Volume 7, Issue 4, February 1998


All around us is mystery, and there is so little that we entirely understand. We cannot explain the simplest of actions, such as how one can crook their finger. Somehow great solar systems are held together. Light baffles us, and so do the many crosscurrents of our minds. When we learn one fact, it opens a dozen more. If we could spend our energy on something meaningful, we should feel refreshed.

"The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. And only he who listens can speak," once declared Dag Hammarskjold. As we develop a deeper and more reliable knowledge of ourselves, we have flashes of understanding, the light of insight, blips of feeling, that tell us truths. Ancient scriptures called it "a still, small voice."

We are challenged at every turn of the road to know ourselves, and thereby can begin to understand the physical and spiritual world around us.

United Church members have been issued a challenge by their moderator, the Right Rev. William Phipps to better understand their faith. People shouldn't "park their brains" when they come to church, he said recently. He declared he is not afraid of new ideas in the theology and ethics, and church members shouldn't be either.

Phipps sparked controversy last fall in saying he's skeptical about the existence of heaven and hell and that Jesus likely didn't literally rise from the dead. Nor does he define Jesus as God.

Phipps says his comments struck a chord with people.

"There's no doubt Canadians have a spiritual hunger," he says. "I think, for whatever reason, what I said tapped into that hunger."

Phipps says most people in the United Church want leadership which will discuss current theology, explore religious and ethical issues and challenge members to look at their faith.

Christianity leads a person to listen to themself. Ones path of expanding life includes objective self study. One examines the drift of their life. They listen daily to the changing world about them. They begin to see it as it really is, to hear the voice of God speaking through. Drifting ceases as they discover a place in the creative flow of history.

Nothing is more important in religion than the humble honest struggle to the path of right, the determination, regardless of all consequences, "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."

This is where a developed conscience is so important. Conscience is to the soul what sight or taste is to the body. It is the Moral Sense, the way of the spirit, the means of perception of spiritual things.

We are living in a world of spiritual forces. This is completely in line with the realities of a dynamic universe. Truthful representation of life may be found in a painting rather than a photograph, in three dimensions rather than in two, in the dynamics rather than in the statics of the world.

There is at the basis of the universe a moral reality with which we may put ourselves in harmony. You can't change the moral quality of the universe; you can only adjust yourself to them and be saved, or deny them and be damned. Being in harmony with the divine is like riding the tide, being pulled along.

St. John in his First Letter declared, "God is love," and went on to say, "It is true that no human being has ever had a direct vision of God. Yet if we love each other God does actually live within us, and his love grows in us towards perfection." ( 1 John 4:8,12).

Religious experience is important for us, a necessity of life. Religion meets our eradicable need, our unending search to know and experience the reality of life. It is possible for us to look out on a world and miss the spiritual significance of the times. To see the spiritual compulsion to a more humane order of life demands an increasing ability to know ourselves, to acquire understanding, and become worthy of the enlightenment we have received.

It is so easy to spend life in the passive voice, being ministered to by others. One of the great wastes in the world is imagination thwarted by ignorance and selfishness when it might be channelled into action.

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"Religion NOW" is published in limited edition by the Rev. Ross E. Readhead, B.A., B.D., Certificate of Corrections, McMaster University, in the interest of furthering knowledge and participation in religion. Dialogue is invited and welcomed.