One of the things my husband misses about church is the great music. I mean the GREAT music, not some of the junk that now masquerades for music in church. He sang in the Chapel Choir in Bible college and had an excellant choir leader. He is also a pianist and organist. No matter what a person believes, it's hard to deny that the instrumental part of many hymns and other church music is beautiful---esp. Handel's Messiah. So once in awhile we do find ourselves in church for a concert. When we do, we go to the First Community Church of Columbus (OH). The choir director there is also the director of the Columbus city chorus and they put on a big (secular) holiday program every year. What I like about that church, however, is the fact that first of all they are all-inclusive and welcome people of all faiths and lifestyles. Secondly they respect the various religious world-views and even incorporate teachings of other religions, including eastern religions and world-views into their services. For instance here is an except from a recent newsletter from First Community Church of Columbus to show how they interweave the views of Buddhism and Christianity:
Jesus as Presence
by Reverend David S. Hett, Minister of Religious Life and Learning
For me, the Jesus presented in the Gospels is Pure Presence. He is already â€śChrist.â€ť
In contrast, the man Jesus who walked the earth briefly 2,000 years ago, was like anyone else â€śborn of a woman,â€ť as Paul notes. He was not God, nor did he ever become God, except in the way that all of us are shards of the Divine.
â€śFor Paul,â€ť John Spong says in agreement, â€śJesusâ€¦was a human life in whom God had been experienced as present.â€ť
â€śJesusâ€ť in the Gospels is Presence, and such pure presence is a capacity we all share with the human Jesus.
Substitute â€śJesusâ€ť for â€śBuddhaâ€ť in the following passage by the incredible mid-20th century spiritual teacher Karlfried Graf Durckheim, and it fits my Christian understanding:
â€śThe Buddha imageâ€¦is not something unattainable for the ordinary person. These images only symbolize the complete achievement of what is in principle possible for everyone. This is because basically everyone is what the Buddha expresses, and in the course of his development, can become it in so far as he will allow it to manifest.â€ť
In Christian tradition, this path has been called â€śthe imitation of Christ,â€ť when that way is understood, reminds Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault, not as imitating â€śthose admirable qualities we see in Jesusâ€™ being--kindness, compassion, gentleness, integrityâ€”[that is just] putting on the outer garments. We need to go deeper,â€ť she says, â€śdiscovering in our own selves the secret of Jesusâ€™ capacity to open himself to life in such an extraordinary way.â€ť
The â€śJesusâ€ť I meet in the Gospels is nothing other than this capacity to open to life in an extraordinary way. Thus, in the gospel stories, when Jesus is in your boatâ€”that is, when you are in Pure Presenceâ€”your inner winds calm even in the midst of a storm, or you can â€ścatchâ€ť a treasure trove of abundance after a bad nightâ€™s fishing without presence.
Again, by substituting â€śJesusâ€ť for â€śBuddhaâ€ť in this quote from Durckheim, I find a mantra upon which I can meditate throughout Lent:
[Jesus] is not a transcendental god, but a human being into whom the Great Being has penetrated bringing transformation and liberation into the bright light of consciousness. And in his form is the reflection of what, from the beginning, is given to every one to rediscover at-homeness in the Center of Being.