Finding God: A Little Meditation
Christian Zen is something wonderful.
Although precisely what it is is a little slippery. These are mainly Christians who have found Zen meditation useful in their spiritual life. But sometimes it gets weirder and much more interesting. There are now quite a handful of professional-type Christians, clergy and monks, who have been recognized as Zen masters. Plus a few households. Mostly from koan schools, the vast majority within the Harada-Yasutani lineage. This makes sense because there are quasi-objective standards involved. You have to pass hundreds of koans. Of these teachers, the largest number are Catholic, but with a generous sprinkling of Anglicans and Protestants.
From time to time, I find myself included in the lists of these Zen Christians.
I am flattered. Because they are a wonderful crowd. And there is a grain of truth in that. I am, after all, a Unitarian Universalist pastor. And she comes from the most radical left of the Christian Protestant tradition. And, beyond that, I freely admit a “physiology of faith”, claiming a Buddhist brain, a Christian heart and a rationalist stomach. Over the years I have focused more on one area or another, but the image of the particular package that is my faith has remained in that frame for decades.
In some ways, it’s a journey “in between”. It is certainly something dynamic.
Of course, it has its challenges. And, for the most part, these are good.
For example, it turns out that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Michael Curry, just gave a sermon in which he quotes the divine Unitarian Theodore Parker, although he only calls him an abolitionist. . Yet he credited him for the phrase “I do not claim to understand the moral universe. The arc is long. My eye reaches only small ways. I cannot calculate the sight experience. I can guess it by conscience. And from what I see, I’m sure it’s leaning toward justice. The Good Bishop notes that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., shortened it to “…the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
I have spoken about it more than once. I then add in the wonderful conclusion that former President Barack Obama had in a similar double acknowledgment of this sentiment, that this bow bends because human beings get their hands on it and bend it toward justice. Maybe it mixes the three aspects of my faith. Anyway, I find it fair.
But the bishop went in a totally different direction. After quoting Parker and King, Bishop Curry said the arch bends because of God.
When I read that, I felt, well, I felt, no.
Maybe that’s why I’m not a Zen Christian. There are so many Christian traditions that I respect and even love. I even use the word God, which is not common among Zen people. But not a God who gets his hands on the story arc, whichever way it goes.
I don’t know how much it fills worlds.
What I’m quite clear about is that there’s no being like a human being but a much bigger one that comes into play in the story.
Back when I was in seminary and therefore much smarter than I am now, I said, “God is a hole in the language into which we cast our fears and our hopes.” One of my teachers heard that and said, “Yes, James. God is whole in the language into which we cast our fears and hopes.
I’m good with either one. I would go further than that these days. God is a perfectly good word for the sum of it all. All the many moving parts, rising, falling. God is the birth of things. God is the support of things. God is the death of things.
A wonderful, powerful and amazing thing?
But, a spirit directing all this? A spirit with an outstretched hand in it?
This misses the point. At least the point I have found over the many years of my spiritual journey.
I thought that.
And then I felt a softening. This is my analysis. They tell the truth as best I can express it in words.
Then there is the mess. The God of that, if you will.
To see the God of everything, yes. Feel the connections. Yes. Finding myself called to lay my hand on the bow. Yes.
Calling it God. Yes.
And wondering if it matters if someone sees a divine person outside, above, reaching out. I feel hesitation. And then wonder about the power of this hesitation. And then I feel that passing laterally from the literal to the dream. Find common ground with all suffering that calls the father, the mother. These fears. So true. These hopes. I can taste them.
Should we pretend to believe what makes no sense? I should hope not. But, it is important not to confuse things. I think it’s essential to be, well, critical. We have to find the middle ground between having an open mind and having such an open mind that our brain breaks down. Finding the place where we witness as present is all that is required. And with that, we must let everyone find their way into the mystery of where they are. Including ourselves.
Because everything is so important.
It’s a journey. And discovery is so important. To arrive in such a commonplace, so ordinary, it tears hymns from my mouth. Praises on my tongue.
Find that God.
Not knowing who’s leading my hand?
Mystery piled on mystery.
Maybe it’s Christian Zen.
I strongly suspect that it is God singing in and through. And reach out…