Thursday, April 19, 2007

Spiritual Direction

Okay. So yes, I can give spiritual direction, but I also need to get spiritual direction, and while I've heard it said that so long as you're reading Thich Nhat Hanh you don't actually require a spiritual director... I'd like one anyway.

I've been searching since I moved back to Buffalo.

I want a spiritual director who is progressive and gutsy. Local would be nice, but I'm fine with online spiritual direction, or over the phone. Thoughts? Suggestions? Anyone?

And yes, I googled it... ::sigh:: Nothing really reached up and grabbed me by the ears, if you know what I mean.

I've been told it's a Buddhist sermon...

Trinity @ 7
April 15, 2007

Tonight we’re talking about priorities
But not just priorities
There’s something deeper than
Having a priority, an order of
Importance in your life
And that is seeing.
Just seeing.

When we really see
Deeply see a thing, say
A bag of popcorn
We deeply see into our own

When we see the bag of popcorn
How do we know it?
Not in the way of identification
Pop secret or the boy scout brand,
I mean, what it is to us?
Do we see in a bag of popcorn
The family bonding time it provides?
Do we see a shared snack between friends?
Do we see a blockbuster movie night?
Do we see dinner?

When we know what we see
We know a slice of who we are
And so, we see ourselves

This is true for everything
But part of it is in learning
How to see because
There are layers of meaning
That aren’t always readily apparent
Even though they exist,
Whether we know them or not.

The bag of popcorn is also
A seminatural product
With more or less toxins and artificial
Whatsits in each pouch
And too
Those handy pouches that we can’t recycle
Take up space in landfills
And we pay more for the convenience
Of those pouches
Than, say, a large jar of popping corn
And a stick of butter

And this isn’t a diatribe
Meant to inspire consumer guilt
It’s just a layer of the bag of popcorn
An aspect of it that exists,
Is true,
And one, perhaps, that we don’t see
All that often.

But there is more, of course
The popcorn has been grown,
Harvested by farmers and workers
Sun has shown on it.
Rain has fed it,
Plus perhaps one or two varieties
Of fertilizer
The soil has nurtured it
It has been dried by hands and machines
Packaged with its Light Buttery Flavor
Or its Movie Theatre Butter Flavor
Which has been mixed and tested
And mixed again by people
In rooms for its consistency,
It’s ability to stay buttery in the microwave
And its vectors of dispersal in the bag,
As the microwave counts down its
Three minutes and forty-five seconds,
All perfectly formulated
For your eating pleasure
And it’s been packaged
In paper bags with special linings
Designed to expand perfectly
With a God like precision
And all of this came to us
Because of the sun and the soil
And the rain and the hands
And the machines and the agrobusinesses
And the factories and the chemists
And the storage container designers
And the taste testers
And the business managers and division heads
And the accountants and auditors
All have a hand in our
Movie Theatre Butter Flavor dinner
Which we look at and think,
Perhaps I’m not eating as healthy
As I thought

And we look,
And we think we see
And we do
But not very deeply.

But we can see deeply, with everything
Everything in our lives.
Even a bag of microwave popcorn.
And when we can see
Really see
We can judge well for ourselves
Deciding, discerning, which gets
The time, the attention, the money, the energy,
And which gets left on the grocery store shelf,
Which gets left at work,
Which stays on the table instead of
Our stomachs, our veins

When we do this
Perhaps we will be surprised
At how much time we have to
Do the things we wish to
Will we be amazed as opportunity
Opens up at our feet, tripping us
Into bliss?
We will be shocked to see
The person we always dreamed we
Could be materializing from the aether
And beckoning us further down the path
Like a doppelganger will ‘o the wisp?

Will fear overcome us
As we look deeply
And keep us from succumbing
To the Beloved’s embrace,
Keep us from hearing that lover’s
Whisper directly into the shell of our
Right ear,

“This is who you really are,
And I love you.”

Thomas. Not Doubting, just Thomas.

2 Easter, Year C, 2007
Written by the Revs. Sarah Gordy & Fran Gardner

Poor old Thomas always gets a bad rap. He’s gone down in history as Doubting Thomas, but he’s just like the rest of us would be in that situation. And it’s not like any of his beloved colleagues completely understood the Resurrection and were waiting at the door for Jesus with their hands on their hips, saying, “Well, it’s about time. Where have you been?!?”

No, in fact, Thomas was no different from the other disciples; they saw and then believed. Thomas needed his own experience. It doesn’t make him a “doubter.” The truth of it is – none of us lives in a vacuum.

We’re all shaped by the things that happen to us, the things we participate in. This is profound because it means that we are NOT shaped by other people’s experiences, we’re shaped by our own.

That Thomas returned from wherever he was, and the disciples said, “This things happened to us,” – that’s not enough. We, like Thomas have to have our own experiences.

We can only deeply know, with that sort of knowledge that is in our bones, that knowing that comes from our gut, that knowledge that our hearts can totally embrace – we can only deeply know what we have experienced – somehow, some way experienced to be true ourselves.

You see this everywhere.

You see this in the situation that was SO funny when you were there first hand, experiencing it, and yet – as you try to retell it, recapture it, as you try to describe the experience to someone else – it’s not the same. It’s not as funny. Short of recreating the entire scenario for them, it’s one of those things that requires a lot of understanding based on previous experience, and humor itself is experiential. As they say, “if you have to explain the joke, it’s not funny anymore.”


Experience is the key to relationships as well. Take cousins, for example. I have a number of cousins, but I’m only close to one of them. That is because I’ve only ever had shared experiences with one of them. Now, the others are blood relations, and I’ve inherited a connection to them that few other people in this world are privilege to, but that doesn’t mean much to me. I don’t know them from a hole in the wall – I don’t disike them, mind, but neither do I care particularly. I don’t care, because we don’t hae a relationship together – we never did.

Relationship isn’t something you can compel. You can put yourself in proximity to it. If you want to have a relationship with someone, you spend time with them. If you want to have a relationship with someone, you make yourself available to them, you have fun with them. Bu that’s all about experience. And the surest way to kill a relationship is to cut off the flow of experiences – to neglect the relationship and the person, or thing you’re having a relationship with, be that a friend, or your studies at school, or that new creative inspiration you just had.

Now, bringing it back home, the implications for us, here, now, is that all the sermons in the world, all the stories, all the poetry, all the music only takes us so far. It’s one, or two, or four ways of coming into proximity with God but the rest is up to us. We need to experience God for ourselves, just like Thomas. At some level, for this thing to take, the same things needs to happen to us.

Now, this can happen in a variety of ways, and despite the fact that we need to have experiences as Thomas needed to have an experience, that doesn’t mean ours is going to look exactly like his. Depending on who we are and what we need, our experience of God is going to be different. It could be through the sermon, or the music, or the readings, yes. It could be through the bread and the wine. It could be at prayer, it could be in the eyes of the people we serve, when we get out into the community and help other people. It could be in the eyes of the people who help us, who show us spontaneous love, and when we least suspect it. It could be… anything. But it needs to be something, because we can inherit religion, but we can’t inherit a relationship with God. That, each one of us needs to forge for ourselves. There are relationships that come down through history and land themselves in our laps, but for them to be anything but in name only, that relationship needs to be backed by experience.

And the good news is that God, our Beloved, is ‘here with only a thin membrane between us, and all it takes is a call from our lips, a whisper with no sound, for that veil,’ that thin, veil, to disappear.


Saturday, April 7, 2007

What the Death of Jesus does mean...

Good Friday
April 6, 2007
“What the death of Jesus does mean”
The Rev. Sare Gordy

Jesus died. He was executed by the state. And his followers were left, not only to continue on the good work he’d begun, but also, they were left with the nagging questions that still linger today, even after the moving hymns have been sung about being washed in the blood of Jesus, even after stirring sermons and moving lectures about atonement, becoming one, right with God through this sacrifice of one man who was more than man, who was God. Even after thousands of years, if only on this day, we’re still left with the painful question: why?


At the time that question was answered with this idea that Jesus was really some holy sacrifice made to God, because that idea made a lot of sense to them. To be a Jew at the time meant that you’re relationship to God and to the moral norms of your society were mitigated by literally, the live animal or food sacrifices you made at the one Temple in the one location, Jerusalem, which is where God lived. And if you were a Gentile, which is to say, if you were a Roman, you also had to make sacrifices – live animal and food – to which ever God you were devoted to, or to which ever God was in charge of your present situation., and you had to do this to get anywhere in life. Everything from a victory in war to a successful family and home life. So, this idea was not a foreign one – making a sacrifice to get something (like the Romans) or making a sacrifice to be forgiven for something (like the Jews). This idea was not foreign – to them.

But for those for whom the Christian rhetoric of atonement rings hollow, for those for whom the question ‘why?’ still lingers unassuaged at the back of our minds, this idea of atonement …is foreign.

And so, let us return to the beginning. Jesus died. He was executed by the state. By the Roman Empire. Why did they execute him? Because he was a threat. Why was he a threat? Because he preached a compelling message of compassion. It was non-violent. It was transformational. It deeply valued every single human being, no exceptions, none at all. It had an ethic of economics – what you should do with your money and what you should not. It had an ethic of non-violence – don’t carry a staff when you go out and if someone hits you, turn the other cheek and let them hit you again. It had an ethic of reconciliation – forgiving debts, forgiving trespasses, forgiving betrayals, forgiving sins, forgiving pasts, forgiving and moving on. He preached that this was not just some pie-in-they-sky morality, but that living this way was GOOD. It cause joy! It was LIFE, all that is good about life, and it was abundant. This message, this good news that Jesus preached about was POPULAR! Loads of people were getting on board this bandwagon, and that did not endear it to the Empire. So, when Jesus started a riot in the marketplace of the Temple, that was that.

But, you know, it’s my opinion that, at least in the metaphorical sense, Jesus didn’t really die at the hands of the Empire until 313 of the Common Era. That is when the movement of Jesus (that we call Early Christianity, or the Early Church) was officially ‘tolerated’ by the Roman Empire, under Constantine. Soon after that, it became the official religion of the Empire.

The movement that was foundationally NON-VIOLENT was taken in by the most clinically violent empire in the ancient world. And it was not the empire that changed.

The movement that deeply valued every human being as inherently equal and beloved of God was taken in by one of the most legally stratified societies of the ancient world – segregated by citizenship, by wealth, by gender, by patronage, or political power, by freedom – that is, slavery was a common practice, and by religion. And it was not the empire that changed.

The movement that had such a strong ethic of reconciliation, that valued peace, but only so long as it came from forgiveness, was taken in by the empire that had long perfected the art of peace – the Pax Romana – but it was peach through victory, not forgiveness. And it was no the empire that changed.

The Roman Empire did not know compassion, it knew power, which is why, when faced with Jesus of Nazareth, it crucified him, and which is why when faced with Christianity, it absorbed it, and declared the Emperor the final arbiter of any disputes, and thus the empire finally managed to silence the annoying prophet-messiah.

Or did they?

What the Death of Jesus doesn't mean...

Holy Thursday
April 5, 2007
“What the death of Jesus doesn’t mean”
The Rev. Sare Gordy

Atonement. The definition of atonement, according to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church is, (hu)man(ity)’s reconciliation with God through the sacrificial death of (Jesus) Christ.

As we’ve heard on Palm Sunday, for those where were there with us, this is something that makes sense if a) you’re Rabbi-Messiah was just executed by the occupying empire, which you now need to make sense of, somehow, and b) if your world view is consistent with the IDEA that God is so pure and good that for us to approach God in life or death would require some really large act of sacrifice, the likes of which only God himself could produce, because we are not good enough as it is.

If that is true, if these two things are true, then the idea of atonement makes sense. But of course, that isn’t our world view, and our Messiah wasn’t JUST killed by the empire. We are a people who crave both mystery and facts, so let’s look at both.

We know for a fact there was injustice at the time of Jesus. There was the oppression from the Roman occupying forces, there was the injustices from the Jewish authorities who were complicit with the Romans, and there was the Temple cult who had a monopoly on access to God. Everyone was exploited, but particularly hard hit were the poor. There was injustice. We know this for a fact.

We know for a fact that there was a prophet-healer from Galilee who rebelled against injustice, but rebelled without violence. He had an ideology, a philosophy, an understanding of god that was both different from the others at the time, and yet so compelling that he had many followers and there were many fantastic and inspiring stories about him.

We know that the way of life this prophet-healer embraced for himself and encouraged others to embrace was love, acceptance, caring, and compassion at the deepest and most honest level within the self, and at the grassroots level in the community. The implications, the living out of this philosophy gave power to the powerless and also gave good reason for the Roman Empire to have him killed.

So we really have two side-by-side ideas, here: One is heavily laden with mystery, the other is heavily laden with fact.

We have a God who requires a sacrifice so large only Godself would do – a sacrifice that allows God to love us, a sacrifice that makes us finally loveable and approachable – this is the general idea of atonement as it is said to be lived out in the life, or more specifically, the death of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s one idea.

The other idea is that we have this body of teachings, this idea of the Kingdom of Heaven that we need to participate in, that is so radical, so revolutionary, so wonderful that it has the potential to change the entire way we do business in the world, and that the harbinger of this way, the teacher who taught and inspired was so one with god, that in a sense he WAS God – and so the fact that he was executed by the stae, by thte empire takes nothing away from his life or teachings, but rather adds credence to the imperative that this world NEEDS the transformation he preached.

These are two side-by-side ideas. The atonement is the older, traditional way of thinking. The second, the Kingdom Philosophy, is older still, but not so universal these days. They are both valid ways of experiencing Christianity, if by valid we mean, “is capable of producing a deeply compassionate relationship with God and Creation – including all of Humanity.”

The problem – maybe the only problem – is when either of these ways of understanding the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth DOESN’T produce such compassion.

But perhaps there is another problem as well – when one point of view says to another – you are so wrong, there’s nothing remotely of interest over there, so really, everyone just needs to do it our way, period the end. :P

Well, that has been more or less the case for yea, the past many centuries – atonement has been the doctrine of the day, and if you don’t believe – if you don’t believe that Jesus died for your sins, if you don’t believe the Lamb of god was sacrificed for you, then you’re not really Christian, so there.

But of course, that is not so.

If the idea of atonement works for you, produced as compassionate heart within you- great! And if you don’t find that idea compelling, know that there is more than one way to understand why Jesus died – what it means, and what it doesn’t.

Stay tuned.