WHakapono: Introduction

"The world is changing, culture is evolving, and our understanding of God is becoming more inclusive, intimate and invitational"

Over the next 12 weeks we want to take you on a journey and unpack our convictions, the embodied truth that is shaping the community of Edge Kingsland. The implications of these convictions are seen in the spiritual practices that define our formation and faith expression.

How we are learning what matters most is the result of our wrestling with the evolution of our faith consciousness, the self-reflective awareness of our need to allow transformation to reach into the fixed set ideals of our faith and open us up to greater possibilities of what God wants to do in our lives.

Our ‘theological coming out’, so to speak, is the courageous dialogue of a people who want to discourse around meaningful interchange, with humility and honesty.

The indigenous word ‘Whakapono’ — which means (verb) to believe, to trust; (noun) faith, creed, belief, truth, conviction — is not only a reference to truth and conviction but an attempt to honour the previous generations of theological musing and discern the spirit of enlightenment that speaks to us from those who have gone before us.

The pathway to conviction is fraught with many challenges, none more so than respecting each other’s positions and religious journeys, being careful to not disabuse each other’s long held beliefs. Being honest about each other’s biases will go a long way to maintaining a patient and kind disposition.

"Our convictions - or lack of convictions - shape our lives."  - Marcus Borg

Our faith convictions are formulated through the observed and practiced traditions of our past, and the evolution of understanding and wisdom. Conviction is the result of embodied truth that has shaped meaning in our lives which we arrive at as we travel down the pathway of insightful discernment that comes about through a literal and lateral observation of life.

The literal and lateral are likened to the two lenses of binoculars that enhance the visual acuity of our surroundings, bringing into view a more intimate connection with the world around us. We need both lenses in order to stay balanced and coordinated, while avoiding the one-eyed myopia that has dominated the public perception of religious hypocrisy.

Our literal view of God has not been enough to awaken people’s imagination to a sacred world view or inspire them to consider the Divine as more than a grumpy deity who literally sits in the heavens, really disappointed with our ability to do life.

The literal view is the lowest form of meaning, that posits life as a fixed-set of inflexible, predefined rules and regulations passed down to man by divine edict as recorded in our sacred writings and traditions. While I do not want to in any way undermine the inspiration and sacredness of these truths, they will never suffice alone as an invitation into the sacred mystery. The literal can be guilty of propositional fixed set ideologies (truisms) that seem inflexible and fearful of imaginative exploration.

"Unless you are skilled in metaphor you are not fit to be let loose on the world." - Robert Frost

The lateral view is an open-set glimpse of God that builds on our literal foundation inviting us to embrace truth-fullness, a truthful way of being and living in the world. It employs the art of metaphor to enliven the imagination in order re-enchant the world. It moves our primitive consciousness (literal mindset) toward a more evolutionary consciousness (lateral mindset) that does not see truth as a static proposition but as an organic expression of relational intimacy. We cannot understand God without metaphor or symbolism of some kind if truth is to be incarnated in our life. After all, Jesus, who was the master story-teller, used metaphorical descriptors to expose us to a more truthful way of relating to transcendence.

"Metaphor is the only language available to religion." - Richard Rohr

In St John’s Gospel we read one of the most polarising and challenging verses in the Bible; Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ John 14:6

Read literally, my tradition has suggested that this is about ‘right belief’, that Christianity has the exclusive rights to the afterlife and that coming to the Father was tantamount to entrance in to heaven.

What if we were to read this laterally and consider whether Jesus is using the metaphors of way, truth, and life to invite us into a relationship with God here and now rather than in the here-after.  Could the ‘way' then be that God is always finding a way into our collective consciousness? When God gets in our way it is reflected in a sacred morality that manifests in our conscience and life.  Could the ‘truth' be an invitation to see God in all truth revealed to us? Truth is not solely owned by religion! Could all of ‘life' be infused with God more than we realise? All of this is to say that, 'coming to the Father’ is a realisation that is enhanced by these metaphors as they influence every waking moment.

Wherever you are on the journey it is ok to disagree or even squabble over the way forward, after all we all do directions differently. 

To channel and paraphrase the prophet Isaiah, ‘let us reason together (be reasonable with each other) though our opinions (particular bias/sin) be obvious, we CAN find the common ground of agreed unity’

The final word goes to Gandalf:

Gandalf: I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.

Bilbo: I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them …

Gandalf:  You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back

Bilbo:  You can promise that I’ll come back?”

Gandalf:  No. And if you do, you will not be the same.