Jesus as Mystic Sermon

Jesus as Mystic Sermon

Jesus as Mystic

Today we launch our sermon series on mysticism by looking at Jesus as mystic.

John 15:4-5 Abide in me, as I abide in you.
Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

Three Components of Faith: Beliefs, Actions, and Experience.

If a purple, bug-eyed alien beamed down from another planet to ask you what it means to be Christian, there are many things you might say. Most of us would begin by talking about beliefs. We believe in the creator who loves us all and forgives us. We believe in Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Next, you might shift into talking about our moral code and actions we deem essential.

We aim to do unto others as we would have done to us.
We do what we can to help people in need.
We pray, go to church, do our part.
We strive to be generous, humble, and to do the right thing, especially when it is hard.

Our little purple bug-eyed friend might convert on the spot. But then you tell her about the bonus material about having direct experiences with the divine.

God moments.

I wonder if you have ever had “God moments.” A God moment is any experience in which you felt God was involved, an experience of the holy.

• Perhaps a feeling of inner peace or joy washed over you. It could be a coincidence that feels too preposterous to assign to random chance.
• It could be a gut-level knowing of something or a deep connection with another person, nature, or the divine.
• Have you ever had the sense of there just being more to life than what meets the eye?
• Maybe there was something in you tugging at you to make a change or be bold, or take a stand.
• Maybe a dream or vision that gave you insight or a sense of awe in nature or through music or art.

How many of you have had a “God moment?”

It’s okay if nothing pops into your mind. There is no hierarchy here. But many of us have had these kinds of experiences. They are a part of our tradition that often takes a backseat in our faith conversations because it’s easier to talk about beliefs and ethics than this stuff.

Because sometimes, when you talk about it, it just feels weird. There’s a vulnerability to it. Our language seems inadequate to express the depth of it. It might sound too “out there” to someone who hasn’t had a similar experience. They may look back at you with a concerned look as if you had just told them that a purple, bug-eyed alien interrogated you.

Into the mystic.

Over the next several weeks, we will take the risk and discuss this direct experience of the sacred. Instead of discussing what we believe in our heads or rules for moral living, we will delve into these mysterious or mystical experiences. What are they? What can we learn from others who have had them, and how do we access them?

It’s a series on mysticism, which is an overly complicated word. Pastor Susie says we should de-mystify the term. Basically, what we are talking about is having a feeling or direct experience with the divine—moments where we sense more than ordinariness.

God moments serve as influential touchstones.

These moments can stay with you and transform how you see everything else. They are touchstone moments, things you can come back to for reassurance. Most of the things I once believed about God have been deconstructed and changed into something else over the years. I might have left the faith if it had not been for these touchstone moments where something so real had grabbed me. I couldn’t let them go, even when I wasn’t sure about anything else I believed. I at least had that, which kept me thinking there was something more- something good that pulled me forward.

Jesus’ spiritual practices.

Many of the people in the Bible had these touchstone moments, including Jesus. At his baptism, before he began public ministry, Mark describes him sensing the Holy Spirit descending upon him as a dove and hearing the internal voice, “This is my beloved in whom I’m well pleased.” As he set his face toward his fate in Jerusalem, the transfiguration moment on the mountaintop reminded him that he was on the right path no matter how hard it got.

Everywhere Jesus turned, we see evidence of how he lived out his spirituality. He got baptized. He went into the wilderness to fast and pray—in ways similar to vision quests in many religions. He sang hymns and worshipped in the synagogue. He often separated himself from everyone else and spent time in nature and prayed. He went on pilgrimages and long walks to Jerusalem with other sojourners. He formed deep friendships and helped others. All of these were ways that Jesus connected with the sacred.

These practices filled him the wisdom, power, and sense of God’s presence that informed all he did.

Jesus’ mystical teachings.

Abba

His teachings taught us that we can have that power, that connection to God. One way that happens, according to John Cobb, is in the Lord’s Prayer. In it, he refers to God as Abba, which is something akin to calling God “daddy or beloved parent.” He didn’t want us to envision God as transcendent, out there, aloof, harsh, and judgmental but as close and caring.

Kin-dom

The most frequent theme of his teaching was about the kingdom of God. He portrayed it as something we access in this life. He said the kin-dom is within you, among you, and in the midst of you.

Biblical scholar Marcus Borg says it’s pretty much what water is to a fish. Although we may not be aware of it, it surrounds us entirely, and we are mostly made up of it.

Another image is that the universe is like the womb of God, and we are all in it. We are part of God, and God is part of us; there is nothing that isn’t already part of God.

At-one-ment

Many of Jesus’ teachings, particularly in John’s gospel, present the idea that we can be one with God as he is one with God. That God isn’t out there in the sky but as close as our breathing. When he talked about being born from above, he was metaphorically speaking about adopting a new consciousness of our connectedness with God, nature, and others. It’s about learning to see in new ways, but it requires us to pay attention and look for it.

Contemplation exercises help us to pay attention.

All the noise and busyness of life distract us, not to mention our brains that ping pong from one worry to the next. The other day, I was stuck in traffic, lulled into my thoughts, not really paying attention to anything but the car right in front of me, creeping along when all of a sudden. BLAM, BLAM. A motorcycle appeared right beside me and scared me out of my wits. That brought my attention around.

Fortunately, some exercises help us pay better attention and enter into that connection with the divine. You have an insert of the contemplation tree. They represent different techniques or methods to help quiet the noise and distractions around us so we can sense God’s presence in our midst. Jesus used many of these. The point is to discover what works for you. Part of what worship is about is to come here and quiet our minds, get away from our phones and people demanding things from you and just rest in the presence of God and a caring community.

Group discussions.

We have a small group of folks meeting weekly on Zoom who have been following some of these methods for four years. They can attest to how much they have benefited from intentionally paying attention. During this sermon series, following worship, they invite you to talk with them about all of this and share what works for them to increase God-moments. Don’t worry. They aren’t purple or bug-eyed (mostly). They are fellow companions on the spiritual journey.

Silent Meditation.

One thing we know is that Jesus practiced silent meditation. He often went off by himself for prayer. I want to invite you into a time of silence—just a minute to blot out all of the distractions from your mind and worries and sit in the presence of love, acceptance, and peace to let it soak in.

Resources for our Christian Mysticism sermon series can be found here.