It is with pleasure that we at Spectrum announce the start of a new column on the subject of spirituality. During recent telephone conference calls, our team celebrated the success of the website and discussed ways to enrich online conversation even further. Several of us felt impressed to give matters of personal devotion and spiritual wellness a more prominent voice at Spectrum. We have done a good job tackling theology and philosophy; we have communicated and interpreted current events in the church and world with vigilance. But we understand that these things find their deepest value when received by hearts that are spiritually alive. The new column is our effort to not only expand but improve the quality of our conversation at Spectrum.
Although the term “spirituality” can be used to describe many things, we at Spectrum have chosen to explore spirituality as the unique relationship existing between God and created beings. Christians believe that the preeminent Source and Substance of ultimate reality (God) is the one who initiates all spiritual dialogue. Since before time, God has been pursing us, and we creatures have found ourselves drawn into his story. But as is true of all partnerships, no one party offers all the gifts. Mortals and The Immortal each make unique contributions to the relationship they share.
Last week I returned from a very short five-day adventure in the Holy Land— a special experience which I plan to write more about in the future. One of the places we visited was the Church of the Multiplication, where, according to tradition, Jesus performed his miracle with the loaves and fish. Completed in 1982, the current church is built around quaint fifth-century mosaics and a small section of rock commemorating the place where Jesus is said to have broken bread for the hungry multitude. As I sat there alone in the church last Friday, I couldn’t help but imagine myself as the child who offered his lunch to the Lord. I, a stumbling human, ache to discover the worth and meaning of my personal story, and as a youth pastor I long to meet the spiritual needs of those I work with. But my finitude limits me. My means simply cannot stretch to cover the wants of my own soul or the hungers of the people asking me for bread.
To me, this predicament is itself the pearl we created beings bring to our dialogue with God. For just as soon as we offer our spiritual destitution, we also open ourselves to the gift of Divine possibility. As happened with bread and fish in the multiplication story, our lack of devotion or giftedness, our laziness or greed or lack of charity can be swept up heavenward and redeemed. Our weakness creates space for God’s power; from poverty he creates a banquet big enough to satisfy all who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
So we thank God for our weaknesses and the possibilities they contain. When reflecting initially on what a spirituality column at Spectrum might cover, I was struck by two very important Adventist weaknesses. I’m excited to see how God will use them to nourish and challenge us as an online community. One weakness is our lack of formal engagement with the subject of spirituality in the first place. One can certainly point to individuals, publications, and helpful programs that foster piety in the church, but as a whole, our spokesmen and women have tended to value the intellectual over the experiential treasures of Adventism. That said, I was humbled while researching for this column to learn about the many in our ranks who are not only giving attention to older forms of spiritual practice, but are also exploring ways to make these forms accessible to contemporary Adventists. I hope this column can be a place for such people to gather and glean encouragement from one another.
A second, connected Adventist weakness is our tendency to ignore the full breadth of our Christian heritage. Right now many Evangelical groups are rediscovering their roots in a broader catholic spirituality, but Adventism has been slow to embrace the movement. In our effort to distance ourselves from Catholicism, we have disowned a lot of the wonderful church history that occurred between the time of Constantine and the Reformation. This needs to stop. Whether we like it or not, we were all part of the same church prior to the Reformation, and the spiritual treasures of those years belong to us as much as does the Great Disappointment of 1844. This is good news because it means we have a lot to draw from while interpreting the significant events of our young Adventist history. We can think about Advent hope in light of what 2000 years worth of witnesses have said about God’s presence, God’s silence, and the patience of the saints. We want the new column to be a place for this kind of thinking.
The simple format we’ve created for the column will allow us to feature articles on a wide variety of topics. Each Monday, one of four subcategories will feature a new article, and each week the featured subcategory will rotate as follows:
Pilgrimage & Practice This category will be devoted to themes in practical spirituality: the function of ministry, prayer, devotional techniques & spiritual disciplines, pilgrimage and personal retreats, etc.
Spirituality & Compassion This category will feature articles that cause readers to think about the relationship between compassion and spirituality. Compassion was the heart of Christ’s ministry on earth and his chosen means of loving God; indeed God’s compassion for us is the central tenet of the incarnation. Throughout Christian history, most spiritual masters have also taught that charity is indivisible from authentic spirituality.
History of Spirituality This subcategory will feature articles on notable figures or movements in the field of Christian Spirituality, both past and present.
Meditations Once a month we will feature a devotional piece based on scripture, literature, or human experience.
In addition to the Monday articles, we will also be posting a new sermon every Friday, usually (but not always) in audio or video format. We hope to expose Spectrum readers to the many great Adventist preachers of the present and also of the past, as well as some from outside the Adventist Church.
As we kick off the new column, please plan to join in on the conversation. Invite your friends; post your comments and your prayers too. We have much to learn from one another, and the Holy Spirit promises to be our teacher. May our love multiply in his hands.
Jesus, light of our hearts, we would like to remain close
to you, never abandoning you by our wayside. And
when we come to know our weaknesses, unexpected
resources appear within us. How could we refuse an
inner vitality that comes from you?
-Brother Roger of Taize
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/2169