Spiritual Life Church

 "Having God in Your Life Improves the Quality of Your Life" - Rev Daniel Hodlin

 


Pastor
Spiritual Life Church
Rev. Daniel Hodlin  
Ordained Minister

Food For Thought

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We recognize that there may be more than one way to look at things,
so we try to offer other points of view on our Food For Thought page.

Believing 
We go to church services, to weddings, funerals, to all the familiar religious rituals.  We sit, we hear the words, but how often do we really listen?  We’ve heard the words so often we’ve stopped thinking about them.  Acted out the ritual so many times we act without understanding why.
We take for granted that the all-too-human individual speaking those words is getting it right. Few of us will ever read Scripture in the original Greek, but we can all become scholars in our own way.  We can learn which of the interpretations we’ve heard for years are clean and true, and which are based in human bias. We can say: “Show me where it says so”. And then, we can decide for ourselves, in our own hearts, what it means to us. Jesus was a Teacher.  
Too many of our religious leaders preach rather than teach.  They want us to believe what they believe, think the way they think—or worse, to think not at all -- when we should be searching out the Word of God for ourselves. All religious leaders, present company included, are human and therefore prone to error, however well-meaning their words and deeds.  Only God is Perfect. When challenged, most religious leaders will assure you they are God’s  voice on Earth, or something to that effect.  
If that were true, wouldn’t they all be saying the same thing? In the same way, our “official” religious texts were written by human beings—but more importantly, these texts, the Bible, the Quran, the Torah, were assembled by human beings.  Human beings with specific personal, political, social agendas decided at various times what should be included in these great books—and what should be left out. Again, if each of these texts were indeed the Word of God, wouldn’t they be identical?  
So, what do we have?  Writings by human beings, assembled by human beings, interpreted by human beings, heard by human beings. Where does that leave us? With the knowledge that we each of us needs to seek God in our own way.  Have the courage to break free from the bonds of unthinking tradition.  
Learn to question, to read, to think for yourself. Be guided by the principles that ring true. Set aside quiet time each day to open yourself to God. We are each of us, as is everything on Earth, God’s own creation, a part of God who created us and everything in our experience.  
Does it seem to you that God needs a middleman or woman to speak to you? You are a child of the Creator.  Spend time alone with your Creator.  Speak your thanks, your needs, your worries. God will respond, perhaps not in your time, but surely in God’s. God may not provide everything you want – but God will always provide what you need.  
The true Teachers among us are not afraid of questions, or challenges.  Like Jesus, they welcome questions because it means the person asking the questions wants to know, to understand.  They welcome challenges, because it allows them to educate.

"You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive.  For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn – and I would heal them."
NRSV Matthew 13:14-15 

Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Creator.
Matthew 6.1

And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and the street corners so that they may be seen by others. 
But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Creator who is in secret; and your Creator who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6.5-6

The Circle and the Cross

  The Circle
In spiritual systems, the Circle represents God, whose center is everywhere, a perfection surpassing human understanding
To the Platonists, the Circle was the ultimate, perfect form, without
beginning, end or direction
In Zen Buddhism the Circle stands for enlightenment, the perfection 
of humanity in unity with the primal principle
Other examples of The Circle are:
* The canopy of Heaven; The sun, the moon and the planets
* The Ancient Egyptian symbol of eternity, a string tied to form a circle
* The Ancient Greek symbol of eternity, a snake biting its own tail – Uroborus
* Concentric circles arising from tossing something in the water
* Concentric circles representing God’s original Creation
* Protection against evil spirits
* The Halo
* Native American camps and dances
* Chinese yin and yang enclosing duality in a Circle

  The Cross
The most universal of the simple symbolic figures, the Cross is not a  Christian property.  In fact, in the earliest Christian era, it was accepted only with reluctance, because of its association with a cruel and humiliating form of execution
The cross represents spatial orientation, intersection of vertical – above/below – and horizontal – right/left
The cross represents the human form with the arms extended
The cross is suggestive of a quaternity ( Four ); or a quincunx or pentad
( Five ) when the point of intersection is included
Like the circle, the cross is part of the structure of many mandalas, as well as many temples and churches
The Cross is prominent in the cosmological representations of many cultures:
*The Paradise of the Bible with four rivers flowing from it
*Inside a circle, in addition to cosmological associations, it stands for the division of the year into four seasons
*The Cross divides a square into quadrants – the plan for the ideal Roman city
*Symbolic of crossroads of life – change
*The intersection of the path of life and death, of the living and the dead, as in many African traditions
*The Ankh, Egyptian cross of life
*The world tree of the Cosmos of the ancient Maya

Gnostic Christianity
The Greek word gnosis (pronounced "no-sis") is commonly translated as "knowledge", but the Greeks made a distinction between the knowledge of the mind and the knowledge of intuition, or insight. As used by gnostics, gnosis means the latter. In fact, the secret at the core of gnostic Christianity is that to truly know oneself is to know God.
Unlike orthodox Christians who believe the Truth is handed down by the church from the apostles (hence the Apostles’ Creed) and who accept only the four gospels of the New Testament as the canon (guideline), for doctrine and practice, gnostic Christians believe that whoever receives the spirit communicates directly with the divine, and that they have matured beyond the original teachings of the apostles.
The fifty-some surviving texts of the ancient gnostic writings discovered at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt in 1945 didn’t become part of the public domain until the late 1970’s.
But why were they buried in the first place?
The Nag Hammadi texts date back to the earliest beginnings of Christianity. Although modern Christians would recognize many of the key players, much of what they say and do in the Gnostic Gospels is not what they say and do in the New Testament assembled by the leadership of the orthodox church. The differences, some of them radical, give us a real sense of the struggle between various factions as the cult of Christianity attempted over time to define itself as an organized religion.
By the middle of the second century, gnostic writings were being denounced as heresy by those who called themselves "orthodox" Christians. Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons, for one, wrote a five-volume diatribe against the "wicked heretics", i.e. anyone, including gnostic Christians, who was not of the "one true, catholic (universal) church."
Once the Emperor Constantine made Christianity an official religion in the fourth century, the self-declared orthodox version of Christianity gained military support, with the result that the orthodox catholic church became a rich and powerful bureaucracy, while gnostic Christians, branded as heretics, faded into the background.

The following poem, a revelation spoken by a feminine power, is among the most startling of the gnostic writings translated to date:

Thunder, Perfect Mind
"For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore, and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin…
I am the barren one,
and many are her sons…
I am the silence that is incomprehensible…
I am the utterance of my name."

If you would like to learn more about gnostic Christianity, we recommend 
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels as an excellent place to start.

Opinion -------Commentary by readers
The real threat of gnostic Christianity was that, by offering its believers the opportunity through ritual to receive the charismatic gift of direct inspiration through the Holy Spirit, the middlemen – bishops and priests – were eliminated, along with their increasing personal wealth, power and comfort.

And, then, of course, there was the "female thing" – many gnostic groups allowed women to teach, to engage in learned discussion, to heal, even (!) to baptize...

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