Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A universe that came from nothing in the big bang
will disappear into nothing at the big crunch. It’s
glorious few zillion years of existence not even a memory.

- Paul Davies, physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist, U of Arizona

It is said that the “Big Bang” theory was first spoken of in a magazine in 1949. Other “evidence” claims that the scientist Fred Hoyle called it that on a TV show in 1949 (he disagreed with it). The Roman Catholic scientist George Lemaitre is credited with developing the theory (called “The Hypothesis of the Primeval Atom”), working from Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. (I wonder if the Pope approved???)

Am I going to say anything about the Big Bang and “God”? No. Theists can speculate if they want to.

Look Gang. We only have A FEW ZILLION YEARS!! We’d better get to work! There are a LOT of things to get organized. Peace. Justice. Respect. Universal Health Care. Abolition of slavery in the world. Finding an Alternate Universe or three before this one implodes. Things like that. So let’s get to work.

Actually, we don’t have very long. A report in the scientific journal Nature said today that all Hell had broken loose in the laws of physics, and that the universe’s Big Crunch will happen in 17 years, 3 months, 14 days, 23 seconds from the time of my writing.

Think we can manage??


(Scroll down)

Happy April Fool’s Day!!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, March 31, 2009

But at my back I always hear

Time's winged chariot hurrying near;

And yonder all before us lie

Deserts of vast eternity.

Thy beauty shall no more be found,

Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound

My echoing song; then worms shall try

That long preserv'd virginity,

And your quaint honour turn to dust,

And into ashes all my lust.

The grave's a fine and private place,

But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore …..,
Let us roll all our strength, and all

Our sweetness, up into one ball;

And tear our pleasures with rough strife

Thorough the iron gates of life. …..

- Andrew Marvell, English poet, born
on this day, 1621, in Winestead-in-
Holderness, Yorkshire ( from “To his
Coy Mistress”)

It is not, does not have to be, a choice between tearing “pleasures ….. through the iron gates of life” and “deserts of vast eternity”! Isn’t that a great phrase! “Deserts of Vast Eternity”. It pictures beautifully what “Eternity” as painted by many religions would be: boring!

To my mind, everything, every state of being, is meant to be lived fully – and we will perhaps forgive Marvell if he is using this lofty image to try and seduce his girlfriend. This earthly Life, whatever Afterlife may be forthcoming - they are there to be lived to the full! No religion has ever been duller that when it has tried to minimize the enjoyment of this present Life lest it annoy “God” and “God” deprive you of the “next”. Very silly thinking.

There are, of course, some simple principles to guide us in all this, primarily having to do with deep respect of the other’s person. But on the whole, Life is filled with too many simple Pleasures to be enjoyed for it to have been either an accident or a trap! If “God” provides this, She must be a Delight!

I’ve heard “Eat, drink, and be merry” disparaged by many a pinched, puckered mind. To them I say “Fie”! I intend to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry as fully and judiciously as possible, in the sure and certain hope that, upon arrival at the Pearly Gates, I shall be welcomed by a charming carousing lot who have managed to ED&BM guided by the Light of Love.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, March 30, 2009

…. that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts
may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found ….

- from the Collect for the 5th Sunday in Lent (The Episcopal Church)

Where are true joys to be found? I guess that is the question to be asked (if one is so inclined) by all human beings every now and then - and these days, perhaps more frequently.

If you want/need a little prompting, here is where I’m looking:

What my heart tells me.
Messages from Faiths and from Philosophies which teach Compassion, Justice, Self-giving, Love of Self and Others.
The World, especially its heartbreaking Beauty.
Suffering and Deprivation, and their aleviation.
Wonder at all Existence.
Truth which benefits all, not just some.

Some change ….. and must. Some don’t, and needn’t. Some are worth holding onto at any cost; some most certainly not. I shall be seeking Wisdom from many sources to discern which is which.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, March 27, 2009

Do you have the patience to wait
until your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action rises by itself?

- Lao-tsu

I love this! And I think I have commented on this before. It is profound. It is wise.

What we need to do in Life “reveals” (not that I believe in “revelation” when it comes to “God”) itself ….. eventually. But. Most of us are run by Ego, most of the time – though there are those exquisite moments when we transcend the Ego. What is “Ego”? It’s Hubris. God bless the Greeks; they tried to warn us! Good Lord, will we human beings ever change??? You’d think we’d learn.

I’m not saying that we always have to wait. That’s why “waiting” is an Art. And I think that “Art” is a necessity, a “given” of being human!! I happen to believe that often it is the glory of being human that we look at the “facts”, make decisions, and go forward.

But “Going Forward” is an Art. Often it really does mean we have to “wait until your mud settles and the water is clear”. This is a “spiritual art”. But the art is in knowing the moment when to reject bravado and “wait”.

Somewhere is Wisdom.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Our homeland is the whole world. Our law is liberty.
We have but one thought, revolution in our hearts.

- Dario Fo, Italian author, winner of the Nobel prize
For Literature, 1997; born on this date, 1926

Jesus could have said this. If He had, you can bet it would have been excised from the Gospels by the time of the Council of Nicea. But as I read the Gospels, and understand “Jesus”, this is how He thought. The “whole word” is “the Kingdom of God; “Liberty” is radical Grace; “revolution” is “conversion to Love”.

I think I had better read more of Dario Fo.

At the moment, the religions of the World are committed to division, hatred, exclusion, condemnation, contempt. (Not all, but the major “players”, particularly Roman Catholicism, Russian Orthodoxy, and Islam. Though much less in numbers, I would include Mormonism and American Evangelicanism.)

Upon so-called “retirement”, I have committed my spiritual life to “the whole World”, to Liberty, and to Revolution. Because I believe that this is what “God” wants.

The sooner the various communities of the human race realize that their anthropomorphized, cultural “gods” are just projections of their own petty power and control and fear issues, the sooner the human race can work together to make Earth a place of Peace. “God”, ever non-violent, is waiting. It is up to us.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, March 23, 2009

Learning to detach may be the most demanding and difficult part of [living].
Detachment means being filled with closeness and love toward someone, yet
knowing we cannot fix or protect that person. It means that we can be in
emotional contact but don't have to react to someone else's issues. We
respond from our own center with what is fitting for us ….. we cannot live
their lives for them. Detachment gives us an inner calm, an acceptance
of our limits, and the freedom to live our lives with integrity.

- Source unknown

Indeed. It has often been clarified by calling it “holy detachment”, with reference to the God of Love, to make sure that we understand that it does not mean unconcern or indifference.

Detachment is very helpful on various levels when it comes to being free to love – people, things, the Earth. One of the things I learned in my years as a monastic was detachment from “things”. While a monastic, I lived in beautiful places, often surrounded by beautiful things. But they were not “mine”. After those years, I continued to live that way. I had many beautiful things, but sat loose with them. Often gave them away. As I moved in my ministries, I gave away “things” or let them go freely. And now that I have “retired”, I am happy with the basics. But my love of beautiful things has not diminished.

My monastic years also taught me that you cannot both love and possess - especially true about people. Any dimension of control – any! – drains Love of its essential Truth, and possibility. This is one of the reasons behind Jesus’ willingness to accept His death. We can’t possess Life. This is an axiom. Life is a gift. To have it, we must be willing to let it go, to “die” to it. One of the core meanings of the Resurrection of Jesus is it’s lesson that refusal to possess Life, or “control” it, paradoxically opens the path to it.

Jesus had a parable about it. If we think of Him as a metaphor for fullness of Life, we can understand what He meant when He said that anyone willing to give up their Life for Him and for the Gospel would receive it a hundredfold.

“Grasping” is a very ominous description of anyone. One immediately understands the sadness they are doomed to. Holy Detachment renounces possessiveness and control, offers love, is content to respect freedom, and rejoices to hold lightly what comes its way. Besides blessedness, it’s other gift is Peace.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, March 20, 2009

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that
everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

John 3: 18 …. those who do not believe are condemned already, because
they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

- from the Gospel reading for Lent IV (Mar 22)

When it comes to the “Christian Religion’s” view of “God”, I am an a-theist. I do not believe in that “God”. Look at the disconnect in these two verses. In my heart and mind, the words “love” and “condemned” are simply impossible together. They make no sense if we are talking about a “God” whose essential character is Love.

John 3: 16 (the first part of the verse) is Truth, as my heart and mind, taught by 62 years of Life, understands it ….. 62 years I have come to trust. (And believe me, I am not the only one.) John 3:18 is Propaganda by a religious sect trying to establish power and control. Period. God does not exclude or condemn. Anyone.

I have spent 40 years talking about God. I intend to spend the next x-number of years I have left on this Earth refining that “talk”. Remember that story about the rabbi who was asked what the message of Scripture was? He said, “God is Love”; all else is commentary”. Most of the Bible is Commentary, and messed-up, venial, nasty human commentary at that. Nothing to do with “God”. I don’t buy everything that the Jesus Seminar people say; but I think they are correct when they severely limit what in the Scriptures Jesus as they understand Him might authentically have said.

To all you Christians out there: if you are going to give up anything for Lent, give up 99% of what the Bible says about “God”. Focus only on the love of the Christ. Ponder what it really means to Love. Not only is it the essential character of “God”; it is the essential character of You. Make the understanding of that your Life’s work. Without that radical understanding (which is what the cross” is all about), the Bible means nothing.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, March 19, 2009

What do sad people have in common?
It seems they have all built a shrine to the past.
And go there and do a strange wail and Worship.
What is the beginning of Happiness?
It is to stop being so religious like this.

- Hafiz c. 1350

There is one thing I absolutely believe about a relationship with “God”. You have to change. That is one of the essentials. Building shrines to the past is not “of God”. Read any “holy scripture”. If you find any that says that you must never change and must live in the past, let me know.

But there are always some - individuals, religions - who believe in shrines to the past, in strange wailings. They often lay claim to “orthodoxy”, which is very often a euphemism for “dead”, or “controlling”. It’s when I hear words like “the spirit will lead you into all truth” that I know that the path is “of God”. When I find religions defending the status quo, or opposing their own basic principles of justice or love or respect for the god-image in every human being in order to bolster their own power (condoms anyone??), I know something has gone awry.

God does indeed want us to “happy”. To be happy, we need to evolve, change. So, if you want to be happy, “stop being so religious” in ways that stunt your spiritual growth.

(Hafiz was a poet and teacher who memorized the whole of the Qu’ran. The “orthodox” clerics refused to allow him to have a Muslim burial. You get my point.)


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, March 16, 2009

Now we should look back and remember what just one
bomb did, or two bombs ….. Then I think we should realize
that this can't happen again.

- Col. Thomas W. Ferebee, speaking on the 50th
Anniversary of his dropping the atomic bomb
on Hiroshima; he died on this date, 2000, age 81

As one might expect, Col. Ferebee expressed no regret after having aimed and dropped the first atomic bomb from the Enola Gay. (Over 80,000 people died, instantly or due to the effects of radiation.) Fifty years later, he said the above.

I have no desire to try and second-guess the decision, given the situation, and given the extreme complexity of human nature and of the events of “History”. The same issues are raised by the development throughout the centuries of superior weapons: of iron spearheads, chariots, canons, war elephants, right through to mustard gas, Internet viruses, etc. This includes various religions justifying violence against people of their own, other, or no religions , including the Roman Catholic and Geneva churches who justified such violence on the basis of ….. Love for sinners!!!!!!!

Today’s reading at the Eucharist (RCL Lectionary) from Exodus was the Ten Commandments. One of which says, “Thou shalt not kill”. (I notice that the NRSV says “murder”. Is some point trying to be made? Does anyone know the Hebrew word used, and its exact translation?) As I’m sure everyone knows, all kinds of exceptions and justifications have been made - using Scripture, of course - to getting around that Commandment. As well as side-stepping Jesus’ commandment to Love One Another - by quoting for example Jesus’ supposed other words, “I did not come to bring Peace, but a Sword” ….. usually entirely out of context.

I’m with the people, both theologically and politically, who say that the fact of nuclear weapons dictates their non-use. For the simple reason that we could all die. But of course, this does not take into account wackos, nuts, zealots, nd amoral people – of which we seem to have more and more these days. Those of us who are not wackos, nuts, zealots, or amoral need to get together!

I am also with those who, for whatever reason, say that War is (a) NEVER justified and (b) NEVER acceptable to “God” (if you believe in “God”). War is always an example of the corporate failure of the human race. The only response to war is lamentation and repentance.

I believe that Jesus’ principle to “Love One Another as I have loved you” supercedes all religious lawbooks. As St. Paul said, the Law brings only condemnation.

“No killing” sounds like Love to me.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, March 14, 2009

The Hebrew Scriptures reading for Lent III is the Ten Commandments: Here they are (with Comment), from The Message: Exodus 20: 1-17:

God spoke all these words:
Oh? I’m interested to know who decided that “God” said these things. And Why? What Agenda, cultural, political, was being pushed??

I am God, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a life of slavery. No other gods, only me.
Someone very clever took advantage of that Exile. And if you want to have power, be the only one!

No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don't bow down to them and don't serve them because I am God, your God, and I'm a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I'm unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.
So: One CAN have statues, etc, carved or otherwise, as long as they are not “Gods”.
“God” jealous??? Don’t be silly. God is “without body, parts, or passions” (39 Articles)

No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won't put up with the irreverent use of his name.
Very silly. This could have been more direct. It should have said: “Don’t use my name to justify your disgusting personal agendas that have nothing to do with Love and Justice; Get It??!!”

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don't do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.
Sure: “Rest”. This is good. Have fun, go to the beach, play cards (or whatever); enjoy yourselves. All that other crap about not enjoying yourself that various sects have come up with is just Control Issues – and God doesn’t like Control!

Honor your father and mother so that you'll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you.
Just honour your father and mother; it’s a good thing. But: It doesn’t mean approving of everything they do!! Some parents do terrible things to their kids!

No murder.
Is “murder” the same as “killing” ?? Are there OK reasons to “kill”? (I personally don’t think so.) Excusable? Maybe?

No adultery.
As long as it applies to men too!!

No stealing.
What about when you are really poor and starving, and no one gives a damn??

No lies about your neighbor. 

No lies about ANYONE!

No lusting after your neighbor's house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don't set your heart on anything that is your neighbor's.
Good advice, on the whole.

Best Thing? The Ten Commandments need a base: Try “Love One Another”. And don’t be a wimp about the true nature of Love.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, March 13, 2009

Putting off the body is not Freedom, any more than
putting away one's staff and water-pot; but getting
free from the knots of unwisdom in the heart –
that is Freedom, in very deed.

- Sankara the Teacher, Hindu saint

“The knots of unwisdom in the heart”. Is that not a lovely phrase?! It seems to me that there must be MANY knots! And I suspect that this is why Jesus promised and sent the Holy Spirit, saying that in this Spirit’s company, we would do even greater things than He did.

Life on this Earth is but a stage. It is ludicrous that parts of Christianity and of other religions have made such a big deal about passing from this life to the “next” ….. if there is one. If God thought that it was important to make sure that we sensed Her Holy Presence in THIS Life, then why would we think that this Earthly Life was not important?? That we should not give our all to understanding and living fully what this Earthly Life offers??

I have come to the conclusion that an over-fixation with other than this Life is, to put it in Biblical terms, a “work of the Devil”. If the “Devil” can tempt us to ignore the full living of this Life, then we have lost the path to the Next. Very cunning!

That we will move on from this Life to the Next is as simple as “putting away one’s staff and water-pot” ….. and it matters not what the “Next” will be. And! Think how much better off we will be if we can simply accept this movement as a Given!! THERE is the Freedom!

Whatever religious path we follow, we are called to follow it in order to learn how to untie the “knots of unwisdom”. Human Life is filled with such Knots. We should, I think, learn how to help our younger folk to untie these knots; this should be the goal of religious teaching, the goal of mentoring young people, as parents, friends, sisters or brothers in Faith. And it should be the goal of Worship, for us all.

The heart is meant for Love. Knots twist the Art of Love. And Love flourishes best in Freedom. Let us focus on getting free from the “knots of unwisdom” – from indifference, from hatred, from contempt, from arrogance, from disrespect, from thinking our Self or our Path better than another’s. Then we will all be Free.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, March 12, 2009

Anger is the real destroyer of our good human qualities;
an enemy with a weapon cannot destroy these qualities,
but anger can. Anger is our real enemy.

- The Dalai Lama

Anger is not the real destroyer. Anger is a feeling we all experience – along with every other feeling, “good” or “bad” (the definition of which is relative). All feelings are neutral. And all feelings are useful.

The real destroyer is how we deal with Anger, what power we give it in our lives. The Dalai Lama is correct if he means that Anger given power over our behaviour is one of the Great Destroyers.

I am only beginning to work on this properly. I have begun to realize how much power I have given Anger in my Life – and certain other feelings too. I have talked about it with wise friends. I am beginning to understand that when I feel Anger taking over my inner Life, I must stop, and meditate. Anger not only has power; Anger also gives power when “embraced”. It doesn’t take too long for Anger, held in a welcoming embrace, to relinquish its destructiveness. It wants to be used for Good.

The skill is to see beyond the mask of Anger, to see the Good it can be redirected to accomplish. Until we have asked it to reveal its ultimate goal, we must refrain from giving it power.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Something opens our wings.
Something makes boredom and hurt disappear.
Someone fills the cup in front of us.
We taste only sacredness."

- Rumi, Sufi poet

Rumi was talking about Staying Open. Open to transformation; to Fearlessness; to Trust. It’s the way to fully experience Life, and Life’s possibilities.

I don’t think it makes any difference as to “What” we are open. “Something” is good enough. I definitely believe in the “Something”. And we can call that what we will.

I know that the “Something” is the core of the Mystery of Being. You can call it “God”. You can call it “Nature”. Whatever. Put this instinctual Knowing together with the human brain and heart, and you have “Sacredness” - that’s as good a word as any ………. actually, a beautiful, eloquent Word. And is it any wonder that the Bible (John’s Gospel, to be specific) identifies that Word as Jesus. After all, “John” flowed out from a community led by and steeped in a Mystic Mind. I sensed that Mystic Mind when I sat in the cave on Patmos where metaphorically the Gospel was “written”. Nothing is more characteristic of the power of the human Mind than to wield the Imagination in the cause of Truth.

Rumi is right. We must Stay Open. It is not easy. There are tremendous forces working against Openness. Here, I think, is why Community is important. On our own, it is difficult to Stay Open. Too many connections demand our loyalty, to the detriment of Openness. And rightly so, for we have legitimate bonds of love requiring our commitment. Openness is enabled by Community, specifically Community in which all share commitments to the essential principles of Being Fully Human.

Therefore, choose or build your Community carefully. Many Communities foster closed-ness, fear, control, narrowness, suspicion. Including many “churches” and “religions”. Choose Community that values and encourages the fullest respect for “going deep”, and for the wondrous diversity of being Human.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, March 10, 2009

One of the things I like about jazz, kid, is I don't
know what's going to happen next. Do you?

- Bix Beiderbecke, cornetist, jazzman,
born on this day, 1903

None of us know “what’s going to happen next”, do we!? I’m certainly not a big fan of all “jazz”. But there are certain styles that I like. When I was in university, we used to go down to the “village” in Toronto, and some of the jazz clubs (free then) were great. Drinking bottles of Portuguese Mateus Rose – neat!

I am utterly convinced that the Inner Journey (as opposed to “religion”) is supposed to be an adventure, on which you never “know what’s going to happen next”. Cultivating a stance of openness and welcoming to this unknown adventure is crucial to getting anywhere. Unfortunately, though most people who talk about or follow “religions” talk a good line about adventure and transformation, most of them avoid it like the plague – and build that avoidance into their structure. That’s why “religion” is most often in opposition to things like protecting the poor, or to accepting and advocating for any new understandings about “God” or Human Beings. “Established Religion” is almost always co-opted by the status quo and by the preservation of its own power.

My experience is that, if you really get involved with “God”, you had better be ready for what our Vicar calls “the Wild Side” (what our worship aimed at the young is called). My 15 years in a monastic community sure taught me this! Talking with the parents of a dying baby in Nicaragua just before baptism; meeting with village folk to be the “judge” of their communal squabbles; dealing with people convinced they were “devil possessed” in Liberia; engaging in a heated debate on a call-in show in Vancouver with people who wanted to murder or castrate all Gay men. Countless other eye-and-heart-opening situations, seeing “God” trying to break into human lives.

“God” drags you into battlefields of Compassion, Justice, Understanding - where every tendency to self-preservation, selfishness, arrogance, bigotry, prejudice, judgmentalism, must be confronted and let go of if we want to know freedom and joy and what it really is to be human and “divine”.

They say that jazz is particularly American. Wouldn’t it be terrific if we Americans, as a people, could apply its principles of openness to new “revelation” in our religions?


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, March 9, 2009

First, there is the bare beauty of the logs themselves with their long lines
and firm curves. Then there is the open charm felt of the structural features
which are not hidden under plaster and ornament, but are clearly revealed,
a charm felt in Japanese architecture.

- Gustav Stickley, furniture maker, born on this day, 1858

Outwardly, I’m for folderol, and lots of it, in worship. All the bells and whistles – especially lots of incense, colourful vestments, great organ and choir, etc. Most of the time. Now older, I still like that approach, but I really love our 8am Eucharist, where about 7 of us sit quietly in a circle, hear the readings followed by a long silence between each, shared comments, the prayers and Eucharist.

As I get older, there is something about simplicity – the kind one finds in Stickley furniture, also sometimes called “mission” style.

I see Stickley furniture as a symbol or metaphor for the maturing inner life of each of us as we age. It’s a description of what the “soul” eventually looks like. The metaphorical plaster and ornament needs to fall away, leaving the “open charm ….. of the “structural features ….. clearly revealed”. In the first decades of Life, the inner landscape gets more and more cluttered, unless one is a very rare person. As one ages, the “work” is to dis-encrust oneself – and of course Life works along with us, prompting us in many ways, some painful, to get on with the work!

If you are over 50, and your Inner Landscape looks like the Louis XIV piece above, time to start aiming for Stickney! Ok, OK, you can keep some of the Louis XIV on the outer surface; don’t panic! (I’m still devoted to very large rings and flowing garments.) But the more like Stickley we look “inside”, the better we’ll all feel and function and relate!


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, March 7, 2009

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save
their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake,
and for the sake of the gospel, will save it."

- from the Gospel called “Mark”, Chapter 8 (RCL readings for Lent II)

People approach “Holy Scriptures” in many ways. From narrowly literal to broadly metaphorical. I tend to the “broadly metaphorical” – which will surprise no one who knows me.

People also create Holy Scriptures for many reasons. This is always the question to be asked when pondering any of them: Why is this story being told?

I have spent over 50 years getting to “know” Jesus the Christ. He is the Touchstone by which I “judge” Scripture – not the other way around. I believe that I “know” the heart and nature of Jesus and therefore of God. So. Here is what I think.

It sounds to me like Jesus that He would have said, somewhere in His preaching, “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it.” I do not believe that Jesus “knew” that He would be crucified, or that this particular death was “fore-ordained”. Jesus’ followers wanted to assert that He did – and there are many passages in the four Gospels which ascribe to Jesus a foreknowledge of what would happen to Him. This is understandable; they simply wanted to add Wonder and Amazement to the man they had given their lives to. They wanted to boost the Mystery of Jesus in the eyes of their culture; to enhance His reputation and the certainty of His uniqueness, and His power, and His special relationship to God. Perfectly understandable; it flows out of the amazing experience they had had of Him.

And so: the cross becomes the central symbol of Christianity. Not for the suffering the Christ mythically underwent. But for the great Love it reveals. The shapers of Mark’s Gospel understood this. They understood what Jesus would do for Love. They had experienced it. After Jesus had died, on the cross, they knew that He would have said those wonderful words about “taking up the cross”. It simply means: “Love God and yourselves and others as I have loved” – and Jesus emphasized this when He gave them His “new” commandment.

To give oneself in Love, to Life and to God and to Others, is the Way to Life. “God” does it – many religions understand that all Creation has Life because God pours Her Life into it. The Cross is the call to live fully and deeply the Mystery of Love. I applaud the communities which formed the Gospels for proclaiming that liberating, freeing Message.

“Taking up the cross” is NOT a denial of ourselves. It is a denial of our false selves - which is what Jesus wants us to deny. Giving in Love in where we shall find authentic Life.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thursday, March 6, 2009
Birth of Michaelangelo, on this date, 1475

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

- Michaelangelo, born on this day, 1475

This is the work of relationship. The Great Metaphor for it is the Biblical proposition that human beings are ”made in the image of God”. The simple meaning is this: When we encounter one another, our work is to work our way through the inchoate outer surface, using the artist’s tools of Love and Joy, until we uncover the hidden Being in all its beauty and wonder. The “God” we have created is our vision of ourselves: We are beings of Beauty and Wonder to unearth and be unearthed beneath the, alas, hidden barriers we have erected to shield our exquisite vulnerability.

To me, this is the meaning of the figure of Jesus. He is a depiction of the vulnerable human being mistreated by others but embraced and restored by “God”. This is the “True God” that Christians (should) know. This is the “True God” who lies hidden in Scripture waiting to be discovered by those seeking to be fully human.

We live now in a World imbued with Fear. Especially with fear of each other. I don’t know why we have gotten to this point now. Unless the message is for us to learn what we must learn for the human race to move ahead into Life, not Death. It will be our choice – for “God” does not force anything on us. Only we will be responsible for the future.

There is an angel hidden in every lump of humanity. If we desire to be fully human, we must become carvers determined to set each other free.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tomorrow is a thief of pleasure.

- Rex Harrison, actor, born on
This day, 1908

Tomorrow is not only a thief of pleasure. Tomorrow is a thief of Life. Think how much time we spend planning for, saving for, setting aside Life for ….. what may or may not come “tomorrow”! It is more than sad. It is ….. anti-“God”. At least the “God” I know.

Oh, I know. We “Western” Enlightenment types! We have to plan for “the future”. We think of Aesop and his “parable” of the Ant and the Grasshopper”. But you know, we take it far too seriously. We get it all out of kilter. I find myself falling into it when it comes to health care. I’m spending an enormous amount of money buying health care coverage. A lot of people (of the 4/5ths of our population who can afford it) do the same. Basically to live “forever”! Silly! Thinking about 20 years from now. But, I have been fortunate enough to have been led on a path in my Life where I understand that the goal isn’t to “live forever”. It’s to live every day we are given as fully as possible. My goal is to drop dead floating in the Caribbean with a cold Martini awaiting me on the shore, content that I have helped some people find a joyous path through Life. Friends, my destiny is assured!

OK. Be a little concerned in making arrangements for a good tomorrow. But remember that the goal is TODAY. The Twelve-Steppers got it right. If you don’t know how to live Today beautifully, the “future” will mean nothing. You will die pissed off.

Jesus had something to say about “thieves”. Don’t let them into a Life where they can wreak havoc. A Life where you are concerned about “things that do not last”. Think ….. Love. Compassion. Tenderness. Sympathy. Appreciation. These are the things of Today. Of living in the Present. They require daily exercise.

Let us Live Today. This is the only way to any Future.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Why should I be anxious? It is not up to me
to think of myself. It is up to me to think
of God. And it is up to God to think of me.

-Simone Weil, philosopher, mystic

Well. If we human beings could get rid of anxiety, that would be (perhaps) a very good thing. But, anxiety can have a useful purpose. It alerts us to possible danger.

But Madam Weil points to what I think is a better way. Surrender. In the Gospel tradition, “surrender” has nothing to do with “giving up”. It has to do with the Tao - with being in synch with the flow of the Universe. Simply put, it really makes Life easier not to be swimming against the tide all the time!

Did Jesus think this way? Oh yes He did. “Seek first the Kingdom”. The Kingdom is where everything is One, within the grid of Compassion.

Weil is a wise person. I like her understanding of “God”. “God” is the wondrous structure of Existence in which we have our rightful, natural place. If we want to live without anxiety, we must “think of God”. If we can rest in that mindfulness, “God” is always thinking of you and me. Anxiety has little place in that relationship. Events may disturb us at times; such is human life. But, as the parable teaches, we build on rock – our Oneness with all Existence. And generally our “house” shall stand calmly in the storms.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, March 3, 2009

There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being.

- James Joyce, author; on this day, 1873, the US Congress enacted the Comstock
Law against “obscene, lewd, or lascivious” works being sent through the mail;
Joyce’s “Ulysses” was banned.

This (if you are a “Christian”) is Lent. Be careful. Joyce understood the devious side of “religion”. It can be a blessing ………. and it can be an outright curse. It does not take much to turn “religion” against human beings. You can see it in many of the ages of the Church. It starts right at the beginning. Desert monks and other “ascetics” flagellating themselves, thinking of the body as “evil”. You can follow this nasty thread through many of the ages of the Church’s Life. It isn’t just sad. It’s (to put it metaphorically and anthropomorphically) “the work of the Devil”.

Alas. The Christian Church has colluded in this ….. and worse, it has supported and encouraged it. In my view, such “religions” should be firmly rejected. There is nothing more ungodly than a religion which abhors “the human being” as we are, in all our human glory, whatever the challenges human being-ness presents.

If you follow a religion, and it in any way denigrates, condemns, insults, refuses to see the innate wonder and loveliness of being human, doesn’t wholeheartedly embrace and uplift being human, find something else.

We are saints. We are sinners. We are frustrating. We are contradictory. We are unpredictable.

God likes us that way!