As you know (if you’ve been following my blog) I’ve been reading David Adam’s work, A Desert in the Ocean. This little book is dense with Spirit inspiration.
Today, I was struck by the third-century Celtic perspective about resurrection. They didn’t focus on a post-death experience. Instead, from their perspective, the place of their resurrection was when they found their life’s purpose and entered into it.
It is an affirmation of my belief that we are called to the place where our greatest passions meet the world’s greatest needs. In that crossroads lies our vocation, our joy, and according to the Celts, our resurrection.
The Place of My Resurrection
to the place of my resurrection.
Hang me in the crossroads
a gangly, grinning scarecrow
to draw the volt of raptors
whose dirty talons
infecting healthy souls
Let the disease-ridden wake
land on me
for I’ve faced this flock
and their beaks have lost their pluck.
Let them land
for they will not feast
upon the chortling mad woman
hanging on her cross.
So begins David Adam’s book A Desert in the Ocean – God’s Call to Adventurous Living. * It heads my list of new canon, because virtually every sentence impacts me, makes me want to run out my front door – to act and to be.
Adam posits that adventure does not take us out of the world, but more deeply into it, and not just into the physical world, but into the spiritual as well. For the Celtic view is that there are not two separate worlds – the mystic & the mundane – instead, heaven and earth are inextricably interwoven, so that exploring one leads us naturally into the other.
Adam states “A slight shift in where we stand and the world beyond reveals itself to us.” I’ve found that to be true. I have seen ‘the other side’ – usually only glimpses, but sometimes a clear, if fleeting, view. I can’t describe it, of course, not directly, because human language is inadequate. It’s not about the input of eyes, ears, nose or hands. It’s about what the heart sees. What the soul sees. What that part of us that extrudes beyond the mere physical experiences and explores.
I find myself speaking in metaphor or in parable, trying to describe what I’ve seen. Jesus did the same. Now I understand that he wasn’t trying to be abstruse. He was doing his best to communicate as clearly as he could. Where direct description finds itself mute, poetry and other lyrical language may successfully speak.
Adam’s book is a call to action. It even includes exercises at the end of each chapter to help us to open ourselves to God’s call to life adventurous. It exhorts, it inspires, it pushes us in the direction of the divine. The loopy script of Spirit clearly flows from Adam’s pen. Just like all Scripture, it is inspired and inspiring, current canon for a contemporary world.
* Its American tagline reads: The Spiritual Journey according to Brendan the Navigator. I got my copy at Iona Island in Scotland.
Please bear with my scholarly tone for the next few paragraphs. Eventually, I’ll make a case for ongoing revelation as opposed to set scripture (see – there’s a payoff coming!) But first, I need to set the ‘sacred’ scene. Here we go!
Most religious traditions have a fixed and unalterable set of written work that is ‘official’ or canon (i.e., sacred.) All subsequent writing is considered supplementary and of lesser authority.
The reason for canon is to unite followers around a common understanding or set of rules, thus reducing the chance of misinterpreting or altering the understanding of their Divine’s communication. It also enables the community to pass on their beliefs to subsequent generations.
For example, the Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads are Hindu canon. Called Shruti, meaning ‘heard’, they are understood to be received directly from the Divine. Everything after is called Smriti,’remembered’- contemplations upon Shruti.
Judaism’s canon, the Tanach, is supplemented by the Talmud and the Midraash. Christians accept the Tanach (the Old Testament) as canon, and also include the New Testament. Catholic Christians add writings (Apocrypha) that are considered merely inspirational by Jews and Protestant Christians. These gathered writings are known as The Bible.
Canon, then, is an expression of the conviction that Divinity speaks to a given group only for a discrete time. During this period, revelation is received, and then held as God’s final word. The problem is, this assumes a group’s behaviors and understandings – their culture – does not change through generations.
And this assumption runs contrary to history. Cultural norms DO change, and dramatically. For example, Judeo-Christian ideas about equality, about slavery, about consequences for trangression – even about what constitutes transgression – are markedly different than they were 4000, 2000, 1000 or even 100 years ago. How can a religion remain relevant in the face of canonical rigidity?
Christians today are caught in this dilemma. In light of canon that teaches that men should not shave and women should not speak, that slavery is acceptable and despots are God’s judgement on the faithful, Christians today tend toward one of two perspectives:
1) Evangelicals, who accept canon as the unalterable Word of God, but focus heavily on certain passages and ignore others. This pick-and-choose fundamentalism requires mighty mental machinations to navigate.
2) Mainliners, who consider canon as a reflection of the time in which it is written, but continue to incorporate outmoded interpretations into their worship. (I.e., virgin birth, original sin, human sacrifice.)
Both approaches are problematic – in the exact same way. Because new revelation is not allowed, Christians are forced to shoehorn antiquated perceptions of the Divine into their modern understanding.
It is error to relegate God’s voice to the ancient past. Divine revelation in one moment becomes blasphemy in the next if people hold rigidly to it rather than embracing ever-unfolding epiphanies. Today’s movement of Spirit is not supplementary, it is primary. It is as canonical as were the transcendent whispers in the ears of our ancient mothers and fathers.
In my next post, I’ll talk about candidates for a current canon. Post your ideas here, too!