Your comments on the attempt to integrate the powerless into the community as equals highlights one of the reasons the Bible continues to have compelling relevance for me. I am not interested in salvation, and have no concern regarding the World to Come, but when I silence the Voice of Fear that so often drowns out the Voice of Love that is the heart of all authentic revelation regardless of the tradition through which it comes, I hear the still small voice of compassion that even my ego cannot erase.
Your comments on this world and the after–life were marvelous; I had no idea you were a Buddhist! Samsara, this world, is Nirvana, the world to come, if we are simply aware of it. We are always in the presence of God, or the Shekhinah as the rabbis called Her, but we are rarely aware of the fact. This is where spiritual practice comes in. I especially love Practicing the Presence of God by the 17th Century Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence, and would like to hear your thoughts on the book. In fact I am curious as to how you practice the Presence in general.
Without going into great detail, I have stripped my own practice down to sitting in silence, and walking and chanting God’s Names. I chant the Thirteen Attributes of God found in Exodus 34:6–7, and several Names of the Presence Herself: Imma/Mother, Chochma/Wisdom, Sophia/Wisdom, Shekhinah/Divine Presence. These last names reflect the Jewish sense that God, while beyond any notion of gender, is often experienced in this world as Mother, or the Divine Feminine.
There is melody for these chants and I sing them as I walk through town and into the woods along the Greenway each morning. I find that the chanting of Names (these and others; the Catholic Hail Mary and the Moslem Ninety-Nine Names of God work for me, as do several Hindu and Buddhist mantra as well) is a simple and profound way of opening my eyes, ears, heart, and mind to the Presence of God in, with, and as all reality. In those rare moments when the “I” that chants realizes the “Thou” to Whom it sings, and both awake to the singular I Am that is all that is, there is a palpable a sense of love, wonder, joy, grace, peace, and compassion that lasts…well in my case for about three seconds. Still, it is a powerful three seconds.
You mentioned the Emerging or Emergent Church, and I am a fan of this effort, as well as the quest for the historical Jesus. I am drawn to Rabbi Jesus, my first century cousin who, continuing and deepening the work of his teacher Hillel, recast Judaism in the image of compassion, but I wonder if in addition to recognizing how each era fashions an image of Jesus that mirrors its own hopes, needs, and prejudices, we also need to continually reclaim the Cosmic Christ, the Christ beyond Christianity and theology; the Son who, like His older Sister Chochma in the eighth chapter of Proverbs, calls us to the love–feast of God free from institutions, clergy, and the struggles for power and ideological purity that these always carry with them.
If I were to get back into the religious community business I would open a coffee house rather than a synagogue. Our worship wouldbe modeled on the Hasidic farbregen, a of blend singing, dancing, silence, sipping coffee or tea (the Hasidim drank vodka), and sinking our teeth not only into cakes and cookies, but more importantly into the Wisdom that comes to us through all the great literatures of humankind.
I’m not sure there is more to say about this commandment. Indeed we may have left it behind a while ago. So, add what you will, and then let’s move on to number ten.