This week we started an adult learning series on Christian mysticism. If you are like most of us, the first question might be either, “Why?” or, “What the heck is that?” When we use words like “mystic” or “mystical,” it generally makes us think of things “other-worldly” or mysterious. In a sense, this
would be true. “Mystery” shares its root with “mystic.” As people who think of ourselves as “real,” firmly planted in the “real world,” we may not think ourselves to be mystics by any means. Mysticism, we think, is the realm of monks, nuns, hermits, and those who have visions and weird dreams.
The truth is that the mystical tradition of our faith has much to offer to us. Even if we don’t ever consider ourselves to be “mystics,” our faith can be nurtured and developed by learning from the mystical side of our faith. In essence, mysticism is the counterbalance to a journey of faith to heavily weighted by seeking answers and understanding. I was taught that theology was “faith seeking understanding.” I have dedicated a huge part of my life to that pursuit. I want to understand God, suffering, and the way the world works. I want to pursue the questions and find answers. I want to know all I can about God.
This pursuit is, however, only one side of the coin. In addition to “faith seeking understanding,” there is “faith seeking relationship.” Instead of seeking to know about God, the mystical tradition is seeking to know God in a personal, experiential way that resists answers, categories, and well-constructed arguments. I have found that a balanced spiritual life needs to know about God AND know God deeply.
Mysticism is characterized by many dimensions. Among those that I think are essential for a solid spiritual life in this world we inhabit are the following:
Nurturing the mystical aspects of faith are a means to living in the grace and mercy of God more fully. We find ourselves able to be at peace with God, ourselves, and so, the world around us. The great mystics of the faith have always been people who found joy, even in the midst of suffering. That is perhaps reason enough to explore this aspect of the Christian faith with us! Join us Wednesday evenings at 7:05 pm at the church or via Zoom.
Tim Olson – Lead Pastor