Over the past four decades I have devoted my life to exploring and teaching spiritual ideas. At age 16 I discovered a book, Lessons in Truth, that would eventually point me in the direction my life would take. The thing that set this book apart from other inspirational works was that the ideas Emilie Cady shared seemed somehow familiar. The book contains a spiritual logic that resonated with my soul. I assumed these ideas would appeal to everyone, but of course I was wrong. I would later read that when the student is ready the teacher appears. I must have been ready for this particular teacher.
Though I am a minister by profession, I do not consider myself religious, at least not in the classical sense. In the classical context, we are born in sin, Jesus died to free us from the consequences of sin, and our acceptance of his ultimate sacrifice for us assures us a place in heaven. It can easily be argued that this formula began to take shape in the earliest days, when Christians were known as Followers of the Way. Is it the formula Jesus himself taught?
An objective approach to understanding the origins and evolution of the Gospel accounts, a subject I’ve been exploring for the last four decades, raises the possibility that the actual message of Jesus has gotten buried in a matrix of theological formulas unknown to Jesus. The larger-than-life Jesus that is put forward today is more likely a product of the church than of history. We do not have a formal Gospel According to Jesus. We have accounts based on four originally anonymous writers who would eventually become known as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, with Mark being the first, and a primary source for Matthew and Luke. John bears little resemblance to the other three Gospels.
I think our spiritual quest should not only be a highly personal journey, it should be as natural and as comfortable as our favorite pair of blue jeans. It cannot be a thing imposed upon us–articles of faith that we must adopt and publicly profess–but rather a directed response to a deep and irrepressible stirring that bubbles naturally to the surface of our consciousness. When another writes or speaks what we know intuitively is true, we respond. Their words move us at the soul level.
This is why I subscribe more to what I call the mystical thread that runs through the teachings of Jesus than to articles of mainstream Christian doctrine. From this thread we gather that Jesus recognized God as the omnipotent source of all, the Father, centered within as the very essence of each person, inseparable from his or her Source. I’ve come to believe that the Gospel of Jesus is summarized in his parable of the prodigal son. While we can stray into the far country of believing we are separate from our spiritual home, we can turn at any moment to the unconditional embrace of the all-encompassing Source in whom we live and move and have our being. We may lose sight of our relationship with God, but we cannot damage it. When we grow weary of seeking fulfillment from the world of people, places and things, we begin our journey back to our spiritual home at the quiet center of our being. The single requirement is to be still and experience first-hand the nature of this inner stirring and its intention to express the unique light that is ours alone to share.
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