I read one of those quickie AOL articles today that stated less then 50% of folks believe that they learn anything new from any given sermon in any given week. In my experience though, you have be an active participant in “learning”; learning happens through reflection and experience, not from simply listening and trying to absorb a concept passively. So to expect to go to church and passively receive some knowledge may be an erroneous assumption to begin with.
Sometimes in church, I find it is just a simple concept that is mentioned in the sermon which leads me down a path of contemplation, reflection, and application of the concept in my spiritual life.
For instance, today my pastor said something to the effect of, “there is nothing in the world you won’t lose”. So, all of the trappings of this material world will pass before us, only our spirit will remain eternal. This caused me to later in the day generate a list of all I have, all I or will lose; and it is this clinging to things, people, experiences, that causes our suffering as we remain perceptually and perpetually disconnected from that one true eternal, permanent nature of the unifying spirit that is within us all. This is also an example of how our own ignorance of our true nature causes our suffering.
Later in the day I was at an event where there were many elders and I started to generate a list of losses that this false perception of self, or the I or Ego, clings to, hoping for a sense of connectedness and happiness to emerge.
Over the course of your life and either prior to upon your death, you will lose your…
grandparents, parents, spouse, lovers, siblings, children, family, and pets
teeth, hair, body, skin, youth, strength, endurance, looks, and flexibility
way, job, meaning, community, friendships, hobbies, vocations, vacations, houses, shelters, cars, bikes, skis, clothing, jewelry, and past-times
time, understanding, certainty, uncertainty, hope, faith, help, courage, fear, intuition, shame, greed, guilt, anger, joy, hatred, knowledge, and love
addictions, attachments, suffering, identity, and possessions.
This is the idea of clinging to the material attachment, clinging to that which has created the illusion of the permanent, stands in the way of our own recognition of the true nature of the human condition; like the bumper sticker says, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
Now this is not necessarily a new concept for me so technically if I answered the survey question, I would not have answered in the affirmative that I “learned something new”. But the way it was stated in church today created the sense of a light sparking within, a returning to the nature of who and what we are. And perhaps that returning over and over to the truth of the human condition is one of the many benefits of the learning that happens in church.