As a poet and novelist, I’ve long struggled with those who search Scripture for “God’s laws” – that is, something far more cut-and-dried than the drama and humanity I see in the stories. I’ve come to look for movies and operas, rather than “thou shalt not” directives or even speed limits.
When I heard that John Calvin, founder of much of the Protestant movement, trained as a lawyer, suddenly that whole line of legalistic thought came into focus. Followed by the traditional story that the day he left the University of Paris, young Ignatius of Layola showed up, on his way to founding the counter-Reformation Jesuits (who, in the Spanish conquest of Latin America, became the world’s biggest slave owners). I wouldn’t be the first to wonder about the direction of Christianity had the early church continued in the direction set by the former slave Patrick in Ireland, rather than his contemporary, the Roman orator/lawyer Augustine in Africa.
Designed to store energy through a dormant period that can extend across years, and then reproduce its species, a seed will respond to specific conditions to release both a root and a stem and leaves, as well as flowering and replicating seed of its own. Amazingly, these kernels already know which direction to move in, no matter how the seed was implanted – one, the root, toward the heart of the Earth; the other, stem and leaf, toward the sun. The resulting plant will breathe, transforming carbon dioxide in the air to oxygen again while building organic matter within itself. Through the emerging chlorophyll, the green wonder of our planet, photosynthesis regenerates sunlight into food, which will, in some sequence, sustain every animal as well.
The concept is mind-boggling and miraculous, yet taken for granted. Without it, though, life on Earth would not exist.
In one tradition, an individual who speaks within the silence worship speaks on behalf of the meeting, and any “I” messages are viewed with suspicion. In another tradition, worshipers listen for the “I” as a measure of authenticity, that what is being spoken arises from experience.
Getting here has been by a zigzag path. When I was beginning to write poetry, I remember hearing John Logan read from his collection given that name, and it has been accurate.
Christ is available to all persons, bypassing the constraints of political, military, industrial, financial, educational, governmental, or even religious institutions or authorities. As such, it challenges the very foundations of society, yet holds the potential for instilling justice, regenerating, and bringing healing throughout all.
From RELIGION TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
I’m in the camp that would like to break away shortly after the rise of worship, trying to sustain the deepened awareness. I certainly sympathize with those who admit a sense of guilt, hearing all the things they don’t have time to undertake, as well as those who think it all goes on just too long.
On the other hand, I also see the announcements as a kind of vocal ministry and as a celebration of our lives and community.
Let us listen to Jesus in John 14:11-12, 20:
Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do … I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
How amazing, and even frightening, that to the extent that we allow Christ to be in us, we may together do greater works than Jesus did!
From RELIGION TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
The tension has grown in recent years, as governments and Native American tribes have engaged in lotteries and casinos. Even causes we support commonly turn to raffles as fundraisers.
We witness to the fact that a lottery is an inefficient way to raise money for education or other socially valued causes. If you want something, you should be willing to pay for it directly, rather than expect someone else to foot the bill. As for gaming, the odds are vastly against winning, and I find myself working far too hard to enjoy throwing hundreds of dollars down the drain. Even a weekly Megabucks ticket adds up. As one of my coworkers insisted, “Lotteries are a tax on stupidity.” He might add, “a tax on despair,” as well, especially for lower- and middle-class Americans whose purchasing power keeps shrinking. If anything, the glamour of gaming masks this reality. Maybe, just maybe, the hope goes, I’ll escape my condition.
Friends have warned against the inclination to expect something for nothing or at someone else’s expense.
Yes, it’s tempting. As in “temptation.” Need I say more?
At the time, my faith was somewhere between agnostic and logical positivist – and vehemently anti-Vietnam war and anti-Christian. Yet when someone asked, “Where do you think you’ll wind up, as far as religion goes?” I blurted, “Probably something like Zen-Quaker” – this, when I had little idea of either practice or, for that matter, the way that becoming a yogi a few years later would lead me to join Friends first and ultimately Dover.
Those who open themselves and admit this infusion subsequently become the object of This Love. A lover gives to the beloved, regardless of response. Building on the ancient Quaker metaphor, the Light transforms the Seed as the object of This Love. Awakened, the beloved completes the circle.
I see this awareness suggested in 1 John 4:
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. … If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby, know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. … God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect.
In the course of John’s epistle, we can substitute “light” or “give light” for “love” without losing of meaning – although “love” does direct action more fully than “light” initially does.
When I graduated from college, I hardly expected to survive past my mid-thirties, and the way things were going, maybe I wasn’t far off the mark. On the other hand, I never anticipated the turns this journey has taken.
I had envisioned myself either returning to my hometown and writing for a newspaper that no longer exists, or else working in the heart of a large metropolis with its range of concerts, galleries, lectures, and theater, possibly after going back for a law degree. Of course, neither way opened, but the ashram route did. I, who started out somewhere between agnostic and logical positivist, was now on a spiritual pathway that would lead me to our meetinghouse.