Sunday, October 31, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, November 1, 2010
[ All Saints Day in the Christian Kalendar ]

"Half of tradition is a lie."

Stephen Crane, author [“The
Red Badge of Courage”]; he was
born on this date 1871; died at
age 28

What a day for “art”! On this date in 1512, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling was first exhibited to the public. And in 1604, William Shakespeare’s “Othello” was first performed at Whitehall Palace in London. Sholem Asch, Polish-born American writer was born, in 1880. Sakutaro Hagiwara, the Japanese poet, was born in 1886. And the Norwegian lyric poet Nordahl Brun Grieg was born in 1902.

But: the greatest expression of “art” I remember today are the beautiful, creative lives of all my dear friends who died of AIDS,. I have been reminiscing on this All Saints Day over the 64 of them who are on my heart, whom I think of every November 1st – certainly in my book “numbered among the saints”, not because they were perfect human beings, but because I deeply lament the social, governmental, family, and religious support they weren’t offered primarily because they ( most, but not all) were Gay. They died martyrs to fear and ignorance and indifference. God still weeps. As do I.

I would say that more than “half of tradition is a lie”. Oh, true godly tradition can be a blessing – those teachings and learnings and rituals and stories of divine and human compassion enacted year by year, sacred witness to the great power of Love and Truth. But so often “tradition” becomes an instrument of fear, of the refusal to listen to the Spirit of Truth, leading to the sacrifice of beautiful human beings on an altar that more belongs to Baal and his ilk than to the God Who is Compassion and Enlightenment.

By tradition, on All Saints Day, we remember and honour all those who spoke of divine compassion and of human poignant loveliness. I see them all today, their faces rising before my inner eye. In my Communion with them, I was and continue to be blessed. “O blessed Communion, fellowship divine”.

They, and those who loved and cared for them, deepened my humanity.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, Oct 31, 2010

A man was there named Zacchaeus;
he was a chief tax collector and was rich.
He was trying to see who Jesus was.

Luke 19 [ the Gospel for Proper 26, Year C RCL
October 31, 2010 ]

Here is where you find the full Gospel reading for Sunday, Oct 31:

Aren’t we all, aren’t we all! In some form or other, certainly every Christian and I think in a fundamental way all human beings are “trying to see” Who the Christ is. There is a Zacchaeus in every one of us.

We are all often alienated from our true Selves – hence we are all “chief tax collector” and “rich”. In Jesus’ public rhetoric, you couldn’t get further from God. But of course we know that Jesus thought no one any “worse” than anyone else in God’s heart. Though, most of us have real work to do in moving from alienation to intimacy with the Mystery of God. Or, to put it another way, a long way to go to become our True Selves.

I’ve spent my Life trying to see “who Jesus was” ….. and therefore who I was!

Before he met and became a friend of Jesus, Zacchaeus had no compassion, no empathy, no sense of connection with those who were the victim of his alienation from his fellow human beings and therefore from his greed and from the cold avarice that flowed from it. After he met Jesus – Who of course knew Zacchaeus to the core, as we surmise God does us all – Zacchaeus became “as Christ”: grateful, just, generous, self-aware. And he was liberated from a withered Humanity. {Republicans take note.}

We need to climb that tree every day, my sisters and brothers!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, October 19, 2010

True silence is the rest of the mind,
and is to the spirit what sleep is to
the body: nourishment and refreshment.

William Penn, founder of the state of
Pennsylvania; on this date, 1682, he
landed near what is now Chester.

What you can do: 

You can criticize silence,

You can ignore silence. 

What you cannot do: 

You cannot sit even one fleeting minute 

In silence. 

Yet one day 

It is you and you alone 

Who will marry silence 

And become inseparably one 

With silence-sky.

- Sri Chinmoy

The word “silence” comes from the Latin “silere”, to be silent, through Old French. It apparently replaced, after the Norman Conquest, the Old English word “swige”. One Old English poem begins, “Nis min sele swige” – “My soul is not silent”. I’m telling you this because of course you will want to know it, right?

If you work with it long enough, you will get to the important part: the word also means “still”. And that is what I think Sri Chinmoy’s poem points us to.

Stillness. Penn was a Quaker; they value silence and stillness.

Why? Here is what T. S. Eliot says: [ from “East Coker”, from the Four Quartets; the whole passage is found at ]

We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise.
In my end is my beginning.

There is a portal to “another intensity”, a “fuller union, a deeper communion”.

Would it not be good and life-giving to touch it?


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A man will give up almost
anything except his suffering.

John Cleese, actor; [ Monty Python; Faulty
Towers]; he was born on this date, 1939

Out of the mouths of apparent bumbling idiots!

Could this be said about women too? I’m tempted to say no, because on the whole I tend to think women stronger and more sensible than men ………. pardon my sexism. But, in the end, I think it’s a commonplace of all human beings. We are not at all good at letting go of the suffering we experience.

Our suffering can be self-inflicted, and my experience of people is that it so often is. And, clutched suffering is a way of refusing to accept responsibility for one’s Life. It’s a way of avoiding facing into the truth, and of avoiding making decisions that Life demands of us all.

It is not then surprising that all the great philosophies and religions of the World have, at their core, a call to face into Truth. Socrates and Plato and Aristotle spoke to this. Certainly Jesus did. Socrates exhorts us all to “Examine”, to see Reality about ourselves and the World; he assumes that this itself is Liberation. Jesus began his public ministry by calling people to Repent. Repentance means simply to look boldly into whatever holds us back from an authentic Life of Love, to own it. It means to both push it away from us ….. and to allow the God of Forgiveness to lift the burden and the suffering it causes from us. Underlying this is a great core Principle of Being: Human Beings are never condemned to failure in the great adventure of Life ….. except by our own selves. That is what I think John means.

We need not play the game. Suffering comes the way of us all. But it need never be our Master.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, October 26, 2010

If you catch a fragrance of the unseen,
like that, you will not be able
to be contained.
You will be out in empty sky.

Any beauty the world has, any desire,
will easily be yours.


Interpretations come, hundreds,
from all the religious symbols
and parables and prayers.

You know what they mean,
when the presence lives through you.

[ translated by Coleman Barks ]

The Bible is dead.

The Qur’an is dead.

The Vedas are dead.

The Torah is dead.

The Eight Great Truths are dead.

The Upanishads are dead.

All scriptures are dead, dead, dead.


Worse: murderous.

The Presence must live in us.

We must be ravished by Compassion.

Or the books will only kill us ….. on and on and on.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, October 25, 2010

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.
And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion
are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle
that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.

John Steinbeck, American author; on this date,
1962, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Yes. Steinbeck, in his wisdom, speaks the truth ….. I think. Oh, I don’t personally think that human beings are so ridiculous or stupid that we don’t examine what’s going on and make choices. Most of us do. But often we are reacting, not acting. It takes a confident, courageous human being to act, to make decisions in sync with beliefs and principles that we have struggled to formulate, understand, and value. As Steinbeck says, each of us is unique, and each of us has a unique Journey to make ….. perhaps many.

Do we conceive of the Trip? Or, as Steinbeck claims, does the “Trip” take us? I think both. The Trip – Life – may indeed be laid on for us. We emerge from the womb and, at some point, we choose to make the Trip. But Life is a Mystery of its own. If we have been lucky, we have been prepared for the Trip, helped to see the Trip of Life as a great adventure, that it will unfold both from the opportunities offered and the choices we make or reject. Some people scurry to keep up; they have no sense of a partnership . Others make a covenant with Life, and together create a unique masterpiece.

People like to think that Jesus had it all planned out for Him ….. and that He knew the Plan. Not if He was fully Human (as the theology maintains) He didn’t! I think that the claim of Jesus’ “foreknowledge” is the creation of a church desperate to make a certainty out of a Life that is not a certainty. Rather, Jesus made a covenant with the God Who was His Life – the God of Unconditional Love and Justice – and made His choices, consistent with His God. The Trip was given to Jesus: human life. He partnered It, confident in the character of His heavenly Father.

The Buddha did the same. The Trip took him out of his father’s palace to the reality of suffering and death. He embraced Life, spent years coming to understand Reality, achieved Freedom from Illusion, and taught the way to journey together with Life - the wonder of Life and the magnificence of the human spirit together.

It is, however, critical to see the truth of Steinbeck’s insight: “ .. all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.” He is exaggerating for effect. But: none can be counted on. They are all four tentative. They all fail. Especially coercion.

The wise human being knows the greatest skill on the Trip of Life: Change.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, October 22, 2010

My advice to people today is as follows: if you take
the game of life seriously, if you take your nervous
system seriously, if you take your sense organs
seriously, if you take the energy process seriously,
you must turn on, tune in, and drop out.

Dr. Timothy Leary, spiritual seeker; he was born on
this date, 1920.

I lived near Millbrook NY. There is a lovely estate at the head of the road leading into town. I loved hearing the story of Timothy and his entourage “turning on, tuning out” ….. and wandering naked into the prim town of Millbrook, only to be gathered up by the police and returned to “the castle”. I love it! Ain’t people amazing!

However, let me say: I agree with Tim, though I don’t agree with his “solution”. I do take the game of Life seriously. Especially now. I take my sense organs seriously. I take the “energy process” seriously. And I do want to “tune in” ….. but NOT turn on – except to the present Reality – and I certainly don’t want to “drop out” ….. though at my age and in ‘retirement”, I am tempted.

Here follows a seemingly non-sequiter: I voted a couple of days ago in California by mail-in ballot. And I voted (a) for all Democrats, because (b) Dems are for human kindness and Repubs are for the power of the rich and screw the poor and normal people, and they would have been on the side of crucifying Jesus, and (c) to legalize pot; (1) because I hope that it will skewer the people who enslave us and make vast amounts of money as drug dealers and (2) because there will be less dead people than those killed by drunks.

Whether he knew it or not, Timothy Leary understood how destructive it is to buy into an understanding of human life which basely demeans us. He did indeed understand how dehumanizing it is to buy into callousness and unkindness and venality and disdain and lack of charity. If there is no alternative, I opt for Timothy’s medicine: reject the reigning lack of Compassion. If one can’t change it, at least don’t abet it!

Don’t drop out. Live Compassion – which is the ultimate Truth - as best you can.


p.s. Tim also said: Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition. Considering most of the men I know, ….. right on Tim!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, October 21, 2010

He who begins by loving Christianity more
than Truth, will proceed by loving his sect or
church better than Christianity, and end in
loving himself better than all.

Not one man in a thousand has the strength
of mind or the goodness of heart to be an atheist.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English poet;
he was born on thus date, 1772

Jesus is recorded to have said, “He who loves mother or father or brother or sister or lands or possessions more than me is not worthy to be my disciple”. He also famously said, “I am Truth”.

In all things Human, it is so very easy to lose track of the burning vision that lies within our Souls. We can be so spiritually lazy. We weary of thinking for ourselves. Institutions come along, seducing us in a wily way to ceding our freedom to those gathering power. Before we know it, we have become slaves. And it’s all so ….. easy.

A-theists are, to my view, essentially persons who refuse to domesticate or cage God. Most of those a-theists I have met are saddened by the utter diminishment of the majesty and wisdom and unconditional love and compassion of the Deity seen in the Christ, in His Gospel. Of these “a-theists” I know many – and I deeply respect them. By their “strength of mind” they call all believers to hold to the core Truth and to reject making idols of church and dogma and hierarchies and self-serving ecclesiastical bureaucracies.

Such idols lead only to God’s becoming a pet – likeable, strokeable ..... and ignore-able.

We don’t need divine pets ….. though we think we do and we work tirelessly to create them. We need a God to hold us to the fire! A God who will pitilessly oppose our self-delusion … but with humour and compassion and deep appreciation for our Humanity.

Each of us must have an inner a-theist to keep us honest and free.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Politics would be a helluva good business
if it weren't for the goddamned people.

What starts the process, really, are laughs and
slights and snubs when you are a kid. If your
anger is deep enough and strong enough, you
learn that you can change those attitudes by
excellence, personal gut performance.

Richard Nixon, the only American President to resign.
On this night, 1973, Nixon abolished the office
of the Special Prosecutor (looking into Water-
gate), accepted the resignation of the Attorney
General (who refused to carry out Nixon’s
orders), and fired the Deputy Attorney General
for the same reason.

In some ways, I am mellowing with age ….. but I have to say in all candidness that this is a relative marker when it comes to me, arrogant bastard that I can be! Until recently, I have had nothing but scathing contempt for Richard Nixon. Now, I see his battered, shattered humanity, mostly a result of self-inflicted wounds erupting from his self-delusions ….. but also from his agonizing woundedness as a human being. That agonizing woundedness comes from early depths; you can “hear” it in the second quote: “laughs and slights and snubs”. Oh, I remember those from my youth.

Immediately, my mind and heart go to the several young Gay men who have killed themselves recently ….. and in whose memory I will wear purple tomorrow. It was the “laughs and slights and snubs” – and woundingly much deeper things – that these Gay youngsters suffered that undermined their sense of Self and led them to suicide. They have died victims of a cruel and ignorant and hateful society. Nixon died too as a person the day he resigned …. but lived on in a living death for some years. He learned that you can’t change those attitudes by “excellence” and by “personal gut performance” ….. some may, but most are defeated by society’s cruelty. Nixon was defeated by the contempt he adopted – his contempt, nurtured by pain, for “the goddamned people”. I know how he got there. I now see Nixon certainly not as blameless: he was the worst of politicians, full of the worst characteristics that political power, and the lust for it, can create. But I see his lack of spiritual guides – and am not at all surprised by it, having watched “God in America” and seen how American Christianity has not only betrayed the Gospel but also planted within itself the seeds of a hideous and fatal sickness.

Do we want America (or the World) to be a land inhabited by, and more frighteningly, governed by human beings stunted in their Humanity? A Humanity barely rising above barbarism spiritually, morally, intellectually? Turn on the TV: we are surrounded by it. I have talked with friends in Canada and in Europe. They are stunned by the spiritual corruption they see on American media. And by the venality and shallowness of political and religious leaders throughout the World. It is breathtaking ….. and frightening.

Think about this. There is something that each of us can do – and be – to counter this. Today, if you believe in the beauty of human beings and in kindness and compassion:

Radiate it.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, October 19, 2010

To the Grasshopper and the Cricket

Green little vaulter in the sunny grass,
Catching your heart up at the feel of June,
Sole voice that's heard amidst the lazy noon,
When even the bees lag at the summoning brass;
And you, warm little housekeeper, who class
With those who think the candles come too soon,
Loving the fire, and with your tricksome tune
Nick the glad silent moments as they pass;
Oh sweet and tiny cousins, that belong
One to the fields, the other to the hearth,
Both have your sunshine; both, though small, are strong
At your clear hearts; and both were sent on earth
To sing in thoughtful ears this natural song:
Indoors and out, summer and winter,--Mirth.

Leigh Hunt, English poet; born on this date,
1784, in Southgate, London

Last night, I accidently tipped over my glass of wine. It drenched my mobile phone. And a couple of books. I became ….. enraged! I carried on like a banshee! My rage at everything came pouring out: at myself, at the World, at Religion, at tribalism, at every damn thing I could think of. I thought that Dennis was terrified that he was going to have to call the Loony Squad. But ….. at least I got it all out of my system. Still: I am so very fed up with human beings.

Someone once wrote that music hath charm to sooth the savage beast. True. But I think this charming first line of dear Leigh Hunt’s sonnet I’ll keep in my wallet for such moments as last night’s.

Pray for Mirth to sweep over the World!! Pray for every human being to be given the gift of the discernment of every idiotic, dehumanizing, excluding, hateful, fearful, ignorant metaphorical Tea-bagger buffoonery throughout the World ….. and inundate us with a fit of tsunami-like Mirth that restores our Humanity and our Compassion and our delight in each other.



Sunday, October 17, 2010

Piazza San Marco, Venezia, by Canaletto;
he was born on this date, 1697;
he painted this when he was 37 years old

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, October 18, 2010

It’s a Byzantine structure ….. tinkered with over the centuries of course! In 828, Venetian merchants stole the “relics of St. Mark the Evangelist” (who of course did not exist as a person; and that says a lot about the complex nature of religion) in Alexandria. They were lodged in a temporary building in the Doge’s palace – a wonderful place I loved exploring. It is said the Venetians hid the relics in a barrel under layers of pork to get them past Muslim guards. The escapade is depicted in the 13th-century mosaic above the door farthest left of the front entrance of the Basilica; as always, I carry my birding binoculars when travelling – I got a good view!

The original St. Mark's church was replaced by a new one on the present site in 832. The new church was burned in a rebellion in 976, rebuilt in 978, finally to form the basis of the present basilica in 1063. It was consecrated 916 years ago ….. imagine! It’s a horrible mish-mash today, things stick on and, the final insult, the exterior badly trashed (according to irate Venetians) in order to suit the Doge, who wanted it to look more like his palace.

I went to the Sacred Liturgy there one Sunday, in the Autumn. I was one of about 10 worshippers – old ladies and I. (Tourists aren’t allowed in; I got in because, knowing that, I wore a new cassock I had had made by the nuns in Florence, and a BIG cross. I think they thought I was an American bishop). The Roman liturgy, presided at by some bishop, was sloppy and lifeless and perfunctory – except for the old ladies, who were transparent with peace and a quiet ancient joy, and the bishop, who had to have been 90 and, though he seemed to be performing a rote thing, had a slow “aura of sanctity”. The whole Liturgy was in a kind of whisper. I loved it.

I watched the whole 6 hours yesterday of “God in America”. The last 2 hours, from 1945 to the present, which mentioned the recent proposed burning of the Qu’ran by some alleged American Christians, was utterly horrifying. Billy Graham – sucking up to power and making Christianity a weapon against “Communism”. The whole thing made me sick.

San Marco, Venice, may be equally irrelevant to the Gospel as Billy Graham and his ilk. But I am glad that I sensed that morning an ancient flame of the message of the Gospel. The Gospel reading was Jesus saying “Love one another as I have loved you.”


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, October 15, 2010

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum
shows that faith does not prove anything.

After coming into contact with a religious
man I always feel I must wash my hands.

All things are subject to interpretation; whichever
interpretation prevails at a given time is a function
of power and not truth.

Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.

Every church is a stone on the grave of a god-man: it does
not want him to rise up again under any circumstances.

Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher, writer; he was
born on this date, 1844, in the village of Röcken
bei Lützen, near Leipzig, Germany

Well, I must have found more quotes from Nietzsche than any other person I’ve quoted!! Nietzsche is, of course, famous for having said, “God is Dead”.

Now, I will not pretend that I have read enough Nietzsche (in fact, I’ve read damn little!) so that I know what he actually might have meant by his many words on the subject of God and Religion. But then this is not a Reflection on Nietzsche’s meaning, but on where I can run to with it!

So: just in case you have nothing better to do with your day than ponder Nietzsche, I’ve listed five quotes on the subject. And here’s what I think.

One: “Faith” is not about trading slave-like submission for a Deity’s condescending favour. Faith, from the Latin “fides – trust”, means diligently adhering, often with difficulty, to a path which gives birth to the Mystery of God Within. The meaning of everything: Life, Death, Wholeness, Love, Joy is at stake. Discerning the authentic Path is the life-work of every person.

Two: History is full of religious people contact with whom destroys one’s very Being. I could make a very long list of such people presently living! Beware them, avoid them. The soul of America and much of the World is at stake.

Three: all things are indeed subject to interpretation; it’s inherent in human nature. Power is also inherent in human nature. We all have some, and many have huge amounts. The critical issue is, How is power used? My own standard is Jesus: He rejected power that denied Love. And for me, Truth is Love.

Four: Lies come from cowards; and cowards often lack the moral fiber to prevail. But people of conviction often have the power of their convictions to use cruelty in the mistaken notion that conviction of Right trumps Humility and Compassion. This is never True; it is always inhumane.

Five: Beware human institutions that claim to represent or speak for God. They can, and have, become the opposite in the twinkling of an eye. The Christ, The Enlightened One, The Prophet lies entombed under many a Temple of brick or of flesh.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Every day people are straying away
from the church and going back to God.

Lenny Bruce, comedian, social commentator; he
was born on this date, 1925 [died 080366, age 40]

Oh, I always have such great hopes for “the church” – or “the synagogue” or “the Mosque”, etc. I am such an optimist! (And that’s hard to be when one is also such a cynic!) It’s meant to be a reflection of the Deity – a loving, caring, just, compassionate, gracious community reflecting the Divine nature. Alas – Lenny voices the reality. It isn’t/they aren’t.

Well: they are of course made up of human beings. And human beings are of a very complex nature. We can call the Christian Church the “Body of Christ” all we like; or the Islamic community the “Umma” – the “mother” (from the Arabic), that which gives birth to the People who live the message of Allah. But very very seldom does the human embodiment of “God” resemble one other.

Institutions like the Church have a disappointing way of accepting all those gifts which “Satan” offered to Jesus in the Wilderness and which Jesus firmly refused. Not only do we lap them up, but we have an ingenious gift for being able to rationalize our lapping! How seductive “the World” is! The Hindu guru’s 10 Rolls Royces or the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lambeth Palace or the Pope’s Vatican or the Evangelical preacher’s (including Billy Graham!) upper class lifestyle – all are symbols of how God is betrayed by Her earthly representatives, individual or corporate. Much as I love Pope John XXIII, it was quite ingenuous of him to say that he was born and died poor!

I dearly hope it is true that people are indeed “straying away from the church and going back to God”. Not that I want the “Church” to disappear. Like it or not, God cannot exist, as St. Teresa of Avila (whose feast day in Oct 15) so beautifully said in one of her poems, without us humans as Her manifestation in the World. “Going back to God” is a powerful call to the Church to remember who and what we are called to be.

I have said it many times before: if your church or religion does not reflect the Love, Compassion, Justice, Mercy, Kindness, and most of all the leading into new Life nature of God ……… find another, or reform it.

God is so clever!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No, it's a B-flat. It looks wrong and
it sounds wrong, but it's right.

Ralph Vaughan Williams, English
composer; he was born on this
date, 1872.

Have you heard “The Lark Ascending”?? In my opinion, it ranks among the great compositions of the 20th Century. It is a metaphor: the human spirit can be beaten down – but it has the capacity to heal and be restored ….. and to soar.

Most human beings are wary of the metaphorical “B-flats” in their cultural, theological, philosophical, emotional context. And we are aware of those B-flats when the break into our lives. They feel discordant. They challenge us. They make us feel uneasy. You can think of what those B-flats are, right? They de-stable us. They invade our comfort zones. They challenge our set ways and our convictions. They insinuate that we may have been following an unproductive path, a self-destructive path, and that we might have to change.

Often – most often – they “look wrong” and “sound wrong”. They disorient us. They make us wonder if we are on solid ground. All of the parables of Jesus are B-flats; if we “hear” them, they jolt us out of a deadening complacency and call us to a “new life”.

I’ve learned, over the decades: if it “looks wrong and it sounds wrong”, pay attention.

From “God’s” point of view, it is likely “right”.

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, October 11, 2010
[Canadian Thanksgiving; Indigenous Peoples' Day in South Dakota]

The feelings of my smallness and my
nothingness always kept me good company.

Pope John XXIII; on this date in 1962, he
convened the first session of Vatican II

If most other people had said this, I would have dismissed it as poor self-esteem or false humility. But, in my humble opinion, Good Pope John was a wise and sane man (the only Pope I am willing to say that about; though perhaps one other would be Pope Celestine V, the only Pope to abdicate, in 1294). And of course, suggesting we think about our smallness and nothingness is a little challenging, so I’ve waited until the late morning to send this along, to spare you undue hours of anguish ………. well ok; I was lazy last night!

As you will know, I am a fan of thinking well of our Humanity, of who we are individually and as a Human community. This is a firm theological principle in my Life and in my understanding of “God” and of the Gospel and of other great Teachers. And yes, this despite the “fact” that I am at present beset with a deep sense of the primitiveness of our present human condition and in moderate despair of any improvement.

Being an Anglican (not the present confused aspect of “Anglican” but the classic one), I think Balance is a wise thing. So, every now and then, it is a helpful thing to recall that we are just teensy specks of Being in a vast Universe (or perhaps in an infinite number of Universes).

That makes you, like John, a wise and sane person! Isn’t it nice how being Small and Nothing can make you feel so good!



Saturday, October 9, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, October 10, 2010

…. ten lepers approached him ….. they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master,
have mercy on us!" ….. they were made clean. Then [a Samaritan, the only
one of ten] …. prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him ….. Then
Jesus ….. said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."

Luke 17 (from the Gospel for Sunday, October 10, 2010)

It is very unclear whether this is being reported as an event in the Story of The Christ, or as a parable Jesus told. It feels, to me anyway, like the latter. The four “canonical” Gospels often report things differently.

Clearly, we are meant to focus on the issue of the connection that is implied between wholeness, faith/trust, and thanksgiving. Nine of the lepers were cured, but only one was thankful … or at least only one expressed his thankfulness.

I think I understand the point Jesus is making. It’s about what “wholeness”, healing, actually IS. We all go through – and believe me I know! – getting better from human illness, of all sorts, physical, mental, emotional, etc., even many life-threatening illnesses as I have, by the grace of human knowledge and medical skill. But Jesus is always interested in full Wholeness - in people becoming fully Human as the Gospel understands that Wholeness.

The nine others lepers were cured of their leprosy; off they went to the priests to get “certified” as cured, get accepted back into society, and presumably go on with their lives. But one, a Samaritan, a “foreigner” (in order to emphasize the point that so many of us think we “deserve” blessings) comes back thankful. So, nine went off and, though cured, didn’t grow in Humanity, as Jesus always desires. One did grow.

Faith is trust (Latin: “fidere”, to trust; “fides”, fidelity) that, if we seek to grow and deepen in the Humanity which is offered by God through The Christ and through many other ways, we will do so!

And Thankfulness for the mysterious blessings of Life will be a sure sign that we have become more Whole, and know that we have been blessed by that great Mystery called “God”.

Maybe (as I have experienced) we don’t get physically cured; but we are thankful for the Life we have been given to live, in whatever state. That is a character of the Life of Faith. As I was once quoted as saying: “The Life of faith is a Life of endless horizons”.

How have you grown in Wholeness? This is what God is interested in.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, October 8, 2010

I cast my bread on the waters long ago.
Now it's time for you to send it back to me –
toasted and buttered on both sides.

Jesse Jackson Sr. Prophet, patriot. He was born on this day, 1941

I don’t know the context of this quote attributed to Jesse Jackson Sr. But I would guess that it was made in the course of one of his attempts to get elected President, or some other political campaign.

However: I can imagine “God” saying this. To all human beings. What “God”? The one great Mystery behind Life – Who may or who may not existentially exist, but Who certainly exists in the minds of countless human beings.

Many ages and times have been like ours. Our age is not unique. But: we are the ones living in this age, and we must hear the message of the Universe in our own ears, hearts, minds - in our own deepest human Mystery.

Long ago, in every Time and Universe that has ever been, “God” cast Her bread upon the waters. “Love. Be compassionate. Be Just. Be generous. Be kind. The Hebrews got my Message: I will never again destroy the Earth. But you might, the Earth and each other, now in your Time.”

Those who have ears to hear, let us hear.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, October 7, 2010

On this day, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a Gay college
student, was gay-bashed, robbed, and left tied to
a wooden fence post in Laramie, WY in freezing
temperatures by two young men. He died 5 days later.

I shall never forget.

Matthew was God’s Beloved Child.


"American Triangle" [Elton John]

Seen him playing in his backyard
Young boy just starting out
So much history in this landscape
So much confusion, so much doubt

Been there drinking on that front porch
Angry kids, mean and dumb
Looks like a painting, that blue skyline
God hates fags where we come from

'Western skies' don't make it right
'Home of the brave' don't make no sense
I've seen a scarecrow wrapped in wire
Left to die on a high ridge fence
It's a cold, cold wind
It's a cold, cold wind
It's a cold wind blowing, Wyoming

See two coyotes run down a deer
Hate what we don't understand
You pioneers give us your children
But it's your blood that stains their hands

Somewhere that road forks up ahead
To ignorance and innocence
Three lives drift on different winds
Two lives ruined, one life spent

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gay Liberation? I ain't against it, it's just
that there's nothing in it for me.

Bette Davis, actress; she died on this
day, age 81, in 1989

What I remember is “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”. Whoa! That was powerful, especially because I was quite young – 16 years old. Bette was a total BITCH! It made quite an impression on me. Happily, being a delightfully naïve wholesome Canadian, I didn’t transfer that to all women! Hey, well, it’s just part of my gift as Gay man; “we” don’t do that sort of thing because it isn’t in “our” genes!!

“There’s nothing in it for me”. There’s the Shakespearean rub. A problem of the whole human race, bottom line. Bette was, I am sure, being ironic about it. It’s especially a rub for “wealthy” societies anywhere in the World. Religion makes no difference. Well-off Americans and Saudis and Sudanese and Danes and Greenlanders and Thais, Christians or Buddhists or Muslims or Jews or Zoroastrians – once we get to a certain stage of privilege, we easily marginalize the needs of our fellow human beings. Jesus talked about it a LOT! As did the Jewish prophets. “Woe to you who put your finger on the scale and try to cheat the poor!”

Oh. We take meals to the poor and the homeless. We give them the shampoo and the Conditioner we snitch from the fancy hotels we go to and the clothes we don’t want anymore. But we really don’t work to change the systems that KEEP people poor! Mostly because that would radically change OUR lives – and we like how we live as the top 1% of the World’s population.

Every great Teacher, “Christ”, Bodhisattva, Saint, Enlightened One tells us in some fashion that if we want to be “rich” we must give everything away; if we want Life we must be willing to “lose” it. They point to the truth that if we live by the principle that “there’s nothing in it for me”, there won’t be!

The message? Many have said it better than I. Every human being is my sister or brother. The less they have, the less my Humanity – and my Happiness.

Ponder. Can we learn this lesson and live it? Look at the World now. We have not learned the Lesson.

We must.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Love, love me do.
You know I love you,
I'll always be true,
So please, love me do.
Whoa ccc, love me do.

Love, love me do.
You know I love you,
I'll always be true,
So please, love me do.
Whoa, love me do.

Someone to love,
Somebody new.
Someone to love,
Someone like you.

Love, love me do.
You know I love you,
I'll always be true,
So please, love me do.
Whoa, love me do.

Love, love me do.
You know I love you,
I'll always be true,
So please, love me do.
Whoa, love me do.
Yeah, love me do.
Whoa, oh, love me do.
whoa ,oh love me do
why dont cha love me do

The Beatles; this song was
released on this day, 1962

This was the Beatles’ first “big hit”. Interesting that it was about Love. It amazes me that a song could be such a hit with such a limited vocabulary! But then, I’m looking at it from the perspective of a 64 year old fogey.

I’d like to think that it was because it was about Love that it was such a hit in 1962 – and maybe so, I don’t know. But it was the sixties – and I LOVED the sixties! Hippie me, I often wish that we could go back to that era. Oh, I know I know. If I looked back at the history, it was probably just as “bad” then as it is now. After all, John Kennedy was shot and killed, and Robert Kennedy, and Dr. King. There was Vietnam, etc.

In 1962, I was 16, and a Junior in High School. In 1967, I was a novice monk in the Order of the Holy Cross. In 1968, our Novice Master took us to the March on Washington. I’ll never forget the night of the March. We went to an Episcopal Church at Midnight; the Liturgy lasted until 5am. And the passing of the Peace took over an hour!!! The only other experience I have had where the Love was SO palpable was during the years that I was the AIDS chaplain in the diocese of RI.

The only God I embrace is the God of Unconditional Love. The only Absolute I may acknowledge is Love. The only core Mystery is Love. The only definitive Path to Wholeness and Life is Love. And The Christ’s choice of the Cross is the essence of the Way of Love.

What a Journey we have to being Human! What Wisdom to learn!


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, October 3, 2010

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior….

Collect for Sunday, Oct 3, 2010 [Episcopal Lectionary]

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you. "Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table'? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"

Luke 17 - the Gospel reading for today [Proper 22C RCL]

Forget any modern connotations about “slaves”. Jesus’ words are not about the justice of slave-owning; we don’t want to get caught up in that Red Herring.

Jesus is, as always, concerned about his followers understanding how to be “right with God” ….. taking our rightful position (spiritually) and therefore with heart and mind in that “space” where we stand open and humble and eager for the great Mystery of God’s Compassion and Love and Longing to make us whole human beings.

The Collect expresses both our human desire for this Wholeness, and our concept of a God Who knows our longing far more profoundly than we do. We express our faith that this God will not let our ignorance or fear stand in the way of our becoming Whole. This is what Christians understand the very heart and nature of the God of the Gospels to be. To put it another way, Christians believe that Existence is “for us”. If we surrender ourselves trustingly to the work of Life – as the image of the faithful and hard-working slave represents – Life will bless us.

I absolutely believe this. Abandoning ourselves to the Mystery of Love and allowing ourselves to be swept along by it, working hard to relinquish our misguided grip on control, the often huge “mulberry tress” that block our path will be uprooted, our path “made straight in the desert”, and we will fly like an arrow to Be as Christ.

We do not need to work hard. We need to surrender hard. This is what is meant by Freedom.