“Bound & Belonging” ©
Thoughts on the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 21, 2018
by Rev. Jim Ryan, email@example.com
Yes, James and John have a lot of nerve. As today’s Gospel passage relates (Mark 10:35-45) these two brothers have the nerve to ask Jesus to reserve the highest places at his right and his left for them when Jesus comes into his glory. Now, they may be asking from the view that the glory they envisioned was the result of overthrowing the Roman occupiers. Or, maybe not.
My reading of this passage this time around isn’t focused on glory so much as it is on the desire the brothers share in wanting to belong. They inelegantly attempt to declare their commitment to belong to Jesus and what Jesus represents.
These days belonging has a real hold on us. In a time of institutional breakdown be it church, government, supreme courts, marriage and family or – take your pick – having attachments that mean something seems often to be in short supply. If, in the past, dogmas and creeds provided a sense of belonging that’s not the reality we live in today. I’m suggesting that the belonging we aspire to is much like the personal investment kind of James and John – despite their ham-handedness way of expressing it.
Belonging in a spiritual sense has become particularly pluralized. We find ourselves deriving benefit in a variety of religious and spiritual paths. Turns out, this pluralized reality is an actual thing. When religious thinkers take a look at it, they call it Multiple Religious Belonging. Recently I ran across an article that takes a look at this phenomenon of plural belongings. It considers the hyphenated and nuanced lives which we live today, for example Christian-Buddhist, or Anglo-Roman, or sacramental progressive, or post-colonial feminist. We are more and more comfortable with creating our own recipes to nourish our spiritual diets. It’s like being bi- or tri- lingual or also multi-national.
Those who study this sort of thing observe some commonly shared aspects of those who share this comfort in multiple belongings. First is a sense of and belief in ultimacy. This is the desire to acknowledge a reality that is more – as in, more than my life, more than all of what I know to be certain. In the past such a belief in ultimacy may have been satisfied by a person’s religious denomination or a faith tradition’s dogmas and creeds. Not anymore, particularly as we learn more and more of the history of all the compromises and accommodations that went into forming those statements of belief. And if that sense of belonging formerly depended on the authority of certain officeholders or those in high positions in one’s church – well, we’re seeing how well that’s playing out with all who have fallen from grace right before our eyes.
Ultimacy has become a path for each individual to work out. One’s belief in God no longer depends, as if it ever did, on words on paper or on people in power saying so. It appears these days that when ultimacy is a path and a destination, a person’s journey takes on multiple ways to proceed.
A second feature of us multiple belongers is the willingness and ability to reach to whatever practices and methods that make our lives meaningful. A prayer life guided by yoga practices and insights, for example. Or engaging in social action for the sake of justice for all. We reach out in action because our sense of ultimacy requires us to act.
All this is pretty traditional on the surface. The difference is the freedom we now give ourselves to find God, or ultimate reality, and to act because life is always more than my own concerns.
I think of ultimacy and action as a hug and a push.
The hug of ultimacy is the connection of belonging which penetrates the spirit and allows a person to deepen in faith. The push of action is the challenge that accompanies belonging. It shows us what we must do to serve each other and all others – as is the way of Christ.
A Poem Prayer
Bound Yet Free by HK
In love we are bound,
yet in love we are free.
Bound to one,
bound to circumstance.
While bestowing upon us
the spiritual freedom,
in hardship and adversity,
to escape our current existence
into a world that knows only beauty,
comfort and belonging.
Giving us strength,
giving us meaning.