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Monday, February 23, 2009

The fifth page for Sunday February 22, 2009

What if the Transfiguration Story was a description of something that happened in the disciple Peter’s “inner world” rather than in the “external world” around him? Would it then be any less meaningful or useful to us as readers of Mark’s Gospel, and seekers after truth about Jesus?

The Christian scriptures, including the Hebrew Scriptures we inherited from the Jewish people (what we call the Old Testament) and the writings of the early church that we call the New Testament, contain many stories of God speaking to people through dreams, and visions, and other powerful experiences.

Did Moses actually see a “burning bush” on the day that he heard God’s call, or did something about the appearance of the bush awaken something within him, a desire to seek after God, and live in service to God’s people?

Did Jesus actually see the heavens open up, and the Spirit descend upon him like a dove, and hear God’s voice name him as a beloved son? Or was the story of his baptism a way to describe a moment in which he realized something important about his identity and purpose?

I wonder if the tendency of many Christians to insist on the literal accuracy of Biblical stories is linked to our inability to take ourselves seriously as spiritual beings, who are actually created to be connected, on the spiritual level, with God.

The reading I am doing in the area of “Spiritual Direction” suggests to me that my own awareness of God’s presence and activity in my own “inner world” has been limited by my own willingness to look deeper within myself. When I do look within, I have to discern carefully. It is not always easily, and it is often helpful to have wise counsel- but it is possible, I believe, to “hear” God’s voice, and to “see” what God has in store.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The fifth page for February 15, 2009- a bit late....
I apologize for being so tardy in producing this week’s 5th page. I took full advantage of Ontario’s Family Day holiday Monday, and that threw off my whole weekly schedule. I still feel as if I am hustling to catch up. There is a certain irony in this. The background material that did not make into this past week’s sermon is actually a commentary on “busyness”. I have been reading Parker Palmer’s “The Active Life”, which is an exploration of how people who are not monks or nuns, but live in the “regular” world can nurture and sustain a contemplative spirituality.
Palmer uses two of the early chapters to explore the insights of an ancient Chinese poet and philosopher named Chuang Tzu, who lived and worked almost 4 centuries before the time of Jesus. One of his poems, here in a translation by Thomas Merton, is called “Active Life”:

“If an expert does not have some problem to vex him,
he is unhappy!
If a philosopher’s teaching is never attacked, she pines
away!
If critics have no one on whom to exercise their spite,
they are unhappy.
All such people are prisoners in the world of objects.

He who wants followers, seeks political power.
She who wants reputation, holds an office.
The strong man looks for weights to lift.
The brave woman looks for an emergency in which she
can show bravery.
The swordsman wants a battle in which he can swing
his sword.
People past their prime prefer a dignified retirement,
in which they may seem profound.
People experienced in law seek difficult cases to extend
the application of laws.
Liturgists and musicians like festivals in which they
parade their ceremonious talents.
The benevolent, the dutiful, are always looking for chances to display virtue.

Where would the gardener be if there were no more
weeds?
What would become of business without a market of
fools?
Where would the masses be if there were no pretext
for getting jammed together and making noise?
What would become of labour if there were no superfluous objects to
be made?

Produce! Get results! Make money! Make friends!
Make changes!
Or you will die of despair!

Those who are caught in the machinery of power take no joy except in activity and change—the whirring of the machine! Whenever an occasion for action presents itself, they are compelled to act; they cannot help themselves. They are inexorably moved, like the machine of which they are a part. Prisoners in the world of objects, they have no choice but to submit to the demands of matter! They are pressed down and crushed by external forces, fashion, the markets, events, public opinion. Never in whole lifetime do they recover their right mind! The active life! What a pity!”