Thomas Merton, one of my favorite theologians and writers, was a contemplative after my own heart.
Almost 40 years ago, while on an Holy Week retreat at the Holy Cross Abby near Berryville, Virginia, I wrote
DANCE OF THE CEDARS
Outside my guesthouse window
the four small cedars
stand in a row,
guarding the wall
that guards the propane tank.
This morning, just for me,
they shared their freedom
and their joy
as I watched them dance
to the song in the wind.
In that dance
was a celebration of life
just as it was promised,
full and free and without a care,
just the way it was meant to be.
I have two enemies in all the world,
Two twins, inseparably pooled:
The hunger of the hungry and the fullness of the full.
This little poem I recently came across by Marina Tsvetaeva well describes my own feelings. After 40 years of walking along side the poor and hungry I still cannot reconcile myself to the apathy of those that have sufficient resources yet refuse to help those of our family in need. Here is an equally short poem I wrote over 30 years ago.
Hunger is an obscenity,
a four-letter word
scrawled across the lives of millions
by those that could, but do not share.
Sometimes during the excitement and joy of celebrating the deep beauty of this special season we forget those of our family whose circumstances cry out for the presence of the One whose birth we celebrate. This Christmas Prayer from the METHODIST FEDERATION FOR SOCIAL ACTION is a powerful reminder that we are all called to become love incarnate. Transformed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, each of us are called to reach out to those most in need.
I love Sufi poetry, and Rumi and Hafiz have long been favorites. I recently came across this delightful quote by Rumi and I share it now because of its timeliness in my own life.
When a man has boils or scabies,, he isn’t disgusted with himself; he puts his infected hand in his dish and he licks his fingers without any repugnance. But, if he sees a small sore on someone else’s hand he can’t swallow his food. It’s the same with moral blemishes; when you see defects such as indifference, pride, and lust in yourself, they don’t bother you; but as soon as you notice them in others, you feel hurt and resentful.
Jesus is clear in his call for those following him to treat one another just as they would want to be treated. We know it as the “Golden Rule.” Wonderfully, every major religion and faith tradition has the Golden Rule as part of their core values.
The frightening bottom line in the Christian faith is that Jesus says we will be judged exactly like we judge those around us. The measure we give is the measure we will get.
We all have our own moral warts and scabies. Before we start pointing our infected fingers at those around us we need to first clear up the blemishes in our own less-than-perfect lives.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read Coleridge. How many of us first encountered him in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner? Written in 1798, the poem still has a truth we need to hear today.
We are all connected in a beautiful web of life that includes everything, not just our human family. Remembering that should help us walk more slowly and live more gently.
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.