As I pointed out in a recent sermon, the difference between the sacred and the profane is that the sacred always takes one deeper. Anything is profane at its surface and sacred at its depths.
Transformative religion takes us on journey from shallowness to real depth. It is possible to be spiritual and to have meaningful spiritual practices that are not done in community or shared with others. But these practices take on the dimension of religious depth only when they are shared in community.
For example, you can dance by yourself or chant by yourself or meditate by yourself and receive some benefit from these practices. But the really deep work begins when you share these practices with others. Because it is in the moment of encounter with the other—in the sharing, in the chanting, in the dancing, in the silence—that one faces challenges and multidimensionality that cannot be found in solitary practice.
Any spiritual practice can help you feel more in touch with yourself or more centered in your own body or consciousness. But shared practice—which is at the heart of transformative religion—takes you deeper.
Anything that is done with others (as opposed to alone) is inherently messy. But it is this messiness itself that leads to depth. In encounters and engagement with others our assumptions are challenged, our perspectives are multiplied, and our aims are broadened.
The world is more complex than can be fathomed or appreciated by one person alone. One lone voice might be about longing for union, but many voices joined together are about the actual experience of union, even with all its awkwardness and occasional disharmonic moments.
Matthew Fox talks about “one river, many wells.” To get to that river beneath the wells we need the depth that practicing in community gives us.
If religious transformation is our goal, then our journey must be one that takes us to the depths and does so in the company of others. I am delighted to be on this journey with all of you!
–Rev. Jim Magaw