This flashes us back to the Wednesday night program this past week. We watched part two in a series about the movement from Jesus to Christ, from the Jesus Movement to Christianity. The narrator mentioned that in the aftermath of the death of Jesus the tradition that had built up around the idea of the Messiah had to be reinterpreted. How many times throughout history have traditional assumptions and expectations had to be reinterpreted in light of events and experience that did not bear them out?
The end is always near. The world as we know it is always coming to an end. We are always having to rethink, re-imagine, re-work, the traditions to take into account the contradictions and incompatibilities between what we have been told and what we experience. We are always coming up against some reality that doesn't square with how we think things are, with how we wish things were, with how we want things to be. That's the end of that world. Poof. Gone.
How many worlds have come and gone? Ways of life, civilizations, ideas about how things are? When the parents divorce, the child's world goes. How many times have the traditions been reinterpreted, revised, to fit new realities, new worlds, incompatible with the old way of seeing? How many traditions, sacred truths, blessed convictions, have dissolved before the advance of a new way of seeing? Don't hold on too tightly to how you think things are! “It’s a new world, Golda!” And a newer one is on the way! Successful religions reinterpret their traditions in light of the new world that has dawned. Unsuccessful religions collapse when their cornerstone beliefs are not sustained by their life experience.
The work of religion is the work of squaring us up with the conditions of the world that greet us at birth. And, at some point in our lives, we have to return the favor and do the work of squaring our religion up with the changing conditions of life which no longer support the beliefs and constructs of our religion. Copernicus and Galileo and Darwin and Jung have given us a world the old religious assumptions don’t fit, and we have to re-think the traditions to take the new world into account, or else.
Always the question: What does this have to do with that? What does this world have to do with that one? What do those traditional ways of seeing and thinking have to do with this new way of seeing and thinking about the world in which we live? What do those stories, that system of beliefs, have to do with this turn of events, this reality?
The movement of soul, the spiritual journey, is always from bondage to freedom—from bondage to the old way of thinking, seeing, being—from bondage to the old traditions—to the freedom of new life, new vision, new ways of thinking, seeing, being. This is the message of Easter, Resurrection, and New Birth. The old has passed away, behold the new has come. And within a generation or less, this new will be old and will be replaced by a newer New, and we will have to move again from bondage to the old way of perceiving reality to the freedom of another new way of beholding the world and our place in it.
Ours is the task of reinterpreting, re-thinking, the old traditions, the old symbols. They are not automatically relevant, pertinent, meaningful. What does that say to this? We have to rework the traditions to make the connections, but, the work is not easy. Who wants to do the work of rethinking, reworking, the old symbols? Who wants to think, reflect, wonder, imagine, struggle to make new connections? Distractions are easier, diversions are more fun. Who has time to spend in the search for meaning and purpose when Wii waits? Wii will have to wait, because no one can re-work the symbols, the traditions, for us. Each of us must do the work for herself, himself. We cannot be told what there is to know, see, understand, perceive, grasp, get. Truth cannot be explained to us. We have to do the work. We have to find a symbol or image that moves us. Listen to it. Follow where it takes us, into the far reaches of a brand new world.