This morning Chris, Joel, Danny, Ruth and Jenny shared what's inspired them from the last month's messages on the dangers of isms.
This video about the Minimalist "White Paintings" is one we used in "The Danger of Isms - Part 3 - The Search for Meaning" and demonstrates how strongly people feel about this artform and how our reactions to it can tell us a lot about ourselves.
"What you see is what you see!"
Chris shared how this series on the dangers of isms has resonated so strongly with her and how the idea of a blank canvas appeals so strongly as someone who feels like the canvas of her life was overburdened with meaning.
"Some of us want detail, whilst others want space for creative energy. Can we live alongside both?"
Chris spoke about how we need a God that is freed from the clutter of everyone else's expressions and that Jesus was like a Minimalist painting, held up against the legalism of the religious system of his time.
Where isms are enforced systems of beliefs, we learnt that '-ity's offer a state of being, and Chris reflected honestly that she's had to move away from the isms of fundamentalism and absolutism and instead make friends with ambiguity, accepting that there can be more than one interpretation of something. This comes with a cost however, as the more we've invested into our isms, the more passionate we are about them and the harder it is to leave them behind.
"No-one knows what is best for anyone else and ultimately all isms will fail because of this."
Our isms become bubbles that deny reality in order to inspire confidence in a world that is filled with anxiety. But anxiety is not to be feared, it's simply the dizziness of freedom, like the wind blowing over the open seas and is not a lack of faith.
Chris finished by reading this powerful poem, "Into the Woods", by John Roedel:
I had to leave the path to find my way
I had to get lost to find God
I had to fall off the edge of the map to find a home that changes its address every time I take another step forward
however, before we did any of that
I spent most of my life searching for peace by walking the same worn path that everyone else was taking
I was walking with everybody as we followed the dusty trail that we were told would lead us to the promised river of life
we were like ants marching together in line through the desert
"Are we almost there?" I'd ask over and over
"Have faith," I was told by the lead ant
I got so thirsty so tired so scared
over time, I realized that we were just walking in a great circle
I think we've been here before," I'd comment
"Have faith," the lead ant would reply
"having faith" in the ancient map we were following seemed like a luxury for those who had stronger spines
so, one night I slipped out of line and off the path and into the vastness
and straight into the uncharted territory of my heart
—I've been in the wild for so long with only my heart as a compass
that thumps harder whenever I get close to an angel
and last night my heart almost burst through my chest
I don't think that means I'm getting closer to what I'm searching for
because God isn't a destination God is the journey
God isn't an "x!" in the ground God is a "y?" on my tongue
God is the sunlight peeking through the deep woods I'm exploring
God is the soil between my toes that squeeze through every time I sit down to watch the sunset
God is the endless horizon that I am constantly chasing
God isn't a where God is a here
I'm a nomad whose principal theology is to never quit searching
I'm a member of the church of seeking hands
I believe in the canon of exploration
I'm lost in the vast expanse of an undiscovered land of exotic doubts and psalm-singing owls who croon me to sleep each night
I have no directions except to where my raging heart tells me to go
I've left the map I was given in my youth
and now I'm considered "out there" with the other heretics
however, I've learned that the more I wander
the more wonder I get to see
Joel spoke about how the underlying cause of our isms is fear and it's easy to swap one ism for another whilst never dealing with the fear that lies beneath them both.
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."
The memory of this verse from Psalm 23 had reminded Joel of the above clip from The Never Ending Story and how the danger that Atreyu faced was triggered by the presence of fear.
The last couple of years have demonstrated that an issue like Covid has caused different people to be afraid of different things and, as Joel shared, it is easy for someone to swap a fear of one enemy, for a fear of another enemy, when it's our fear that needs to be managed so that we don't become a slave to it.
The words from this song express how love can help us recover from the fears that we face.
Danny had a dream about a test kit that was thrown into a sink. On this test kit were the words "Perfect Aphorism". In his dream, Danny then wee'd on it!
An aphorism is a short statement of truth and you'll be familiar with many, like...
"Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." or "Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves."
The word "perfect" actually means whole or complete, so one could interpret that dream as a rejection of the idea that one belief or statement of truth can give us the complete picture of truth. There is no such thing as a perfect aphorism!
Society has become increasingly polarised over past years and friends have become enemies as they fight to defend their perspectives and promote their isms.
This mural is painted on the wall of our building and has been prophetically significant for our community. It reminds us that each of our perspectives are important in piecing together the jigsaw of wisdom and truth.
"Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it."
Danny shared how he sold a guitar, that had been damaged and under-appreciated over the years, and how the buyer was most attracted to its imperfections. In the same way, however damaged or flawed you might think you are, your contribution is welcome and as a community we need a variety of perspectives to be able to embrace wisdom.
One tool to help us on our journey of embracing wisdom is asking questions of ourselves, each other and of what's going on in our world.
Over the centuries, Christianity has often descend into tribalism, but here at Q we are committed to celebrating truth wherever we find it, with a one-ness that is capable of overcoming all things in love.
As a community, we don't exist to perpetuate an ism or a system of beliefs, but instead to continue a quest to celebrate truth wherever we find it. Ruth shared her thoughts on Q...
"This is not about following a set of rules where everyone is told what to believe. Anth and Chris want to release us to find who we really are. We want this church to be a group of powerful individuals who are living from their centre and co-creating together to make something incredible."
Isms tend to dictate from the outside in, how we should behave and what we should think, whereas our passion at Q is to engage with who we are on the inside and realise the power that lies within us. Ruth shared how, although she's been on a journey of deconstructing certain beliefs in her life, that the core faith and spirit connection within her has remained alive.
Ruth shared how following isms are like being part of a club, believing the same things as others to relieve a sense of loneliness, but it's easy to lose who we really are in the ism.
The Yasmina Reza play, ART, follows the story of 3 friends whose relationships are challenged when one of them buys a completely white, minimalist painting for $200,000.
We all get lonely sometimes. What isms tempt us with is the idea that following their doctrines will make us feel like we belong, and it's a very real temptation, because having our own thoughts can be a lonely place, but the danger of isms is that every ism creates a schism, and what attracted us as a solution to our loneliness, can end up causing divisions as we fight to defend our beliefs.
"If we can't find a way to belong to ourselves and our own reactions first, that we can become such pleasers of a group that we're not awake to our own ways of seeing and responding and what that tells us about the world, how we react, our own patterns and our own growth."
When we look through a kaleidoscope, we see changing patterns. When we consider changing the patterns of our lives it's easy to simply adopt another pattern. In Anth's talk about The Need to be Heard vs The Need to be Herded he spoke about how fear is impatient. So as our lives continue to change and evolve and we start to see things from different angles and perspectives, may we not rush to a conclusion, but like the Minimalist White Paintings, allow life to reveal things that are in us, so that we might grow and continue to pioneer together.
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