Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, February 26, 2009

Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile
on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath
her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.

- Victor Hugo, author, poet, dramatist, born on this
day, 1802

Victor Hugo also said, “A faith is a necessity to a (wo)man. Woe to him (her) who believes in nothing.” “Faith” could be anything, of course. But whatever it is, it must be Life-affirming. It can be a philosophy. A belief. A religion. A dream. A Vision. A Hope.

These are what give us wings. I think of the Gospel parable about building one’s house on sand or on solid rock. We human beings have a great penchant for choosing sand, choosing idols in which we put or trust – and like the “boughs too slight” they eventually give way. As a World society, we have put our trust yet again on the idol of Money – and we all are finding that idol disintegrating before our eyes, in the form of a collapsing World economy. Cries of pain are everywhere.

But those who have built their house on rock discover that when the sand flushes away, they are able to sing. They rise on wings of “faith”.

If you lack one, find a Life-affirming faith. Life is rife with “boughs too slight” to get us through this very challenging Mystery.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009

How frail the human heart must be - a mirrored pool of thought.

- Sylvia Plath, poet, who met her poet husband Ted Hughes
On this day in London, 1956.

I have read Sylvia Plath. In many ways, exquisite in her mastery of words, and in her expression of feelings. Overpowering at times. But, as to the human heart and its frailty, I don’t disagree with her, I just think that it is not always the case. The human heart can be desperately frail. But. In my view, the human heart is powerful, and strong, and resilient.

Think about your own heart. Think of all the assaults it has withstood. Think of all the times you have thought that your heart would be ripped apart and destroyed. And then you found that it was not so. It might have taken some time. But one’s heart can rebound, from the worst of assaults.

The key to this resiliency of the heart is the knowledge that one is loved. Loved beyond all the “changes and chances of this mortal life” that assail us. And this is why Christians have the “God” they have. (Or, some Christians anyway.) We, and many other religionists, have the intuitive intelligence to know what we need to survive being human with zest and courage and confidence. Christians have a “God” whose ultimate nature is “Unconditional Love”. We know that no matter how much we have “screwed up” (if I may quote our President), we can move beyond. The heart can be so susceptible to crushing injustice and callousness! But if we know that we are unconditionally loved, then even when all the vulnerability of our heart is exposed, we cannot be destroyed. We know that we can reflect the tender thoughts and feelings we have, as in a “mirrored pool of thought” – as we must! - and that we will not be destroyed.

Religion is fraught with problems. But – bottom line – the Gospel anchors us in God’s Unconditional Love. Wrapped in this, our hearts shall never fail, nor be conquered.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The sun will not rise or set without my notice, and thanks.

- Winslow Homer, American painter, born on this day, 1836

What a lovely quote! I find it just delightful - and these days, it is indeed a delight to find a charming quote that lifts the spirit. It does mine!

So, I don’t have much to say. I would like to think that Homer lived by this sentiment. And I want to live by its charming and very human longing.

What a better way to live Life than to awake every morning and say to the Universe, “I will not let the sun rise or set without my notice, or thanks.” That is going to be my morning thought on awaking for awhile!

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, February 23, 2009

Believe in life! Always human beings will live and
progress to greater, broader, and fuller life.

- W. E. B. DuBois, American sociologist and
co-founder of the N.A.A.C.P., born on this
day, 1868

Whad’ya think? I guess if one can take the “long view” and be accepting of minute “advances” (as well as constant reversions that last long times and can be particularly violent or discouraging), and that the advances will happen here and there on different issues, then maybe the second part of Dubois’s comment is “true”. Unfortunately, “organized religion” is often one of the major factors holding back the advances – though to be fair, often specific and remarkable religious leaders pop up to lead towards “greater, broader, fuller life”.

Ultimately, whatever the played-out realities are, it seems to me that we must take up and live by positions or principles of faith or belief, flying in the face of “the facts”. So, the World may be a seemingly hopeless mess at the moment on practically all levels. We (I, anyway!) could just give up, crawl into our shell, make the best of it, and let the whole thing go to hell in a handbasket.

Or: we can choose to “Believe in Life”. Fly in the face of all the negative stuff. Do our best to be part of the solution. Be satisfied with very small steps. And keep the “long view”.

Sounds like a plan.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Feb 22, 2009

[Elijah responded to Elisha, who asked for a double share of Elijah’s spirit] "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not." ….. a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. [2 Kings 2]

It is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God [2 Cor 4]

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them … [Mark 9]

- from the readings for the Last Sunday of Epiphany (and before Lent)

In this Hebrew myth, why did Elisha have to see Elijah go up in the chariot? What is the meaning of that? What does it say to us about Elisha being granted “a double share” of Elisha’s spirit? What is the message to us?

Why did Jesus take the Three up to the Mount?? Why was it important that they see Jesus “transfigured”, in the company of Moses, the symbol of the Law of God’s hesed, lovingkindness, and of Elijah, the symbol of God’s prophetic message of God’s covenantal unconditional Love? What is the message to us?

The message, to me, is simple. We human beings cannot experience our Oneness with “God” until we have seen and been enthralled by the vision of the great Mystery that is “God”. We don’t get “a double portion”, we don’t understand that we are One with “God” in Christ, until we see the fullness of the Mystery. Elisha saw that Elijah was “Devine;” Peter James and John saw that Jesus was “Devine” - that is, One with the Mystery of the Source of Life.

This is our destiny. To be One with the Devine. If we only see the mythological “Elijah”, if we only see the mythological “Jesus”, as human beings, our hearts and minds and spirits will not be called out into our destiny - full humanity.

“God’s” light “shines out in darkness” (2 Cor) revealing the glory of “God”. And of us. Like Elisha, and like Peter, James and John, we have seen the Light.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, February 20, 2009

To be united with the Lord of Love
Is to be freed from all conditioning.
This is the state of Self-realization,
Far beyond the reach of words and thoughts.
To be united with the Lord of Love,
Imperishable, changeless, beyond cause
And effect, is to find infinite joy.

Tejabindu Upanishad (Hindu)

This is where it’s “at”. Christians call it the “Unitive Way”. Other religions have a similar ultimate goal. Now, tell me this: how many times have you heard “the Unitive Way”, or “to be united with the Lord of Love” in your own worship context?? How many times have you heard a sermon about It? How many times have you been told that you are here in a worship service so that you can advance along the Unitive Way? Unless you are in a very unusual worship setting, I’d guess about maybe once – if that.

And yet, this is what “religion” should be all about! The word means “to be re-tied”. Re-tied to, becoming One again, with the Source of Life. My perception is that, in many places, people are getting sick of “religion” – where “religion” is about being “moral”, keeping your life ethically “tidy”, being responsible, and of course “supporting your church financially”. But there will be little energy in all that if the heart of religion is being ignored: “To be united with the Lord of Love”.

Religion is essentially about Transformation, about “transfiguration”. Many of the Eastern Orthodox” got it right; the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus is about as big a feast as Easter! Alas, the problem is, most of us don’t want to be transfigured! We like the devil we know – especially is we live in a part of the World where we are among the top 3% of lifestyle and comfort. We all know that fervent religion grows among people who have less of the World’s comforts – but alas, it usually drags bitterness and intolerance and a shriveled soul along with it.

“God” is indeed “far beyond the reach of words and thoughts”. But indeed, “infinite joy” is only found if the primary goal and yearning is to be “united with the Lord of Love”.

Are you a follower of a religion? If so, be sure it is one anchored in Oneness with the Lord of Love. All the rest will fall in line.

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Little something to relax the Mind and Heart!! (I know this is “weird”! But, every now and then, I am moved to do something different.

When you get this Reflection, give yourself a minute or two, that’s all. Breathe deeply. Relax. Feel a part of the Universe, of all Beings seeking Peace. You will feel better!

Click on this (or paste it in your browzer); Stop it when you are ready: (the site is of Shirdi Sai Baba, a 20th C. Indian “saint”, renowned for his unconditional love, and for his belief that religion is not a barrier to universal brother/sisterhood.)

I hope you have a calm, peaceful, day.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why cling to one life

till it is soiled and ragged?

The sun dies and dies

squandering a hundred lived

every instant.

God has decreed life for you

and He will give 

another and another and another.

- Rumi, Sufi poet

Ah Rumi! Rumi always calms me down. Such elegance! Such calm! Such sense!

I am going to use this poem in my sermon on the first Sunday of Lent. It’s perfect for looking at what Lent is all about.

The Sun. What a great image, symbol, metaphor! For what? For “God”. “God” is always giving of Life, “squandering” Life, pouring it out, so that the “rest of us” can have Life. That’s the kind of “God” that Human Beings have conceived of, written out, artistically represented. Human Beings have always wondered where the energy of Life comes from; how many “lives” we have; what the nature and character of Life is.

There is the Sun, consuming energy like crazy, yet continuing to generate energy, light, heat. And best of all, making Life possible in all varieties and shapes and sizes. Giving off energy, “dying”, so that the Earth and all its inhabitants can have Life. And we understand: this is a description of “God”, flowing out of our brains.

Worry not friends! I have no idea if there are “another and another and another” of Lives, as in “reincarnation” (and frankly, I don’t care). But I do know that every single day, “God” gives a Life “another after another after another”. Every time we let go of all the things that drag us back from the sheer exilharation of Living, of all the negativity and venality and self-destructiveness, one Life dies and another Life is given.

We need to learn not to cling to “one life until it is soiled and ragged”. “God” does not want us to have “soiled and ragged” lives. We need to learn to let go, minute by minute, of all the things (sin included!) that hold us back from Life.

Get it!? It’s certainly what “God” is all about.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, February 17, 2009

There are two ways, one of life and one of death,
and there is a great difference between the two ways.

- from the Didache – the Teachings of the
Apostles, (50-120 CE) trans., J. B. Lightfoot

Bottom line, starkly put, that is the choice we have. This very early Greek document just holds up the mirror for us. Have you ever read Ursula LeGuin’s “The Tombs of Atuan”?? It does the same thing, so beautifully written that you can feel the dust of the Way of Death seeping into you, as the wizard Ged wrestles with the Priestess of the Tombs who guards a religion that has lost its way on the roads of Death.

It reminds me much of our own days. To me, people are being cheery (in the places they are free to be cheery!) about “religion”; Americans are especially good at it. But the religion that gets into the media, that we see being played out, seems to me marked by Death. I see the pictures (why, oh why, do I watch these things!!??) of the Taliban, fresh from burning down girls’ schools, as the Pakistani government appeases them by letting them trump Pakistani law with the imposition of Sharia, and the dust of a religion dead at it’s heart but still a walking deathlike spectre looms and leers in the TV camera. Or I watch the pope “rehabilitating” a Holocaust denier – same thing. Ancient Buddhist statues being blown up. Hindus and Muslims burning each others’ temples. Gayfolk being killed by toppling walls on them; fundamentalist “Christian” evangelicals waving “God Hates Fags” banners. Countless more images flit through my mind. Death. The Way of Death.

The Way of Life is indeed different. In the Christian Myth, Jesus/God died in the face of the Way of Death. But He had chosen the Way of Life – for all. The God of the Way of Life returned Life to Him – the implication being, to all of us as well.

I suspect I won’t live to see the Way of Death rejected. It will be awhile. Regardless, I want to choose the Way of Life, in whatever little way I can. I’ll be looking for any support I can get!


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, February 16, 2009

I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating...
because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition.

- Fidel Castro, who became Premier of Cuba on this day, 1959

Now. There are countless words that one could substitute for the word “capitalism” in this quote. And then, with all of them, you could substitute the word “attractive” for “repugnant”. And for all of them, you could change “filthy, gross, and alienating” to something like “fresh, enlightening, and intriguing”. Last, but not least, you could change “war, hypocrisy, and competition” to, say, “peace, honesty, and cooperation”.

Right? Give it a try!

I am going to do it by substituting “capitalism” with “religion”. Oh, I admit that there are probably a lot of religious people doing what I would consider to be promoting peace, honesty, and cooperation - though I’m not sure what a “lot” would be in proportion to the number of “religious” people in the World. One example: we have a young woman “missionary” from our diocese working with the Sudanese people simply because out of her love for God and God’s people she is helping them with agricultural projects. However, I would bet that a great many people today see or experience “religion” promoting war, hypocrisy, and competition. Islam, Judaism/Jewish nationalism, and Christianity have certainly not been in the vanguard recently (especially amongst their hierarchies and the fanatical margins, which have been permitted to hijack their identities and message) in promoting peace, honesty and cooperation – at least in the “popular” mind.

The point is, whether it’s capitalism, religion, or whatever, anything can be used to promote either things that bless or things that curse Humankind. It all depends on what motivates our positions, politically, theologically, morally, philosophically. If Christians stuck to Christ’s New Commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you”, in the spirit in which Christ meant it, it wouldn’t matter what political system we followed. Love would define it. Not power, or any other abuse.

My own gut feeling is that in the World today, for a multitude of reasons, religions and political systems have lost their hearts. Fidel said he admired Jesus. Too bad he didn’t really know Jesus. And it is my view that many World leaders who profess to know Jesus don’t know Him at all, or certainly don’t act as if they do.

Change is possible. We need to believe in it and work for it.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend (Sat, Feb 14, 2009)

But [Naaman’s] servants approached and said to him, "Father, if the prophet had
commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much
more, when all he said to you was, 'Wash, and be clean'?" So he went down and
immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God;
his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

- The cleansing of Naaman [2 Kings 5, of the Hebrew Scriptures]

Wonderful story! Naaman, head of the army of the King of Aram, has leprosy. He learns about the prophet Elisha, that he could cure him. He goes to Elisha, and Elisha tells him to go bathe in the Jordan seven times and he will be cured. Haughtily and angrily, Naaman says he has better rivers at home, and storms off. But his servants – bless them! – say those profound words: “"Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, 'Wash, and be clean'?" He listens; he goes; he’s healed of the leprosy.

A lesson for us all, yes? Whatever “healing” we want, from whatever oppressive physical, mental, emotional, etc illness we have, we are willing to jump through the hoops (most of us). Horrible chemo, drugs for depression that can have terrible side effects, etc. But if someone says to us simply, speaking to the deepest level where healing must start, “Love yourself”, we storm off.

Loving ourselves as God loves us, unconditionally and fully and with generosity, is a simple thing to core happiness and joy in Life – but so often we forget that unless we love ourselves, jumping through other complex hoops in order to be whole and well will not work. Wholeness and wellness starts with love for self, other, and the great Mystery at the heart of Life.

May you have many “servants” in your Life who, at the moments of our proud rejection of offers of help, say simply, “Wash, and be clean”. There our restoration begins.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, February 13, 2009

Literally thousands of wonderful friends have accompanied
me in life, and many now await me in the secret eternity
to come. I have enjoyed the long voyage.

- Ansel Adams, photographer, philosopher

I think about the “secret eternity to come” every now and then. It is not a preoccupation for me. Theologically I believe, in pondering the meaning of the mythological death and resurrection of Jesus, that we no longer live in “Time”. I – and we all – live in a Time without any distinctions of “past, present, and future”. I NOW exist in “the secret eternity to come”. My gut and my heart confirm this.

So, where are those “thousands of wonderful friends” who have “accompanied me in Life”? I do not believe they are “waiting” for me. I know they are beside me. They are never absent from me. Well do I remember my brother calling me to tell me that our mother had died. (She had called him that night, asked him to come over. She asked him to “come and sit by your dying Mother”. Shortly after he went back home, he was called and told that Mum had died. He then called me, about 3 or 4 in the morning; I was asleep.)

After I hung up, I was vibrantly aware of her. I “spoke” to her as I lay and pondered, for many hours. I thought about our odd relationship: I left home at age 21 to become a monk, and saw her and the rest of my family perhaps once a year. For hours I lay in bed and thought about her. Then, I get up and went to my computer. I organized the liturgy for her funeral, and wrote my eulogy/sermon. In the morning, I called her sisters, made arrangements to get them to the funeral, made tea, and sat thinking of this interesting, somewhat unknown human being, and her contribution to Life, and to my Life. But I was intensely aware that she was with me – that the “secret eternity to come” was right then and there.

The “eternity to come” is indeed a kind of “secret”. But the “secret” is that Eternity is Now. Always Now. We are never without those we have known. They “await” – but what they await is not some distant time after Death. They await for us to sense their lively Presence. Then they become newly alive, and accompany us from that moment on. Never has my mother left me. We walk together.

I have enjoyed – and I continue to enjoy – the “long Journey”. No one has left. We walk together. And shall into Eternity.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, Feb 12, 2009

If I were a Palestinian of the right age, I'd
eventually join one of the terrorist organizations.

- Ehud Barak, 10th PM of Israel,
born on this day, 1942

So. Do you understand any of this?? I, frankly, don’t. Are we (the Human Race) going through some kind of cyclical revulsion?? Do we have to go through this on some regular basis? Times when we try to expel the violence and hate and fear and rage that builds up in the World’s nations and communities and religions? Barak was right: things get so bleak that we can understand our enemies, why they do what they do – and what happens to us in the process.

Is there any solution to the Middle East? Or to the horror that has engulfed the World? Ethnic cleansing – what a sanitary term for the horror of hacking to death the “other”! Rape and murder and cruelty. And let me tell you, it’s the cruelty that stuns me. And all this talk about "religions" that are supposed to make us better people, make us "like" the God is Compassion and Justice! What nonsense! When human beings get to the point that they can mutilate millions of fellow human beings without seeming awareness of the utter horror of their behaviour, with no revulsion at the pain and slaughter – this is when I begin to lose hope. Oh, it doesn’t just display itself “elsewhere”. Oh no. The American administration of the last eight years – those representing us, the American people, SO professedly Christian – has led the way with their torture and renditions and neglect of the poor and sick and starving.

I am so enraged by the way that Gayfolk are still mistreated and denied rights and gay-bashed in this land that I confess I have had fantasies and literal dreams of becoming a Gay Guerrilla and returning the violence. Luckily only my upbringing in and commitment to the Gospel saves me from a descent into violence.

Barak understands (I take from what he says) what drives us into violence.

If anyone knows what can stop the cycle we are in, please let me know.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, Feb 11, 2009

To straighten the crooked
You must first do a harder thing-
Straighten yourself.

You are your only master.
Who else?
Subdue yourself,
And discover your master.

-from the Dhammapada
From "Teachings of the Buddha,"
edited by Jack Kornfield, 1993.

“You are your only master. Who else?” I don’t know about you, but I find this a liberating and thrilling statement. I guess what I find so attractive about it is that it “lacks guile”, as Jesus said of Nathaniel. By which I mean, there is no hint of controlling behaviour in the statement. And I absolutely believe, having meditated on the Scriptures, that the essence of “God” lacks any propensity for Control. This pisses people off! A lot of people want “God” to be controlling. For a very selfish reason. If “God” is seen as “in control”, then we don’t have to be responsible. That’s what made Flip Wilson’s schtick so perfect! We could blame “the devil” for our rejection of responsibility.

But. To be fully Human is to be Responsible. It’s a corollary of Being. We soar as Persons – “on eagles’ wings” - when we accept Responsibility for everything we do, think, act on. This is “to be like God”. Can you imagine “God” not accepting Responsibility for Her behaviour? Of course not. It is incompatible with Deity.

Jesus constantly challenged people to take Responsibility. He never forced anything on anyone. Annoyingly, He didn’t force the Pharisees or anyone else. He simply opened up a path for them to look at their behaviour and make some adjustments. What Perfect Love!

Oh. It’s hard to live this way. But, one major reason for being part of a “church” is to learn, through the intimacy and commitment and faithfulness of Christian Community, how to see our avoidances of self-responsibility and move “off the dime” to acceptance of our godlike nature.

“You are your only master. Who else?” Like Jesus, every one of us finds ourself in a Garden of Gethsemane on a regular basis. Jesus had freely to choose the path of Love, and we do too. Refusal to do so is to abdicate the glory of being Human.

To “subdue ourself” means simply to say No to that part of us that wants to relinquish our Humanity. It is then that we know the glory of who we truly are.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009

Few people know that they are loved without any conditions or limits.

- Henri Nouwen, from his book “In the Name of Jesus”

This is one of the deepest reasons why human beings invented God. To know that we are “loved without any conditions or limits”. We absolutely need to know this. It is the foundation of being able to function as a person in the World. We human beings know that no human being can love us unconditionally – but most of us can only function with the knowledge of this character of Love which “passeth all understanding”. We absolutely need to know that our sense of loveliness and worth does NOT reside in the opinion of other human beings. Including our own opinion of ourself.

“God” knows that we need to know this. And so “God” has led us to the creation in our own psyche of such a loving God.

But: let’s not get confused here. Being loved unconditionally does NOT mean that who we are now and how we behave is acceptable. “Life” is about transformation. We are meant, destined, compelled to develop and grow. It may be in a spiral, with much too-ing and fro-ing as we climb the great Circle of Life. Nevertheless, we are held in the grip of the Voice of Mystery. That voice whispers or rings in our Consciousness all our lives. BE. That’s what it says: BE!

If there is any greatest gift that Christianity (and Judaism) has given us, it is a glimpse of a Deity who loves us unconditionally. Once we get this message, we are free. No amount of failure, discouragement, denigration, demeanment can possibly crush us. The vision of the Unconditional Lover floats up into our mind and heart – and we “pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off” and move forward again into transfiguration, into Becoming.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, February 9, 2009

Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me.

The experience of God, or in any case the
possibility of experiencing God, is innate.

- Alice Walker, author, born on this day, 1944

Alice Walker. A remarkable woman. But, I choose her today because she verbalizes a “reality” about “God”. A “reality” that I believe. And a “reality” about the manner in which “God” works.

Her comment about having “brought God in with me” is a beautiful expression of the meaning of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation – “Emmanuel”, God with us. Most Christians don’t take this seriously - that “God” has always been with us, within us. There is no such thing as “humanity” separate from “God”. God did not come to dwell within us at the moment of the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus to the woman Mary. That lovely story is an ageless expression of the mysterious truth that the human race became just that when human Consciousness “knew” who and what we truly are.

Alice Walker is correct, I believe. To “experience God” is co-terminus with the emergence of human consciousness. It is innate – because there is no such thing as “humanness” without the indwelling of the energy that generates Being.

The great sadness is that the human race falls so short of its destiny, its Reality. This is no one’s “fault” but our own. We are free beings. We can choose our paths, our behaviour, our beliefs. Thinking anthropomorphically, there is nothing that so saddens God’s heart than that we human beings persist in setting our sights so low. We were made to be “little lower than the angels” ….. but we most often have chosen ingloriousness.

“Faith” is about, simply, choosing what we shall believe as the guiding principles of our lives, and to believe in the possibility of their coming to fruition. Christianity asks us to choose to be “like God” – created in the image of Unconditional Love, and to live out this truth daily, to the best of our abilities and by the work of that great Mystery called “Divine Grace”.

Any understanding of “God”, any concept of the “nature” of God, we “bring in”. These understandings and concepts come from nowhere but from our hearts and minds and spirits. For this is where “God dwells” - not anywhere “out there”, but rather “in there”. The implication of the doctrine of the Incarnation is that “God” has no home but “in us”.

If we seek “God”, including the meaning of our Life, then we must look within. To the Innateness. If “God” is not innate, it is a false “God” we seek.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Feb 7-8, 2009

Have you not been paying attention? 

Have you not been listening?

Haven't you heard these stories all your life? 

Don't you understand the foundation of all things?

God sits high above the round ball of earth. 

The people look like mere ants.

He stretches out the skies like a canvas— 

yes, like a tent canvas to live under.

He ignores what all the princes say and do. 

The rulers of the earth count for nothing.

Princes and rulers don't amount to much. 

Like seeds barely rooted, just sprouted,

They shrivel when God blows on them. 

Like flecks of chaff, they're gone with the wind.
Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?

God doesn't come and go. God lasts. 

- from Psalm 147, appointed for the Liturgy
for the Fifth Sunday in Epiphany, Year B, RCL

OK. Pay attention. I am going to define “God”. “God” is our best understanding of the character and nature of Existence, of Being, of “What Is”. (Though do remember, I didn’t say I was going definitively to define God. This is always an ongoing project!)

And, I have a simple criterion for “best”: is it an understanding of “God” that most blesses the World with Peace, Joy, Compassion, and Loving Service to each other. (This has not been garnered just from Christianity, but from many sources.)

I hope these are the stories you have been hearing all your Life! Alas, I know many who have not - people whose understanding of “God” filled them with bigotry, intolerance, fear, guilt, self-righteousness. Most unpleasant!

“God” is all the things we humans need to know to have a wonderful life (ALL of us!); to be grounded in Reality; to know the power of Trust and Surrender; to understand the power of Service; to have some inkling of the Mystery of Love as the highest action of Free Will; to know that we ourselves are diminished whenever any other human being or part of the Universe is damaged or mistreated. I’m sure there are many things you could add as you search your own heart and longings for your Life.

This “God” lasts. As the Bible says, all else shall pass away. And it passes away in our own time and in our own fleeting Earthly lives, for everyone who strives to live by the “God Who Lasts”. What only is left is ….. Love.

“Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? To your own deepest heart-songs? Choose what “lasts”, what most blesses Life.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, February 6, 2009

They tell us to forget
Democracy is spurned.

They tell us to forget

The Bill of Rights is burned.

Three hundred years we slaved,

We slave and suffer yet:

Though flesh and bone rebel,

They tell us to forget!
Oh, how can we forget

Our human rights denied?

Oh, how can we forget

Our manhood crucified?

When Justice is profaned

And plea with curse is met,

When Freedom’s gates are barred,

Oh, how can we forget?

- Melvin B. Tolson, American poet, appointed
Poet Laureate of Liberia 1947; born on this
Day, 1898 (died 1966), in Missouri

Melvin Beaunorus Tolson was born in Moberly, Missouri, the son of a Methodist preacher father and a mother of African-Creek ancestry. He was an educator, columnist, and politician, as well as a poet. He was influenced by the Harlem Renaissance, but spent most of his career in Texas and Oklahoma. I had never heard of him - and I thought that many of you would not have heard of him either. So, I’m taking this opportunity to “introduce” him. Give him a Google!

His poem is particularly poignant at this time in American history, as an African-American man becomes President of the United States, 150 years after slavery was abolished. The God of the Bible is a God of Justice. And our Baptismal Liturgy in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer pointedly reminds us that the God of Justice requires of us to “respect the dignity of every human being”.

We have begun a new era. Slavery can never be forgotten. But may we vigourously pursue a new path of justice and compassion, or respect and of honour. This has taken far too long. The Biblical God demands that we “do justice”, and walk humbly in the Way of repentance and reconciliation.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, February 5, 2009

People pay for what they do, and still more for what they
allow themselves to become. And they pay for it simply:
by the lives they lead.

- James Baldwin, author

Now: this is something to think about! And you know what I really like about Baldwin’s comment??? It puts the responsibility for our lives squarely on us!! I’m a big fan of being responsible – and the American penchant for suing people is a perfect example of refusing to be responsible.

Oh, I know. There are lots of “excuses” that we all raise for denying responsibility for how our lives go. And of course, there are things that happen around us over which we seem to have no control. But this is false. We do have control ….. not generally over what happens, but over how we choose to respond, over how we choose to let it affect us or determine our response. An example: I recently chose to take the advice of my cardiologist and have a hole in my heart repaired. I always laugh when the doc says, as you are being rolled to the procedure, “Now, you understand (and the “voice” of the insurance company sounds loudly in the silence), you could die from this procedure, or have a massive incapacitating stroke?” I just laugh. Because I have made the choice; and I accept the possible consequences. You have to be pretty either stupid or in denial not to know that sticking a tube up through the femoral veil and into your heart could go really wrong! (By the way: it helps to have accepted that one is mortal and that Life is precarious!)

Baldwin is absolutely correct: we pay for what we do, for the choices we make in Life. We pay for what we (and yes, we do this) allow ourselves to become. Those choices are absolutely reflected in the lives we lead. Control freaks, manipulators, mean people, liars, deniers, schemers, power-mongers, cheats, ego-maniacs, etc., always pay for what they choose, shown in the lives they lead. They may seem, some of them, to lie in the lap of luxury, but they live in psychological, emotional, and sometimes physical prisons – always looking over their backs.

Most of us secretly “admire” those who seem to get away with it. We slaver over the material benefits. But if you think about it, most of such people do not have what essentially makes Life worth living: Peace, and a sense of self-respect, or freedom to walk the Earth without fear.

In my Life, I have chosen, as have many (albeit along with the failures in achieving it) the Christ-like life – and this is a Way proposed by many paths, religious and non-religious. The way of trying to “love others as I am loved”. Whatever may happen, this Way allows one to walk with one’s head up high, and in self-respect, and in Peaceful Joy.

I’d rather have this than everything the “World” can offer.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Brian's Reflection: Wednesday, Feb 4, 2009

Men weren't really the enemy ..... they were fellow victims suffering 
from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily 
inadequate when there were no bears to kill.

- Betty Friedan, Thinker, born on this day, 1921, and died on his day, 
  2006, on her 85th birthday.

Betty has a little bit of her tongue in her cheek! (I think.) But her comment brings up interesting questions. Are we human beings "run", defined, only by our "biology"? Are men the "warriors", and women barefoot and pregnant and making dinner and clothes? Has there been no change, no growth, no development, since we crawled out of the water? And if not, why do we have "religion"? Has not Religion purported to show people since its invention how to grow and develop and become complex and more fully human? 

So far as I can see, there is nothing in the Biblical Creation stories that indicates that male and female are not equal, with perhaps different roles to play in every generation as the human community develops  -  by choice of the people involved. (In highly cultured Rome, men engaged in politics and culture and the arts, while women ran everything else. And in Liberia in the 70's, when I was there, women did, so far as I could see, all the physical labour. A far cry from the American woman as Barbie Doll!) Women only became inferior to men by patriarchal fiat - a problem that continues to plague the World.

It seems to be that we ought to be WAY beyond the stage where masculinity is defined by how many bears you can kill. And femininity by hairdos and how by much jewellery and makeup you can pile on. Let's get a grip here People!

Betty is right:  both men and women suffer tremendous diminishment and demeaning as we continue to pander to our biology for our self-definition. Religion and the arts and education teach us that we transcend - while including - our biology. 

This is what it means to be "made in the image of God"  -  both male and female. Biology does not excuse us as human beings from becoming caring, loving, compassionate, understanding, vulnerable, self-giving beings.

None of us should agree to be victims, or to collude in our own diminishment.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Brian's Reflection: February 3, 2009

There ain't no answer. There ain't gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That's the answer.

- Gertrude Stein, who said famously "There is no there there", born on this day, 1874

Ah, Gertrude! What a fascinating person. I would love to have known her, to have sat drinking in her salon in Paris, with Alice passing me martinis of some sort (if Alice indeed did such things).

As I have said of a few unexpected people, Gertrude was a good theologian. People think that "religion" is going to give them answers. In fact, a lot of people have concocted so-called religions that purport to do just that. False religions, believe me, false religions! Be careful not to fall into the spider-web of any of those.

Gertrude has expressed the true nature of a valid religion. No answers. Only Questions - as the poet Rilke understood. Why is this? Because the god(esse)s respect us. They quite understand that we are intelligent, bright, inquisitive, and quite able to come up with the solutions we need for Life, even if those solutions are not absolute answers to Life  -  only to our own lives at any given moment.

You know:  I like it that way. Certainty about Answers mires you in quicksand. You just sink and drown in the illusion of certainty. Life will be much more authentic and lively and exciting and creative if you dance with the questions and the uncertainty.

Roll with the "punches". Keep reinventing yourself and the World. You will die happy, at just the right moment!


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, Feb 2, 2009


When love is suppressed, hate takes its place. 


- Havelock Ellis, English essayist and physician, born

  on this day, 1859

 As you know by now, I believe that Truth is “revealed” in countless ways. When human beings think that this is not true, division and contempt and hatred leak out into human Life, and misery becomes our lot. Look around the World today; Misery is rife.

 The essential “opposite” of Love is Power. In the Christian faith, this is proclaimed in Jesus, whose willing choice of death on the cross is the consummate rejection of the desire for Power, the lust for which infects the Human Community with a malignant seed of self-destruction.

 The principle “place” I see this at work in the World today is in the diminishment of Woman. The World today is primarily still a patriarchal ghetto. For example, I have carefully listened to and reflected upon the “place” of women in most Islamic societies. It is proclaimed by those societies that the basic invisibility of women, physically, emotionally, and culturally, is for their “protection” and for the preservation of their “honour”. This is utter delusion and hypocrisy. It can only “wash” in societies in which women have been oppressed by fear to accept their inferiority. Islam is not unique in this – though it is highly evident in the symbol of the Taliban refusing education to girls. You see it in many cultures, some of which proclaim to be “advanced”. I see it in Italy and other Latin and Asian cultures, where boys are hopelessly spoiled and indulged. I see it in American and in Western European cultures where women are denied equal pay for equal work.

 Let’s be clear:  all this is a triumph of Power over Love. And power is still in the hands, essentially, of men.

 I have worriedly wondered for a long time if many heterosexual males are congenitally incapable of real Love for women. (Most Gay men I personally know do not “see” women, or their fellow men, in the same way.) Which has frightening implications for situations in which males own the power – as, for example, the Roman Catholic Church, Islam, and many cultural or religious structures. Jesus did not treat women in this fashion, and was often criticized for it. And I have followed the Anglican dimension of it principally because, at its best, it has rejected misogyny (at least since the 60’s!).

 I believe that all behaviour which denies absolute equality to men and to women is infected by a suppression of the kind of Love which God, in Jesus, shows for all persons. And Ellis is right: in the suppression of Love, Hate takes its place – however hidden or denied it might be.

 The restriction of abortion rights has nothing to do with ensuring Life to incipient newborns. It is about the preservation of power by men over women. Remedy this, and no child will be unwanted.

 “In Christ, there is neither male nor female”. Which means, we are equal. Love knows this.