Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, January 1, 2009

By religion, then, I understand a propitiation or conciliation
of powers superior to man which are believed to direct and
control the course of nature and of human life.

- Sir James George Frazer, anthropologist & author
(“The Golden Bough”), born on this day, 1854

Nope. If Frazer believed this, he got it dead wrong. He was, however, probably correct if he was reporting what many/most people of his time believed “religion” was. And he might very well be correct in 2009, given what I see when I look around the World in general!

I have been a Christian for over 45 years. And a priest of the Episcopal Church for over 35. I remember being a little Gay boy of 10, running through the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church, Verdun, Quebec, pausing in awe before the altar, sensing “God” was there. But remember, this was a French Roman Catholic culture – and my father had been raised a Roman Catholic. I lived in a “religious” culture that preached that stuff about “God” being ready to gunch you for your sins – a “God” who needed to be “propitiated” and “conciliated”. But I knew, intuitively, at age 10, that this was NOT God. I knew – I don’t know why, but I believe it to be the work of the Mystery of the Spirit - that God loved me as I was, indeed that I was God’s creation. If anything would convince me that “God” exists, this would.

I say this, decades later: “God” – however “God” came to exist in the human mind and heart – has no need or desire to be “propitiated” or “conciliated”. None at all. God has no desire or need to be “superior” - the story of Jesus proves this. Nor to “direct the course of human nature”.

God only desires to be a Companion, helping us through Life, being an inner Teacher (Rabbi). We despair, God holds and whispers Hope. We screw up, God forgives at the barest indication of our regret, and encourages us to get on with Life. We collapse, God lifts us up. We doubt our worth, God lavishes us with glory and praise. God has no desire to direct or control – this is not Godlike, at least not the God of the Gospel I “know”.

It’s 2009. It’s time for us all to change. I wish us all to know this “God”. The God of Compassion, Justice, Equality, Peace, Tenderness, Companionship, Faithfulness.

May this “God” fill your Life – and our World – in 2009.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Dec 31, 2008

It is better to eat meat and drink wine and not to eat
the flesh 
of one's brethren through slander. 

- Abba Hyperechius, early Christian sage

Ah, the tongue! Christian Scripture reminds us that, though the “smallest of organs in the body”, it can do the most damage.

The tongue has many masters/mistresses: pride; arrogance; lack of self-worth; anger; meanness; the list is endless. When we are “taken over” by any of these tyrants, anything is likely to come out of our mouth, especially if we are not paying attention to what’s going on in Life, our Life.

It is hard work, keeping ourselves protected from vulnerability to all those things that afflict and twist the human spirit! It is hard work to “remember” how essentially beloved, valued, treasured we human beings are. So easy to be down on ourselves.

There is a lot of nonsense that has been written over 2000 years of Christianity, believe me! Nonsense promoting self-abasement and hatred, renunciation of the “flesh”, denigration of humanity, human degenerateness. None of this is commensurate with the God of Love.

So, eat, drink, enjoy the gifts of Life. But never make dinner of a sister or brother. If you hear yourself doing so, you know you are in trouble. You know you have abandoned your humanity.

Repent and ask God for it back. You will be renewed.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We look forward to the time when the power to love
will replace the love of power. Then will our world
know the blessings of peace.

- William Gladstone, 4 times PM of Great Britain,
who was born Dec 29, 1809

There used to be a service organization called The Optimists. Do they still exist? We could use a lot of optimism these days!

Gladstone is being pretty optimistic – and that is a good thing in a politician, I think. And I would say that, close to the heart of Christianity, is the Message “May the power of Love replace the love of power.” If the choice of the Cross has anything to say, it is to spit in the face of the wrong kind of power.

These days, the desperate need for Peace is cacophonous. Israel and Gaza is but a metaphor for the global crisis of the absence of Peace – which is always the sign of the absence of Justice and of Compassion and of love of neighbour. I hear a version of Paul’s cry ringing all around: “Who will deliver us!”

It won’t be one person. I hope that Obama will contribute, but he will need help. And it won’t be just humans. It will be Mystery and Spirit, as well as human beings who connect to a vision for our World. But this “vision” is not going to be imposed from without, I don’t think. I don’t believe that’s the way Life – or “God” – works. It will come from within, born out of what Mystery imbedded in our human nature I am not sure. It will come from that place where the concept of God as Good lives. But I know it is there. In my meditation, I often ponder why it is we refuse to choose Peace. Is the power of Evil that great? I guess it is. (The Gospel seems to agree.) Or - is it Fear? Isolation? Tribalism?

I am not sure how I can contribute. But I am going to call for Peace. Connect to it where I can. Because I absolutely believe that the power to love can replace the love of power - somewhere, sometime. Evidence or not, I choose optimism. May my naiveté be smiled upon.


p.s. Gladstone also said, for pondering:

Justice delayed is justice denied. (Bet you thought an American said that!)

Nothing that is morally wrong can be politically right.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Dec 26, 2008
Boxing Day in some places!
The Feast of St. Stephen (Christian)

Commerce changes the fate and genius of nations.

- Thomas Gray, playwright & poet, born on this day,
1741 (wrote “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”)

Don’t it though! Almost all humanity is learning this lesson right now, for the umpteenth time in history. It will be a bumpy ride. And, as is “normal”, we will discard the lesson as soon as things “improve” a bit. But, I’m looking on the bright side. We may have enough time in the “slough of despond” that at least a few people will rethink Life habits, and perhaps some industries will make a little progress, and perhaps maybe even a nation or two will progress a little, before we dive back in again to over-consumption, SUV’s (soon to run on ….. ?), etc.

What funny beings we are! I’d like to think that we will preserve Mother Earth as a beautiful, healthy place - but I suspect/fear we will trash Her in the end and move to some other places in the Solar System! C’est la vie. Hopefully the Polar Bears will have begun the evolutionary journey of changing colour and getting different paw pads and have adapted to asphalt.

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.

A stanza from “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”. Whatever else we do in our future “progress”, may we remember Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, or, as Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message: “You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”.

The World can go its way. Meanwhile, I’m going to work on “less of me”, and try to keep Life and enjoyment “short and simple”.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Dec 25, 2008
Feast of the Incarnation (Christian)

“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me
if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but
does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if
Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it
to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth
to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time:
When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”

- Meister Eckhart 1260-1328

May each of us become fully the person we are created to be - especially as loving.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Dec 24, 2008
Eve of the Feast of the Incarnation (Christian)

The true meaning of religion is thus, not simply
morality, but morality touched by emotion.

- Matthew Arnold, poet, who was born on this day, 1822

This is the man who also said, “It is so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun, to have lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done.” With all of which I certainly agree.

But. The quote about “morality” - even the word these days makes me shudder, when related to Faith and the Bible. The Bible is essentially NOT about morality, as popularly understood. Meaning “sex”, and getting caught at things like pyramid schemes, and Enron-like behaviour, and hedge-fund manipulation.

The Gospel is certainly about “morality touched by emotion” – which is to say, about morals as defined by the Mystery of Love. Love transforms the definition of “morality”. Drenched in Love, Morality collapses as a Rule of Life and becomes a way of defining what it means to be human. If there was any argument for the “humanity” of Jesus, as well as the nature of God, His choice to risk the Cross because of an indeflectible love for God’s suffering people clinches it. Morality isn’t regulations; Morality is learning the art of Love.

St. Paul used the terms “Law” and “Spirit”. Unfortunately. Because ancient Israelite Law was indeed an expression of Divine Love. Alas, it has today come to mean a heartless legalism which has no heart for human struggles.

A lot has been written about the “true meaning of religion”. A lot of it humbug! I may be being simplistic at the moment, but I would say that a good start for a definition of “religion”, i.e., getting and staying connected to the Mystery of God, is “to have enjoyed the sun, to have lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done.”

Christmas approaches. All it means is, God’s home is in each of us, in all of us.” That truth is where we human beings will find Ecstasy!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008

“where I was still told to my face that modern art can only be Jews.”

- Peggy Guggenheim, connoisseur, who died on this day, 1979

I really, really don’t “get it”. I just don’t. I think it has something to do with having been born in Canada. But, I guess that is what I would like to think - because I can remember snide comments about the “Jews in Rosemount” when I lived in Montreal. Not surprising; they were the “aristocracy!

Oh, I remember so well the Guggenheim in Venezia!! I spent two days there, about 5 hours each day. What a lovely place! Exquisite pieces of art of all sorts. In a simple, clean space really, which I loved because it reminds me of the best Benedictine abbeys. I took with me a flask of red wine and a Panini of wonderful summer salami and artichoke. I couldn’t eat it in the museum, but I was allowed (God bless the Venetians!) in the gardens outside, where I sat for over an hour in the summer sun, in sheer bliss!

Theologically, I would hope that we could all be like Peggy Guggenheim, or like the “Jews” so maligned by the people who denigrated Peggy’s taste in art to her face. She could see the new truths. She could “see” that every era brought new understandings about Life.

The Bible is not a stagnant “museum piece”. It relies on the foundations of its Time - but it leaves Itself open to every generation to appreciate the “something old” and marry it to the “something new”. There will always be something “new” (though there is nothing really “new” under the Sun”) – that’s the way Life IS! Life is never the same – and Life gains its vitality and Mystery from that reality.

May there be countless Peggy Guggenheims in every aspect of human Life! People who can “see” the potentiality in Humanity to change and grow and learn. I guess I believe that every generation that has “failed” has done so simply because it could not break down the walls of its own cultural prison and deepen in Wisdom.

Hail Peggy Guggenheim! Thanks for those lovely spaces in awash Venice and in “trendy” Manhattan , where the “old” and the “new” bear witness to the eternal possibilities of human Life.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, December 22, 2008

Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that.
Yes, yes, it's the most comical thing in the world.

- Samuel Becket, playwright, who died on this day, 1989

Samuel Becket was too intelligent to have said these words and have meant them literally. Like most imaginative people. His words, to me, are full of an arch irony, even of a good bit of wisdom.

Why are most people unhappy? Some from suffering inflicted on them, that’s true. And there may be more of these than I understand. But I think Becket was talking about the huge number of people who are unhappy for only one basic reason: they have chosen to be, either consciously or unconsciously. Sometimes a good therapist can really help. Sometimes a “spiritual” guide. Sometimes the “rock bottom”, as the AA people understand.

Well, I don’t know the numbers. But I do know that I know many who have “chosen” unhappiness, actively, or passively, or emotionally - aware or unaware. I’ve done it. I’ve been unhappy and angry for decades about the whole situation of Gayfolk in our culture. And I can see that this was a “choice”. I am working on changing this. It has brought a great deal of negativity and stress and lack of energy into my life.

If you are an unhappy person, stare it in the face – but ask gently and lovingly if you have “chosen” it. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Think of all the people (if you are familiar with the Gospel) Jesus helped to see the source of their unhappiness.

The Mystery called “God”, as I know God, desires to lift this burden of unhappiness.

“Funny” and “comical” are Becket’s euphemisms for “sad” and “destructive”.

Let God take them. That’s one of the reasons we have God.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Dec 20/21, 2008

Salvation to all that will is nigh ;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo ! faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb ; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He'll wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death's force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother ;
Whom thou conceivest, conceived ; yea, thou art now
Thy Maker's maker, and thy Father's mother,
Thou hast light in dark, and shutt'st in little room
Immensity, cloister'd in thy dear womb.

- John Donne 1572-1631

A poem by the Anglican priest John Donne. It speaks to the Mystery of the Annunciation, which is the reading from the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Advent. (Tomorrow)

The Christian Community looks with Hope to the “coming” of the Christ, the Saviour. But Meister Eckhart, the 13th C. mystic, makes it clear what it is that we are expecting and hoping for:

“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”

Ponder Donne’s poem. Note especially his words: Ere by the spheres time was created thou Wast in His mind. God is always seeking us. God can only be manifest in the World through us. We are being asked to say “Yes”, with Mary, so that God can shine forth from us.

Four days from now, we will celebrate the God has “made His home with us”. God will not do so without our consent.

Say “Yes”, with she who became the Mother of the Maker.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Dec 19, 2008

All I've done all my life is disobey.

I've been thinking about Jesus. Don't you find it a
bit strange that, since He was living with His family
and all, He up and left them just when they needed
Him most?

- Edith Piaf (“The Little Sparrow”) , born on this day, 1915

God bless Edith Piaf! She is right about Jesus. Jesus challenged every accepted concept about God. A good thing – because human beings tend to remake God in their own image, to meet their own needs and prejudices. Jesus was a Disobeyer. He held to His beliefs – to His death. Very few people today (or ever) understand His message.

I haven’t disobeyed enough. I’ve kowtowed, in the vain hope that “things would change” and the Gospel would prevail. Vain hope. Just as I now must give up my hope in Barack Obama. He may think that he is “doing the right thing” in asking Rick Warren to pray at the inauguration. It is, to Gayfolk, like asking Hitler to preside at the Seder. And to Christians, asking Osama ben Laden to value people of other faiths.

Jesus rejected conventionality in order to stand up for God’s Justice and Truth. He died for it. Family is not blood; it’s who you choose who do God’s Will.

Like Piaf, I will now disobey. Once you have made the wrong choice, God’s will for Justice and Truth and Compassion is abandoned.

Obama has made the wrong choice. He has chosen to reward bigotry. He does not deserve to be our President.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, December 18, 2008

Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the
narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.

- Carl Jung, scientist of the Mind

Guilty, guilty, guilty. I confess and admit it. I keep thinking that we human beings can improve. Did I mention that Dennis and I went to see the movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still” recently?? At the heart of the movie was the question: “Can we change?” Or, more importantly, “Will we Change?” The alien in the movie was apparently “moved” by the love between a child and his adoptive mother ….. apparently he saw that Love makes a difference. I like to think so. And the Gospel asks us to think so. And to live on this Principle.

I am definitely an Idealist – by choice, because I am a Christian. Though the power of that Idealism has lessened in the last several years. I am deeply discouraged by the World. We seem to be choosing all the “bad” things: intolerance, brokenness, separation, condescension, power-mongering, fear, xenophobia, and much more that is damaging to shared Life on this planet. Sad.

I do not intend to give up Idealism. I was taught that we were made in the “image of God”. And I learned that “God” is Love and Justice and Mercy and Compassion. I have thought about this. We “created” God – and God is what we humans most hope for ourselves – even if we ignore it most of the time.

Narcotics and alcohol are temporary “solutions”. We all know this. Belief in our Godliness is not a fantasy. It is an expression of our deepest intuitive understanding that we are Beautiful.

I believe in our Human Beauty.

Join me.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy?
I don't know and I don't care.

- William Safire, philosopher, born on this day, 1929

Ignorance. Apathy. What Mr. Safire has jocularly said about sloppiness in speech can as well be said about Religion! I am amazed at the ignorance of “religious” people! Dennis and I were at Vespers tonight; we go regularly for a fine, quiet, reflective, meditative, shared time of prayer. One member spoke about a Roman Catholic friend with whom she had been talking. The friend had said how he had no idea about the “Seasons of the Church”. What Advent was all about. He had only noticed that the priest was wearing different colour vestments – but had no idea why. Good Grief, Charlie Brown!

William Safire reminds me that we have to laugh! God, what strange creatures we human beings are. It would really be a good thing if we could all remember this.

But let’s think for a moment about ignorance and apathy. Neither of these things should apply to any human being wanting to understand who they are and what Life is all about. And it certainly should never apply to “theology”. The Inner God wants us to understand who we are, and does NOT want us to be apathetic about it. It is NOT appropriate not to want to “know”, and it is NOT appropriate not to care!

Let’s not be sloppy about knowing who we are and about “fighting” (this is a metaphorical term; it has nothing to do with literal killing; it has to do with inner transformation) to become human, fully human.

Who are you? BE that. Then Life is about clarifying that who you are trying to BE is truly authentic. Christianity says that “authentic” is to be “in the image of God”. If you other than Christian, including non-theistic, what does this mean for you?”

Oh, I love Safire’s humour. But. Let’s know ….. and let’s care.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

- Article Three of the Bill of Rights, which took effect on Dec 15th,
1791, following ratification by the State of Virginia.

If I were to concede that the Holy Spirit of “God” was directly at work in the foundation of the American Experiment, I would say that Article Three of the Bill of Rights was/is a glorious example of that “working”.

What it anticipates, in my view, is the inherent bigotry of Religion. Perhaps they did not directly “see it coming”; even people like Jefferson seldom transcend their time and culture. But come it did. Pluralism. Multi-culturalism. An enormous diversity of peoples and Faiths and Religions. At a time when American Indian spiritual life had been almost ground out of existence, and a particularly virulent form of “Christianity” (which is not really, in my view, anything resembling Christianity) was taking hold as the foundation of American Christianity. What a curse this has been!

And what a time we are having of it in our own day! Every religion on Earth (practically) is now a part of American Life. And we now live in a time when “Christianity” is popularly represented in the culture by religiously zenophobic exclusivists who are limited enough to believe that “God” only works through them. God, of course, laughs.

Thank God for the Third Amendment. And let’s hope that the Supreme Court can be rescued from those who read it only through the eyes of Christianist limitations.

Again we have a chance to show that the founding concept of “America” is indeed great! No Religion has all the ”Truth”. Every authentic religion (and there are many that are not!) is seeking to understand the Mystery of what it means to be Human. No Religion can replace “God” with any idol ….. be it their sacred texts, their cultural prejudices, or whatever. Only scared religionists who fear the “loss” of their power in America today are fighting to exclude the insights and deny due respect of other faiths from our cultural life.

Despite the public radioactivity of many fringe religionists these days, it is time for the sensible among us, religious and non-religious, to press our position. To uphold the truth that all men and women are created equal. To deny bigots the right to co-opt the Third Amendment to their own narrow-minded advantage.

Allow no “establishment”. Allow no dominance. Value the role of Sense in Religion. Rejoice (what an Advent theme!, as well as a theme of Harvey Milk and of Barack Obama!) in searching together for Respect. The beauty of Humanity can rise again and make a better World. Brian+

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Dec 13/14, 2008

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.

- Thessalonians 5 (Epistle for Advent III_RCL)

I have reached a very very fascinating time of my Life. All my Life I have questioned things. But now, I question things even more. I have, because of and after the last 40 years, come to understand the Mystery of the Bible, and especially the Gospel. Come to understand the exquisitely subtle and beautiful way the Mystery of “God” reveals itself.

I have no idea who actually wrote the Letter to the people of Thessalonica. Maybe “St. Paul” ….. but who really knows. But I can tell you, my dear friends, that the two “commandments” I have quoted I know to be at the core of Life. “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing”. I can, at 62, and after and with a passel of health issues from which I could have died but am still surviving, REJOICE. I LOVE Life! I love this Creation. I love the beauty, the hues, the sunrises and sunsets, the diversity of peoples, the exquisite loveliness of every human being (except those who hate, especially those who invoke Jesus for their hate ….. I have work to do here! ), the poetry and power of Art, the wonder of Liturgy. And, if I may use the language of the Scriptures, I “hate” the false and dangerous piety of the Anita Bryants of this World and weep at the deep humanity and the vulnerability of Harvey Milk (Oh God, Dennis and I went to see the movie “Milk” tonight - every cell of my body was challenged to help the Wounded America, perverted by Puritanism, to be healed!!).

I must work at Rejoicing Always. God, I have had a wonderful Life!! And I must remember to “Pray without ceasing”. Not because prayer changes God, or the World, but because it “changes” me. It keeps reminding me that there is no presence of God in the World without ME being the Presence of God in the World - and YOU being the Presence of God in the World.

I realize again tonight that I have been so blessed. Wonderful, glorious friends, and amazing experiences. If I were to die tomorrow, I would be filled with content and with a deep sense of Peace. I would have only one worry. God is depending on YOU to bring about the Kingdom of Love, Of Peace, of “Heaven” on this Earth - that thing we pray for at every recitation of the “Lord’s Prayer”.

Do not fail me Friends. Do not fail me ….. or God.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Dec 12, 2008

One mustn't ask apple trees for oranges, France
for sun, women for love, life for happiness.

- Gustave Flaubert, Author, born on this day, 1821

I am fascinated by people! Why do they say the things they do?? They don’t say ….. unless they keep very detailed journals. So, we are “free” to speculate, and to wonder.

Apple trees from oranges. OK. Makes sense. France for sun? Well, I spent several weeks in the south of France, on the Mediterranean, in Menton, in July. Perfect! Every day was gloriously sunny; the beach (though rocky) was wonderful as I lay on my purchased straw mat with my thick towel underneath; where the women sunbathed bare-breasted (which I thought, condescendingly I admit, was nice for the “straight” men, as well as being sensible in the right moral way ), and the men were in thongs, perfect for Gay men – isn’t it ironic how moralistic society caters to Gay men?? And to Lesbians – Victorian England made no laws against Gay women because Queen Victoria couldn’t imagine that women would engage in such relationships! Oh friends, let me tell you: I have no idea what experience Flaubert had of France, or where, but he is wrong about sun!

Women for love??? This man must have had very bad Life experiences, or been warped in some way. Normal men and women are made for Love! All people are, wherever they are attracted by nature.

Life for happiness?? Oh, I feel sorry for Flaubert. Life – certainly as I have experienced it – is gloriously made for happiness ….. if one can get beyond all the crap that religionists and control freaks burden it with!

Metaphorically speaking, ASK France for sun! ASK women (and men) for Love. ASK Life for Happiness. This is the way that God organized it. For God’s sake, BE REAL!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Dec 11, 2008

That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.

- Langston Hughes, poet

Boy/Girl, can you not hear the echo of the Hebrew prophet Amos in these lines??!! They are like a visual parable. I can see that statue of Justice, blindfolded ….. with streams of blood and the festering of sores seeping down her face. And the eyes – if the blindfold were removed – blind with disease, blind with the rot of corruption.

Oh, not because Justice has Herself given up. But because Justice has depended on men and women to be Her instruments in the World ….. and She has been forsaken.

This is why Prop 8 in California was passed (though happily by a small margin), with the Mormon Church and the Roman Catholic Church acting as the handmaids of Injustice. This is why 1/7th of Americans have no health coverage; Insurance companies and politicians and many doctors acting as handmaidens of Injustice. This is why many workers make the Minimum Wage, or even more, and sleep at night in homeless shelters and eat at soup kitchens and buy clothes at second-hand shops; most of us in the so-called “middle class”, preserving our own meager “benefits”, acting as the handmaids of Injustice. The example are endless. Why are the people rioting in Greece, given a push by the police killing of a teenager? Because the lid is coming off around the World, the lid of vast numbers of people barely making it, while a small elite rule and have an obscene life-style. Robert Mugabe living in luxury while the people of Zimbabwe die of starvation and cholera?? Lady Justice weeps while those who should be Her handmaids greedily hoard.

Mr. Hughes was speaking of American blacks, but his parable is universal. We had better pay attention ….. or soon the World will be writhing in the fire of Injustice. And there will be no one else to blame but ourselves.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Dec 10, 2008

Love is anterior to life,
Posterior to death,
Initial of creation, and
The exponent of breath

- Emily Dickinson, poet, born
on this day, 1830, Amherst MA

Ah, the Belle of Amherst!

I awoke at 2:00am last night. It’s the dammed prostate thing! I have no idea how long this is going to go on – it’s been two months now. Some nights, I come back to bed and I fall immediately asleep. Others, I know within thirty seconds that I am not going to go back to sleep. And I have learned to grab a book and read. Happily, my partner is not disturbed by light. I was up from 2am until almost 5.

What kept me awake was my brain. Once it starts thinking, that’s it. Last night I thought about Love. What IS it? What are its characteristics? Is Love enough to make Life “work”? I’ve worked on understanding It for decades now. Jesus life and teaching has been central, and then my experience – often teaching hard lessons. I have learned to distinguish Love from infatuation and from sentimentality and from sex. If we just Love – as I often propose – will it really make Life work, bring happiness and Joy and Peace? Or am I being naïve?

Emily is a Romantic. I guess I am too. I believe Love is at the heart of it all, the very breath of Life. It isn’t airy-fairy. It is hard-nosed reality. It takes a strong person, a faithful person, to believe and to practice.

I guess I believe in Love because it’s simple and clear. Uncomplicated. Anyone can understand it.

So I keep on.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, December 9, 2008

For what can war, but endless war, still breed?

- John Milton, poet, born on this date, 1608

I have been reading Milton. He is, I have decided, an utter bore. No wonder I couldn’t relate to him when I was a young man in college! He is utterly what I am NOT when it comes to religion, Christianity, “morality”. He is a moralist, stuck in his own culture, unable to get beyond that puckered-up prudishness of his time. A shame, really. Such intellect and skill wasted, simply because one was born into “one’s Time”. But ….. that is the problem with evangelicalism and so-called pentecostalistists today, as well as with Christian denominations which have abandoned the Gospel in favour of preserving their temporal power (you know who they are!): they have chosen to worship culturally-prejudiced versions of the Bible in place of the Living God of Justice and Peace.

Milton is however, I believe, quite “bang on” about War. TGIK (I will use this acronym from now on for “The God I Know”) does not believe that War solves anything. Period. It breeds only inhumanity. Sin. War puts me in a real bind. I would be in a real “pickle” as to what to do in the face of a new “Hitler”. And of course I don’t want any human being to suffer, be maimed, etc. But people in America today chose this path, since we have a volunteer military. I watch the ads on TV; young people are despicably seduced into the military with false promises of an honourable life, of heroism, of economic assistance ….. all of which is, like most advertising, deceitful and misleading. And morally wrong.

Endless war can only breed hate and destruction and chaos and a delusional sense of what it means to be a moral person. I am appalled at the number of Americans (men especially) who have been corrupted by some perverted sense of Christianity which implies that being a soldier is a worthy thing. It is not. I see those bumper stickers on cars and I just cringe.

I call upon all Christian teachers and leaders to denounce War for what it is: a failure of Love, a failure of faithfulness to God. Already I see Obama being seduced from his campaign path. Power corrupts.

Endless War breeds only the infantilisation of Humanity. Pray for a end to the glorification of War and of Militarism and of Warriors.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, December 8, 2008

All (wo)men should strive to learn before they die,
what they are running from, and to, and why.
[brackets mine]

- James Thurber, American artist, humourist &
cartoonist, born on this date, 1894

Nicely put! And wise. Here are my answers for the present – remembering that this process of learning is a never-ending task, and one with a multiple of “answers” depending on how open one is to the infinite quality of Experience. Each day can bring surprises.

I am “running from” self-deception. I am constantly amazed at how something inside of me wants to deceive myself. I suspect that this is because I somehow feel that the truth will be too difficult to deal with intellectually and emotionally. No wonder all great teachers on Life tell us in some fashion that the truth will free us, even if painful.

I am “running to” Mystery. I am weary of the conceit that answers bring Peace and Clarity. Very seldom.

I am “running from” because self-deception diminishes me and everyone else. Self-deception keeps everyone in a cage. I am “running to” because Mystery makes for a much more charming and less stressful Life. Mystery expects more, and makes obsessive control unnecessary.

Listen to some good advice then: Do not be afraid.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Dec 6/7, 2008

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she
has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she
has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

- Isaiah 40 (from the Readings for Advent II)

If God were the litigious sort, She would spend her whole life at suing for libel. (Which would, at least, be a very focused Life.) Why “God” works the way He does I have no idea. It seems self-defeating to me, if not self-abusive. But I suppose that there is some Mystery here that I don’t – and never will perhaps? – understand?

Might it have something to do with the Mystery of Vulnerability?? God seems constantly to be willing and choosing to put Herself at the mercy of human beings. Human beings “make God in their own image” - and God doesn’t fight back! And boy, do human beings take advantage of it! Attributing all sorts of things to God - appalling things, like anger, murder, tyranny, meanness, revenge, hate, vindictiveness, partisanship ….. the list is horrifying. At least to me – though alas, there seem to be a lot of people these days who “take to” such a God. This is the God of Terrorism in all its forms.

But. Vulnerability indeed has a great Mystery to it. I think I’ve seen into it. Vulnerability eventually touches a heart seeking Love. And then you see what “God” is really about. Comfort. Tenderness. Compassion. Heartbreak. Anguish. We human beings create all our own pain and suffering. God has nothing to do with it. And in our venality, we try to co-opt God, make God an accomplice. But God won’t play the game. God gives up Her Life, won’t fight back on our terms. Eventually, any human heart longing for Love sees the true God, instead of the One we concoct.

Hear the message, O People. Comfort. Freedom. For every sin, God has poured out double of Love. Can we not live in this enormous generosity??


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Dec 5, 2008

I never did very well in math - I could never seem to per-
suade the teacher that I hadn't meant my answers literally.

- Calvin Trillin, author, born on this day, 1935

“God” has the same problem. And Jesus still has the same problem today. He told these wonderful parables. Good stories, with great, engaging detail. With nasty landlords and kings and tenants. And people today still don’t get it that all that stuff isn’t meant to be taken literally. Many people will read about a landlord who kills the wicked servants who mistreated his servants and killed his son in their greed, and they will say, “See, God punishes those who don’t do what He wants; that’s the way God is!” Utter rubbish! The story is not about God’s character. It’s about how justice should work among human beings.

The same is true with the story of Jesus. And with His “miracles”. The story of Jesus is essentially about the Presence of God in Creation and in each of us human beings. It’s about how our matter is given life by spirit; it is about dying to our animal nature and becoming fully human by being infused by the Divine; it is about discovering Love and Compassion as the core essence of being alive; it is about suffering leading us to trust; it is about the mystery of death and resurrection freeing us from fear. It’s about how each of us is a daughter or son of God. Every dimension of the person and life of Jesus is about the destiny of each of us.

“Miracles” are not magician’s tricks. They are about the endless ways that God raises us from dead places (resurrection, Lazarus, the widow’s son), calms the storms of destruction with Love (Noah’s ark, walking on the water), nourishes our minds and hearts and spirits with “Heavenly food and drink” (Elijah’s cornmeal and oil, manna, loaves and fishes, Cana), and so on.

Literalism trivializes. It builds houses of cards that collapse because they are built on sand.

Build your life on “rock”. On the stories’ meaning. And your Life will stand.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Dec 4, 2008

- “Colourful Life”, by Wassily Kandinsky,
who was born on this day, 1866

The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul”, said Kandinsky. He learned this (in my view) from that artist of the Universe we call “God”, Whose business is the training of the Soul, i.e., of us. Resistant as we are! It is said that “God” is indeflectible. Must be true. A lot of us are “trained” by inappropriate adults to be dour; if we are lucky, the dour ones lose! I am glad to say that, in my case, I was lucky and they lost big time! I have a built in rebellious nature! Next to being a disciple of the Gospel, I am next a “hedonist”. I drink in every richness of Life.

Look at this painting! Vibrant! ( If you can't see it, go here: and scroll down). The place it reminds me the most of is Brasil. I had the great pleasure to spend several days and nights on the beach in Salvador, Bahia, Brasil. If I had the money (and Dennis would go), I would live there. The women wear brilliant white, but at night, on the beach, there is music and singing, and the men and women wear glorious colours. There was horrible poverty in Salvador ….. but it only takes a beach and simple instruments and simple food and a fire and community to make an evening of delight. I have been many places, from Park Avenue fancy penthouses, to Venetian dinner parties, to Aztec dinners on the beach in Mexico, to elegant parties in the Caribbean. Give me Salvador any time – unpretentious simple joy!

The “Christmas Season” is coming. In our culture, it can be full of false colour, bravely trying to hide the drabness and the garishness of consumerist life. Give all that up this Christmas. Buy nothing. Worship simply and quietly. Make simple acts of Love. Your life will glow with true colours that will gladden your Being.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Exhaust the little moment.
Soon it dies. And be it gash or gold
it will not come
Again in this identical guise.

- Gwendolyn Brooks, poet, died on
this day, 2000. First African-American
woman to win the Pulitzer prize

Many have given the advice to “live in the present moment”. The Bible has a wonderful saying (which I was brought up to think frivolous) - Eat, drink, and be merry – for tomorrow you die. Frivolous it isn’t. It’s very profound. It isn’t encouraging us to be shallow, or drunks, or fools. It’s simply reminding us that Life happens in the present moment. If we don’t live the present moment to its full - and that’s ALL of it, including the “bad” - the past, even its memory, is empty and the future is destined to be meaningless and disappointing.

I have a lesson to learn here. There is a core part of me that is wanting to live the moment as passionately as possible. But there is another part of me – where did I learn this? – that has a tyrant schedule ruling my Life. Time to go. Time to leave this event, this person. Time to stop listening or being concerned or fascinated by another. The future calls, commitments have been made. Having “retired”, I find it a real struggle not to get kidnapped by a sense that there are “other things to do”. So, the other day, I was birding at Lake Cachuma. It got to be 2pm. After three hours, I hadn’t seen the Greater White-fronted Goose!! But in my head was a voice: “You have this to do, and that; time to leave”. I almost did. Then the Moment broke in: “Relax. The World won’t end.” I stayed, sat down on the shore in the lovely afternoon sun. And the Greater White-fronted Goose finally sailed in like a galleon.

The theme of Advent is “Be Aware, Awake”. It is in the Moment that the Mystery of God and of Self reveals itself. Only Life in the Present provides a past and a future of any truth and power.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Dec 2, 2008

Don’t talk to me about rules, dear.
Wherever I stay I make the goddam rules.

- Maria Callas, diva, born on this day, 1923

Kathleen Battle, the singer of gorgeous Mozart, had the same problem, though I’m not sure if it was for the same reasons. I knew her when she sang in the choir of Christ Church, Cincinnati. Exquisite voice ….. but “stuck on herself”. She was later fired by the Met Director, Rudolf Bing. Too bitchy and imperious and downright rude and arrogant. So it is said.

If you have to “make the goddam rules”, you’ve gotten something seriously wrong in the business of being happy – and human. Having to “make the goddam rules” radiates insecurity, and fantasy, and a kind of pathetic infantilism. Much as I could appreciate Callas for her sheer bravado (with what I still maintain was a fairly unruly and undisciplined voice - which was part of her charism!), I saw her as a person stunted in her growth. She never got beyond being an emotional child who married her “father”. Why Jackie married Onassis eludes me; was she too was a frightened child running from the World?

Callas’ statement is the exact opposite of a mature human being. A mature human being knows that “making the goddam rules” is a refusal or inability to grow up. It’s to live in the World of Unreality. It’s Hitlerian. Delusional. And terribly sad.

Needing to “make the goddam rules”, unilaterally, means you haven’t joined the human race. We Americans have had a sickening surfeit of that in the last eight years. Jesus roundly lambasted his contemporaries for the same mistake. When you lose touch with the suffering and the welfare and the happiness of others, you become a caricature of a person.

The “rules” of being authentically human filter to us from the heart of the Universe. They are built in. Their wisdom lives in the shared human Unconscious, enhanced by each generation’s experience.

Time to listen.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Dec 1, 2008

I'm working my way toward divinity.

- Bette Midler [The Divine Miss M!]

Now, who would have thought that the Divine Miss M was a ….. theologian! And highly influenced by the mystics and by the Fathers/Mothers of the Early Church to boot! You just never know, do you.

Actually, we’re all working our way toward divinity. This has nothing to do with thinking that we are going to “become God”. Who in their right mind would want to be God anyway. Too much responsibility, let alone stress! [Unfortunately, I know a lot of people not in their right mind who are working hard at being God, but I shall refrain from casting direct aspersions!] Nor does it have anything to do with becoming “perfect”. Attaining “perfection” is essentially antithetical to being human, at least in this Earthly life - so you can relax if you have been plagued by this fantasy.

Working your way toward divinity is simply another way of saying that we are Learning How to Love. It’s quite a trip, as most of you will know! Some steps forward, some back - and yes it goes on until we die. The successes and the failures, the learnings and re-learnings, the exhilaration and the hurt, the surrender of so many things that we thought we had to hold onto to be “happy” - all part of the mix.

Learning how to love isn’t a goal. It’s the ongoing definition of becoming human, where learning is the operative word. Christians have decided that God is Love Itself, and is Perfect, for theological reasons I think I comprehend. But interestingly, God is often portrayed in Scripture as a Learner, determined to be nasty at one point, but then “changing His mind”. I think that God let that sneak into Holy Writ so we wouldn’t get too discouraged. God is kind, yes?

I’m with Bette. Working my way toward divinity. Glad of every minor success. Trying to learn from the failures and not to take them “personally”. It’s the faithfulness to the work that counts!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, November 24, 2008 (Late afternoon PST)

A man's face is his autobiography.
A woman's face is her work of fiction.

- Oscar Wilde

I am a fan of Mr. Wilde ….. in general. Now, I wonder what he meant by this comment?? Knowing Oscar a bit, it could mean anything!

One might be tempted to think that Mr. Wilde was lauding men for their honesty, and criticizing women for their deception. But I don’t think so! I’m going to “read” it this way: (given, of course, that generalizations are odious ….. but this is “Farting Around” Week !)

Men can’t hide their insincerity, their greed, their shallowness, their deception, their contempt. Their “face” reveals the truth.

Women are wiser, and kinder. They know what men are really like ………. but they have the sympathy and kindness to hide it most of the time.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, November 21, 2008

For us, genocide was the gas chamber - what happened
in Germany. We were not able to realize that with the
machete you can create a genocide.

- Boutros Boutros-Ghali, of Egypt, becomes Sec-General
of the United Nations on this day, 1991

You don’t even need a machete. All you need is what the Bible describes as the smallest organ in the body, but which causes the most evil and pain and suffering. Namely ….. the tongue.

There is a “commandment” (which I interpret as a positive guideline) in the Hebrew Bible which says, Do not bear false witness against your neighbour. Have you read the book Constantine’s Sword - if you haven’t actually paid attention to “History”? It takes only a second to realize that hundreds of years of barbaric, unChristian, self-serving, words of arrogant so-called Christians and others caused the suffering and death of millions of Jews. The same dynamic is true today: what people are saying about other human beings leads to the horror and suffering of millions of human beings. Words can kill. The Turks wrought genocide on the Armenians (which they refuse to admit, so accusing is their shame, all for the sake of “face”). The Hutu’s massacred a half-million Tutsis. Serbs against Muslims. Chinese Hans against Tibetans. On and on it goes.

More and more I ask myself, as I age, and after 40 years in Christian ministry - What is the point of Religion? Is it at all useful? Or is it basically a tool in the hand of Evil, bringing out the worst in us, and only heaping the burdens of suffering and hate upon humankind?

I have to admit that there is a part of me that leans towards what I just said. But there is also a part of me that simply has to believe that human beings are capable of Love, Compassion, of belief in the holiness of all human beings and of Creation.

How we can get this truth imparted, I don’t – after decades, I have to admit - know. “Eschatology” (End-time talk) is useless: the fact that God may come to judge at some near or distant time has made no difference in how people behave. Nor does any talk about punishment in Hell. Nor does a death penalty. I am beginning to see that many people can only be compassionate and kind and just when there are no persons who are deprived of the blessings of Life which “God” has writ into Existence. Until that goal is embraced by all and seen to be earnestly worked for, we shall kill and hate and demean.

How shall we help people understand this? I think in only one way now.

Give up one’s Life for one’s “friends”. What does this mean for you?


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, November 20, 2008

We find them smaller and fainter, in constantly increasing numbers,
and we know that we are reaching into space, farther and farther, until,
with the faintest nebulae that can be detected with the greatest telescopes,
we arrive at the frontier of the known universe.

- Dr. Edwin Powell Hubble, physicist & astronomer, born on this day, 1889

Hmmmm. A parable about “God”. Alas, we cannot even say that we have begun the “finding”. I would be thrilled if we were at the “frontier of the known universe” in terms of our knowledge of the Mystery we call “God”, thrilled that we were gazing out from that point on the frontier of beginning really to understand what we mean by “God”.

But no, I think we have only just begun the journey of the “reaching”. I fear we have a lot further to go just to get to the point where we can actually “begin”. Strangely, this gives me hope! It would make my heart break to think that where we are now, in all religions and faiths, was at any “advanced” place. It calms me to understand that we have only begun to reach “into space”. And amazes me to ponder just how long this process of becoming fully human is taking, will take. I have let go of my frustration and impatience ….. well, somewhat!

So much about being human drags us back! Often it seems that we have to start anew in every generation, that we gain nothing in those generations. Is this the way it will always be ….. until we learn, make some quantum leap? Or several? Maybe.

However, perhaps the point simply is that we must embrace the Journey, wherever we may be from the frontier. Believe in ourselves, spread the vision. Take simple steps. Recommit to Compassion, Justice, Kindness, every morning. But perhaps more important, we need “shepherds” who will guide us into the Vision of God. We have begun. Let us call them to us.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Nov 19, 2008

… that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . .
and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . .
shall not perish from the earth.

- President Abe Lincoln, giving the Gettysburg Address, in PA, on this day, 1863

I wish to be candid. I have a clear opinion about the politics in the USofA for the last eight years (with which of course you may disagree). For all of the talk about religion, and about Christianity that has accompanied this administration, I see absolutely nothing that, in my view, accurately reflects the Gospel of the Christ of the God of Compassion, Justice, and Peace. Period. Full stop.

Do I think that those in governance who took the positions they did believe that they were being Christians (those who professed to be)? Yes, I do. This is one of our critical problems/issues, as it has been for 2000 years. It is a problem concerning the Bible, and all so-called “religious” texts. They can be interpreted any way that anyone wishes. Then, they can be used to undergird any behaviour – and many rulers/administrations/leaders have done just that. Hitler. Dick Cheney. Martin Luther King – who got it right.

But. If you eliminate the Jewish Scriptures. And the later-introduced eschatological writings. And the prejudices of the early persecuted Christians. And the cultural prejudices of the later/Pauline Christians. It is clear – at least to me – that Jesus was about Love, Justice, Fairness, Forgiveness, Community, providing for the needs of the marginalized (if not “fixing” the marginalization), equality, sister/brotherhood, and above all, SERVANTHOOD to each other as the path to and definition of Greatness.

I do NOT agree with Lincoln’s decision to wage the Civil War. Or any other “American” war – Korea. Gulf. Antigua. Vietnam. Bombing of Libya and Sudan. Iraq. Afghanistan. All war is an admission of Humanity’s failure to be Human. To my mind, anyone who even hints that Jesus would approve of war is a blasphemer, a “taker of the name of the Lord in vain” (to use a style of language I abhor).

My daily tugging for “revenge” is softened by the President-elect’s desire for cooperation. So each day I pray that the USofA will be transfigured in the days ahead. That I will be too – becoming more like the Christ Who refused to do other than love, and Who loved the poor and rejected. And gave His life for us.

Until now, I have despaired that the USofA could be moral. Today, I have hope – that God’s vision shall not perish from the Earth.


Monday, November 17, 2008

I have learned to live each day as it comes, and not
to borrow trouble by dreading tomorrow. It is the dark
menace of the future that makes cowards of us.

- Dorothy Dix, advice columnist, born on this day.
1861, in Montgomery Co., TN

This is my eulogy and my tribute to Mt. Calvary Monastery and Retreat House. Founded in 1947, a year after I was born, by the Order of the Holy Cross (of which I was a member for 15 years), and having survived many fires, it was completely destroyed by fire on Friday, November 14th, 2008.

The Mount was a glorious place! It perched high on a hilltop above the historic Santa Barbara Mission, looking out over English Bay, and Goleta, backdropped by the hills of the Los Padres National Forest. Filled with Spanish colonial furniture and liturgical objects and books and paintings and icons, filled with light, scented with jasmine, and settled in an atmosphere of quietness and contemplation and beauty, it was a place where, no matter how one felt when arriving, it wrapped you in healing and peace and the balm of silence. It was, to me, exquisite in every way.

Now it is gone, having changed very little in the 38 years since I first drove up its windy road to be enchanted by its utter beauty. How I remember standing by the wall as the sun rose out of thick white mist to bathe Mount Calvary in light, while the city below lay hidden.

What will happen now is as yet undetermined. We are all still, including the brothers, in shock. But, Jesus Himself reminded us not to worry about tomorrow, that today has enough worries of its own. Live in the Present moment – which, in Christianity, is all there is, since the Present Moment includes all Time and Space.

For us, there is no “menace of the future”. It will unfold. The brothers will seek God’s guidance. They will make their decisions. The future is not fearful, nor makes us cowards. Things come things go, including our lives at sometimes unexpected moments. Any of us who have embraced the Gospel know that they are to be held lightly – but thoroughly enjoyed.

Thank you, exquisite Mt. Calvary. We have treasured you. Whatever future unfolds is ok.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, November 17, 2008

Someone asked me once what my philosophy of
life was, and I said some crazy thing. I should have
said, how the hell do I know?

- Rock Hudson, actor, born on this day, 1925;
a closeted Gay man, died of AIDS

I met Rock Hudson once. At a party in Santa Barbara CA. If it were possible to judge a person by one encounter, I would say he was unattractive, in many ways. But it isn’t possible. Who knows? Or, to use his words, How the hell do I know? Best we remember this, in terms of making assumptions about people.

The older I get, the more clear I become about what my “philosophy of Life” is. It hasn’t narrowed in the process; it has broadened. Theologically, culturally, philosophically …. and of the heart.

There are a lot of things now of which I simply must say, How the hell do I know? I am more and more aware that what I think is determined by my prejudices, my fears, my failure - or lack of courage or moral strength - to live up to what I believe through my Faith Journey in daily Life. Will there be a time that I will do this? Is this the anguish of every person who wants to be transfigured, but who struggles with being human?

My bottom-line philosophy of Life is, Love One Another as I Have Loved You. I wonder why it is that I can’t stay focused on this??? Is this my personal equivalent of St. Paul’s “The things I want to do I don’t do”??

I am now 62 years old. I am in Weight Watchers. I have a hole in my heart that needs to be fixed lest I have a massive stroke. I have a replaced heart valve and a reversed colostomy. Why am I telling you this? Because it amazes me that I have been on the path of the Gospel for over 42 years and still can’t walk out onto a new day and stay focused on the path of Love!

However. This does not send me into a tailspin of despair. It simply reminds me that Divine Grace is critical. We human beings have enormous capabilities. But something has to undergird all that. And what undergirds it is the Mystery of Divine Grace. Freeing Divine Grace. With it, every day, I can get up and laugh and shake my head and shuffle off the burden of not living up to what my mind and heart envision and burst into today as if on eagles’ wings. I believe that we “invented” God to clear the path to our humanity ….. and I wish that people would stop creating images of “God” that diminish the image of our unerring imagination of Who We Truly Can Be.

Beyond my short-sightedness, Rock and John McCain and Sarah Palin are but versions of me, as is Barack Obama. We are all Mysteries, we all fall short ….. but by some Mystery we can radiate the Divine that makes us worthy of Love. Surrender to it.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Nov 15/16, 2008

Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master,
I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering
where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in
the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master replied, 'You wicked and
lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I
did not scatter?

- Matt 25: 24ff (Gospel for Sunday)

This is a parable (and a ripping good one at that!!) about one of the central themes of the Bible. (No; it is not about getting punished by God; God does not punish and is not wrathful.) Namely, we human beings are indwelt by the Divine; it is the divine spirit that gives us full human life; and what a waste it is if we do not enter into that full humanity.

When we recognize/understand who we are, then we begin using, at various levels, the gifts that we have been given in the combination of our unique humanity and the eternal, unchanging nature of God.

This parable uses all the imagery it can to make the point that it is sad - very very sad - when a human being never gets the point, never takes the steps to embrace the God Within, and who basically fails to be human.

Wonder what that looks like? Look around the World today; it is staring us in the face.

And now is a good time to look at ourselves too. We have been called to a glorious destiny as human beings. Have we buried it in the ground, never to bear fruit? Or, are we making that initial “investment” grow wonderfully. The more of us that “bury our talents”, the harsher and more barren the World is.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, November 14, 2008

Fog makes the world a painting obscure.
Even close trees are half unseen.
But a lonesome crow won't stop calling:
He objects to being in this dream.

- Deng Ming-Dao (Taoist)

I have thought about this business of Life as “dream” or “reality” for many decades. I was raised in the Christian culture, centered in the theology of Incarnation, so my mind wasn’t shaped to think of “this World” as delusion, as unreal. I was trained to see this World as not just a reality, but a holy reality, inhabited by the Divine, including “in me”. Important, critical stuff went on here! This World wasn’t just a thing to be endured, to be “gotten through”, either in one try or several. What one did/does here determined what happened to you after you died. So you had better get it right!

If I had been “raised” a Buddhist, or a Hindu, or a Platonist, I would have a completely different understanding. I would think that indeed this World is just a delusion/illusion, a “painting obscure” of the real Reality, “out there”, or “in Heaven”.

But I have always heard that “lonesome crow” calling. I’ve been in many a foggy place, literally, in this World. Paris on a Fall evening; Vermont valleys on damp early summer nights; San Francisco, with just the red tops of the arches of the Golden Gate Bridge and the top of Mt. Tam shining in the moonlight; the Arizona desert where you can’t see car lights ten feet in front of you; charming, seductive Portofino on a winter dawn. They have all been a metaphor of how Life on this planet, in this body, can be confusing, mysterious, tempting one away from taking it seriously.

But the “crow” is always there ….. and it is I. I object, strenuously, to those who pretend that this World is a dream. It isn’t. Essentially, this is the only Reality. The Past, Present, and Future are Here. Heaven and Hell are Here. Love and Hate are Here. The Immortal and the Mortal are Here.

For Christians, the Cross is planted firmly Here, where matter and spirit meet. We either live Here with all the passion we can muster, or we misunderstand it all.

If we can’t live Here, there is (if I may quote Gertrude Stein) no There There.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, November 13, 2008

I don't really view communism as a bad thing.

- Whoopi Goldberg, actor, born on this day, 1955

We Americans (most of us) tend to shudder at the word “communism”. Or it’s apparent cousin, Socialism. Devious people tried to discredit Obama by linking him to either one. But remember: “communism” is from the same root as “communion”. It comes from a 13th century usage, ultimately from the Latin, meaning “shared duties”.

Now, what’s wrong with that?? I think Jesus preached, and early Christianity did, “shared duties”, leading to the benefit of the whole community. If Communism tends to be reviled, it is because we remember only the abuse of the system. The same is true with any social or political system ….. and we are experiencing it now with “capitalism”. People have taken it over and perverted it’s essential focus on the welfare of the whole community, the whole people. There is no reason that either Communism or Capitalism can’t fulfill it’s essence as a way to provide, by shared common duties, for the welfare of the whole people.

“Communion” is at the heart of sacramental life. The sharing of Life (God’s, and ours). The sharing of gifts and abilities. The sharing of each others’ sorrows and joys.

Forget the “bad” remembrances of Communism. And of Capitalism, through which we suffer now. Let’s all focus on the “shared duties” of being a global community. As I understand the Gospel, and the “Kingdom of God”, A global community centered in compassion is God’s hope for the World community.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The greatest block today in the way of woman's emancipation
is the church, the canon law, the Bible and the priesthood.

- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “saint” in our Episcopal liturgical
calendar (Feast Day: July 20), born on this day, 1815

And here we are, the Episcopal Church, celebrating the life of S C Stanton as one of our “saints”!! A great lady! Brought up a strict Calvinist, she organized a group of women to write a Commentary on the RSV version of the Scriptures, since no women had been on the translating committee. She and four other women organized the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls NY in 1848. She held the Church accountable for oppressing women by using Scripture to enforce subordination of women in marriage and to prohibit them from ordained ministry. She held society accountable for denying women equal access to professional jobs, property ownership, the vote, and for granting less pay for the same work.

I have issues with the Episcopal Church – a lot! The only reason I am still a member of it (and it requires an enormous amount of self-discipline!) is because we do eventually get to seeing the error of our ways. I attribute this to the fact that we expect the Spirit to guide us and actually pay attention now and then.

My annoyance with the Episcopal Church (and believe me, much more with the “Church” in general) is that we do not seem able to learn from our experience. We know perfectly well, or should, from people like Elizabeth Stanton, that God indeed sticks our face in “it”, like one does a baby cat or dog, trying to teach it something important. So we learn God’s ways: Women: equal! Slavery: bad! Racism: Bad! Etc. Infuriatingly, we are still flim-flamming on the issue of homosexuality, basically (say I charitably) because we are concerned about our friends in the Anglican Communion. My view is: Look! We have LOTS of experience in the Episcopal Church with Gayfolk. For God’s sake, get a move on!

My point: Religion is highly susceptible to use by “the Devil” to block God’s plans. Cady Stanton knew better.

And we should too.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Nov 11, 2008

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around,
and don't let anybody tell you different.

- Kurt Vonnegut, author, born on this day, 1922

What can I say??? When Wisdom speaks, it comes through loud and clear!

Remember the words, from the well-known song based on Ecclesiastes? For everything, turn, turn, turn / There is a season, turn, turn, turn / And a time for every purpose under Heaven. Well, we have been through a lot of very stressful stuff in the last few years, including the entirely inaccurately named Religious Right, and Neo-cons, and hurricanes, and 9/11, and wars (ongoing), and Global Terrorism, and overwhelming health costs for lots of people …….. and a host of other stuff. It has been tough!! It’s been hard to relax.

So, being my own Grand High Religious Poobah (and God having whispered in my ear that I had Her authority to move on this), I hereby proclaim Nov 23-29, which includes Thanksgiving (in the USofA) as National Farting Around Week. We are all to take it easy, and be silly, and hang out with each other, and play with friends on FaceBook, watch cooking shoes or football or Nova, and do all manner of crazy, wonderful , unserious things. I challenge my friend Bob to find a different silly hat to wear every day!

Then we can get back to pondering how we can all help solve a few serious issues we have facing us in the World. (No, you may NOT start planning Christmas!) If this goes well, I have been granted permission to make this a yearly event. Enjoy!


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, November 10, 2008

Deeper and bolder truths be careful, my friends, of avowing;
For as soon as ye do all the world on ye will fall.

- Friedrich von Schiller, poet, born on this day, 1759

Hmmm. Now I know why Jesus warned His followers that they would be persecuted. President-elect Obama is going to have the same problem. Jesus was crucified. Many who voted for Obama will likely be calling for the same fate for him when they realize that he isn’t going to fulfill his hopes without ….. them! No magic bullet here, dear World.

I have often quoted Joseph Campbell, the guru of Myth’s Mysteries, who said when asked what the most difficult thing Jesus said in the Gospel was said, “Love your enemies”. That includes those we think are our enemies. And we forget that often, we are our own worst enemies. If one is following a “deep and bold truth”, there may indeed be others out to get us ….. but we had better remember that we just might do ourselves in by being stupid, by not thinking through the situation, understanding our goal, and proceeding with, well, reasoned Love on all levels.

America is a “deep and bold truth” - like the Kingdom of God ….. though I am not equating them! The time has come again to avow it. To retrieve the vision. To understand what constitutes it. And, like all who believe in the power of radical unconditional Love as the foundation of Truth, anticipate the “World” falling, and together push it back.

[ I’m Brian McHugh, and I approve this message. ]


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Nov 8/9, 2008

The bridegroom didn't show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep. 6
"In the middle of the night someone yelled out, 'He's here! The bridegroom's here!
Go out and greet him!' …[ the “smart virgins” with extra oil go in; the ones without
are excluded ] …. Stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.”

- The Gospel called Matthew 25, Gospel reading for this Sunday, Pentecost 27

I understand the home to which the Bridegroom arrives to be each of our hearts. He is coming to marry His divinity with our flesh, to make us a whole human being. But in reality, the Divine Bridegroom is always there, or we would not be alive. So the issue is, are we prepared to Welcome Him? All of us have lamps: our bodies, our hearts, our minds, our senses, our intellects. But do these lamps have adequate fuel?

The true Kingdom of God cannot manifest itself until each one of us realizes that “God” lives at our core, in our heart. Only when we are on the way to being fully human - flesh infused with Divine spirit - will the “Kingdom of God” begin to manifest itself.

Our work is to keep as many lamps as possible well fueled and burning brightly, creating a welcome for Holy Wisdom, like a plane honing in on a runway at night. It is up to us to discern which lamps need oil.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, November 7, 2008

Life is not an easy matter... You cannot live through it
without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you
have before you a great idea which raises you above
personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of
perfidy and baseness.

- Guess Who? (see end)

A Great Idea. There are, God knows, lots of great ideas to choose from! From religion, from philosophy, from novelists, from powerful thinkers and feelers in every walk of Life.

I have several, which I keep on a List and consult every now and then. I added a “new” one today, from Alice Walker’s Open Letter to Barack Obama: “We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise.” There is a lot of Wisdom out there. I keep a little book with me as I read and think (yes, an actual hand-written Moleskin journal). I write things in it that come my way, simple great ideas. These are what I think on sometimes during my day. They come from everywhere.

But for me, the one at the heart remains, Love one another as I have loved you. It joins the mind and the emotions/heart/feelings. I have spent over 40 years looking at Jesus, who He was, what He said, what He did, to try and understand what He meant. Oh, I may have copped out, and just chosen from the tradition I was brought up in. But I have thought about it, and decided that this one Great Idea would get me along the path as well as any other. Along with all the rest. The wonderful thing is, I gather new things every day.

A Great Idea simply can’t be selfish, or mean, or vicious, or merciless, or unjust. It can only be great if it calls us to a high ideal, a “high theology” of what it means to be human.

I think I believe that the man I quoted thought his idea could enrich humankind. Perhaps ….. but unfortunately, as so often happens, human self-interest and the seductive nature of power got in the way. It has happened with the Church, Mosque, and Synagogue and all faiths as well.

But. I think we need the Great Idea. At it’s best, it ennobles and inspires us.


[ Quote from ….. Leon Trotsky]
Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, November 6, 2008

I care not much for a man's religion whose
dog and cat are not the better for it.

- President Abraham Lincoln, elected on this day,

I guess we have no idea what might have provoked Mr. Lincoln’s comment. But it sends my mind two ways at least. And both are obvious.

One is, “religion” is an everyday affair. It is usually anchored in corporate weekly worship, and by daily affirmation of some sort (prayer, meditation, reflection, acts of self-remembrance, etc), but, to be authentic, it must extend to the cat and dog, metaphorically and literally speaking. It must be whole, and include every aspect of one’s Life. If one is a materially blessed cat or dog, then one has a responsibility to the poor cat or dog. You get the drift.

The other is, all Life is connected. The whole Creation is a living organism. The health of one effects the health of it all. If Mother Earth is suffering, or neglected, or exploited, the effects of that will poison us all.

I choose not to support any entity, be it corporation or politician or nation, that doesn’t care about the dog and cat.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The Morning after the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States

I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the
Heart's affections and the truth of the Imagination.

- John Keats

It is not about money. It is not about power. It is not about Self.

It is about caring for the poor and marginalized, especially by the privileged. It is about using the power that comes with privilege to bring peace to God’s people, that being all of us. It is about finding one’s own strength in unconditional Love, and joining with others to build a World community of Justice and Compassion.

May our collective Heart thrive on affection for all people, and our Imagination blaze with the vision that our Truth is together.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: November 4, 2008

Change will not come if we wait for some other person
or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting
for. We are the change that we seek.

The people of Israel, around 30 BC, wanted and needed change. This was not new in their history. Read the Hebrew Scriptures. Lots of wailing and lamenting. About hardship. About oppression. About bad leaders. And yet, we human beings are very odd. God is depicted as listening to His beloved people, hearing their cry, and reaching out to them. Sending them judges and prophets. Almost all were rejected by the people to whom they were sent. Jesus was no different, then and still now.

No Christian of any stripe or denomination would disagree that Jesus came to His people offering comfort, wisdom, guidance, authority in teaching, acts of compassion and wonder. He offered a path towards liberation and greatness, by which people could understand where true freedom from oppression comes from. It comes from within. From choosing what seems at first a “hard” difficult path, but which, when embarked upon, carries us upward on eagles’ wings.

What a World we live in today. Division, hatred, war, fear, selfishness, oppression, indifference to suffering, cruelty, militarism.

Perhaps we can choose another way. It is, and has always been, our choice. God never forces us to change. We are the change that we seek.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Nov 3, 2008

Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!
ne mellow smile through the soft vapoury air,
Ere, o'er the frozen earth, the loud winds ran,
Or snows are sifted o'er the meadows bare.
One smile on the brown hills and naked trees,
And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast,
And the blue Gentian flower, that, in the breeze,
Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee
Shall murmur by the hedge that skim the way,
The cricket chirp upon the russet lea,
And man delight to linger in thy ray.
Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear
The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.

- William Cullen Bryant, poet, born on thus day, 1794, in MA

Well, you can tell that William Cullen Bryant did not, as we do, live on the CA Central Coast!! Piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air are definitely not a part of the Pacific coast, thank God! (Though, to be fair, it can be a teense frosty here in February, though not piercing by any means! And by noon it will probably be sunny and 60F.)

Yesterday it was All Souls Day. The bright red geraniums, the pink and red Old Roses were blooming in the front yard, the new hibiscus we planted are daily putting forth lovely red blooms, the lantana is hardy and bushing out, and even a few defiant California poppies are waving their jaunty heads. Lots of flowers. And the juniper bushes are seeding, bringing two lovely Townsend Warblers, in bright yellow and black array, to feed right outside the window. Ah, the California winter!

I understand the Eastern November as a metaphor. A somewhat “gentle” warning of the dark night of the soul, of which we all go through many on Life’s Journey. The Left Coast of CA is a softened version, and a metaphor of Hope. There will be dark and snows and bare meadows regularly in a human Life. But soft vapoury air and the blue Gentian flower remind us that this too shall pass. God has given us California (and maybe Key West and Tucson) just further to encourage us that we shall make it through those dark nights.

Oh you out there on the Right Coast, remember the Gentian flower. But if it gets too bad, hop a plane to sunny California for a little Heart’s Ease. But remember: California too is a metaphor - for Surrender to Grace and to the Healing Love at the heart of all Existence.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, October 31, 2008
Ancient Druid Feast of Samhain
All Hallows Eve

Nothing can beat the smell of dew and flowers and the odor
that comes out of the earth when the sun goes down.

- Ethel Waters, singer and actress, born on this day, 1896

Oh, I have known that smell! So different wherever I’ve been. In Montfort, the smell of evening grass and of gladiolas and toast on the wood stove. In Liberia, the smell of kerosene and of palm oil and of dark green plants. In Brasil, the smell of wood fires on the beach, and the smell of fish grilling, and the sea under a full moon. In Nicaragua, the smell of thatch, and of pineapple getting just to the edge of over-ripe, and of rotting logs. In Mississippi, the smell of charcoal and of beer. In Montreal, the smell of the river, and of Vietnamese cooking. In St. Croix, the smell of night, and flowers. So many other places!

When the sun goes down, the earth gives back the moisture it has absorbed and hoarded. And the coolness. I love it because, while being among it, I know how much I am a part of it. It makes me feel my connection with the ground, the darkness, the scents of nature. And with my own ground, my darkness, my odor of dust.

Richness is what I smell when the sun goes down. And, I smell nostalgia, and longing, and aloneness. It is like the absence of “God”, but like the waiting soil in which Life will sprout when kissed by Light and Warmth. Together, the time of waiting is redolent with urgent power, and the time of Sun-rising the time of flowering and beauty. Together, they are like Faith and Love, Soil and blossom.

We are such a Mystery. We are Sun Setting and Sun Rising - The Christ descending into our flesh, and the Divine bursting forth incarnate into each day.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, October 30, 2008

Discussing how old you are is the temple of boredom.

- Ruth Gordon, actress, born on this day, 1896

Absolutely can’t pass up Ruth Gordon! I just see her ripping down the freeway in her rag top, with that tree in the back! Remember Harold and Maude? Of course you do! I don’t care how many times you might have seen the film. Go rent it and see it again. Listen to Maude/Ruth Gordon. A wise lady. A wise human being. Colin Higgins, the screenplay writer, was a gem. The film was a box-office failure, and the critics were mixed. Reminds me of the Gospel - not too popular with the money-making crowd (except for Bible salesmen), but a cult favourite for the committed.

Ruth is right. It’s great if you reach a healthy, active old age. But too much talk about it is boring. The whole purpose of age, at whatever level, is to live it, not talk about it. By old age, we’ve learned (as Maude had) what is important and what isn’t. (Hopefully.) We can get up every day, take our meds, sort out our doctor appointments (unless we are among the near 50 million folk in rich and powerful America who have no health care), exercise some - and then get out there and befriend the Harolds of the World. Encourage, and support, and care about them.

Age is a blessing to be lived, not discussed. Age is to be honoured.

Elders of America, unite! Be a harbinger of sheer delight in this amazing - and struggling - World.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Through faith (wo)man experiences the meaning of the world;
through action (s)he is to give to it a meaning.[brackets mine]

- Leo Baeck, "Essence of Judaism"

We probably all remember Luther saying that we are saved by Faith alone. This is true (I believe) – though I am not at all sure exactly what “saved” means. One of my favourite theologians says very strongly that Jesus did not come to “save us from our sins”, but rather essentially to usher us/invite us into the Kingdom of God. I agree with him. Anyway, if “saved” has anything to do with getting free to accept the invitation into the Kingdom of God, I agree that it is through Faith and not through works. Bottom line: Freedom and absolution from unlove only comes through Love – and Love is only Grace-based. There ain’t no earning Love.

We had an interesting discussion about an aspect of this at our weekly Vespers liturgy tonight. (4-7 of us gather to be quiet, pray, share thoughts on the reading (or whatever), and then we eat and talk together. Dennis and I are happy to drive 80 miles to be a part of it.) We wondered, What is the core of the Gospel teaching? St. Paul was saying that “we are, in Christ’s flesh, made one”. We were wondering what that meant. We were agreed that oneness, and reconciliation, were at the heart of the Gospel; but we are confronted with 2000 years of Christianity, in which there seems to be little oneness or reconciliation amongst people, all of whom are “God’s people”. So, we wondered, what are we doing wrong? What are we not getting?

Faith clearly has taught me one reality about what the core of the Gospel is: Love. I hear others say that too - and yet there is an enormous gap, an enormous gap, between how people manifest that faith through action. Some denounce killing of any sort; some can justify horrific murder and violence on the same basis. I am both amazed and deeply confused – and I confess that it makes me cynical about religious institutions.

However, Baeck is correct, I think. It is important to know clearly (with room for learning new things) what the meaning of the World is. Faith, at its best, can help us to know this, combined with human wisdom. If we come to the belief that it is Love, then we must Act in Love.

Fr. Huntington, OHC, said: Love must act, as Light must shine, and Fire must burn”. In love, Christ gave up His life to witness, by vulnerability, to God’s Love. If we have faith in Compassion and Grace and Oneness and Reconciliation and Human Dignity, I think it’s time we started “acting up” a lot more!


Monday, October 27, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It is a curious thing... that every creed promises a paradise
which will be absolutely uninhabitable for anyone of civilized taste.

- Evelyn Waugh, British author, [Vile Bodies, Brideshead Revisited],
born on this day, 1903 (died at my age, 62)

Harps? X number of virgins? Streets of Gold, with much casting about of golden crowns? Reunion with family and friends (whom we may have spent a good deal of time in the earthly life desperately avoiding)? Boredom? No sex? No hearty Burgundy, or dry vodka martinis?

No, forget it. Waugh is absolutely correct. Absolutely uninhabitable for anyone of civilized taste. (And let’s just ignore for a moment snobbery, or any delusion that any of us can define civilized.

What’s paradise for you? And remember, it changes as you age. At least, that is my experience, and my wise “warning” to the younger among us. Gene Rodenberry (creator of Star Trek) understood this: he had alcohol that didn’t intoxicate, and food that didn’t fatten - but he also did away with religion and God among the human race in the 24th century!! I agree with him; good idea. I would choose A Star-Trek starship as my paradise – except for the fact that they didn’t outlaw violence and war. However, from my present perspective, religion and God (in the hands of human beings) creates often a place absolutely uninhabitable for anyone of civilized taste.

Not to say that religion and God couldn’t provide a habitable place for anyone of civilized taste in this world. It’s just that we are leaving the determination of this to the experts, so-called. Like, the clergy. And a lot of the clergy have, shall we say, neuroses that disqualify them from being able to provide good guidance on this, mostly because they are minions of an institution rather than servants of the God/ess of Compassion.

So. Think today about what your Paradise would be like! If you like, send them to me (not too long please!). I will either rewrite the Book of Revelation, or I will use them in Reflections (with comment, of course), or write a book about people and their strange ideas about Paradise, or use them to inform my prayers to God for your rehabilitation!

But also: think about what Paradise really is for you. And use it to start a plan for How I Will Live Now.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, October 27, 2008

You don't have to be the Dalai Lama to
tell people that life's about change.

- John Cleese, actor, born on this day, 1939

Have I said before that I change a lot??? I do. And I have, all my life. I tend to have – if you are talking to me – rather definite opinions about things and am willing to state them ….. but I also change my mind fairly easily if I hear or read something that tells me I need to change.

These days, I am changing my ideas quite a bit about church, about God, about ritual. (Politics I will leave out of this. Whew, you say!) And I have to say that I am finding it very stimulating, this rethinking things. This is “driven”, of course, by the fact that I have “retired” and have a fair amount of time to read a lot of things.

Either change or die. It’s about as stark as that. Jesus was a big instigator of change. As was the Buddha, and most other religious figures. The absolute key to transformation in the Christian path is change, otherwise known as Repentance. The word actually means “to turn around”. Divine Forgiveness and Liberation are automatic in the face of genuine Repentance. We “see” a wrong road, we change direction, we are ourselves changed, drawn deeper into the heart of Love.

Change will happen whether we cooperate or not. It will be change either for the “good” or not. One of the things that distinguishes us humans from other creatures is our consciousness. We can examine and we can make decisions about our direction. The bottom line is, we can change and live or we can reject change and die on every critical level of Life.

One of the reasons I am an Episcopalian, by choice, is because our approach is to honour and value the teachings of Jesus, and to take seriously that He will “be with us always”, and that the Holy Spirit will “guide us into all truth” as new situations and questions arise, for as long as Time exists. The Living Word is always among us. Life will change. We will be grounded in Compassion. No new reality will confuse us, for we will know what is just and loving and redemptive.

I love change. It is the only path to an authentic Life in one’s own time.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Oct 25,26, 2008

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him,
"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a
second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two
commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

- From the Gospel of the community called Matthew (22: 36ff)
[reading for Oct 25, RCL, at the Christian Liturgy]

The Pharisees are portrayed as always trying to “trap” Jesus. Why, I can’t help but wonder? You would think that really “religious” and pious persons would want at least to listen to what a man of such wisdom and power would say! But no. At least as portrayed by the Christian Gospel writers - who were undoubtedly trying to aggrandize Jesus at the expense of the Pharisees - the Pharisees were just digging in their prejudiced heels for their own “side”, in order to retain their power at any cost. It seems to me pretty clear that the whole thing has been skewed by self-interest on the part of the Christians.

Jesus is undeterred. Love, He says. Love God. Love your neighbour. Love yourself in the same way, i.e., as God loves you, unconditionally, without reserve. This is the heart of it ALL! If you get it wrong at the start, it will all go haywire.

As it ever has been.

Nothing will change, and nothing will be accomplished by the Christian community for the bringing of the Kingdom of God to the World, until Christian persons, at every step of their life and witness, first asks the Question: How shall I authentically love God, and my neighbour as myself in every moment and at every encounter of the day?

Every hour of every day is an invitation from the God of Love and Justice and Mercy to Get It Right.

Two thousand years have gone by. The human community is in a sad and miserable mess of hate and unlove. The Christian community has failed in it’s vocation.

But. There is always the next moment to take up the call. To be faithful to the Baptismal vows we took, or were taken for us, or have renewed over and over again.

One act of love in the face of indifference.

We can start at any moment. Now is a very good time.