Sunday, May 26, 2013

Live, Move, Being (5/26/13)

Live, Move, Being
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

May 26, 2013
Trinity Sunday
Memorial Day

God is love,
and those who abide in love abide in God,
and God abides in them.  
1 John 4:16b

For in God we live and move and have our being.
Acts 17:28

For several years I have been structuring worship services around four life paths articulated by theologian Matthew Fox in his book Original Blessing.    The four paths in four words are celebration, void, creativity, and compassion.  If those words don’t resonate, pick others.    

These paths or ways or approaches or journeys or postures, again pick your word, are about life.   At times I use the word spiritual as in spiritual path, but then you have another word, spiritual, that requires definition and comes with baggage of its own.   The same is true for the word “God” of course.   These are not paths to God unless you want them to be, that is, unless the word “God” and whatever it may mean to you is important.   These four paths can be helpful for those who are not spiritual or who do not have a need for the concept of God. 

You don’t need God at all for these paths.  That is why I like them.   In the aftermath of the tornadoes in Oklahoma, we were flooded with God language.    Everything from God caused them, to prayers for God for protection, to thanks to God that that it wasn’t me or my friends, to imagining God in the suffering or in the response.  And so on.    I just want to say,

“Can we just live life?  
Can we empathize with the suffering?  
Can we respond with compassion?   
Must we bring God into everything?”

Since Zach’s death, I have found talk about God personally either to be oppressive and insulting on one hand or sappy and saccharine on the other.     I seem to be forced to come up with some definition of God that is somewhat bearable and then wonder why I keep trying.    It feels like constant pressure to throw God at all situations as if God is the answer to every problem.    I find instead that speculations regarding God compound the problem. 

God language fills worship as well in hymns, liturgy, and scripture.   It is all God all the time.

It is probably a good thing that I am taking a break.    

I know that some of you may resonate with the struggles I have over this and others I am sure must scratch your heads and wonder what I am on about.   People are different.    Even the texts I chose a while ago for today are about God. They are less offensive to me than most texts about God.   
God is love,
and those who abide in love abide in God,
and God abides in them.  
1 John 4:16b
For in God we live and move and have our being.
Acts 17:28
OK.   With these texts I can use the word “God” and define it as something else, love or living, moving, and being.

A trick of mine is to substitute the word “Life” for “God” when I run into scripture texts.  It doesn’t always work.  It is at times woodenly substituted, but I often find the texts more bearable when I do that.    Again, take the two texts for today and substitute Life for God…
Life is love,
And those who abide in love abide in Life,
And Life abides in them.
For in Life we live and move and have our being.
For me Life is real.  

I present these paths as ways for you to reflect upon your life’s journey.    If you want to include God in that you are welcome to of course.   If you don’t, that is OK, too.

The Life path for Spring, is in the Latin, the via transformativa, literally, the way of transformation.   This is the path of action, of living, doing, and moving.   At times we need to sit, to meditate, to rest, to take Sabbath.  At times, we need to move.   It is not just moving for the sake of moving.  It is moving toward a goal.  It is a goal toward transformation of self, society, even Earth itself.     

It is a path of risk.  It is daring to take action,
to dream of self, society, and Earth
that is more compassionate,
more just, more sustainable,
and then to take steps toward that dream.    

It is a risk.   We could mess it up more.    It might be safer to sit and do nothing, and let God handle it.  The problem is that sitting safe is no guarantee.   We can sit and hope God will take care of things when in fact, it may not be God who is taking care of business, but Halliburton.     Someone will fill the void created by inaction and collective apathy.   If we want to talk about God, then it may be that God takes care of things through our actions.

This path that I have designated with the single word, compassion, draws upon our reservoirs of courage.   Courage comes from the Latin “cor” for heart.   It is for the organ, the heart, but also figuratively for the soul or mind.   We say, “Take heart” or “Be courageous.”    Courage is to respond from a large heart, a compassionate and caring will.    

Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, writes and speaks of being “wholehearted.”    That is path four.    We find our courage, our heart, our whole heart, by acknowledging our vulnerability, our broken heart, our woundedness, and our shame, and owning it.   We don’t hide it or bury it because we might not think it meet’s society’s expectations or our expectations or whatever.    It is there in that brokenheartedness that we can find our wholeheartedness, our compassion and our courage.   

This is why people who we admire for doing incredibly courageous things, like transforming a personal loss into an act of beauty or generosity were able to do that.   Their woundedness didn’t shrivel them.   They went through the pain of it for sure.  They experienced the wrenching sadness and anger and the void, perhaps for a long time.  But somewhere along the way their woundedness and brokenheartedness were transformed into compassion and courage, into wholeheartedness.

That transformation is not automatic.  It isn’t guaranteed.   As the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous reminds us:
Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.  
If it is true for addiction it is perhaps true for other forms of woundedness as well.   The path of recovery, the path of transformation of self, society and Earth requires a capacity to be honest—to own our stuff.

Then as we own it, we embrace the owner, our own self.   Compassion is for you.    If it helps to have an image or a personification of God such as Jesus or some other figure to feel embraced then by all means have that.   If those images or personifications are not helpful or get in the way, then let them go.    

I simply am being honest with myself regarding my struggle with concepts of God.  My ministry is in part therapy for myself.   I trust and hope that witnessing it might be helpful to others.  Some of you have told me it has been and that is good to know. 

There is no guarantee that the wounded will become healers.   Sometimes the wounded end up becoming bitter and shriveled.  There is no guarantee that my family or I will make it through this wound somewhat intact and find the capacity, courage and compassion to be healers.     I trust that we will. 

Speaking for myself, to put that trust into action, my path is to be honest and tell what I have seen and where I have been, to explore where I am, and for the next several weeks at least, to take some time away from the official doing of ministry, to see what is going on in this heart of mine.
For the time and for walking with us, I am grateful to you.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mama Goddess (/5/12/13)

Mama Goddess
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

May 12, 2013
Mother’s Day

Female Images of God in the Bible

Genesis 1:27
“Humankind was created as God's reflection: in the divine image God created them; female and male, God made them."

Hosea 11:3-4
God: “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I who took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.”

Hosea 13:8
"Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and tear them asunder...”

Deuteronomy 32:11-12
“Like the eagle that stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young, God spreads wings to catch you, and carries you on pinions.”

Deuteronomy 32:18
“You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.”

Isaiah 66:13
God: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

Isaiah 49:15
God: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

Isaiah 42:14
God: “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept myself still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant.”

Jeremiah 44:25
“Thus says…the God of Israel: You and your wives have accomplished in deeds what you declared in words, ‘We are determined to …make offerings to the queen of heaven and to pour out libations to her.’ By all means, keep your vows and make your libations!”

“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.”

Psalm 123:2-3
“As the eyes of a servant looks to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to you, YHWH, until you show us your mercy!”

Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34
Jesus: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Luke 15:8-10
Jesus: “Or what woman having ten silver coins, is she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’"

The Bible is a patriarchal text.

The images for God or of the Sacred are almost exclusively male.  Pronouns for God are male.  The tradition has overemphasized this in its theology, liturgy, and prayer.   Even the symbol for God in Christianity, Trinity, is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   Two of these “persons” are obviously male, and even The Holy Spirit has been personified as male for most Christian theologians.

When I was in seminary my children were pre-school age.   I was taking a course in feminist theologies and becoming conscious of the power and the importance of language.  I was learning how our language of the sacred shapes our attitudes and our ethics, so decided to try this new knowledge out on my kids. 

I said a prayer before bedtime and addressed God as mother.   Zach, who was about four at the time, made a scowl, interrupted me, and said, “God isn’t mother, God is a man.”   I knew then that what I was learning in seminary was true, that we are immersed in patriarchal imagery and symbolism.   That despite the protests that God is beyond male and female, in practice, as my four-year-old understood, when God or the Sacred is personified, in Christianity at least, the personification is gendered, and the gender is male.

Mary Daly, an impressive theologian who died  in 2010, knew the importance of this gendering.   She  said, 

“When God becomes male, the male becomes God.”

I noticed this especially during chapel when some of the more creative students would offer prayers to Sophia, a personification of Divine Wisdom, or use terms in prayer such as Goddess, Mother, or any other female image, that the reaction by many male students (and some female students) as well as male faculty would be angry and visceral. 

Many conservatives in our denomination are still in a fuss over a paper released several years ago that took some very modest steps in my opinion, to make language for the Trinity more inclusive by using more expansive imagery than only being restricted to Father, Son, Spirit.     The paper entitled, “God’s Love Overflowing” provided theological rationale for this work plus some examples such as

  • Speaker, Word, Breath
  • Sun, Light, and Burning Ray
  • Giver, Gift, Giving
  • Lover, Beloved, Love
  • Rock, Cornerstone, Temple
  • Compassionate Mother, Beloved Child, and Life-giving Womb 
This paper was mocked, ridiculed and railed against.   Based on the continuing reactions to this document released for study in 2006 you’d think the anti-Christ had arrived at the Presbyterian headquarters in Louisville. 

Mary Daly was right.  Language has power.  If you change the language the power structures will follow.  It is not a surprise that the biblical texts I used today were gathered by a group called “The Women’s Ordination Conference:  A Voice for Women in the Catholic Church.” 

Women’s ordination in the Roman Catholic Church is certainly an uphill climb.  Yet so much sweeter the victory when it comes.   Marie Pendzich, one of our members, has a sister, Rev. GabriellaVelardi-Ward, who was ordained as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in New York City.  The Vatican did not approve, but she was ordained anyway.   On April 28th of this year, a Kentucky woman,Rosemarie Smead, was ordained at the age of 70.

These ordinations remind me of the scripture itself.  When I look for female images I am first of all reminded how sparse they are in the biblical text.   Like these ordinations they are rare.  Then when I do find female images, like these gathered by the Women’s Ordination Conference, again I am surprised, but this time, to find more than I would expect.  

Despite the ongoing patriarchy of our tradition and the patriarchy embedded in the biblical texts themselves, there are some intriguing minority voices that challenge this patriarchal domination and invite a new way of envisioning and thinking about the Sacred and about how we might structure our lives, our power relations, and our ethics.

The images of the divine feminine in the Bible are of a particular kind.   They reflect determination, strength, and a fierce protection as a mother of any species has for her young.   For example,

Hosea 13:8
"Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and tear them asunder...”

I think that would make for a lovely sentiment on a Mother’s Day card. 

Don’t be messin’ with Mama Goddess.  

…And especially her cubs. 

What if we were consistently and collectively to discover and embrace our inner Mama Goddess, our inner Mama Bear in regards to the treatment of the most vulnerable in our society?   When resources are taken from the poorest in our country and used to fund war what would Mama Bear do?    When politicians go against the will of the people and bow down and worship the gun lobby instead of protecting children what would Mama Goddess do?

If Mama Goddess is revealed in scripture, and we are created in Her image, then we are invited, challenged, charged, and commissioned with her work to protect the most vulnerable from the most greedy.   The most greedy can sometimes be ourselves.   

Deuteronomy 32:11-12
“Like the eagle that stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young, God spreads wings to catch you, and carries you on pinions.”

Goddess is Mother Eagle.   Stirs, hovers, spreads, catches, carries…

I think Mama Bear, Mother Eagle and Mama Goddess were revealed in the actions of 83 year-old nun, Sister Megan Rice, and her two colleagues, 64 year-old Michael Walli and 57 year old Greg Boertje-Obed.

They are in jail now for breaking into the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, armed with white roses and Bibles.   This is from theWashington Post.  In addition to breaking in to the facility, the three are…

…charged with causing damage in excess of $1,000 at Y-12, a contractor-run government facility that stores and processes highly enriched uranium, a radioactive fuel for nuclear weapons. Together, the two felonies carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The three anti-nuclear activists say they violated the law to call attention to the possession and maintenance of nuclear weaponry, which they consider a greater injustice, and are therefore not guilty.

Mama Goddess, revealed in the texts of scripture, is not happy being silent in the midst of madness, fear, and really bad ideas such as nuclear weaponry.    Here is Mama Goddess speaking in Isaiah 42:14:

Isaiah 42:14
“For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept myself still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant.”

She will inspire others to risk jail in order to raise awareness and our collective consciousness against a civilization bent on self-destruction.   

Jesus, too, was inspired by Mama Goddess.  In fact, we might consider him theologically to be the incarnation of Mama Goddess, of Divine Wisdom, Sophia.  He spoke to his own city and his own people in his time:

Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

The reason these prophets were stoned and killed is because they called the leaders to enact justice for the poor.   Jesus, himself, was convicted by established authority because he stood for something.  Mama Goddess wouldn’t let him watch the greedy and the powerful destroy lives without resisting.    Caught up in Her spirit he saw himself as a mother hen wishing to gather and protect his people.   The sadness and the tragedy of his story is that the leaders didn’t want to hear.

Yet his parables described Goddess as determined, as in this parable:   

 Luke 15:8-10
“Or what woman having ten silver coins, is she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’“

The symbols of our faith, resurrection, and life in the Spirit or life in Christ, call us to continue to live out our image as created in the image of Goddess, to remember who we are and whose we are and what we are to be and do, as Mama Goddess says…

Isaiah 49:15
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

In her important book, Blessed Are the Consumers:  Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint, theologian Sallie McFague writes:

Here we come to the heart of the matter:  empathy for others that includes responsibility to act.  Just as a mother who hears her child’s cry of pain responds immediately and totally to relieve it, or as friends lay down their lives for each other, so…we are called to respond from the heart, from the gut, from our very bodies…The mother-child bond is a metaphor for the universal self, the highest form of human behavior we can imagine.    Pp. 127-8.

What Sallie McFague is writing about is our situation regarding our ecological home in general and climate change in particular.   In the news thisweek, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million.   

"The last time we're confident that CO2 was sustained at these levels is more than 10 million years ago, during the middle of the Miocene period," said climate scientist Michael Mann.

What does Mama Goddess have to say about that?  

 In response to this milestone, founder, Bill McKibben, perhaps speaking for Mama Goddess said, 

"The only question now is whether the relentless rise in carbon can be matched by a relentless rise in the activism necessary to stop it."

Changing our habits and
even being aware
that our current habits are harming all of Earth’s children,
is an uphill climb. 
But that is what Mama Goddess does. 
She climbs uphill.  
She faces a tradition of patriarchy that doesn’t even call her by name,
that seeks to mock and ridicule her voice,
that marginalizes her presence
and yet she speaks,
ordaining women to the Catholic priesthood, one by one,
going to jail to call attention to the madness of nuclear weapons,
sounding the alarm for Earth’s temperature and health.

Mama Goddess keeps at it. 
When we get discouraged she comforts us.

Isaiah 66:13
 “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

She reminds us who we are,
loves us fiercely,
and calls us to courageous and compassionate lives.

She summons us to be our best selves.

She is after all, a mother.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Beauty, The Fear (5/5/13)

The Beauty, The Fear
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

May 5, 2013
Pluralism Sunday

I see the sun’s set
to go down soon, yet
tomorrow’s light may
glow as yesterday,
and all future dawns
will merge with the ones
long ignored; it’s clear
why a mountaineer
awaits, curious,
heaven’s nebulous
design: to face it,
hoping to trace it,
an amorphous shape
that’s on the brain’s map,
clouding the center
of a torn paper
from a worn bible,
hardly visible;
because of it I,
buried beneath sky,
dream now of flying
beyond what’s trying
to keep me bound here—
the beauty, the fear.

If outer foes are destroyed while not subduing the enemy of one’s own hatred, enemies will only increase. Therefore, subduing one’s own mind with the army of love and compassion is the Bodhisattvas’ practice.
--Ngulchu Thogme Zangpo

You have heard that it was said, “You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But what I tell you is this:  Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for God causes the sun to rise on bad and good alike, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

A true yogi is unaffected by praise or criticism. By always dwelling in the Atman he is unruffled by hatred, contempt or anger. According to the Gita, a true yogi is a person who is expansive in his heart. He has risen above the joy that comes from praise or the hurt that comes from bitter criticism.

Perhaps God will create affection between you and those among them with whom you were at enmity, for God is Omnipotent, and He is All-Forgiving, Compassionate to each.

The first Sunday of May has been designated as Pluralism Sunday by The Center for Progressive Christianity.  Our congregation is an affiliate and we affirm The Eight Points of ProgressiveChristianity.  This is point two…
Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey…
The mission statement created by this congregation that has guided our work here for the past decade or so, says that we are to…
Honor our Christian heritage while we explore the knowledge and wisdom of multiple religions, science, philosophy, humanities and psychology to deepen and enrich our spiritual journeys.
These statements, similar, yet not derived from each other, show a consensus emerging in contemporary spirituality.   I have seen this in my interviews over the last months on Religion For Life.   More and more thoughtful people are questioning the exclusivist claims of their own religious heritage.  They are interested in what other spiritual traditions have to offer.   They are finding common ground by sharing their experience and in working cooperatively for our collective good.

Coming up on the program is a conversation with Theologian Sallie McFague.  She taught at Vanderbilt for 30 years and has dedicated her work to the intersection of religious language and ecology.   In her latest book,Blessed Are the Consumers: Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint,she writes:
As a Christian theologian, I take my starting place with Jesus of Nazareth—to be a Christian is to be called by that name, the belief that “Jesus is the Christ,” a way to God, a way to know and talk about God.  It is certainly not the only (and it may not be the “best” way), but it is an ancient way that has served many people for a long time, a credible way that has made sense to many people, and I would assert, a way that is good for the planet and its life forms.  P. 176
Notice the openness of her language.  She is not saying as we all too often hear that Jesus is the only way and that other paths are wrong and so on and so forth.   For her, Christianity doesn’t have to own the table, or even sit at the head of the table.   We join our common place with the rest of humanity around a common table.   

Sallie McFague reminds us that the language and the metaphors that we use are of crucial importance.  How we understand ourselves in relationship to God, to others, and to our shared home, Earth, has consequences in the way we treat one another and Earth.   

Are we primarily souls trapped in bodies,
needing to endure this awful place, Earth,
longing for the day to be beamed up to some other place,
perhaps a place where God lives?  
If that is the way we understand ourselves, God, and Earth,
how are we going to treat this material Earth?  
How will we treat each other? 

If our religions are in competition for souls,
to see who can escort the most into their own version of heaven,
each proclaiming that its way is the best or only way,
in the meantime,
what is our ethic toward Earth
and toward the long-term future of humankind on Earth?

In his last book, A Man Without a Country, the late Kurt Vonnegut wrote of this legacy:
The crucified planet Earth,
should it find a voice
and a sense of irony,
might now well say
of our abuse of it,
"Forgive them, Father,
They know not what they do."

The irony would be
that we know what
we are doing.

When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
"It is done."
People did not like it here.
The great sages of our traditional pre-modern religions, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, and others, had a more expansive view than their followers.   But if you look at the texts and the practices of our religions, an argument can be made that they are primarily about escape.  

Earth is not my home,
says the old hymn,
I’m just passing through.   

While there may be some subtlety and comfort in that, it is no basis for an ethic.   It is as though Earth is little more than a Motel 6.   How sacred is that? 

Sallie McFague has suggested that 
we think of Earth as God’s body.   
The sacred is the body. 
The dirt and bugs of Earth are holy sacraments.  
We human beings are made of Earth. 
We are born of God’s body, Earth.   
So if Earth is God’s body, Earth is also our body. 
There is no other place for us.   

All of this is in our religious traditions as well.    You have to search for these voices.  These creation spirituality voices have often gone unheard in the competitive quest for control and escape.   

Sallie McFague quotes poet, Gary Snyder:
“I have a friend who feels sometimes that the world is hostile to human life--he says it chills us and kills us. But how could we be were it not for this planet that provided our very shape? Two conditions--gravity and a livable temperature range between freezing and boiling--have given us fluids and flesh. The trees we climb and the ground we walk on have given us five fingers and toes. The "place" (from the root plat, broad, spreading, flat) gave us far-seeing eyes, the streams and breezes gave us versatile tongues and whorly ears. The land gave us a stride, and the lake a dive. The amazement gave us our kind of mind. We should be thankful for that, and take nature's stricter lessons with some grace.”  Pp. 175-6
It is also important to note that none of our ancient religious sages would have known that human beings could threaten life on Earth.   
  • Jesus did not know about nuclear weaponry, fossil fuels, and climate change. 
  • Neither Krishna, Buddha, nor Mohammad knew about the age of the universe, DNA, or evolution. 
  • Aristotle and Plato didn’t know about gravity and that the sun was the center of our solar system.   
We have to appreciate the wisdom of the sages in their context and time.   Religious pluralism recognizes that all religions have context and that all claims at truth are contextual.   You can’t get outside or beneath your context and see from an absolute vantage point.     

We are embedded in our senses, in our bodies,
and no trick of the mind can move us out of that.   
We don’t have bodies.  We are our bodies.   
Our bodies are sacred.  Our body is Earth. 
And to put it theologically, Earth is God’s body.

From that perspective we can draw wisdom from our sages, religious and otherwise.  We have not only the freedom but the obligation to draw from these rivers of wisdom selectively.     We are also obligated to use our Earth-evolved and God-given creativity to think and to imagine and explore possibilities for life together on Earth in a most perilous time.

I can guess what you are thinking. 

This may be true but this is all so big.  What can I do?   

The sages here can guide us.  They, too, lived in what they believed were perilous times.  As Ted Olson wrote in his beautiful poem, “Revelations,” they, like us, lived with “the beauty, the fear.”   The wisdom of the sages was to live with it, but not be ruffled by it.   According to Krishna:
A true yogi is unaffected by praise or criticism. By always dwelling in the Atman he is unruffled by hatred, contempt or anger.
We may not be able to do anything individually or collectively that will prevent great suffering.  We may not avert collapse of our energy grid and of distribution of food supply and all the rest of it.   But we don’t know that.   We may not be able to prevent military escalations and the use of weapons of mass destruction.  But we don’t know that.   We may not slow the rising temperature of Earth.  But we don’t know that.

I saw a joke.  A guy is wearing a sandwich board.  It says,
Bad news.  The end of the world is not coming.  You’ll just have to cope.
One of the ways to cope is to live with intention and imagination.  

Intention is to be present to what is real and to avoid falling into pitfalls of escape in whatever form they may take.     When I say real, I don’t mean the news on the internet.    I mean the reality of the food you eat, your relationships, your work, your play, and in this season in this part of the world, the greening and growing of the leaves.    

The intention is to be present to what is real.

The sages teach us that we do that by letting what is real have space so that our egos, our desires, our anxieties take up less space.   The term is kenosis.   It is self-emptying to make room for what is real.   The opposite of kenosis is to fill up all space with us. 

This is from Isaiah 5:8:
Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.
That is the opposite of kenosis.   Kenosis known in the Christian tradition through the self-emptying of Jesus, is known also in other traditions and in nature itself.   It is a recognizing that everything is interconnected and we are always giving and receiving.    There is always room for another.  We will take up less space.    It is the practice of restraint, of hospitality. 

That is intention.

To live with imagination is to use these magnificently evolved brains to imagine a future in which human beings live in balance with one another and with Earth.   Think of the Hebrew prophet Micah:
Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.
That didn’t mean, “I got my fig tree, stay off my property.”  That meant that everyone would work and enjoy the fruits of labor.  All would have enough. None would hoard.   That is a vision of sharing, of interdependence of giving and receiving.

Religious pluralism is about sharing our sages and our wisdom and receiving as well as giving.  It is making space at the table for others including the views and practices of others.  Because in doing that all of us benefit.  

There is no need to offer specifics of 
how to live with intention or imagination.   
The doing comes from the being.  
Can we see Earth as God’s body?
Can we see Earth as our body?
When I say see it,
I mean see it in the way the sages taught us to see,
That is with insight.     
Sacred Earth is our body, our home.   It is us.  
If that is real,
then we only need to do what comes naturally.   

Every day we wake up and we forget who we are.  
We need to be reminded.  
We need to be intentional.   
Earth is my body and your body. 
Earth is my blood and yours.   
Earth is God’s body and blood.    
I seek to live my days in holy reverence 
for this sacrament of life.