It is true that many of us hail from a demographic that struggles with the pain of fundamentalist energy in our background; but it is also true, that many of us were wonderfully shaped by some aspects of the cultures in which we found ourselves.
In my case, roots music and story and nature connection are a very big part of what shaped me.
Not only am I a mishmash of denominations and non-denominations, but I am a mishmash of the cultures that went with them. Some of the traditions I was exposed to were keen to encourage great libraries that boasted novels and stories, and quite early on, I could see that there was more going on with stories than at the first telling. As though each one was an iceberg, waiting for me to do the dangerous deep dive under, to explore the shapes, the darkness, the trials, the overcoming.
It wasn’t Christian contemplation that first exposed me to the idea of letting go of an old story, it was really the combination of Eckhart Tolle popularizing “the moment”, and a very good Jungian therapist I used to see (who also happens to be a Rabbi).
Letting go of the old story initially proved to be very hard for me to do, for a lot of reasons. Not the least of which, with my dualistic lens, was because it was difficult for me to work out how I could let go of the attachment I had to my story, without it ruining Story as art form.
I was the kid, with flashlight under quilt, jousting my way across the deck, trusty cutlass raised, joining in the mutiny for justice and change. Identifying with each orphan in every classic, as though it were me in their place, overcoming great odds. On one page I could be Éowyn, riding her way into battle with wee Merry riding in front, on another I looked out from the eyes of Smeagol in his dark cave of despair. Story taught me how to see through the eyes of others, and it taught me about my own interiority as someone who could feel the darkness and the light. I took story out into my wild environment along the national park where I grew up, and much of what might just have been “a tree” or “a pond” or “a wood”, took shape in ways that opened up much deeper dimensions of “thisness”.
When I first encountered the Christian mystics and deep dove into the wisdom teachings, the practices, and the revelations about duality, I began to see very, very clearly how attachment to my story was causing quite a lot of damage. The way in which I identified with it, wasn’t moving my own story forward, for growth and renewal, but was really more about repeating history in such a way that I was held captive. So the irony was that the more I identified with it, the less available I was to the new chapters.
As a songwriter, I hold story in a special place. It really is a unique, wonderful medium to work with. But again, I have found myself wondering… does non-duality even have a place in story? My first thoughts go straight to Cynthia Bourgeault’s fine book, The Wisdom Jesus, in which she captures the telling of the Passion in such a way, that it moves beyond duality. (In hind sight, as it should!)
The best stories should not be used anecdotally or allegorically; and in the best stories, characters have to be complex. A complex character is probably a good a place to begin with, if attempting to include non-duality in storytelling. Another place might be to use two opposing energies and sit right where they clash for a good while. Haven't we all wondered how a hero(in) is going to make their way out of a predicament but still be able to endear themselves to the reader?
This leads me to talk about a series called ReMastered (on Netflix right now). There have been two episodes released so far. The first is a particular angle on the story of Bob Marley and the violently polarized politics in Jamaica. The second is the story of Richard Nixon inviting Johnny Cash to do a concert at the Whitehouse in a violently polarized America. In each of these phenomenal one hour episodes, the itch I've been having about story’s place in the realm of non-duality, got seriously scratched. They really are a must watch.
I’ve long been suspecting that the medium of good story writing/telling is an oft overlooked friend of action/contemplation. Story is not fable or aphorism, nor is it poetry (but those modes also have their place). In the case of both Bob Marley and Johnny Cash, it was their ability to subvert with story in song, that enabled them to reach profoundly non-dual levels of pure truth telling, under immense political pressure to choose a side.
In the episode Tricky Dick and the Man in Black, there is footage of a group of singers coming in to perform for Richard Nixon and one of the singers holds up a banner that says “stop the killing”, and then says “Richard Nixon, stop killing human beings, animals and vegetation. You go to church on Sundays. If Jesus Christ were here tonight you would not dare to drop another bomb.” Now most of you reading this are going to appreciate the courage it took for her to do that. And at a number of levels I do too. But what I’m constantly longing to open up to as an artist, is what Walter Brueggemann calls prophetic imagination. Her statement was met with the expected “get her outta here”, and no one was conflicted or converted. She was right, but at such a blunt level, it was still dualistic in its nature. Or as Krista Tippet says, “The nature of the question, elicits the nature of the answer.”
On the night Johnny Cash performed, something else happened. There was a near-Divine presence in the air, tap-rooted in Johnny Cash’s own suffering - which had turned a corner. See, his own story had become universalized and the pain of the soldiers and his tender care for the youth crying out across the country, were incarnating his performance.
The same thing happened during a particular concert in Jamaica when Bob Marley held in his own hand, the hands of the white political leaders who were each other's enemy. It was his story of suffering, that had been universalized, that enabled him to tell the story of his people, and to long for peace.
Looking back, this is one of the reasons why I struggled with letting go of my old story... Because I think it is more than just letting go. It is letting go, so that, the seeds of suffering may fall and germinate and bring us to the place, where, when faced with the gridlock of dualism, we have depths to pull from and can find another way to speak the truth.
The song for today is There is a Peace, from the album Sanctuary: Exploring the Healing Path. Although it isn’t a story song, but actually a chant with spoken word, this piece belongs in the story arc of the album as a whole, and is found nearer to the end of the album.
"Contemplative prayer is the world in which God can do anything. To move into that realm is the greatest adventure. It is to be open to the Infinite and hence, to infinite possibilities. Our private, self-made worlds come to an end; a new world appears within and around us and the impossible becomes an everyday experience. Yet the world that prayer reveals is barely noticeable in the ordinary course of events."
- Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart
This week, a memorial service was held for Fr Thomas Keating, a Cistercian monk who many of us have been inspired by through his writings and teachings, particularly on Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer is a style of Christian meditation that Fr Keating dedicated his life to distilling, from the lineage of Contemplative Prayer, held in Biblically sourced texts (Matthew 6:6, Psalm 46:10 etc) and as passed on from the Desert Abbas and Ammas, through to Pseudo-Dionysius, Meister Ekchardt, to the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, to Teresa of Avila/John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux and on... to Thomas Merton (the great bridge between us and this richness!)
In particular, Thomas Keating did so much for us by spending such fine-tuned time with The Cloud of Unknowing, a sacred medieval classic text authored by the anonymous English medieval monk, from the 14th Century.
This week, I chose the song Quia Amore Langueo (Because I Languish For Love), because it so fits the poetry of Thomas Keating's life... and it was written by an anonymous English poet from the 14th Century. Both the Cloud of Unknowing and Quia Amore Langueo were written in Olde English and a translation of particular note, for The Cloud, in recent years, is the one by Carmen Acevedo Butcher. It is so very good.
The Center for Action and Contemplation live streamed Thomas Keating's memorial service, making it possible for the public around the world, to attend online. Practitioners and appreciators from across the world tuned in to mark the passing of this man, who had in his lifetime, surrendered to being overtaken by that which does not die. Or as Cynthia Bourgeault said on the page that invited the public to view the memorial: "I have never witnessed a more triumphant and powerful conscious death, modeling for us all the wingspan of spirit that can dwell in a life courageously and recklessly tossed to the winds of God."
Contemplative Outreach put together an incredible short film that was viewed by those present at the memorial, directly after the mass was brought to a close. While watching and weeping and longing, here in my little studio, thousands of miles away, I knew so many others around the world were too, and afterward, I could see that the people physically present at the memorial were wiping their cheeks dry from authentic tears, too.
To listen with an open heart to someone so surrendered to God, to someone so truly an Elder, and to someone so close to death, is an honour. It is a sacred privilege that this footage was captured near the end of his life. There is transmission there, and you can tell his love for the planet did not diminish in his own diminishment, because his love was One, with the great Lover. He even references in the film that the seed must fall for the work to become even bigger and "that's how things are." And he was very clear about deeper, more and more meaningful interfaith work to be done. My hope is that in dedicating this Sunday Song and Rumination to being attentive to Fr Keating's parting words (I encourage you to watch the film), we will begin to listen more attentively to the sonorous hum at the heart of his delivery, that we might hear the depths from which they flowed forth out of such a willing font.
Perhaps what spoke to me the most, was how Fr. Keating said that God uses imperfect instruments for the work, because those instruments know particularly that it is not them who is doing it. That gave me great consolation! Something else he said, which was more haunting, "From God's perspective, I have great confidence in the future, that God's love will triumph over every obstacle. But it seems God wants to try out every obstacle, or let it happen, so that nobody, in the end, will consider that it came from anyplace else."
This poem Quia Amore Langueo fits almost perfectly with the message from Fr. Keating, that "the spiritual life is about doing what we all have to do anyway... death... but doing it sooner, because it will enable our actions to be much more effective." When the anonymous poet says: "thy reward is fixed, if you but die... quia amore langueo" it leads into some of the last parting words in the film when Fr Keating says: "and that's all we have to do ultimately... is accept God's love."
Humbled and grateful and emptied and brimming. Amen.
Here is the poem Because I Languish for Love, in Olde English, and in all its fullness (I worked with a few different translations for the song and tried to include slight amounts of Olde English that still had a hue a familiarity, and also didn't include each verse, as it is a long poem! But SO beautiful.)
In a valey of this restles mynde,
I soughte in mounteyne and in mede,
Trustynge a trewelove for to fynde.
Upon an hil than Y took hede:
A voice Y herde, and neer Y yede,
In huge dolour complaynynge tho:
"Se, dere Soule, how my sidis blede,
Quia amore langueo."
[In a valley of this restless mind, I sought in mountain and in meadow, hoping to find a true-love (a flower, but also love itself). Upon a hill I then took notice; I heard a voice - and I drew closer - lamenting in great sorrow: "See, dear Soul, how my sides bleed, because I languish for love."]
Upon this hil Y fond a tree,
Undir the tree a man sittynge,
From heed to foot woundid was he,
His herte blood Y sigh bledinge:
A semeli man to ben a king,
A graciouse face to loken unto.
I askide whi he had peynynge,
He seide, "Quia amore langueo.
[Upon this hill I found a tree, under the tree a man sitting; from head to foot wounded was he, and I saw his heart's blood bleeding. He was a man fit to be a king, with a gracious face to look at. I asked why he was suffering; he said, "Because I languish for love."]
"I am Truelove that fals was nevere.
My sistyr, mannis soule, Y loved hir thus:
Bicause we wolde in no wise discevere,
I lefte my kyngdom glorious.
I purveide for hir a paleis precious;
Sche fleyth; Y folowe. Y soughte hir so,
I suffride this peyne piteuous,
Quia amore langueo.
["I am True-love who never was false. My sister, man's soul, I loved thus: because we would not in any way be parted, I left my glorious kingdom, I prepared for her a precious palace. She flees; I follow; I sought her in such a way that I came to suffer this terrible pain, because I languish for love.]
"My fair spouse and my love bright,
I saved hir fro betynge, and sche hath me bet!
I clothid hir in grace and hevenli light,
This bloodi scherte sche hath on me sette!
For longynge of love yit wolde Y not lette --
Swete strokis are these, lo!
I have loved hir evere, as Y hir het,
Quia amore langueo.
["My fair spouse and my love bright! I saved her from beating, and she has beaten me. I clothed her in grace and heavenly light; she set this bloody shirt upon me. For longing of love I will not cease - these are sweet strokes, lo! I have loved her always, as I promised her, because I languish for love.]
"I crowned hir with blis, and sche me with thorn;
I ledde hir to chaumbir, and sche me to die;
I broughte hir to worschipe, and sche me to scorn;
I dide hir reverence, and she me vilonye.
To love that loveth is no maistrie;
Hir hate made nevere my love hir foo.
Axe me no questioun whi --
Quia amore langueo.
["I crowned her with bliss, and she crowned me with thorns; I led her to a chamber, and she led me to die. I brought her to worship, and she brought me to scorn; I did her worship, and she did me villainy. To love one who loves you is no hard task; her hate never made my love her foe. Do not ask me questions why; because I languish for love.]
"Loke unto myn hondis, man:
These gloves were yove me whan Y hir soughte.
Thei ben not white, but rede and wan,
Onbroudrid with blood. My spouse hem broughte.
Thei wole not of; Y loose hem noughte.
I wowe hir with hem whereevere sche go --
These hondis for hir so freendli foughte,
Quia amore langueo.
["Look at my hands, man: these gloves were given me when I sought her. They are not white, but red and pale, embroidered with blood. My spouse brought them. They cannot come off; I will not undo them. I woo her with them wherever she may go. These hands fought for her so lovingly, because I languish for love.]
"Merveille noughte, man, though Y sitte stille:
Se, love hath schod me wondir streite,
Boclid my feet, as was hir wille,
With scharp naile, lo! Thou maiste waitenails;
In my love was nevere desaite.
Alle myn humours Y have opened hir to,
There my bodi hath maad hir hertis baite,
Quia amore langueo.
["Marvel not, man, though I sit still: see, love has shod me very tightly, and buckled my feet, by her choice, with sharp nails, look! You may know by these nails, there was never any deceit in my love. I have opened all my blood to her and made my body her heart's bait, because I languish for love.]
"In my side Y have made hir neste.
Loke in: how weet a wounde is heere!
This is hir chaumbir. Heere schal sche reste,
That sche and Y may slepe in fere.
Heere may she waische if ony filthe were;
Heere is sete for al hir woo.
Come whanne sche wole, sche schal have chere,
Quia amore langueo.
["In my side I have made her nest. Look in, how wet a wound is here! This is her chamber; here she shall rest, and she and I shall sleep in company. Here she may wash away anything that befouls her; here is shelter for all her sorrow. Come whenever she will, she shall have good cheer, because I languish for love.]
"I wole abide til sche be redy,
I wole hir sue if sche seie nay;
If sche be richilees, Y wole be gredi,
And if sche be daungerus, Y wole hir praie.
If sche wepe, than hide Y ne may --
Myn armes her highed to clippe hir me to:
Crie oonys! Y come. Now, Soule, asay!
Quia amore langueo.
["I will wait until she be ready; I will seek her if she say nay. If she be careless, I will be insistent; if she be disdainful, I will beseech her. If she weep, then I cannot conceal myself - my arms are outstretched to clasp her to me. Cry once, I come! Now, soul, try me! Because I languish for love.]
"I sitte on this hil for to se fer,
I loke into the valey my spouse to se:
Now renneth sche awayward, yit come sche me neer,
For out of my sighte may sche not be.
Summe wayte hir prai to make hir to flee,
I renne bifore and fleme hir foo.
Returne, my spouse, ayen to me!
Quia amore langueo.
["I sit on this hill to see far: I look into the valley to see my spouse. Now she runs away, now she comes closer, but she cannot be out of my sight. Some others lurk to make her their prey, to make her flee to them, but I run before them and drive away her foes. Return, my spouse, again to me! Because I languish for love.]
"Fair love, lete us go pleye!
Applis ben ripe in my gardayne;
I schal thee clothe in a newe aray,
Thi mete schal be mylk, hony, and wiyn.
Fair love, lete us go digne;
Thi sustynaunce is in my crippe, lo!
Tarie thou not, my fair spouse myne!
Quia amore langueo.
["Fair love, let us go play: apples are ripe in my garden. I shall clothe thee in new array, thy food shall be milk, honey, and wine. Fair love, let us go dine; thy sustenance is in my bag, lo! Tarry not, my own fair spouse, because I languish for love.]
"Iff thou be foul, Y schal thee make clene,
If thou be siik, Y schal thee hele;
If thou moorne ought, Y schal thee meene.
Whi wolt thou not, fair love, with me dele?
Foundist thou evere love so leel?
What woldist thou, spouse, that Y schulde do?
I may not unkyndeli thee appele,
Quia amore langueo.
["If thou be dirty, I shall make thee clean; if thou be sick, I shall heal thee. If thou mourn for anything, I shall comfort thee. Why wilt thou not, fair love, have dealings with me? Hast thou ever found such loyal love? What wouldest thou, spouse, that I should do? I cannot accuse thee of unkindness, because I languish for love.]
"What schal Y do with my fair spouse
But abide hir, of my gentilnes,
Til that sche loke out of hir house
Of fleischli affeccioun? Love myn sche is!
Hir bed is maade, hir bolstir is blis;
Hir chaumbir is chosen, is ther non moo.
Loke out on me at the wyndow of kyndenes,
Quia amore langueo.
["What shall I do with my fair spouse, but wait for her, in my courtesy, until she look out of her house of fleshly affecton? She is my love! Her bed is made, her pillow is prepared in bliss, her chamber is chosen - there is none other such. Look out on me at the window of kindness, because I languish for love.]
"My love is in hir chaumbir. Holde youre pees!
Make ye no noise, but lete hir slepe.
My babe Y wolde not were in disese;
I may not heere my dere child wepe;
With my pap Y schal hir kepe.
Ne merveille ye not though Y tende hir to:
This hole in my side had nevere be so depe,
But Quia amore langueo.
["My love is in her chamber, hold your peace! Make ye no noise, but let her sleep. I would not have my babe troubled; I cannot hear my dear child weep. With my breast I shall feed her. Do not marvel that I tend to her so! This hole in my side would never have been so deep, but that I languish for love.]
"Longe thou for love nevere so high,
My love is more than thin may be:
Thou wepist, thou gladist, Y sitte thee bi,
Yit woldist thou oonys, leef, loke unto me?
Schulde I alwey fede thee
With children mete? Nay, love, not so! --
I wole preve thi love with adversitè,
Quia amore langueo.
["Long thou for love never so much, my love is more than thine can be. Thou weepest, thou rejoicest, I sit beside thee; but wouldest thou once, love, look to me? Should I always feed thee with children's food? No, love, it cannot be so! I wish to test thy love through adversity, because I languish for love.]
"Wexe not wery, myn owne wiif.
What mede is it to lyve evere in coumfort?
In tribulacioun I regne moore riif,
Oftetymes, than in disport --
In wele and in woo Y am ay to supporte!
Than, dere Soule, go not me fro!
Thi meede is markid whan thou art mort,
Quia amore langueo."
["Wax not weary, my own wife; what reward is there to live in comfort for ever? In tribulation I often reign more fully than in pleasure. In weal and woe I am ever there to help! Then, dear soul, do not go from me. Thy reward is fixed after thy death, because I languish for love.]
Watching the memorial online.
"God and the suffering of the world are inseparably interwoven." - James Finley
"The feeling remains, God is on the journey too." - Teresa of Avila
"In stillness nailed. To hold all time, all change, all circumstances in and to, Love's embrace." - Anonymous nun, as found on page 124 in The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault
I noticed this week that so many people from outside the Christian tradition have been confused about how folks who claim to follow Jesus could be attracted to, or appreciative of, blatant power-driven bullying. I have been in dialogue with folks about the philosophical roots of this immense problem, and of course, that gets us asking questions about human nature and God nature and presses us to these places where our shaken faith leads us to regions we've never been before. Sometimes very dark places that doubt the existence of benevolence.
In the West, we've all been conditioned to see things dualistically, and this is not easily unlearned. We want there to be good and bad people. We want an obvious light over and against darkness. We want God to be different than God is... more accentuated in how justice is served out, right now. We think that looking at events and actions in any sort of non-dual way is either not naming something or seen as backing down from speaking truth to power. But true non-duality is quite possibly doing far more in the long run, than either denial, or quick, dramatic reaction. What non-duality should be doing, if it is true, is to find a way to both name things, and set things within a process that makes them new.
False peace is not wanting shit to come to the surface. But real peace finds a way to stir the shit up in such a creative way, that it makes real change, that harnesses collective energy toward the common good.
There is a scene in Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain, where he looks across at his little brother John Paul, who is about to go to serve in World War II. There is a divide between them, like his brother is unreachable, but you get the sense that Merton almost wants to reach out and have his brother stay and that he would take his place. John Paul dies in the war making young Thomas Merton the last surviving member of his immediate family.
Merton wrote a beautiful poem about his brother which I put to music, along with James Finley's spoken word. It grieves. And then it begins to articulate that part of the way toward holding something very difficult in the radical arms of love, is to get closer to it at the quantum level, even if we can't be physically close to it. There are relationships that can be so broken, due to any number of circumstances, (in the case of Merton, his relationship with his brother was severed by death), that sometimes the only safe way to heal, or to heal the wound that was made, is to touch it at the level where it has been held in love already by Christ, the great Mystery, holding all things together.
This comprehension laid the groundwork for Merton moving toward the world... from this place of solitude, where he touched the love that holds all things together. There is a point in the poem where Merton refers to the cross he wears as a monk or priest, and the cross of his brother's soldier's grave, saying "Christ died on each for both of us". The first time I read that, I openly wept. At the comprehension of my own dualism that a mystical monk could ever be held in common with a soldier. I was assaulted by two soldiers once, with only a narrow escape. But I know someone who was assaulted by a monk, too.
As we look at ways to be creative and innovative, and even as we long for things to be different, let's remember that there is energy to be found in forgiving the events that are half-forgiven, in healing the wounds that are half-healed. It is by now a cliche to say that forgiving is not excusing or sending the message that you're available for more abuse... but with that disclaimer, what would happen if each of us who read this gathered the energy that comes with a sort of ahistorical forgiveness?
The place where Merton went, when his eyes become flowers for his brother's tomb, and his fasts become willows where his brother died, is the place where all things are held together, and where all things are being made new, that "holds all time, all change all circumstances, in Love's embrace."
Listen to John Paul in this sort of context and allow for the poetry to expand inside of you as a creative force and a balm.
This week I flew to Victoria, BC, Canada to be a part of a conference called The Resurrect Learning Party, by performing a concert, leading a bit of worship and doing a talk on the Mystical Heart of the Church. I hadn't left my family to do this sort of thing since my first born was 2, and he just turned 5 yesterday! It was good for them, it was good for me and helped me to practice trust.
The conference was held at this very thin time of year, to welcome and acknowledge those who've gone before us and to ask them to pray for us as we innovate and explore ways in which we can set the body free, in our communities, on the land, and through modalities like art and music. It was a group of about 80 people, from various denominations, who came together under the common bond of the Christ Mystery.
I got to meet an incredible liturgical songwriter named Lacey Brown from the Church of the Apostles in Seattle, whose musical act goes by the name of Poor Clare. I got to dialogue with folks who have started "Wild Church" communities (something my husband Ian and I are discussing for our land). I got to see dear friends, like my friend Travis Enright, who gave the whole conference an incredible shake up and paradigm shift, through his presentation on Journeying With Two World Views as a Cree Irish Anglican priest, who is comfortable with not only his indigenous tradition being present in his ministry, but also his Cree culture, which is not based in the "nuclear family" model. We prayed with tears, for the Tree of Life community in Pittsburgh, and we acknowledged all groups under the threat of destructive ideology. We prayed for the way forward with climate change.
There were many beautiful "misfits" with whom I always feel most at home, with incredible hearts and ideas for what church can look like, when it's not about being a cookie cutter colony of people, but much more varied and diverse.
When I spoke about the Mystical Heart of the Church, I wanted to point out a sort of chicken/egg problem we often find ourselves in, when coming up with solutions for inclusivity in the church. And that is, that if our philosophical starting point is separation of matter and spirit, we are scrambling from outside the paradigm of "connected and diverse" to almost enforcing welcome through our own strength and doing. But if the catholicity of the church, or the kind of monasticism that is imperishable, or incarnation is our starting point, as in who we already are, AND what we are traveling toward, it changes the game, because it liberates us from having the control to enforce equality from an idealogical place...
It is the Ground of our Being already. Matter and Spirit are one. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8: 38-39).
Thomas Merton once prayed to God: "Oh how far I have to go to rest in you in whom I've already arrived."
Carrying this reality under my feet, we migrated into a remarkable ritual space where the whole group held an All Souls Mass in the crypt of the Cathedral, downtown Victoria. We chanted the names of Saints, including Oscar Romero... Dorothy Day... Clare of Assisi... Saint Francis... We lit candles for the departed (I lit one especially welcoming Fr Thomas Keating), and when it came time to experience the beauty of an ecumenical eucharist, I whispered the words, "the body of Christ, re-membered". And it was real. It was the starting point (alpha) and the culmination (omega)... that the Ground of our Being is, always has been and ever shall be, God with us. But through the acts of unfathomable love here in the flesh... through bringing this metaphysical realm more deeply into being human and of the earth, healing is possible. Through lives lived, that have assumed the posture that welcomes being overtaken from the inside, by the "spark that belongs entirely to God and is never at our disposal" (Merton) and thus, by that which does not die, we are able to live more fully into exploring the curation of spaces of welcome and innovation.
I love that the "Resurrect Learning Party" held ritual in the crypt, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, who have gone before us, because without those who have gone before us, gathering tends to be empty and suspended, with no history, certainly sordid and complicit, but also beautiful and generative.
Today's song is What We Are, from the Point Vierge (Merton) album. I want to share this especially, because I have been engaged with innovating what the Christian church might look like moving forward. Even as I have done this, another imperative starting point, is to be actively sending my love and my very life to the Tree of Life Synagogue and to all places under threat of religious, racial or sexual oppression. Religion can be one of the most beautiful expressions on the planet, because it intuits that we are animated by a Spirit of Love, or that we are living in a interconnected Mystery, but when religion's starting point is separation, which has traditionally bred triumphalism, and that God will send all others from the "outside", to burn, it can be the most ugly, destructive, ways of being ever to exist on this planet. Christianity is absolutely without any doubt no exception.
In fact it may very well be the rule.
How can we not make the connection that the ideology that believes God will destroy others has something to do with current ideological violence?
Until we are willing to take the log out of our own eye, and make a FIERCE inventory of our tradition, we'd better stop pointing fingers anywhere else... and I mean anywhere else. No more "whataboutisms". Period.
May we live with humility and honesty about our tradition. May we hold it more lightly, even as we deepen into the message of incarnation that is all in all. As Bishop Tutu has rightly said, "God is not a Christian".
What does the church look like with this truth as the starting point?
Lord have mercy on us, for all the times we've stood on the philosophical plank of separation when trying to live out inclusivity. We hand this over and are overcome by what we already are everywhere and always...
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on a regenerative farm on the Canadian prairies.