Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spiritual Teachers

The taglines of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship are: "Simply Following Jesus" and "Following Jesus in Freedom". In both of these, you see the phrase following Jesus. At a Saturday Revival workshop entitled UU Christianity 101, I learned that the UUCF has been following Jesus and encouraging those who do since 1945. Following Jesus in the UUCF tradition means connecting with the life and teachings of Jesus.

Through our workshop discussion, Ron Robinson, the UUCF Executive Director, brought us to the reality that although Jesus is the central role model and teacher for Christians, there were spiritual teachers before Jesus and there have been spiritual teachers after him. The goal of our personal spiritual journeys is to seek people who speak to us in a way that opens us to the Truth, to the Mystery, to God. I'd add...who helps you to recognize systemic injustice and urges, even demands, that you set it right? People who can touch us, guide us and move us in these ways become our teachers.

One of the reasons that I find Jesus so compelling as a teacher is that Jesus leads with the Heart, with Love and Compassion. Fear and Guilt are not the motivators in the Way of Jesus. Ron asked us: What religious tradition or spiritual practice helps you, supports you, pushes you to act from Love and Compassion? Then run to those practices, disciplines, routines and embrace them.

Last evening, I learned of the death of one of my spiritual teachers. Her name is Sister José Hobday, a Native American who joined the Franciscan order of nuns and spent many weeks every year traveling about the country speaking on simple living, spirituality and prayer. Several years ago I attended an all-day workshop that she led. "Speaking" is not quite the right description for what happened that day. Sister Hobday was a storyteller. Her stories came from her childhood, her experiences serving on an Arizona reservation, her prayers, her Native American spirituality intertwined with her education in Catholic theology. What a joy and a wake-up call those stories gave!

Here is one of her stories. Among the disciplines in simple living is taking an inventory of the things in our lives and determining what is connected to our life's ministries or vocation and what is not. What is not should be cleaned out, sold, given away. A well-to-do woman came to Sister Hobday with a dilemma. She had many real furs--coats and stoles--that she knew she did not need. She considered selling them, but felt uncomfortable and she wasn't sure to whom she could give them. She was torn. Sister told her that perhaps it would be best to burn them. Have a bonfire in the backyard. Invite the neighbors. Have a party. Stand by and watch the furs burn. The woman was appalled. Finally, Sister offered to take the furs, and the woman gave them with a great deal of relief. Sister sold them to raise money for her ministry on the reservation.

You have to start fresh, Sister Hobday told us. The greatest fault that this well-to-do woman displayed was the sin of Lack of Imagination. That is a great sin. To follow Jesus, to create a simple life, to do the right thing requires the full use of our imaginations. Otherwise we miss the mark.

I'm still referring to Sister Hobday's writings to simplify my life and get close to God. To me, only her body has passed on. Her spirit, like Jesus, is right here with me. Urging me. Prodding me. She is one of my spiritual teachers.

In the sidebar of this blog, you'll see a new link to LTS It's a store that I've created as an easy way to share books and materials that have touched me. I've added two of Sister Hobday's books there. If you know of something that you'd like to share, I'll put it out on the store. If you purchase something through the store, I get some money back, but that money will go to the charities that my business supports.

Give thanks today for Jesus and for any other people in your life who have become your spiritual teachers.

Blessed Be. Amen.

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