Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Via Negativa: Letting Go and Letting Be

I am beginning a new deal this week in regards to the Sunday morning experience. It is an idea I have borrowed from Howard Hanger at Jubilee Community in Asheville. Since our congregation and I resonate with the principles of Creation Spirituality we are going to base worship around those themes.

There are four seasons to the year. There are four paths to Creation Spirituality. Easy math. Today is the first day of Fall. Fall goes well with the
via negativa or the way of letting go and letting be. You can apply these paths in many ways during worship celebrations. This is just one. So for the season of Fall, we are going to honor the via negativa.

I have decided to do another thing I haven't done in a while, and that is use the lectionary for the readings. Nowadays you can choose the semi-continuous option or the complementary option regarding the Hebrew Scripture selection. I am choosing the Hebrew Scripture that complements the Gospel reading. In addition to readings from the Bible, we will utilize Scripture from other traditions as well as other voices.

Since liturgy is the work of the people, each week I am seeking a poem, song, or another form of creative expression from folks in the congregation. To prime that creative pump, I have put together an outline of the themes and metaphors for each week. It is posted on our web page. Click Worship. You look over the themes and say, "I have a great poem or song or dance I would like to do for such and such a Sunday." Then send me an e-mail!

Here are the readings and themes for the period, 27 September through Christmas Eve.

Here is my summary of the via negativa or letting go and letting be:

This is the path of emptiness and darkness. We think of Jesus emptying himself of divinity. It is the letting go of all baggage, all privilege, entitlement, beliefs, even letting go of our images of God.

Sometimes the letting go is not something we do voluntarily but comes to us through experiences of loss and change. We may suffer; we may experience sadness or grief. Regarding these feelings as a spiritual vehicle is not to languish in being morbid, but to embrace the pain so we can pass through the pain. It is has been said that we are to treat sadness as a guest. Give it a place, but don’t let it stay.

Here are the readings, metaphors, and themes we will explore over the next several weeks leading us to just before Christmas, when we will celebrate the Divine being born in us at the darkest time.

Do look up the readings and if something sparks your creativity, drop me an email by September 30th.
Matthew Fox explains the four paths here:


  1. John --

    Fantastic plan for the remainder of the year. I am truly sorry I missed the CS gathering in Asheville where I could have met you.

    I'd like to know more about the lectionary you will be using -- I (as you might remember) have been in the process of critiquing the Revised common lectionary, and have about given up on its having any relevance to 21st Century Christianity.

  2. Hey Sea Raven! I haven't used it in years. But I thought it would be fun to run through a year with it through the lens of the four vias.

    I just didn't want to go through the hassle of finding my own texts.

    I am using this one.

  3. Hmmm... as you well know, however, the RCL changes from the Year of Mark (Year B) to the Year of Luke (Year C) on the first Sunday in Advent. My original work on the Wheel of the Year, which seeks to bring the pre-Christian Celtic wheel of the year back into Christian liturgy, used Year C readings. I of course was not doing what you will be doing . . . but in writing my Liberal Christian Commentary for the last 3 years, I have discovered that Year C lends itself to the seasons better than the other two years do. I would guess that Year C is a good one to pick to work with the four paths.

    As we come down to the end of Year B, however, it is truly via negativa as far as the irrelevance of the readings to earthly conditions is concerned! See my current blog, which comments on the absence of any relevance to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in this week's readings.

    Too bad Matt isn't continuing with his University of Creation Spirituality. You'd have a D.Min. from him on this project in a heartbeat.

    Let me know how I can help.

    How can I best follow what you are going to be doing each week? Are you going to post sermons and liturgies somewhere?

    I'm not really ready to move to Elizabethton . . . I'm too addicted to the Washington, D.C. area. :)

  4. Sea Raven -

    You can listen to podcasts of the sermons at Look for the "Podcast Sermons" page.