiritual practice.  Light a candle.  Burn incense.  Say a prayer.  Bow to your sacred space.

Tomorrow I will discuss The Agape’ Project and how it will help to support you in your personal spiritual practice.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in church, Jesus, Mary Magdalene

Resurrecting the church of the Magdalene Part III

Today’s blog is Part III of a series exploring the role of Mary Magdalene in the early years of the Jesus movement, its retreat under the shadow of orthodoxy and the invitation to restore her (and her movement) to its rightful place in the light.

Resurrecting the church of the Magdalene

After writing and reading the previous several blogs, I realize that the work I have been doing and continue to do already represents the resurrection of the church of the Magdalene!  (I kind of knew that already….but now I’m owning it!)  She has been raised from the dead right before my/our eyes.  So let’s make it real and own it shall we?  As such, I have posted a new page on the Authentic Freedom Ministries website saying just that…..the church of the Magdalene.  (Please note the continued use of small “c” in church.  Mary was NEVER part of the Institutional Church….and let’s keep it that way!)  So without further ado…….let me introduce you to the church of the Magdalene:

copyright Robert M. Place

http://thealchemicalegg.com/

Mission:

The church of the Magdalene is a global effort to restore the intuitive, interior, contemplative and mystical church to its rightful place beside orthodoxy.  Inspired by the life and ministry of Mary, the Magdalene, the Beloved Disciple of Jesus, the church of the Magdalene transcends doctrine by providing tools and resources through which participants are empowered to come to know the Divine within and in knowing God, knowing themselves and the unique way in which they are gifted to reveal Divine Love (Agape’) in the world.  This mission is accomplished through:

  • The Agape’ Project – an effort to support participants in the development and cultivation of a personal spiritual practice and to encourage the development of small Christian communities and house churches.  The Agape’ Project is facilitated through a weekly subscription-based newsletter that can be utilized in both personal spiritual practice as well as within a small group dynamic.  Additional resources are available for those interested in establishing a house church.
  • Your Spiritual Truth – an inspirational blog rooted in the contemplative tradition, supporting readers in their journey toward self-actualization and the recollection of love as their original nature.
  • Authentic Freedom – a formal curriculm for adults in sound spiritual formation.  The Authentic Freedom courses and related books are a modern expression of the process of spiritual initiation referred to by Mary, the Magdalene in the ancient and non-canonical text, The Gospel of Mary.   Readers and participants are given the tools through which they are healed and released of the spiritual fears (demons) that keep them from knowing a life of contentment and joy, thereby empowering them to identify, cultivate, embrace and openly share the unique ways in which they are called to reveal God’s love in service to the world.
  • Christouch – a formal protocol and training program for holistic healing inspired by Jesus’ ministry, which incorporates prayer with laying on of hands to support spiritual, emotional, mental and even physical wellness.
  • Contemplative Worship- encouraging  the formation of local centers of contemplative worship

Your Participation

Your participation in the church of the Magdalene will be unique to your own personal call.  Some may be called to become part of the church of the Magdalene as an individual; developing and cultivating a personal spiritual practice.  Some may be called to gather men and women of like-mind to join them in contemplation and prayer.  Some may feel called to establish  study groups using the Authentic Freedom curriculum of spiritual formation.   Your participation in the church of the Magdalene can stand apart or along side the religious tradition in which you were raised or with whom you currently worship.  The church of the Magdalene provides a complement to existing forms of orthodoxy and in its highest form, exists as a source of accountability, testing doctrine against sound discernment.  In the perfect world, the interior and exterior churches would work in cooperation and collaboration.  Until that moment of true partnership emerges, the interior church stands apart, inviting you into a both-and experience.

The church of the Magdalene and its relationship to Authentic Freedom Ministries

Authentic Freedom Ministries is a secular ministry rooted in the contemplative tradition of Western Christianity.  Authentic Freedom Ministries is the vessel through which the church of the Magdalene has sought to be reborn into the world and is the vehicle through which the supporting resources have been disseminated.  Authentic Freedom Ministries is also the local manifestation of the church of the Magdalene, located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and pastored by Lauri Lumby, Spiritual Director, Lay Minister, Reiki Master Practitioner, author and writer.

All Are Welcome!

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com