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The Territory of Together

I'm digging into Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Life Together" now. If I hadn't read Bonhoeffer before, I wouldn't have gotten past the first few pages; but when he says things like this: "Spiritual love, however, comes from Jesus Christ, it serves him alone; it knows that it has no immediate access to other persons.", and this: "Where Christ bids me to maintain fellowship for the sake of love, I will maintain it. Where his truth enjoins me to dissolve a fellowship for love's sake, there I will dissolve it, despite all the protests of my human love," I feel like I'm in a theological bouncy castle. Yippee!

I need to think more about this, but I believe I'm beginning to see a different picture of community.

I forgot that "community" is such a buzz-word. I realized that I don't have to limit myself to any of the popular and trendy meanings of the word.

I remembered that the "C" in LC stands for Community, and so…

Anamnesis

I finished reading the book “Holy Listening” and realized it had left behind a big old scruffy, flea-bitten dog of doubt sitting right in front of me demanding to be fed, or at least petted.

The book concludes with some thoughts about women as spiritual directors, and women’s changing roles in ministry in the context of the Episcopal Church. The author, Margaret Guenther, is an Episcopal Priest, and it was clear that she had very clear and unambiguous notions about the differences between men and women; both in the roles and rules that society imposes; and about the different ways that women vs. men approach relationships.

My ambiguity stems from a realization I had quite a long time ago, and it raised up its head again as I set down the book. This is the gist of it:

I cannot identify with either side of the gender polarization: neither male or female! I don’t recognize any aspect of myself in any of the masculine or feminine attributes, or talents, or habits that Guenther describes w…

Stinky Stuff

(I’m now engaged in the process of “reading for Holy Orders”; which is a prescribed course of study leading to ordination. I’ll be using my blog part of the time as a platform for my reflections on the reading I’m doing. The block I’m in right now is “Ecclesial Theology,” which is a fancy name for theological reflections written for (and by) the believing community for the purpose of expanding and enriching the mutual life of the church.)


I've started reading "Holy Listening" by Margaret Guenther, and I agree with much of what she says about how to listen, and what are the general characteristics of the relationship between what she calls "director" and "directee"; but I kept smelling a faint odor of something... something that smelled just a bit "off". There's a saying among Zen folks-- "The stink of Zen"-- which has something to do with a person having a set of ideas about Zen, and proceeding to discriminate based on those id…

Harp-Song 133

A song of ascents by David

Behold!

What Good!

and

What Pleasance!

A family tree

of siblings

a nation living together!



As the good oil

on the head descending—

on the beard—

the beard of Aaron.

Falling down on

the collar

of his coat.



As the night mists

of Hermon fall

on the mountains of Zion—

because it was there that

Yahweh taught the blessing—

life into eternity.





This is another rendition of a psalm derived from the Hebrew Interlinear source online.



A couple of interesting notes: The word shbth, which is translated as “family tree,” is related to the word for the Sabbath— Shabbat. It also can mean “clan” or “tribe”; as well as “branch” or “a walking stick made from a tree-branch”.
The oil in the poem is the oil of anointing used to bless and consecrate a person for the service of God.
Also, there is a nice poetic alignment between ascent and descent; climbing up and raining down—  both actions infused with the living blessing of God.

Threshold

Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for strength only, and not for solace; for renewal only, and not for pardon.

(The original from Eucharistic Prayer C in the BCP is: “for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal.”)

It struck me hard a few weeks ago, that I had been doing exactly that— presuming to come to God’s Table for courage only, and not for comfort; for adjustment only and not for absolution; for endurance only, and not for enjoyment; for patience only, and not for peace; for wisdom only, and not for wittiness; for restraint only, and not for relief.

Odd isn’t it, this bassackwardness? Maybe it’s due to my Asperger’s, and is related to my problem with the Golden Rule, which I have had to amend so that it reads more like this:

“Do unto others according to your best guess as to what they would do unto you, if they were doing unto you what they would want you to do unto them.”



My life has taken on a different aspect recently, due to …

Virtue

All my life I’ve valued qualities like competence, poise, courage, and autonomy. The values that I developed had almost nothing to do with what anyone else thought or taught. Because I grew up undiagnosed on the autism spectrum, I had few friends, and a truncated relationship with those I did have. I played alone; I read alone; and I explored and learned alone. I don’t remember my elementary school teacher’s names, or the names of any of my classmates. The same goes for junior high school. I went to an alternative high school, and I do remember many of my teacher’s names, but only one fellow student’s name.

When I was young, I read, and read, and read; not just fiction and science fiction, but classic works on Stoicism, Taoism and Zen. I read The Golden Bough and Silent Spring. I read the encyclopedia, the dictionary, and the yellow pages. I am still an insatiable reader. Now that the internet is available, I poke around on there in the same way that I would browse the yellow pages …

Spirit or Breath, Ghost or Wind?

At lunch today I started reading “Voicing the Vision” by Linda L. Clader, and I had an interesting insight. My insight didn’t have much at all to do with her topic of homiletics, but I mention her book on principle since I like to give authors credit in all circumstances.

Anyway…. The sentence that kicked off my insight was this: “And the Spirit acts and moves and energizes on its own, in ways that…..”

I’ve lately been thinking a lot about the Holy Spirit, in particular the mis-translation of the Latin word “spiritus” as “spirit.” Both the Greek word “pneuma” and the Latin word “spiritus” mean “breath” or “wind” or “a moving force”. The Latin word for “ghost” is “larva” and the Greek word for it is “fantasma.” The original Hebrew word for God’s Holy Spirit is “ruach.” One of the Jewish Names-of-God is “Ruach HaKodesh” which literally means “wind (or “breath”) of the Holy One.

So, this unexpectedly popped into my head: In meditation we often focus on the breath.

Suddenly, I realized that t…

Dope-Slap Satori

This post is composed of a couple of excerpts from my correspondence with my spiritual friend and advisor. I post it here because of another insight I had, which I expressed (in yet another correspondence) like this:
"Much has happened in my life lately! I had a bit of a shake up and epiphany/satori that was kicked off by a fall that I took in my kitchen. (I wasn't hurt at all, and in retrospect I have been laughing because it was so much like the old Zen stories when someone gets enlightened by getting a nice hard whack!)"

Something is happening, and I think it might just be a really good thing.

So, I fell down in the kitchen the other day and landed right on my chest. I thought for a minute that I'd hurt myself, but no. I don't know if I told you about another fall last winter, when I fell out of the car because I was trying to stretch myself to step over a puddle and my foot slipped off the door jamb and I fell backwards into that same puddle. That fall was way…

No Remedy

“You can be anything you want to be.”I call that complete and utter bullshit!

I’m speaking out against all the inexhaustible and endemic drivel that masquerades as wisdom, especially in so-called ‘memes’ on social media. “Be grateful.” “Love yourself.” “Hugs make it better.” “Love yourself for who you are.”

(I did find a small ray of hope in that some people are taking the trouble to edit these flaccid imitations of wisdom into something that is at least slightly more honest, and re-post the results.)

I think the trouble at the root of my aversion to these simpering remedies is that they try to convince us that the conditions of everyday life are so hostile that we must lie to ourselves about how bad it is, and put all of our mental energy into some sugar-coated rationalization which will let us cover up all of the troublesome inconvenience and messiness of reality with a blanket of schmaltz, and ignore all of the ramifications. The thing is, all of this ready and trite advice is uneq…

Harp Song 26

1(to David)

Judge me Master! Because in my sincerity I walked,

and in my trust of the Master I can’t be shaken.


2Test me! Examine me! Toughen!

Toughen my guts and my heart!—


3because your kindness is in front of my eyes

and I walk in your way of truth.


4I never sat down beside those hopeless narcissistic egotists,

and with phonies I wouldn’t hang out.


5I hated the gang of crooks,

and with bad people I never took a seat.


6I’ll wash my hands in blamelessness

and I’ll go around your altar, Master—


7so as to speak up with a thankful voice,

so as to tell all about your marvelousness.


8Master, I loved the house that is your home,

and the place that is the base of your splendor.


9You mustn’t throw my inner being in with the criminals,

or my life along with the bloodthirsty—


10 the ones who hold on to crime

and whose right hand is loaded with bribes.


11As for me, in my blamelessness I go.

Free me! — You be kind to me!—


12My feet stand on level ground,

in all the gatherings I will bless the Master.





(Today I b…

Harp-song 16

I'm continuing with my study of the psalms as the focus of my Lectio Divina practice, so
(at least for now) I'll be posting one of the psalms assigned in the Daily Lectionary, with my best attempt to render it as close to the original Hebrew as possible, with an eye to poetic turns of phrase.

I'm using Robert Alter's translations, and the translations from The Complete Jewish Bible to help me, but my primary reference source is the online Hebrew Interlinear. (https://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Hebrew_Index.htm)
I also use the website My Jewish Learning (https://www.myjewishlearning.com/)

So, here is


Harp-song 16

1{inscription to David} Keep me, You! God—

because I hide away in you.


2You said to Yahweh, “My Lord”—

my goodness has nothing on you!


3To holy ones living on earth, they and all the worthy ones,

all of my delight is in them.


4Their sorrows will spread—the ones who hurry off to another god—

I won’t offer their offerings of blood and I won’t carry their n…

Until When? (Harp-song 13)

Today’s readings are

Psalms 119:1-24; 12; 13; 14

1 Kings 3:1-15

Acts 27:9-26

Mark 14:1-11



Psalm 13 is what it’s about today.



Every time I look up a psalm in the online Hebrew Interlinear, I feel compelled to render it as close to the Hebrew translation as possible. The psalms sound completely different when I do this, and occasionally I have to laugh because I get an echo of a Yiddish accent in my mind’s ear. I mean, just listen to the first line!

I have to confess that I’ve been having trouble with the Psalms as they are translated in most contemporary Bibles. They sound whiny and vindictive to me. I really don’t think that is how they were intended to sound when they were originally written. The other thing that bugs me is the word “psalm” itself. In Hebrew the word is “mizmor” and it just means a song or melody with accompaniment on the harp. The word “psalm” comes from the Old English psealm, salm; and the Greek psalmos— song sung to a harp.

So, here is my rendition of the 13th song…

Stay Awake!

Mark 13:28-37

37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (ESV)

37 And what I say to you, I say to everyone: stay alert!” (CJB)

Greek: grēgoreō: To be awake— vigilant, on guard, watchful, attentive, alert.

Sanskrit: bodhi: Awakening— the wisdom, knowledge and alert intellect of a buddha.
(Just so you know, apparently it’s possible to shop for ‘Awake’ and ‘Bodhi’ online. Kohl’s has a line of ‘Awake’ clothes for kids. Amazon has a line of ‘Bodhi Dog’ products including an anti-itch spray for pets. Who knew?)
I also looked up “wokeness” and found a misguided online entry about how the word originally came from Old English, with the meaning of illness or debility. The author of the entry was ignorant about the way Old English is pronounced and had confused the modern word “wokeness” with Old English “weakness” (from wac: weak, pliant, soft) which was spelled variously ‘wakenes’, ‘wacnys’, and ‘wacnysse’.
The author’s ignorance led me to happily conflate the meaning of “woke” and “weak” …

Turning The Tables

I thought Jesus might not have been all that angry when he did it, so I thought I might give it a try.

I’ve done this particular sort of inside-out thinking about God before— with the story of the king giving a wedding feast and no-one came, so he sent his servants out to get anybody they found on the street to come, and so the feast was full. But then the king saw a guest without a wedding robe, told him how disrespectful he was being, and had his servants bind him hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness. I assigned the role of the robe-less guest to God. That makes us the king in the story, who goes out looking for people to invite to his party, and when God shows up dressed in nothing but the plain truth, we think we’ve been insulted, and tell God, “Get out of my house!”.

Last Sunday, the gospel text was about the baptism of fire and the ministry of division. If I try imagining the same inversion on this text, I get a picture of us dividing God up, three against two an…

Jim Trott & The Koan "NO"

No’s not never— no indeedy

and not is not a word for never neither.



So you can take your ‘tain’t so’s and your ‘druther not’s

and put ‘em where the sun forgot to shine.

If my dog was truly Buddha-nature-less,

she wouldn’t never mind when I say, “NO!”



But then, Jim Trott from Dibley’s Vicar

would never get a laugh by saying,

“No, no-no-no, No, No, No-no — Yes!”

much less his wife, with “Yes, yes-yes, yes, No.”



Which is it then; never, not, or no?

What if it’s always never yes, and by no means always no?

The opposite of not is just not-bothering-with-not;

that’s according to the dictionary, that is.



Which means no more than nothing’s plainer than your nose;

it’s never less than likely that bother will be bothersome;

so never say nobody ever didn’t tell you so!

No, really! —



Not’s always almost never isn’t not,

and it’s not certain whether or not I care…..

So there!

What Is The Way?

I figured this counted as a reflection in the tradition of Lectio Divina, although it is on a Zen text. The koan is "Ordinary Mind is the Way". My reflection arose out of an assignment in a Zen class on Koun Yamada's book "The Gateless Gate" at Two Arrows Sangha in Salt Lake City, UT.

Author, Teacher, Student Assignment (Case 19 Mumonkan)

CASE 19: Ordinary Mind Is the Way Case: Jôshû earnestly asked Nansen, “What is the Way?” Nansen said, “The ordinary mind is the Way.” Jôshû said, “Should I direct myself toward it or not?” Nansen said, “If you try to turn toward it, you go against it.” Jôshû said, “If I do not try to turn toward it, how can I know that it is the Way?” Nansen said, “The Way does not belong to knowing or not-knowing. Knowing is delusion; not-knowing is a blank consciousness. When you have really reached the true Way beyond all doubt, you will find it as vast and boundless as the great empty firmament. How can it be talked about on a level of righ…

The Weight of Gratitude

Maybe

we should

graciously

congratulate gravity

on its latest accomplishments?



And would gravity say,

“Aww, it’s nothing…"?



Or should we say,

“Thanks for nothing!...” ?



Gravid rainbows

gratuitous rain,

disgraced bees,

aggravated drivers,

grateful wind,

grieving survivors,

brutal facts,

all of them agree—



The world is heavy, folks—
but if it didn’t suck, we’d all fall off.

If You Can

Mark 9:14-29

“If you can….!”

23 Yeshua said to him, “What do you mean, ‘if you can’? Everything is possible to someone who has trust!”

In the Greek, the phrase ‘what do you mean’ just isn’t there. Not. There.

This is a very vivid story. Jesus is standing there watching this boy straining in convulsions on the ground in front of him, and very clinically and dispassionately asks the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” When the father says, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us,” Jesus gets snarky and mimics him— “If you can…!”Now, I feel compelled to ask, “What’s the point of all these stories about Jesus being sarcastic, impatient, frustrated, and exasperated?”

I found all kinds of convoluted explanations on the internet, most of which tried to defend Jesus from any implication that he might have ever been exasperated, or mocked anyone, or said anything caustic, sarcastic, impatient or dismissive. I was discouraged and incredulous at this. It led me to…