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.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, October 24, 2008

Never upset your mind
With yes and no.
Be quiet.
You are awareness itself.
Live in the happiness
Of your own nature,
Which is happiness itself.

-Ashtavakra Gita 15:19 (Hindu)

Yes or No. Why do these “upset the mind”? Because they limit. I’ve been thinking about my life over the last 40 years. Often I’ve played the game of Life as if it had to be Yes or No. Then Life becomes like Russian roulette. Friendships. Marriages. Families. Work. Whetever it is that we have to make decisions/choices about.

If it’s Yes/Yes, or No/No, the gun doesn’t go off. Phew! But. If it’s Yes/No, then there’s very often an explosion, and it can kill whatever is in the way.

There is definitely a part of me that wants things to be “Yes” or “No”. But slowly that is changing. I am beginning to see that my nature as a human being, as Brian, would be happier if I could sit more easily with Yes and No. Oh, some things I am clear about. Like, Does God “hate” or “punish”? No. Or who should be the next President of the United States.

But I am going to work on bring open to the paradox, the Mystery: it can be Yes and No. I am going to try to be quiet in the face of Yes and No. Relax my boundaries (prejudices?) a little. Invite a little more not-knowing into my Life. See a wider picture.

I think I may have more peace, more serenity. And when a Yes or a No is required, it will chosen without rancor or distress.

[ Hopefully this isn’t too spacey for your morning!]


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: October 23, 2008

“Arguably, no artist grows up: If he sheds the perceptions
of childhood, he ceases being an artist.”

- Ned Rorem, composer & musician, born on this day, 1923

Un huh. And I would extend that to us all. We cease being an Artist of Life is we lose our touch with childhood. Not of childishness. But our childhood.

I am deeply grateful to Ned Rorem. Not because he was a Gay Brother. Though I have to admit that I loved his Letters, published in 2 volumes. Fascinating Life! But for a name-dropping reason. I was lucky enough in my mid-life to meet the greatest soprano of the 20th C (IMHO - In My Humble Opinion), Leontyne Price. Leontyne never had a “Farewell Concert”, unlike many opera singers, who had several, and usually ill-considered! When she was getting older, Leontyne asked Ned to write several songs for her, suited to her voice. I heard her sing several of them in a concert which she gave in her 70’s. Exquisite!

Jesus is recorded to have once said, Unless you become like a little child, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I have preached on this text many times. Of course it doesn’t mean that we should abandon our adulthood - our experience of years - and be a child. We can’t renounce growing up ….. and we shouldn’t. But there are qualities of a child - and not all child-time qualities are fetching!!!! - that we need to nurture. Children of a certain age have not been cynic-alized – though they can be vicious! They innately understand myth and fantasy and imagination. And my feeling is, no human being can be fully human unless they retain that nature.

What “God” wants (I believe) is for us to be Artists. Artists of Life. People who are able to shape Life into spiritual expressions of painting, music, sculpture, word, vision.

No Christian should “grow up”. That is, not abandon childlikeness. In which we retain those uncorrupted characteristics that allow us to gaze in wonder at the childlike wisdom of “God”, and to understand in the heart the Great Commandment - Love One Another as I have Loved You.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Oct 22, 2008

Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion
which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is
based on the experience of one's identity as a being of worth and dignity.

- Rollo May, psychologist, who died on this day, 1994

Be who you are. Only then can you know worth and dignity.

We have so many people walking this earth these days who are forced to live a Life where they are not who they are. I’m not talking about folk with criminal intentions, etc. I’m talking about men and women who have been given identities and personalities and unique gifts by the Life Force, but whom Society keeps firmly repressed. So-called majorities repressing (and oppressing) “minorities”. Why? Fear that their own privileges and perks will be diminished.

I don’t believe that. I believe that honouring the diversity and the uniqueness and the graced gifts of every human person can only enhance human community. Enhance peace. Enhance security. Enhance wonder. Enhance care. Enhance understanding. Enhance compassion.

It does no society good to deny worth and dignity to any human being. It does only evil. It sets one person against another, and diminishes the outreach of the heart to fellow human beings. And. It does no good to lie about others, to “bear false witness” as the fearful do about those who are “other”.

Happiness is ephemeral, a state that rests on avoidance of others not “like us”, or on an avoidance of Reality. Joy is transcendent ….. because it is the experience of having found our place, as a being of worth and dignity, within the wondrous expression of Being.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Apologia Pro Vita Sua

The poet in his lone yet genial hour

Gives to his eyes a magnifying power :
Or rather he emancipates his eyes
From the black shapeless accidents of size--
In unctuous cones of kindling coal,
Or smoke upwreathing from the pipe's trim bole,
His gifted ken can seePhantoms of sublimity.

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet, born on
this day, 1772, in Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire

I have read several of Coleridge’s poems. He seems to me, frankly, to be rather a Poet of Gloom! Doesn’t his portrait seem like that too?

But! What a fine poem for understanding Holy Scripture ….. anyone’s Holy Scripture. Such writings are like unctuous cones of kindling coal, or like smoke upwreathing from the pipe’s trim bole. It takes a poetic soul - a gifted ken - (preferably not as lugubrious as Coleridge!) to see phantoms of sublimity. That is, the deep Mystery, the Reality clarified. Sharp-edged pictures, often posing as “history”, are presented, like black shapeless accidents of size. But one must ponder the smoke from fire or pipe. One must, as St. Paul said, look through the darkly glass. It is in the mysterious cloud that the Truth is seen - as Moses saw the presence of God through a shining cloud, and the disciples saw Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

In our search for the Mystery of God, we must be like a poet in his lone genial hour. Here is the contemplative calling. Ponder the smoke of Scripture. There lie the phantoms of sublimity ….. of wonder and of grace and of liberation and of peace.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, October 20, 2008

Only divine love bestows the keys of knowledge.

- Arthur Rimbaud, French poet, born on this day, 1854

Paul Verlaine said of Rimbaud, “He was tall, well-built, almost athletic, with a perfectly oval face of an angel in exile with untidy light brown hair and eyes of a disturbing pale blue.” Who, man or woman comfortable with themselves, would not be drawn by such a description!

“Only divine love bestows the keys of knowledge”. I agree wholeheartedly, based on where I have gotten on the path to comprehending Divine Love”. I have spent literally decades sorting out what Divine Love really is. Separating it from all the human overlay, all the projection, all the self-serving deceit, all the fear, all the inability to embrace Reality. How I found the heart of the Gospel I do not know! But I believe I did. I think because I let it bang up against my true feelings and needs ….. are of which were faithful guides to the Truth. What did I find? A person longing to be the unique being I was created to be.

Oh, I haven’t been completely successful over the years. I’ve hidden, I’ve lied, I’ve cowered in the face of the disapproval of others. But in the balance, the God of Truth overcame the Prince of Lies.

Nothing is perfect; such is not the destiny of humanity ….. even beyond the grave. But. Joy is not dependent on perfection. And if there is any sign of Divine Love, it is that Joy requires very little fuel to keep it triumphant over torrents of Sadness or Discouragement.

And I have had, and now have it. Blessed I! It is what I hope for us all.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Oct 18/19, 2008

Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?"
But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you
hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius.
Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The
emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are
the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's."

- from the Gospel called Matthew ( 22: 17-21)_Gospel for October 19, 2008

Jesus was not making any comment on whether taxes were appropriate or not. Don’t get distracted here from the point of Jesus’ words. He wasn’t setting up a guideline for civil disobedience, and he wasn’t even really commenting on what taxes were fair or unfair, or on what one’s relationship with oppressors should be.

He was simply outmaneuvering those “enemies” of His who disagreed with His theology, morals, and ethics, and who feared losing their power. They were trying to avoid Jesus’ prophetic condemnation of their unholy ways by trapping him into making a politically dangerous statement, hence using the political system to do their dirty work. (Eventually, they succeeded, because Jesus refused to play the game.) But Jesus here beat them at their own game. He didn’t fall into the trap ….. and the Pharisees were left standing there with the bright yolk of hypocrisy on their faces.

What the Gospel does, if you honour It’s holiness, is organize your priorities. I have said for several decades that I am first a citizen of The Kingdom of God, and secondarily of earthly “kingdoms”. I believe that it is constitutionally my duty, as a last resort, to “burn the flag” if the government refuses to permit me to honour the ways of God before the ways of Wo(men), or fails to do so itself. Silently accepting the cross was Jesus’ way of “burning the flag” as a last protest against society’s rejection of God’s Love, Compassion, and Justice.

In side-stepping the trap by refusing to give the Pharisees a political weapon against Him, He attempted to get them to see that in not listening to His just, compassionate, and loving words they were betraying their God. Alas, this usually only stokes anger in the hypocritical, not repentance. I see this in America today: those who have oppressed and deprived the poor, increased their wealth and power by raw chicanery, and even been caught at it, are stoking the same fury that got Jesus crucified.

Love, justice, compassion, humility, peace, respecting “the dignity of every human being” (Baptismal Rite of the Book of Common Prayer), “Whatsoever is good” ….. these come first. Not “Caesar”.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Oct 17, 2008

Education is what remains after one has
forgotten what one has learned in school.

- Albert Einstein, refugee from Nazi Germany,
arrived in America, 1933

I remember very little of the detail of what I read ….. including the Bible. Movies, novels, everything. This has always been true; it has almost nothing to do with my present age. (Except, strangely enough, hymns and other music, the words of which I can usually sing from memory, including the songs my mother used to play and sing at the piano.)

I had what I consider to be a great education. It “led me out” ….. which is of course the Latin root and meaning of the word “education”. It annoys me sometimes that I can’t spout quotes and phrases of the things I’ve read and seen ….. though I realize that this is just pride and a desire to “lord it over” others.

I am, however, extremely well educated. What ever my 17 years of formal education did, it launched me out into the exploration of Life. It has never abated. The details may not be lodged in a file in my brain waiting to be quoted at the brilliant moment. But my education led me to absorb all kinds of ideas - and they became part of my Being and they have permitted me to think things out for myself and express them fairly well, if somewhat verbosely. Yea!

Education which focuses in training a person to “make a living” and fit into the job market is ….. a total waste. I learned by heart the chronology of the Kings of Israel and Judah to pass the ordination exams ….. but it makes little difference to being a priest if I can’t see the meaning and lessons in their lives. Unless education draws you to new things, develops an “inquiring mind” a la Dorothy Parker, one might as well have played hooky and enjoyed those years a la Huck Finn. (Though Huck had a great education!)

The “Holy Spirit” is the Great Educator. She leads us out into new universes of Thought and Wonder. The Episcopal Church, unlike many other churches, is a pupil of the Holy Spirit. Hence my choice.

I’ve forgotten what I learned in school. My education has never stopped, and my Life is fascinating.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Oct 16, 2008

By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us
in touch with the ignorance of the community.

- Oscar Wilde, author, born on this day, 1854

There is a website that has quotes from various people which I use a lot. Wilde has 205 ….. FAR more than anyone else I can think of, including Jesus, any Pope, Einstein, Muhammad, etc. Hmmmmm.

Not that I listen, but I think of Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura, Ralph Reed, and others of that ilk. Blasting out things over the airwaves. To …..God forgive me ….. the uneducated and the ignorant, to whom (I believe) such people pander - and this includes so-called ”educated” people living in cultural goldfish bowls. Oh, I’m not criticizing those who have not had the opportunity for an honest education - and there are many in the very restricted American concept of “education”. I’m criticizing those who use their journalistic “arts” to impose bigotry on the susceptible.

Journalism is a pandering “art”. In my experience, given a very few exceptions, journalism is not about education, or about broadening the outlook of people. It is about making money ….. like so much else in society. You make money by pandering to peoples’ smallness of mind, by sucking up to their prejudices and their narrowness. And of course this only creates self-perpetuating pockets of ignorance.

This is what the “Church” has done with the Gospel. Made it into a propagandist pandering to the small mind, promoting ignorance of the sublime meaning of the Gospel. Using it to set communities against one another by promoting a profound ignorance of the true nature and character of God. Is it any wonder that Christians are experiencing “persecution” in India by the Hindus these days? Not to me, considering the overwhelmingly negative, destructive things that Christians have done to peoples of other faiths over the centuries, including utter disrespect for other faiths. While I condone no such violence, I am not surprised in the least. And I think Christianity “deserves” it. I hope we can learn the lesson.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Oct 15, 2008

To have courage for whatever comes in life
- everything lies in that.

- Theresa of Avila, on her feast day

The opposite of this is fear. And I am always struck by the number of times in the Gospel that Jesus shows up somewhere and says, “Fear not.” Angels do too.

The word “courage” has its roots in the Latin word for heart, cor. Remember the Cowardly Lion?? He gets a medal marked “Courage” – and the lion is often a symbol for Christ ….. remember Aslan?

Having Courage means that you might be afraid ….. there are lots of things that produce fear in us! ….. but you act anyway. You Take Heart.

Life is full of challenging stuff that comes our way, some just annoying, some deeply serious. We can either live in fear, in avoidance ….. which almost always leads to victimhood and misery. Or, we can make the decision to take things Head On. Deal with them. I have to admit that I’m a pretty good Avoider. Alas! But I’m getting a little better at Courage.

It’s better. Especially if you take all the help you can get.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Oct 14, 2008

The older I get, the more I believe in what I can't explain or understand,
even more than the things that are explainable and understandable.

- Lillian Gish, actress, born on this day, 1893, in Springfield Ohio

Me too! Only it started a long time ago for me. At the Liturgy on Sunday, I was reflecting on the Mystery of Divinity incarnate in each human being. Oh, there are people who have written on this subject eloquently, but I wasn’t getting very far, I thought, in being articulate about this whole concept. It has a lot to do with language. What I say does not resonate in the same way with those hearing me. We all have different filters, different brains, that interpret things in mysterious ways.

I can’t explain myself. Let alone you. Yet the older I get, the more I believe in myself. And in the You’s. The older I get, the more mysterious, the more inexplicable, the more un-understandable human beings become. And to me that makes them/us more interesting ….. if not also more annoying and frustrating!

Biblical literalists think that that approach makes God, let alone Life and humanity, more explicable and more understandable. Wrong. It makes all those things shallow and dull and boring.

The older I get, the more mysterious is masculinity, femininity, human nature, sexuality, “God”, the Universe, feelings, emotions, prayer, physics, music, art.

I like it that way. I embrace more, fear less, appreciate difference and changing understanding.

America could do with a good dose of this. Maybe an epidemic will break out, and we’ll all enjoy it all more?


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, October 13, 2008

Zip. Nada. Rien. Nothing.

- Queen Jane of England (formerly Lady
Jane Grey), for 9 days, born on this day,

Sic transit Gloria mundi.

Fleeting is Life. We think, Oh, 90 years!! (Maybe – if you aren’t hit by the proverbial bus. Or cancer. Or gene disorder. Or, if you live in 9/10th of the World, failure of life support.) And then 90 years is up, and it’s zipped by, and now what? (I always remember my mother saying how, as she got older, the time just flew by faster.) I’m 62. And it seems like just Yesterday it all started. I think of the Beatles’ song: Yesterday / All my troubles seemed so far away / Now it looks as though they’re here to stay / Oh, I believe in Yesterday.

All my troubles seemed so far away
. But Troubles await. I have really been thinking about this, dealing with cancer etc. And thinking about the “Wisdom” that we learn from all sorts of sources on this Earthly journey. I am guilty of “worrying”. Oh God, what’s coming! Then I think of the little wisdom – Who by worrying …..

And the real question of “faith” (it isn’t just “religious”; it’s at the core of a thinking human being) IS: How shall I understand this?

Mortality forces us to come to grips with what it means to “be alive”, and with how shall we head into the wind.

I have decided that every challenge to mortality requires me to ask, What does it mean …. to Live. Someone once said, Live today as if it were the last day of your Life.

Yes. The Gospel Path has taught me that “the day” is a metaphor for Eternity. Every day that we live is a microcosm of All-That-was-And-Ever-Shall-Be.

Lived this way, you pack it with every meaningful thought, action, laughter, sadness, compassion that you can muster.

And you “die” content.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Oct 11/12, 2008

If it has to choose who is to be crucified,
the crowd will always save Barabbas.

- Jean Cocteau, artist, who died on this day (Oct 11), 1963

What’s the old adage about “killing the messenger”?? When we are in our “crowd” mentality, we human beings use the crowd anonymity to hide behind ….. that is, to abdicate personal responsibility and pander to our fears, our less-than-honourable, less than noble temptations. Very often, that “crowd” can be manipulated by leaders for their own dishonourable wiles. One thinks of the German people under Hitler. Of the Israelites before Pilate. I also think of us, the American people, under an imperial president and leadership, manipulating our fears to their own enriching ends.

Choosing Barabbas is, of course, a metaphor, or a very succinct parable. It’s very easy to be herded. The results are usually disastrous. Ethnic cleansing, genocide, or the scapegoating of some feared “minority”. And to the diminishment of our own humanity.

One of the readings for the Liturgy tomorrow is from the Letter to the Church in Philippi. It holds these words: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” [4:8]

Think about these things.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Oct 10, 2008

….. the king was killed after a term of seven years, or, if the crops or prosperity
of the herds failed before that term, even earlier ….. The king was strangled
and buried with a living virgin at his side. And, when the two bodies had rotted,
their bones were gathered into the hide of a bull. A year later the new king was
named, and on the predecessor's grave, cattle were speared to death by the hundred.

- “Primitive Mythology”, Joseph Campbell, speaking of ancient
Sudanese practice

To make sure that the crops grew to feed the people, and that the cattle multiplied. To “preserve” the people. To “save” the people. The King Must Die.

I am in awe of human beings. Of their imagination. Of their “understanding” that the Supreme Leader was responsible for the preservation of Life. You see it in every religion and “faith”. Sometimes it is acted out – either in ancient times or even now! – sometimes literally, sometimes symbolically. Does it surprise you that Christianity has a “myth” of a “king” being put to death on a cross so that “the people may live”?? So that Life will go on?? Let’s not be stupid here. Human beings have pondered the question of how Life is preserved for millennia. There is no culture that has not produced some method of expressing how Life is preserved. Human beings millennia ago were no less intelligent that we are today.

Preserving Life. This is what the Cross is about. Human beings are basically of an “animal” nature. But we (so says the Bible) are destined for a “spiritual” nature, i.e., “mature” humanity. Jesus chooses the Cross in order to be faithful to the Path which He knows leads to unity with all that “God” is and we are meant to be. He renounces an identity based on “earthly” values and chooses an identity based on Divine character/nature.

Folks, this is the path to Glory. To Joy. To contentment. To Peace. To Freedom. At His baptism, Jesus understands that He is One with God. He is challenged, tempted, to renounce this path. He struggles, but He refuses. He dies ….. but is given the gift of Life.

This is the Way, folks. Though we die, yet shall we live. The Paradox, the Mystery. No matter if it eludes the mind. We live from the intimations of the Heart.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Oct 9, 2008

Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one.

- John Lennon, Beatle, born on this day, 1940
[ note: Sean Oko Lennon, his son, was born on this day, 1975]

Ohhhhhhh, Oh O, Oh OOOO Oh! Can’t you just hear it??!! The song, I mean.

If you have a minute or two today, focus. Focus on Peace. Be a Dreamer. There must be a lot of us, yes?

Noon today, whichever time zone you are in: Stop, Centre, Focus on the reign of Peace throughout the World.

Then: do whatever we can to extend Peace around us. One greeting. One contribution. One Smile. Intent is worthless without a deed, just as Faith is dead without works.

John also said: I'm not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I've always been a freak. So I've been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I'm one of those people.

Me too. I believe in Justice, Fairness, Acceptance, Compassion. Unity.

Rise, Freaks of the World!


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Oct 8, 2008

It is time for us to turn to each other,
not on each other.

- Jesse Jackson, born on this day, 1941

I have forgiven Jesse for that tacky comment made about Senator Obama. All human beings are susceptible to envy, or to bitterness, or to projection. But his comment was helpful for one thing: to remind us how the Ego and the desire for recognition and glory get in the way of achieving one’s passionate beliefs and goals for humankind. Whoever it was that said something like It doesn’t matter who gets the credit as long as your purpose is achieved was on the money.

This is a time in the World where we are turning on each other. And the reasons are very complicated. I read and I read, and at times I am in utter despair that I simply can’t seem to grasp WHY we are doing this to each other! Something inside me screams to comprehend the Big Picture, to have some clear mental grasp of why we human beings are hating and destroying each other. I quite understand that’s it’s too simplistic to say greed or fear or …… whatever. But I have a real problem looming here. I have believed for a very long time in the Christian (and other religion’s) Myth that human beings are essentially Good, like the Mystery of God. Now, I am beginning to doubt. And this is very frightening. If I succumb to this, it means that I will have to change my whole idea about how I relate to my fellow human beings.

I have agreed to be on a panel, with three other clergy from differing Christian denominations, to talk about the California Proposition 8, where voting NO will uphold the California Supreme Court decision that denying marriage to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. The focus of this panel, I am assured, is to provide perspective and information, not to debate who is right and who is wrong.

I am determined to make this – at least for me – a moment in which I practice what Jesse Jackson says: to turn to each other, not on each other, in order to support the Gospel values of justice and of love.

Pray for me.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, October 7, 2008

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail
of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not
appreciate your neutrality.

- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, servant and prophet, born on this day, 1931

Fair and reasonable. That is one of the meanings of just.

One of the great problems with institutionalized religion is that it often moves away from it’s founding principles - just as had happened with the American Constitution and Bill of Rights. I think one of the things that drew me to the Anglican/Episcopal Church as a young person was it’s clear witness that it’s polity was based on Scripture, Tradition, and …. Reason.

Oppression is the weapon of the ones with power. In our time, right now, those with power and wealth throughout the World, most often in collusion with the political power elite (together, the elephant) have succeeded in standing on the tail of the vast majority of us mice with a few bucks trying to make a living. (Yes, in this we share some responsibility.) Whatever we are forced to do to keep the whole shebang from collapsing, the elephant must be held accountable for our tail. This is just, reasonable, fair.

If many of us are hurting today and into the future by the unjust greed of the manipulators of money in our world today, may it at least remind us of one thing.

Human beings all over the world are being ground down, oppressed, dehumanized, and enslaved by injustice ….. by all kinds of powerful masters. You know who they are.

They will not appreciate our neutrality.

Nor will the God who said in the Bible, Let justice roll down like rivers.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Oct 6, 2008

There is no happiness for people
at the expense of other people.

- Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt,
assassinated on this day, 1981

I could dredge up a million quotes from people of every walk of life who make Sadat’s point ….. politically, psychologically, mystically, religiously, philosophically, etc.

I am definitely basically a Jungian. I deeply “believe in” the Collective Unconscious. We ….. and all that IS ….. are interwoven and connected with each other. Part of each other. Part of humanity and of the stars and of the seas and of the Earth. What we think, do, affirm, hate, support, value deeply affects everything else. No wonder we are in such a chaotic state! It isn’t because of our Diversity. It’s because we see Diversity as a threat. It is a threat to “I”; but it isn’t a threat to “We”.

Balance is what we need. Individuality is important. Uniqueness is “god-given”. But what is individuality for? Isolation? Or is it for taking one’s place, brilliantly, strongly, in the one fabric of Life?

I think the latter.

The human community will only founder in heartbreak and in pain as long as there are scapegoats, on whom we can cast the sin of our isolation and the loneliness of our delusion of disconnectedness. What we cast our unhappiness on, thinking it will wander into the desert and carry away the consequences of our un-love, will always return to haunt us.

There IS no happiness for people at the expense of other people.

This is a Truth woven into Reality. There is no exception, on any level. To think there is ….. is Delusion.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, Oct 3, 2008

I want my flowers while I'm alive.

- Chubby Checker, born on this day, 1941

And we should all have them! Flowers while I am alive. I propose a “new” cultural tradition. Well, maybe an old one too. Birthdays. But birthday celebrations should be specifically a day of Flowers While I Am Alive. Every year. We all need them! We should have, like the Hobbits, several birthday celebrations during the year. And on those days, we will tell the Birthday Girl/Boy how FABULOUS they are! Not lying, of course. And there are other appropriate times when we should tell each other, in love, the “hard” things we need to hear in order not to go “off the track”.

But. The most important thing we all need to know as human beings is that we deserve flowers for keeping on keeping on. This human things ain’t easy. We all deserve friends who remind us how loved we are. This helps us to strive to be our best.

Who’s birthday is it - or, even if it isn’t their birthday - today or tomorrow? Send them metaphorical Flowers – there is no other better thing that we can do for those we care about.

God does it every nano-second - at least the “God” I know!


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Oct 2, 2008

I think love has something to do with allowing
a person you claim to love to enter a larger arena
than the one you create for them.

I was brought up as a Catholic and went to church
every week and took the sacraments. It never really
touched the core of my being.

- Sting, musician, born on this day, 1951, in England

I like Sting’s music ….. mostly. From what I read, though, of his thoughts, I’m not sure I would want to spend much time with him. But then, Sting is quoted as saying, “I realize that nothing’s as it seems.” Now, that’s as true a reality as anyone ever spoke!

The vicar of the church where Dennis and I worship, and the four other priests including myself who assist there, were meeting today. Good talk together. One thing we agreed on was that the Episcopal Church is a sacramental church, and that this is critical to our identity. I have often said to people that one of the great blessings of a sacramental church is simply this: that if everything else is unappetizing on any given day of worship ….. sermon, people, music, etc ….. you at least always come away having been soul-glutted on Life and Love, poured out by God, that Great Tea-granny of the Universe. Unless you’re fatally self-shut-down, the Eucharist never fails to bring you back to Life. It is a sad thing to think that Sting was so badly “taught” in his sacramental church that it never touched the core of his being. I was touched, age 19, and it changed my destiny.

Perhaps Sting did, however, get “touched”. I’d like to think so. What he says about love is spot on. The Mystery I call God never seeks to put me in a box, force me to be anything I am not, fairly pushes me out of the false Edens in which I think I would like to languish, and requires me to enter a larger arena than the one my un-self-respecting nature often sinks me in. Oh, I know: many people read the story of the expulsion from the mythical Garden as the work of a nasty God. I don’t. I see it as God making sure that we confront our reality and rise to the challenge. Every step of the way, God, like Jesus on the road to Emmaus, walks, often unrecognized, ready to open our unseeing eyes. Love sets free.

If Sting’s church was unfaithful in its sacramental nature, distracted by other agendas, may it be forgiven. Happily, it has been my experience that Sacraments have a way of transcending human abuse.