New Awakening: Re-Formation

Awakenings are re-formations. God waters things by the Spirit so that the dry clay of our existence can become pliable. A new creation emerges. Several factors converge to make the transformation possible.

First, realism. Father Richard Rohr’s 2021 theme for his daily meditations has been apocalypticism—an unveiling which simultaneously reveals the true condition of things while instilling hope that they can change for the better. Interestingly, Andrew Harvey’s December blog has been about the apocalyptic time in which we are living.

Jesus called it having eyes to see and ears to hear (Mark 8:18). In the Buddhist tradition it is called tonglen. It is receiving things as they are and allowing their reality to move us into compassion, what St. Francis described as becoming instruments of God’s peace. All the religious traditions teach the necessity of realism. For decades I have said it simply, “spirituality is reality.” There can be no awakening without realism because the absence of it makes the status quo normative (even untouchable), leaving the “kingdoms of this world” as idols to worship. [1] Realism puts an expiration date on the old wineskins and declares “today is the day of salvation” from them.

The second re-formative factor is recovery. That is, we discover the things which bring us together, and live by them to bring a new day into being. Recovery follows realism because after naming the toxins which divide us, we move to embrace the ingredients which unite us. This is not minimalism even though religious fundamentalist/nationalists would try to convince us that it is. But the truth is, recovery is “seeking the things that are above” (Colossians 3:1) and having found them, living by them.

In terms of the spiritual life in general, we seek to recover the Perennial Tradition—religion before religions. [1] In this tradition, religion recovers its fundamental meaning of bringing things back together and holding them together in a divine union which reflects and honors the essential oneness of everyone and everything. We are in a nonbinary, interconnected cosmos.

The second great commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself,” was Jesus’ way of teaching this (Matthew 22:39) Later on, Paul amplified the same idea by writing that we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

In the Christian context, we seek to recover the universal Christ, who is all and in all (Colossians 3:11), the excarnate/cosmic Christ who is at work to unite all things in heaven and on earth (Ephesians 1:9-10) so that as in Adam all died, in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22).

The third factor is reconstruction. That is, we use the template created by the first two factors and set about the ongoing work of bringing the vision to pass through the grace and guidance of God. [3] We become co-laborers with God in what Richard Rohr has named “the practice of the better,” following the example of Christ who went about doing good. Christ, who is the wisdom and power of God (1 Corinthians 1:24) is our life (Colissians 3:4), and as we abide in him, we become (as Teresa of Avila put it) the hands and feet of Jesus at work in the world for the doing of good. Enlightened by Christ, the Light of the world (John 8:12) we become lights to the world (Matthew 5:14).

We are living in a new awakening, confirmed by the sign of re-formation. As we end this year and enter a new one, let us pray that the three factors in re-formation will live in us and find expression through us.

[1] Although the fallen-world has manifold expressions, they are summed up in the classical three vices: money (materialism), sex (hedonism) and power (domination). These three converge in injustice: unfairness, inequity, exclusion, and a supremacy that undermines the common good.
[2] The main elements of the Perennial Tradition are these: (1) there is one God who created, redeems, and sustains all things, (2) God is Mystery, known through revelation, but never fully, (3) we hunger for a relationship with God and have the God-given capacity to have one, and (4) we find our fulfillment and joy in this relationship.
[3] The next round of posts in this series will focus on the manifestations which move the new Awakening from a vision into reality.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
This entry was posted in New Awakening. Bookmark the permalink.