Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011: THe Rapture

Well: Come and Gone. The Rapture, I mean. Lots of people apparently gave up everything, jobs, etc - and now what? Here in Assisi, as far as I can tell, the impending "Rapture" or the "Second Coming", was ignored. The busses and the pilgrims came to the lovely Basilica, looked at the wonderful paintings, lit candles, and went on their way.

A friend of mine says that our "approach" to those who took the whole business seriously should ..... kindness. I agree.

But I have this to say. Jesus is reporteds to have wisely said that of many things about Life, "No one knows but the Father". One of the main implications of this is, "Get on with Life." There is no easy fix, like denial or avoidance or escape. Life is to be lived ..... and thinking that if it gets too hard or demanding we can just ask or expect God to absolve us of all responsibility is just plain Wishful Thinking.

"Rapture" is a given of a Life fully engaged in.

Give it a try!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, May 16, 2011

Life's like a movie, write your own ending.
Keep believing, keep pretending.

Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets.
He died on this day, 1990, age 53,
of streptococcus pneumonia, a bacterial infection.

I’d change only one word: pretending.

What I think Jim meant by “pretending” comes from Big Bird and Bert and Kermit and the Cookie Monster and Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppets. All those “pretend” characters. What I hear is Jim saying, “Don’t get stuck in yourself. There are always other dimensions of Yourself you can blossom into.”

The older I get, and the more I think and ponder, the more I know what amazing creatures we human beings are. How amazing the human brain is. How wondrous Life is! But, one of the great realities of Life is (my apologies if anyone is sensitive) Shit Happens. Just like Bliss Happens. If I were a teacher of young people, one of the primary things I would teach them is, “Write your own ending.”

Getting to the point where you have the freedom and the guts and the wisdom to write your own ending is, of course, one of the core challenges of Life. Shit is always going to happen. Teachers of all sorts, including preachers, should focus on equipping people with shoveling it.

I would tell kids: Believe in yourself. Think. Be one of those people about whom my father used to say, “If he fell into a barrel of shit he’d come out wearing a new suit.”

Don’t choose to be a victim. “Keep pretending” really means “You have the power to write your own Story, and rewrite it as many times as you need to.”


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, May 14, 2011

The sheep follow him [ the Good Shepherd] because they know
his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from
him because they do not know the voice of strangers.

Jesus, in the Gospel called John, chapter 10 (Easter IV A RCL)

[ The full text is found here: ]

I am sure that you realize that one can justify/rationalize ANYTHING from anybody’s “Holy Scriptures”.

Let’s take something that Jesus is recorded to have said: (a) “Peace I give unto you” (b) I did not come to bring Peace but a Sword”. The Gospels are full of such inconsistencies ….. or should we call them “inconsistent interpretations” ….. by the various communities that grew up around the phenomenon of Jesus? Anyway, it should be crystal clear that any group can use the Scriptures of any religion to justify their positions.


So: just think of the issues that arise! Are we essentially Good or Bad? Does God punish? Is there a physical Hell or Heaven? You can go on extrapolating forever.

The Question that the Readings for Easter IV A RCL raise is: What IS the authentic voice of Jesus?? of “the Good Shepherd”? “The Family” (Google them) thinks that it is the voice of power and privilege to the powerful and the rich. To many of us, it is the Voice of the Compassionate Jesus who associated with the underprivileged. The List could go on forever.

But let’s not forget one thing: Jesus made His final statement about what it was all about to His followers at the Passover meal before He was killed” ~ “Love one another as I have loved you”.

As far as I am concerned: the “Voice of the Good Shepherd” is about Unconditional Love ~ Love without Judgment based on personal prejudices, fears, or delusions.

That is the voice that I follow. That of the Good Shepherd.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, May 13, 2011

"Sometimes it’s a sort of indulgence to think
the worst of ourselves. We say, ‘Now I have
reached the bottom of the pit, now I can fall
no further,’ and it is almost a pleasure to wallow
in the darkness. The trouble is, it’s not true.
There is no end to the evil in ourselves, just as
there is no end to the good. It’s a matter of choice.
We struggle to climb, or we struggle to fall. The
thing is to discover which way we’re going."

Dame Daphne du Maurier; author; she
was born on this date, 1907, in London

So. Is not the question: Who, or What, is going to teach us how to “discover which way we are going”?

Dame du Maurier is wise, I think. “There is no end to the evil in ourselves, just as there is no end to the good.” After many decades, and much reading of the “history” (a dubious concept!) of the human race, I agree with her. We think we have reached the bottom of Evil ….. then Stalin or Pol Pot appears (I shall refrain from naming an American candidate). We think we have reached the height of Good ….. and then Warren Buffet gives multi-billions in hopes that it will help the human race advance. (May Bill and Melinda do a good job!)

I believe in the archetype that all human beings have a choice, that Choice is a “given” of being Human ~ despite the fact that many of us seem, by Life’s circumstances, to be deprived of the exercise of that freedom. But, if we are “lucky”, we learn and are taught that “We struggle to climb, or we struggle to fall”. And that we are responsible for the choice. Responsible to each other, and responsible to ourselves. No Human Being can “raise itself”. We are helpless when we are born. We depend on others to get us to the point when we can understand the choices and how to make them.

In my view, the essential point of Education is to get us to this place: to understand the choices, and to lead us to the knowledge of how wisely to make those choices. Only after that should we go on to learn skills or develop talents. I think we are failing abysmally ….. and (karma being karma) the consequences will become more and more evident ~ as I think the World presently manifests.

Children should first be taught by Mystics ….. of all types. Imagine Rumi and Julian of Norwich and Maimonides and Sai Baba and Amma the Hugging Saint all in one kindergarten room interacting with our kids!! Oh God, how I wish that we could get to the place where all faiths could accept each other’s Wisdom and work together to teach us all how to be Human!

Our main “learning” must be to “discover which way we are going”. This is what every school and every religion should be committed to teaching. No one has the Truth. We have it together.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Each morning when I awake, I experience again
a supreme pleasure - that of being Salvador Dali.

Salvador Dali, artist, eccentric to the max; he was
born on this date, 1904, in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain
[ He died in 1989. ]

Ah ah ah. No feelings of false modesty or false humility allowed. If you are feeling these, just stare them down. And put aside any urge to rationalize. Take a deep breath, and just say to the Universe, to God, to Yourself as you awake: “I experience again a supreme pleasure – that of being ____________ (your name).” Some may call you conceited, deluded, etc. Just ignore it. Many will be jealous.

This is the still point of Becoming. If this is not how you actually feel - and there are lots of reasons you might not! - it is the verbal sacrament shaping you for your destiny, for your becoming fully whole and “yourself”. It is the critical leaping off point by which you become a Christ, an enlightened Buddha, a bodhisattva. Yourself. There is no other path to this destiny. You must embrace You ….. and then follow what will be the often bewildering, twisting path to maturity. Be prepared to change radically … over and over.

Just as the Christ was unique, so each of us. Taking pleasure in this will not mislead you, as many will say. No. It will free you to give yourself away recklessly and never be diminished.

Dali also said:

I do not paint a portrait to look like the subject;
rather does the person grow to look like his portrait.

Somewhere in the mind of God our portrait exists. What we need is to follow the path whereby we grow to look like our portrait.

We must therefore choose carefully.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It may be that when the angels go about their task
praising God, they play only Bach. I am sure, however,
that when they are together en famille they play Mozart.

Karl Barth, theologian; he was born on this date, 1886,
in Switzerland

Bach: ordered; measured; impeccable counterpoint, faultlessly played; ornate and enflowered but structured; quieting, mindful; passion “lying under”.

Mozart: passionate; unpredictable; enthusiastic; flirtatious; sly; underlying structure anchoring florescence; teasing; jolly, emotional.

Think about it. Get it? Worship, praising God, can legitimately be formal, wrapping us in Mystery. Think of the Passover Meal in the Upper Room. But when we are “en famille”, think of the Wedding Cana! We can be a little “unglued”, exuberant, reveling in God’s hilarious Presence.

We are heirs of the angels. We blend the Upper Room and Cana. Our lives are Bachian and Mozartesque, each flowing into the other. “Church” and “En Famille” may flow one into the other.

It’s all Praise and it’s all Delight in each other.

A Gift to ourselves and to the World.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, May 9, 2011

There is no passion to be found playing
small – in settling for a life that is less
than the one you are capable of living.

Nelson Mandela; on this day, 1994, having
been released from prison after more than
20 years, he was chosen to be the President
of the Republic of South Africa

I careen between absolute cynicism and wild, irrational, idealistic optimism about us humans. Now, here is this glorious quote from President Mandela. It resonates deeply with me. There is a part of my soul, shaped as it has been over five decades by the Gospel and by the great wisdom of humanity - and yes, by the serendipity of having been born in such a privileged part of the World - which desperately wants to believe that every single human being should not have to be “be found playing small” ~ should never never never have to settle for “a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”.

Then I think, “What about the person who is born in Darfur? In the slums of Mumbai? In one of the one-fifth of American families where children live hungry and in poverty? “ Are they to be held to the capability of their situation, never to escape from that, having to be satisfied with such restrictions? A lot of people would just say, “Well, that’s they way it is”. I can’t ….. and I don’t want to. I want to think that the World can change. That it can and will be different.

Dennis and I have been watching “South Riding” on Masterpiece Theatre. A youngish woman headmistress just before WWII, whose fiancĂ© was killed in WWI, determined that “her girls” will learn how to do anything they want to do. She’s my heroine!

Alas, I think there are in our World far too many people who do not have the opportunity, for a multitude of reasons, even to envision a life of living it to the fullest of their capability. I so long for that to change! But: there are many who, with good teachers, could be encouraged and helped not to “play small”. Someone(s) taught Nelson Mandela this.

The vast majority of us will not be a Nelson Mandela on the World stage. It doesn’t matter. It’s relative.

Each of us can do what we can do to help each other not to “play small”.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, May 6, 2011

He does not believe that does
not live according to his belief .

Sigmund Freud, psychiatrist; he was
born on this date, 1856, in Freiborg

In my opinion, Freud would have done well to have a good personal psychiatrist! However, he had some useful insights. [I know, I know; I’m being condescending.]

Freud seems to be supporting, theologically, “justification by works”, not “justification by faith alone”. I think I’m with Freud. Jesus us reported to have said, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. By which I think he meant that Faith and Works are two necessary sides of the same coin. Or, that “belief” must be authenticated by appropriate behaviour.

However. If one thinks of God as the Judge who decides whether one is “saved” (a very mysterious concept, that!) or not, then Worry Not. Justification (i.e., recognition of one’s intrinsic value as a person) comes neither through belief, faith, or works, but only by the profligate, irrational Love of the Holy One.

Breathe a sigh of relief!

On a political note, Freud also said (ok, ok, I’m chortling a bit):

America is a mistake, a giant mistake.
….. America is the most grandiose
experiment the world has seen, but,
I am afraid, it is not going to be a success.

What think ye???


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I do not say think as I think, but think in my way.
Fear no shadows, least of all in that great spectre
of personal unhappiness which binds half the world
to orthodoxy.

Thomas H. Huxley, English biologist & educator;
he was born on this date, 1825

Half the world only? I would say much more than half!

To be bound to “orthodoxy” (“right teaching”) can have a cozy and secure feel. But that “world” has for the most part gone. Many know it’s gone from Christianity, fragmented as it is. Many think it has not gone from Islam ….. but it has, and indeed has been built in since the 7th C - Sunni and Shiite and Sufi at each other’s throats. And so with many of the prominent religions.

But orthodoxy is very often a prison of the mind and heart and spirit. Life never ceases to change. Change is paradoxically Life’s only constant. And Change is always an invitation: to enter into it, and grow and deepen. Orthodoxy almost always separates from Reality, and Life with all its newness and freshness moves on. Eventually all that is left is an irrelevant and bitter cult of sorts.

Huxley postulates that “personal unhappiness”, casting its shadowy fear over all it can envelope, is what entraps us, makes us afraid of what worse could happen should we take the risky steps. We prefer the “devil we know than the devil we don’t”.

I have learned, through my life as a monk and priest, that “personal unhappiness” is the “voice of God”. Always! I envision God as One Who abhors unhappiness in any creature. If we sit with unhappiness for but a few moments, we hear the “still small voice” saying, as it said to Elijah, “Come out!”, and the loud voice of Jesus calling to Lazarus, “Come forth!”.

The voice of Personal Unhappiness says, if we listen with courage, “Fear no shadows”. Step into “unorthodoxy”. Often the unorthodox, the rejection of convention, is the only path to new Life.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I still call myself a communist, because communism
is no more what Russia made of it than Christianity
is what the churches make of it.

Pete Seeger; musician, philosopher; he was born on this
date, 1919, at French Hospital, Manhattan; he’s 92 today.

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?

Where have all the flowers gone?

Young girls have picked them everyone.

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?

Where have all the soldiers gone?

Gone to graveyards, everyone.

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?

Where have all the graveyards gone?

Gone to flowers, everyone.

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Words and Music by Pete Seeger (1955)

I am grateful to Pete, whom I have been privileged to meet on his beloved Hudson River, for his unwavering commitment to the Earth, to humanity, to peace and to Justice, to his standing up to Joe McCarthy, and to his vision of what America could be.

How long will the cycle go on? Will we ever learn? Perhaps today, in honour of Pete, we could all vow to do what we can not to keep the cycle of death going. Howver small, we can all do something, in heart, mind, action.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, May 2, 2011

To bring the sublime into the mundane
is the greatest challenge there is.

Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

I deeply deeply enter into the Holy Eucharist. I am in awe of it as a Sacred Mystery. It is the reason that I became an Anglican in Canada when I was 19, and one of the prime reasons I remain a Christian in the Episcopal/Eucharistic tradition despite my great frustration over its flip-flopping positions on the full inclusion of Gayfolk and its continuing refusal fully to commit theologically to the fact that there is nothing ontologically “wrong”, or as the Dalai Llama would have it “disordered”, about homosexuals.

I love receiving “mundane” things - bread and wine - into my hands and body, and knowing that I am “receiving God” into myself - that at least is the theological understanding. When I was a young monk, the devotion I most cherished was Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament – sitting in contemplation before the consecrated Host in its Monstrance on the altar. I was a “raging radical” about everything else ….. but no amount of taunting from my reformist brothers could change my mind. One brother would call it “The Nabisco Hour” to try and get at me ….. but I would just smile.

It did not take me long to understand that devotion to the Blessed Sacrament was a mighty metaphor. That, just as the Living God was “in” the holy bread and wine, God was in me, in my friends, in all human beings, in flower and animal, in every single piece of Creation. In my perceived enemies ….. though it took me longer to get there. That I should stand in awe and adoration before them, for they all were holy manifestations of the God of Compassion. That the whole World, seen and unseen, is a sacrament of the presence of the Holy One.

I am ashamed that still I do so little to honour the ubiquitous bearers of this Holiness. Tonight I learned that Osama ben Laden has been killed. Yet another extinguishing of a bodily tabernacle of God, however dim a tabernacle some may think him and however murderous his hate.

I wonder: is there any way that we all could learn to see the Holy in each other? It would change us.