March 12, 2014
By Gordon Bates.
"For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all [Abraham's] descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham..." Romans 4.16 - 16 (NRSV)
It is just a coincidence with the Spirited Wednesday name, but every first and third Wednesday of the month, I meet with a small group of three to six friends at the St. Anthony and St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in downtown Hartford, and we discuss a book together.
At the beginning of 2014, we chose Beyond Words, an examination of the Apostle's Creed by Brother David Steindel-Rast, a long-time and well-known monk who specializes in leading retreats and exploring the relationship of Christianity to other world faith communities. In this little volume he pushes through the boundaries of a narrow reading of the creeds to reveal his preference for an inclusive reading.
He interprets the Apostle's Creed, line by line, to indicate its kinship with the deepest convictions of other world faiths. On the creed's "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," he refers to Romans 8:14, in which Paul told his first-century readers, "All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God."
Says Steindel-Rast: "That means that all who live in harmony with the divine dynamics at work in nature and history constitute the community called CHURCH... CATHOLIC... is not a copywrited label for a particular sector of Christianity... Rather, men and women anywhere in the world and at any period of history who served others out of a sense of universal belonging show us what it means to belong to the one community that deserves to be called CATHOLIC CHURCH."
We have found Beyond Words a wonderfully liberating description of an ancient creed. What had seemed to be inadequate and even distasteful to our 21st century discipleship became a doorway through which we could feel a new kinship with other religions and people of no religion. Steindel-Rast offers not a final conclusion but a provocative platform for fruitful discussion and greater openness to the Spirit at work in the world.
O Holy One, in whom all creation lives and moves and has its being: draw us by the tether of your gracious mercy and infinite love to discover our kinship with all others who are created as we are, to be part of your family of faith.
Spirited Wednesday: March 12, 2014 , by Gordon Bates.