Dear Reader of the New Earth Community E-mail Broadcast Around The World,
This e-mail broadcast is meant to be read thoughtfully over time …. in a quiet moment. The story below: “The Old Phone: Information Please” ….. is a story about the value we place on people …. and the longterm effects that that value has on people’s lives. This is a reoccurring theme in this e-mail broadcast. It is not about systems of thought or ideas and not about systems of organisation either. It is about people at the very centre of life and them being related to the unseen dimension of life …. the spiritual realm. This e-mail broadcast ties together many different kinds of people with differing views on life …. some with a passionate Christian spirituality, some more religious, some with alternative Spiritualities and some with no apparent spirituality. This e-mail broadcast is initiated from a Christian Worldview which sees Jesus Christ as Son of the infinite – personal God. The question is …. Do you have a Religion or a Spirituality? They are different in approach. This is between those with:
No apparent Spiritualty and no relationship with the infinite – personal God ………… Passionate Spirituality and relationship with the infinite – personal God ……
….. all people are somewhere along this continuum ….. There can be a lot of religion = knowing about God or ….. to relationships with God = knowing God personally.
Religion is the antithesis of spirituality. It is explicit (outwardly evident and defined) and is marked by four things: a cult, creed, code (ethics) and community (which is more inward looking). It ends up being very law-centred …. Focusing on precise ways of living life ….. ends up with very defined expectations and precise programs.
On the other hand, spirituality is implicit (inwardly self evident and undefined). It refers to how an individual lives meaningfully with the ultimate questions of life, his or her response to the deepest truths of the universe as he or she apprehends these. It answers such queries as:
- Who are we as a people?
- What is the meaning of life?
- What values should I live by?
In a Christian Spirituality, it isn’t just another spirituality along with hundreds of others in the world. There is a personal relationship with the infinite personal God of the Universe who can be known in personal relationships through His Holy Spirit working through our lives in an active way. When I say ‘ He or His’ it not a sexist use of the term as it includes male and female as a whole. It means more ‘Personhood’ vs. sexual difference in the way it is used. Such a God was revealed initially through a written word in the Bible which consists of sixty books written over a 1500 years ++ by inspired people yet whose writing manifests an amazing unity. All these books have a mathematical sequence which flows through the inner text from book to book.
The written word in the Bible is a written structural revelation about God and the way to live life in a sustainable way. It is more a framework or written philosophy on life with very practical implications. It becomes a Philosophy of Christianity leading to Programs and Institutions. If left there alone, this is where religion comes from. Then there another aspect to this, the Personal Presence Of God leading to Personal Relationships …. Where spirituality comes from. This about a relationship to God through His Spirit.
Everyone has a spiritual identity, whether they know it or not. There are two aspects to spirituality:
1. HORIZONTAL SPIRITUALITY = RELATIONAL SPIRITUALITY:
A relationship with ourselves, other people, the Earth in a physical sense …… the whole environment of trees, open spaces, the sky, the earth as ground, animals and all living things. We are all part of an interdependent web of life.
2. VERTICAL SPIRITUALITY:
A vertical spirituality can be illustrated like looking at a vacuum cleaner. When you look at one for the first time on the floor, you can walk around it …. looking at it as sleek shape, the colour of it, noting the hollow hose, the name on it, the lid which unclips with a bag inside, the small wheels which turn, the electric cord rolled up inside. You pull it apart noting the electric motor and wiring etc. However, if you never plug it in, nothing happens … We are like the vacuum cleaner ….. nothing really happens in our life until l we are plugged into the vertical Universal Power Source which is God.
A Brief Overview of the Purpose of the Christian Church:
Jesus calls us into a new community with Himself initially as a vertical spirituality ….. He gives us a new identity as children in the Kingdom of Heaven. Through this new identity, we can then be in relationship with others of like mind in a horizontal spirituality. This is the final meaning of the cross with its two members, a strong vertical member with God and us and a horizontal member, us with everyone else linked together. Jesus set out a basic ground of verbal teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5), for His new Kingdom Order where he taught His disciples principles like:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit
- Blessed are those who morn
- Blessed are the meek
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
- Blessed are the merciful
- Blessed are the pure in heart
- Blessed are the peacemakers
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteous sake
- Blessed are these who are reviled and persecuted
…… not strong qualities to take over the world …… but when applied by Jesus followers, actually worked and turned the world upside down when outworked with the preaching of the Gospel. This was the jhad of Jesus. Before He left us, Jesus prayed for you and I in: John 17:20 ‘Neither, pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe, on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.
And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.’
In Jesus’s prayer there are only two kinds of people: those for Him and those against Him. A few points in Jesus’s prayer:
- that they all may be one: There is only one group …. His followers called from the world ….. not many different followers of all different churches or spiritualities ….. followers of Him alone as the Lord Jesus Christ as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: the degree of togetherness was to be the same degree that Jesus was with His Father = the standard that the world may believe that thou hast sent me: Our degree of unity would result in the world believing in Jesus Christ.
The present Christian is caught between the historical legacy of two alternatives, that of the early Christian Church and the influence of later centuries. There is a tension between Church as relationships and Church as a rigid organisation. The first leads to a warm, open and communal approach but not necessarily with organizational direction. The second leads to a more corporate approach, more formal but not communal. It is Christ-ianity as God’s Community with Spirituality versus Church-ianity as Religion or God’s Corporation. The initial Hebrew view of life was very wholistic whereby all aspects of life were unified and were very important to God.
Where this change came from in the history of the Christian Church was from a major change in the 3rd Century from a Hebrew view of life to a view influenced by Greek thinking. People in the church became very dualistic in their thinking whereby:
- Jewish Church becomes a Gentile Church
- Gentile Converts steeped in Greek Platonic philosophy
- The Church becomes the gateway to God and the spirit realm
- The priest represents this removed spirit realm
- The Church became the gateway to Heaven with the Church very much at the centre
- The Church: The priest + the mass + sacraments = The way to Salvation into the spirit realm
- These were the key mediators
- There came about a separation of common life from the spiritual realm
- This view increasing became the status quo across Europe
See the reference: Thwaites, James ‘The Church beyond the Congregation ….. the Strategic Role of the church in the Postmodern era’ ….. Paternoster Press.
In comparison, Jesus didn’t start an organisation but developed relationships with a small core of people. These then multiplied around the then known world (the Roman Empire), into small committed fellowships. In the New Testament Greek, ‘Church’ is translated from the word ‘Ecclesia’ which is simply a gathering or community of relationships. It had no religious connotations at all ….. it could even mean a political gathering.
The one thing really missing in our Postmodern World is the loss of community. This is not a geographic community but a relational one. It is building people together into a new unity = New Earth Community (my application of it) and if necessary facilitating them into an appropriate fellowship.
In the 2nd & 3rd Century came a Christian heresy of Gnosticism. This was a synthesis of Christianity, Eastern Mysticism and Spirituality of various Roman Mystery Cults which led to a syncretistic approach. This belief system was firmly put to death by the real teaching of Jesus Christ in this period. Gnosticism lay dead for 1500 years then was brought to life again. It has become Neo-Gnosticism in this present century in New Age teaching. This began to occur in 1945 when 50 original Gnostic texts were discovered in Egypt in clay pots in the Nile delta. These were translated into English by very liberal Christian scholars who saw them as valid alternative to orthodox Christianity. This gave rise to the New Age Movement and the bigger groundswell of what I call the New Spirituality Movement.
In a Christian spirituality, you enter to a lifelong relationship with the infinite – personal God through God’s indwelling Holy Spirit. You then have a new identity in Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection 2000 years ago. With a new identity comes a new purpose or destiny. You then have what is termed ‘a calling in life’ or ‘ministry’ which may or may not involve your work in a physical sense but goes way beyond your physical job. It is where you are there for other people as Albert Einstein said long ago …. Not for what you can get from them but what you can impart into their lives for good in an inner sense. We are here for one another …… I have a component of life that you need and you have a component of life that I need.
The story below: “The Old Phone: Information Please” ….. is a story about the value we place on people. This e-mail broadcast focuses on Sustainable Solutions for life as found in three aspects of life: Structure, Spirituality and Social Network. The last begins with the value we place on people ….. in a real practical sense and this what the story illustrates.
PS: The photos inserted above above is of Harriet & I from up at Ravello ….. two first century Roman Villas …. 350 metres above sea level ….. overlooking the Mediterranean sea on our four week holiday to Italy in mid March – April 2005.
The Old Phone: “Information Please” via Daniel de Bruyn
When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember the polished, old case fastened to the wall. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother talked to it.
Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person. Her name was “Information Please” and there was nothing she did not know. Information Please could supply anyone’s number and the correct time.
My personal experience with the genie-in-a-bottle came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer, the pain was terrible, but there seemed no point in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy.
I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway. The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver in the parlor and held it to my ear. “Information, please” I said into the mouthpiece just above my head.
A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear.
“I hurt my finger…” I wailed into the phone, the tears came readily enough now that I had an audience.
“Isn’t your mother home?” came the question.
“Nobody’s home but me,” I blubbered.
“Are you bleeding?” the voice asked.
“No,” I replied. “I hurt my finger with the hammer and it hurts.”
“Can you open the icebox?” she asked.
I said I could.
“Then chip off a little bit of ice and hold it to your finger,” said the voice.
After that, I called “Information Please” for everything. I asked her for help with my geography, and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped me with my math. She told me my pet chipmunk that I had caught in the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts.
Then, there was the time Petey, our pet canary, died. I called “Information Please” and told her the sad story. She listened, and then said things grown-ups say to soothe a child. But I was not consoled. I asked her, “Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?”
She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, “Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.”
Somehow I felt better.
Another day I was on the telephone, “Information Please”.
“Information” said the now familiar voice. “How do you spell fix?” I asked.
All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. When I was nine years old, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend very much. “Information Please” belonged in that old wooden box back home and I somehow never thought of trying the shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall. As I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me.
Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity I would recall the serene sense of security I had then. I appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.
A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about a half-hour or so between planes. I spent 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, “Information Please”.
Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well.
I hadn’t planned this, but I heard myself saying, “Could you please tell me how to spell fix?”
There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, “I guess your finger must have healed by now.”
I laughed, “So it’s really you,” I said. “I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time?”
“I wonder,” said she, “if you know how much your calls meant to me? I never had any children and I used to look forward to your calls.”
I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and I asked if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.
Before I could hang up she said, “Wait a minute, did you say your name was Paul?” “Yes.” I answered.
“Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you.”
The note said, “Tell him there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean.”
I thanked her and hung up. I knew what Sally meant.
Never underestimate the impression you make on others.
Whose life have you touched today?
May you find the joy and peace you long for.