A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Other Seekers of Spiritual Illumination

from Rev. Tom Snyder, Pastor Emeritus and Visitation Pastor, First and Christ United Methodist Churches, Ashland, Ohio.
We may deepen our own faith by learning from other great religious traditions. While this assertion may cause some to break out in a sweat, who of us have not been formed by wisdom and stories of the Hebrew scriptures, still the sacred texts of our Jewish sisters and brothers? The 20th-century spiritual writer, monk, mystic and social critic, Thomas Merton, was deeply influenced in his Christian beliefs and practices by his intentional encounters and correspondence with Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. His engagement with these other faith traditions, always pulled him into the vortex of Christian spirituality, its traditions and practices, some long-forgotten or fallen into disuse. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s non-violent resistance to injustice had its roots in the teachings of the Hindu Gandhi. We can learn from and be inspired by other seekers for spiritual illumination.

I recently was challenged by this Zen parable.

To the one who know nothing about Zen, mountains are mountains and trees are trees.

When a person meditates and knows a little Zen, mountains are no longer mountain and trees are no longer trees.

When a person has penetrated to the heart of Zen, mountains are once again mountains and trees are once again trees.   

So, I have been pondering this. First, it reminded me of an exhibit of Asian art we saw at the Cleveland Museum of Art a few years ago. Part of the exhibit included this 18th –century Japanese scroll painting pictured here, aptly depicting mountain and trees. At first we consciously recognize each mountain and every tree for just what it is.  Going deeper we see the panorama first, which includes these elements, but then a bigger picture – the trees and mountains have become part of the whole. Then, having immersed ourselves in the mystery of all facets of this ethereal painting, the mountains are once again mountains, and the trees, trees.

This parable, like Jesus' parables, invites us to go deeper. Zen is about awareness; it involves contemplation, which includes silence and reflection. Its aim is a peaceableness in body, mind, spirit, and emotion. The Way of Jesus is about non-violence; the absolute value of every human being; it celebrates God’s creation; it yearns for justice for all people; it is marked by compassion – all this added together Jesus called the Kingdom of God. It invites us to a new awareness, contemplation, silence, reflection – a respite from living in our heads.

To the one who knows nothing about the Way, life is life, people are people and rules are rules.
When a person meditates and knows a little about the Way, life is more than just life, people are no longer only people, rules go deeper than rules. 

When a person has penetrated the heart of the Way, life is Life, people are once again People, rules become Justice, and heart and action live Compassion.

Faithfully, in love, Pastor Tom+ 

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