Posted in church, Jesus, Mary Magdalene, women

Church of the Magdalene?

Consider today’s blog as a pondering of sorts – musing on what would it have looked like if the Magdalene’s perspective on the Jesus message had not been supplanted by fear, power and control, but instead, had been allowed to flourish?  I entertain these thoughts not in opposition to the Institutional Church, because ultimately, I believe that the only way for the Church to survive is if both the feminine and masculine are honored, but, not unlike the feminist movement, we have to start the conversation somewhere.  So….here goes…..

 

Mary Magdalene  by Robert Place
Mary Magdalene by Robert Place

1) To begin with, I believe the Church of the Magdalene would be less concerned about saving us from sin and death, and more concerned with empowering us in life.  If there is such a thing as hell, I often believe THIS IS IT!  The Church of the Magdalene would give us tools for learning how to navigate the human condition and would help us find comfort in our losses while celebrating our joys.

2) The Church of the Magdalene’s second task would be to empower us in fulfilling the mission God intended for us.  We would be given the tools and support we need to find meaning, purpose and fulfillment in our lives through the uniquely creative way in which God desires to be known in the world through us.  We would also be given the help and support we need to overcome the inner obstacles to living that purpose.

3) In the Church of the Magdalene, the priesthood would not be one of exclusivity, but instead, would empower a priesthood of ALL believers.  EVERY SINGLE PERSON would be ordained into their unique, special and necessary mission for the betterment of humankind and our world.  Some would be ordained as healers, teachers, counselors, prophets, welcomers, nourishers, sustainers, supporters, stewards of the environment, growers, inspirers, bringers of beauty, shadow walkers, hand holders, receivers of healing and compassion, etc. etc. etc.  Yes, some would be called and empowered to pastor and lead communities, but this role would be no more important than any other vocation.  All are needed….all are empowered.

4) The Church of the Magdalene would be less about showing up for church to “fulfill your Sunday obligation” or to receive your “get out of hell free” card.  The Church of Magdalene would also be less about watching and more about doing.  In the Church of the Magdalene, everyone is the presider.  We gather together to share our lives, our stories, our journeys and we do so through contemplative prayer, as Jesus did.  Then, we are all empowered to go out and do the work that Jesus calls us to do.  Love one another.  Heal the sick.  Feed the hungry.  Give sight to the blind.  Set captives free.  In this way, it is all Eucharist. And if there is a sacred meal to be shared, it could just as well be cookies and milk as bread and wine.  In the Church of the Magdalene….Christ is ever-present…in the word, in the people, in the prayer, in our sorrows and in our joys, in the rivers and the trees, in the very air we breathe – and we are invited to see the world in this way!

5) As all of it is Eucharist, so all of it is sacrament.  In the Church of the Magdalene, EVERYTHING we do, we do with God, when we hold that as our desire and as our intention.  Yes, we may ritualize our doings through public ritual, but none of the rituals are in order that we might receive another “get out of hell free” card.  Instead, through our rituals we celebrate the amazing God that we have and we give honor to each other and mark our life transitions as sacred.  Baptism is not for the forgiveness of sin, but, like Jesus’ baptism, a time to acknowledge that we are each God’s beloved sons and daughters and with us God is well pleased!  Reconciliation is returned to its original intent as an opportunity to take responsibility for our non-loving behaviors and ask God to heal us of the fears that caused these behaviors in the first place.  Anointing of the sick becomes an opportunity to share energetic healing with another, acknowledging that we are simply the vessel through which God is facilitating healing in another.  Ordination, again, is offered to everyone when they are ready to name, claim and be empowered in their own unique vocation of service to God.

6) The Church of the Magdalene would be firmly rooted in a deeply intimate and personal relationship with God.  Love would be the only ultimate truth and God, as Love, the source of authority with Jesus’ law of love being the guiding principle

Love one another as I have loved you.

and the Beatitudes of Jesus as a way to measure our personal growth.

7) Finally, the Church of the Magdalene would be less hierarchical and more collaborative, less about power and privilege and more about honoring all as sacred, less about patriarchy and more about honoring both men and women as sacred and calling forth their unique and magnificent gifts, less about fear and more about love, less about having and more about giving, less about separation and more about unity and most importantly, less about judgment and more about compassion.

I know there is more…..but this seems like a good start.  I’m interested in your thoughts.  What would the Church of the Magdalene look like to you?

 

 

Posted in church, Forgiveness, Healing, Raised Catholic

A Church of my own making – Part 2

Speaking to the 42.7 million non-practicing Catholics, and those who may have been raised Catholic, but no longer identify themselves as Catholic…..this one’s for you/us.   Dreaming, imagining, exploring what Church could look like if it resembled the Church in my heart…and maybe the one that is in your heart too.  PS  This is Part 2 (or 4, depending on where you start) of a who know how long series.  🙂

confessional - M Clift

Sacraments

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s blog, the church of my own making, the one that is reflective of what I have found in my heart, would have sacraments…seven of them to be exact.  But…..some of them would differ from how we have come to know them in the Roman Catholic Church.  On Tuesday I tackled baptism.  Today……reconciliation.

The Value of Reconciliation

Growing up, I had a mostly positive experience with the sacrament of reconciliation.  While it was always an effort to get over my resistance, once I entered the confessional and unburdened my conscience, I felt relief.  Then, when the prayer of absolution was given, I felt a sense of being uplifted, of feeling as if my body was being released of some sort of heaviness within me.  I can’t say I enjoyed going to reconciliation, but I always felt comfort and consolation after having gone.  While I have never believed (contrary to Church teaching) that we need the intercession of a priest to be forgiven of our sins, and that like our Protestant brothers and sisters, we could simply turn to God to be freed of the burden of our non-loving behaviors, I fully appreciated the value of having a person with whom I could unburden myself.  And, I cannot give explanation to the profound sense of consolation in the prayer of absolution – except to attribute it to grace.  As a spiritual director, I understand even more acutely the value of having a person to whom we can go to be freed of what might be troubling our conscience and the profound gift inherent in compassionate presence and counsel….both potentials within the sacrament of reconciliation when done well.

Sin

One of the issues I have with the sacrament of reconciliation is its emphasis on sin, specifically, sin as an act that “separates us from God,” and sin that will be punished if not confessed and released through absolution.  If we believe in our Oneness with God, then there is nothing, not even sin, that can separate us from that love, yet in the Catechism of the Catholic Church it reads:

It is called the sacrament of reconciliation because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles.   (CCC 1442)

If we can never be separate from the love of God, then how is this love imparted?  I like to think of it more in this way – the we are One with God in love as Jesus taught and was reported by John the Evangelist (1 John 4).  While we are always one with God in this love and this love does not have to be earned, neither can it be taken away, because of the choosing the human experiment, we often forget this love.  When we have forgotten this love, we feel separate from God which results in fear.  Fear, then, causes us to seek outside ourselves for the remedy to this fear which often leads us toward non-loving actions (towards ourselves and each other).   We don’t choose these non-loving acts because we are depraved.  We choose these non-loving acts because we are afraid.  The Church would call these non-loving acts sin which implies punishment.  I call these non-loving acts compulsions which invites us to respond in compassion.  The sacrament of reconciliation, when done well, has the potential of helping us to remember the unconditional love of God that dwells within us and frees us from the fears that generate our compulsive/sinful behaviors.

The Potential in Reconciliation

Because I have experienced the consolation and comfort in the sacrament of reconciliation, I would never be in favor of dumping it all together.  Instead, I see great promise in expanding the scope of the sacrament and deepening its foundations in compassion.  I see the value of having a person to whom we can go to unburden ourselves.  I have experienced the grace of absolution.  And, I see in reconciliation an opportunity to help people heal on an even deeper level.  The deeper healing comes when we invite participants to move beyond simple confession and absolution and empower them to do the work of identifying what is causing them to indulge in their compulsive behavior in the first place, and then give them tools through which they can heal the fears that lead them to their compulsive behaviors.  Healing these fears, is ultimately about helping people to remember that they are loved without condition by God and that they are in fact one with God in that love.  Unfortunately, it is not enough to tell people this…..we have to give them opportunities to have a lived experience of that love and show them how to cultivate a practice in which they can frequently and consistently be open to these experiences.  And then….we have to get out of the way and let God do the work.  Because ultimately, the lived experience of that love comes from God reaching out to us….but first, we have to make ourselves available and then be open to receiving it.

For more on the fears that drive our compulsive behaviors, see my book, Authentic Freedom – Claiming a Life of Contentment and Joy.

copyright 2013  Lauri Lumby

Posted in church, Initiation, Raised Catholic

Vision of a New Church – or a Church of My Own Making? Part 1

A reader of yesterday’s blog offered me the following challenge:  “Do you believe in the Catholic faith, or do you believe in a religion of your own invention?” As a woman raised Catholic, who passionately loved her faith, I ask myself this question EVERY DAY!  I long for the faith in which I was raised, and at the same time, I struggle with the inconsistencies between what I see in the Institution and what I have come to embrace through my own prayer and contemplation.  So, I’m stuck in the tension between knowing I CANNOT reform a 2000 year old institution and the feeling that I no longer have a place I can call HOME.  So….in the spirit of that search, I continue the exploration….no longer wishing and hoping for the Catholic Church to get with MY program….but envisioning what Church might look like if it reflected what I feel in my heart.  I write this, not for those who are currently content with the Catholic Church as it is…..but for those, like myself, who make up the SECOND LARGEST religious denomination in the US:  Questioning, Recovering and Non-practicing Catholics.

baptism0

Tackling the Sacraments

Because of the love I experienced for my Catholic faith, the church of my own making would look pretty Catholic.  And because of the fulfillment I found in the sacraments, the church of my own making would have sacraments – and there would be seven of them.  But, the sacraments would look a little different than how they are experienced in the current form of the Roman Catholic Church.  The primary reason – because the church of my own making will not be centered around the doctrine of original sin…and sin will be treated in a very different way than what we have known in Catholicism.  (read more about undoing the doctrine of original sin HERE)  What will remain, however, is recognition of the sacraments as profound tools of healing and rituals through which we allow ourselves to be present and accepting of God’s abundant and ever flowing grace.  (PS  We are NEVER without God’s grace….it doesn’t have to be earned and it cannot be taken away…..but we do feel it more acutely at times and participation in rituals of humility and openness sometimes help us to be more attentive to the grace that is already all around us!)

Baptism

So….let’s start at the beginning, with baptism.  Traditionally, baptism is taught as the sacrament we need in order to be freed from the stain of original sin.  And some would argue that without the grace of baptism, we are condemned to an eternity in hell….or at the very least, in limbo.  But if there is no original sin, then why do we need baptism?  I like to look at the scriptural account of Jesus’ baptism for support with this question.  In the scriptural accounts, we don’t really know why Jesus goes to John for baptism, but he does.  Was he just going along with what other people were doing?  Had something happened in his journey that inspired him to seek baptism?  According to Catholic teaching….Jesus was without the stain of original sin, so why did he need to be baptized?  We don’t know Jesus’ motivation, but the gospels agree that Jesus sought baptism.  The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) also agree with what happened upon Jesus’ reception of baptism:

The Spirit descended upon him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3: 22

The synoptic gospels also agree that after his baptism and after receiving these words from heaven, Jesus retreated into the desert where he was tempted by Satan.  It seems as if baptism, in the way that Jesus experienced it, was a moment of initiation as well as a moment of empowerment.  Through his baptism, Jesus came to understand how truly loved he was in God and the potential greatness that resided in him because of the depth of this love.  And perhaps it was through his baptism that he came to understand the truth of his Oneness with God and was thereby freed from his own perception of separation.   This awareness was so startling to him that it forced him to discern “What does this mean for me?  How am I to respond to this new awareness?”  We know through the scriptural accounts of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, that he was then tempted by the same temptations we face for pride,  power and control.  Jesus transcended these temptations after which he was prepared to accept what he discerned as God’s unique call for him – to heal the sick, release prisoners, bring sight to the blind, feed the hungry, preach the good news, etc.

A New Baptism

In the church of my own making, baptism would be something more akin to the baptism Jesus experienced.  Instead of being there to release us from the stain of original sin, baptism would be there to acknowledge how truly, deeply and passionately we are loved by God and to remind us that we are not separate from God (as the human condition would lead us to believe) but are indeed One with God as Jesus came to understand.   In our baptism, instead of the prayers of exorcism, we would hear, “YOU ARE MY BELOVED DAUGHTER, and with you I AM WELL PLEASE!”  When the waters of baptism are poured over us, we would acknowledge that in our human birth, we chose the consequences of perceived separation, but that in truth, we are never separate from God.  In receiving the oils of anointing, we would acknowledge that each and every human being is uniquely gifted and called to be God’s love in the world.  What would that be like?  What would happen if we could actually believe that we are God’s beloved sons and daughters and that God is WELL pleased with us …. exactly as we are in any given moment?  What if we truly believed how amazing and precious we are in God’s eyes?  What if instead of focusing on the pain of separation, baptism became a balm for that pain…not in reminding us of sin….but in celebrating our GREATNESS?  What would happen if from the moment of our birth, we acknowledge that each of us have our own unique mission for revealing God’s love in the world?  What would that be like?  In the church of my own making, these are the questions I would ponder as formulating my theology around the sacrament of baptism.

copyright 2013  Lauri Ann Lumby

Posted in Authentic Freedom, Jesus, Raised Catholic

New Hope, New Vision, New Church – Part 2

Today’s blog looks on in hopefulness over the actions of the new pope, Francis,  and  continues the explorations of how the Catholic Church might embrace a spirit of reconciliation and reform.  (See Part 1 here)

samdamiano

If there’s no original sin, then why do we need Jesus?

If, in an effort to create reform and thereby reconcile themselves to the millions of Catholic who have left (either because they no longer felt welcome by the Church, or found in it relevant to their own lives), the Catholic Church should change its position on original sin, the first question that comes up is, If there’s no original sin, then why do we need Jesus?  Didn’t Jesus come to save us from our sins?  From an alternative perspective on original sin as core wound, the answer is yes and no.  Yes, Jesus came to save us from our sins, but not in the way that we have formerly been taught.  If we understand the core wound, the false perception of separation from God as the consequence of choosing the human condition, then at least as long as we are in this body, we will mostly see and experiences ourselves as separate – separate from God, from ourselves, from creation and from each other.  In this state of perceived separation, we feel alone, abandoned, afraid.  Jesus came to save us from the pain of this perceived separation.  In Jesus own process of human development, cultivated through years of study and prayer, he came to understand that this perceived separation is just that…only a perception… and that in truth, we are ONE with God….always have been and always will be…we just temporarily forgot.  Jesus learned that through a process of prayer, contemplation, ritual, devotion, worship and service that we can REMEMBER this Oneness with God and in that connection, be freed of the loneliness and fears that plague us and that ultimately result in our non-loving actions.  So yes….Jesus did save us from our sins…..by reminding us that God is love, that we are made in that love and that we are never separate from that love.  Then, he showed us how we too could remember the joyful contentment that comes through the recollection of that love and that by living in that love, our non-loving actions are no longer necessary.  This is how Jesus saves us from our sins.

What did Jesus teach us about remembering this Oneness?

Pretty much everything……but in my book, Authentic Freedom, I condense it down to seven spiritual truths:

  • God meets all of our needs in abundance
  • We are each uniquely gifted to embody, reveal and share God’s love in the world
  • There is nothing outside of us that can prevent us from being the person God created us to be
  • God is love and we are made of this love.  This love cannot be denied, neither does it have to be earned
  • The truth (or our oneness with God) will set us free, as will the expression of the personal truth(s) that God reveals for us
  • All wisdom, knowledge and understanding are available to us in our connection with God and is revealed to us in a time that is in our highest good
  • We are one with God, and therefore never alone

Through Jesus’ teachings, in parable, in experiences of healing, in modeling compassion and justice and in the fact that prayer was the center of his life, Jesus showed us how to live these truths.

But what about earning our way into heaven?

That’s just it.  If we believe that God is love, that we are made of this love and that this love does not have to be earned and cannot be taken away, then there is no heaven to be earned.  Yes, in death, we will have the opportunity to return to full recognition of our Oneness with God, and we might call that heaven, but, this experience of returning to Oneness in our death does not have to be earned.  The good news, however, is that we do not have to wait until we are dead to get a glimpse of this heavenly abode because what Jesus taught us about the kingdom of God/heaven is that it is at once within us and all around us.

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he said in reply, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’  For behold, the kingdom of God is within/among you.”     

Luke 17: 20-21

And then, Jesus gave us a formula for connecting with and remembering this place of joyful contentment within ourselves:

When you pray, go
into your inner room, close the door and pray to *Abwoon in secret.  And Abwoon who sees in secret will repay
you.  Abwoon knows what you need
before you ask.  This is how you are to pray.

Matthew 6:6

While we do not have knowledge of the exact methods of prayer Jesus used, these readings hint at one who has embraced a contemplative path.  Jesus went off by himself to pray, and went into his “inner room” where he found his connection with God.  This is the model that Jesus invites us to follow if we are to remember this Oneness for ourselves and live in the love that Jesus came to know.  In the Catholic tradition, we are fortunate for the men and women who came after Jesus and who developed formal practices of contemplative prayer that support us in this remembering.  As the Catholic Church moves forward in reform, I think that after leaving behind the doctrine of original sin, a reclamation of the contemplative practices of the Church and sharing them with the laity would be the next best step.  After that, let’s talk about reforming the sacraments as supportive of our recollection of God’s love instead of the way they are currently taught – as tickets we must purchase if we ever hope to enter into God’s loving embrace.

copyright Lauri Lumby 2013

* Abwoon is the name Jesus gave to his experience of God.  Abwoon can mean Father, and it also means much more than that.

Posted in church, Healing, Initiation, Jesus

Ordained by God

In today’s blog I explore the question, “What does it mean to be “priest?”  Raised in an Institution that doesn’t honor women’s call to ordination/the priesthood, how does one authentically live out that call?

 

Blaming Jeff

Ok, not really, but it makes a good headline, doesn’t it!  And in a way, I do have to blame Jeff (as in Fr. Jeff now Pastor Jeff…the one I talked about yesterday) for apparently planting the seed of this discontent that has somehow found its way into my heart.  After posting yesterday’s blog about how Jeff was the one to point out my Introvert, he emailed me and told me of the “coincidence” of yesterday’s post as he was, on that very day, celebrating the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.  Then one of the readers of this blog in her comments observed that I was living out my call to be priest.  THEN….I had a dream of meeting two Franciscan priests who believed in women’s ordination and who readily ordained women,  and who handed me the paperwork necessary to begin that process.   So……what is God trying to tell me through all of these “God-cidences?”  Am I being called to find a church that will recognize my call to priesthood and honor it through formal ordination.  UM……I tried that one on for size a few years back and I can absolutely tell you it did NOT fit! 

How I’m NOT Called to Be Priest

A few years back, I did find a church that would have readily acknowledged my call to priesthood and would have happily honored it through ordination.  I know that I am a total brat, and that this would not be the case for many, but in the end, it was about the clothes.  (not really, but it was sure part of it).  I could not think of donning an outfit that somehow set me apart from the people to whom I would be ministering….even if the outfit were only used for ritual, I could not do it.  Plus, none of the “outfit” companies have yet designed anything that even remotely looks good on a woman…it all looks like the male version, except with a skirt.  BLECH!  What I could consider was donning the humble, brown hooded habit of the Franciscans, but the black shirt and white collar topped off with the ceremonial white vestments, then chasuble, then stole?  Nope, not for me.  To me, all those acutrements spoke only of separation.  “See, I am different than you, I am more important because I get to wear these clothes, and if I’m really important I get to wear a funny hat.”  There was something in all this clothing stuff that seemed contrary to Jesus’ message of Oneness.  Jesus didn’t wear a special dress, he wore what the people around him wore… a humble rough-hewn mantel and a pair of dusty sandals.  No collar, no dress, no special hat.  So, if I am to be priest, why would I be any different than the greatest priest of all?  Why wouldn’t I wear what everyone else is wearing?  Yea, maybe I would dress up a bit while presiding over mass (if I were even called to do this), but nothing that would set me apart from the rest.  I don’t mean to dishonor those who have chosen the formal ordination path and who humbly don the required attire of the priesthood, and I know many would argue with me that the garments represent humility, I just have to say that the people sitting in the pew view it differently.  To them, you’re wearing the collar and the robes and therefore you are different and somehow better.  I’m just sayin.

What is a Priest Called to Do?

To me, being priest is about SERVICE.  In my mind, the priest is called to preach and teach, but more importantly TO HEAL.   In the Catholic Church in which I was raised, this part of the call happens primarily through the sacraments.  As a representative of Christ, the priest presides over the sacraments of baptism, eucharist, confirmation, matrimony, anointing and reconciliation and through the reception of these sacraments, the participants receive healing.  Outside of the sacraments, the priest acts as a vessel of God’s healing through active listening and attentive presence.  This can be facilitated through an effective homily (sermon) and in the role of Pastoral Minister and/or Counselor.  The priest has many opportunities to be a vessel through which others may experience God’s healing grace and I have known many priests in my lifetime who have done a really good job of being a model of God’s compassion and healing in the world (Jeff among them.)  

So, How Am I Called to Be Priest?

So, if it is not about the dress and it is not about being separate from the rest, how am I called to be priest?  Ultimately, it is about the healing.  When I look to Jesus as the model of what priesthood could be, I see healing, healing, healing.  When Jesus taught, people found healing.  When Jesus preached, people were cured.  When Jesus offered attentive listening and focused presence to another, their hearts were uplifted.  When Jesus laid his hand on people, they were healed.  This is the kind of priest I would feel called to be.  And guess what?  I’m already doing it!  No special dress.  No special ritual.  No dude in a funny hat placed his hands on me thereby giving me permission to be “priest”.  I’m already doing it.  And guess what……SO ARE YOU!!!!!   Whenever you allow yourself to be a vessel through which others find peace, contentment, joy and love, healing, compassion, YOU TOO ARE BEING PRIEST.  When you show kindness to another, when you feed someone who is hungry, when you stand up for justice, when you offer someone forgiveness, when you show mercy…YOU ARE BEING PRIEST.  Boy, we sure have a whole lot of priests walking around!  🙂

 

How are you called to be a vessel of God’s love in the world?

How are you called to be a vessel of healing, mercy, forgiveness, justice?

How are you living out your own Priesthood?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com