To Err is Divine

Matthew 9:9-17

Karl E. Peters writes: “To err is divine.”

This phrase feels uncomfortable to most religious practitioners in the Judeo-Christian tradition. We have been conditioned to think of the Divine as an all-powerful being who has established unchanging standards of truth and righteousness in the world. Peters, on the other hand, identifies “God” as “the creative process working in our midst.”

Biological evolution happens by mistake. Mutations are copy errors in an organism’s genetic code. Most genetic mutations have a neutral or adverse effect on an organism’s chances for survival, but some of them turn out to be beneficial. When a mutation gives an organism a survival advantage, that error gets incorporated into the genetic code and is more likely to shape future generations.

Cultural evolution happens in much the same way. When Jesus invited outcasts into his grassroots movement and challenged established moral and theological standards of his culture, the leaders of his culture regarded his actions as mistakes. The appointed guardians of tradition branded Jesus as a dangerous heretic because he did not practice his spirituality in the “right” way or with the “right” people.

The early followers of Jesus incorporated his tendencies toward inclusion and innovation into the cultural DNA of their movement. These cultural mutations gave that community the independence it needed to survive and thrive after the Roman Empire razed the second Jewish temple in 70CE. Other religious movements survived because they centered their faith and practice in the study of the Torah, rather than the rituals of the temple. These two movements evolved into the religious traditions we now recognize as Judaism and Christianity.

The following questions arise: What creative mistakes are we making in our lives today? How might today’s heretics become tomorrow’s leaders? How might “the creative process working in our midst” be adapting our communities to include new voices and invent new ways of doing things?

Peters asks:

“Are these mistakes mutations in religious thought that ought to be destroyed or might they be something else, a new and helpful way of portraying the sacred? That will be determined not by what I am saying. It will be determined only by how you and others respond, by whether these ideas help you make sense of your own experience in living.”

Karl E. Peters. Dancing with the sacred: evolution, ecology, and God (Trinity Press International: 2002).

Now
is the space between
what is known and
what is new.

It is a constant
coming into existence.

No respecter
of who belongs
or how it’s done.

Some mistakes
turn out to be correct
and vice versa.

Some heretics
turn out to be prophets
and vice versa.

O Restless Heart

O restless heart, who knows the way
that wanders not, but seems to stray
from end to end, by many means,
as each new crossroad intervenes.

A promise made on one’s behalf
had carved in stone the epitaph
before a babe a word e’er spoke,
or strength from weakness had awoke.

The frailty of a father’s will
bade not the peregrine be still,
for silence would not silence keep
till ev’ry song its harvest reap.

So, following the ancient way,
by trails unblazed in light of day,
from deep to deep, the altar call
makes three in one the all in all.

 

-Memorial of St. Odo & the Holy Abbots of Cluny

 

Photo credit: Jan Sokol (self-published work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

There is a Vastness…

Paternoster

There is a vastness,
beauty,
and logic
in the cosmos
that defies imagination.
I stand in awe
before it
and within it.

Something inside me
yearns
for the same greatness,
beauty,
and logic
to be made real
and observable
in my short life
on this tiny planet.

All I have,
and all I am,
is a product
of this vastness,
and beauty,
and logic.

It sustains me,
even when I forget
and take it for granted.
Perhaps then,
I can find the strength
to let go
of resentment
when others forget
and take me for granted
as well.

I remember this
in moments of peace,
that I might remember it
in days of stress,
and thus be freed
from anxiety:

This vastness,
beauty,
and logic
does not come from me,
did not begin with me,
and will not end with me.

It never has,
and never will.

Erosion

Living stone
the river of fire
in the Province
Beyond the River

Bound by magnetism,
not gravity;
desire,
not necessity.

Pebbles worn smooth
by the passage of time:
kinder,
gentler.

The lava threatens
everything in its path
that is not
in its way.

Unmaking
the great civilization
in its very act
of creation.

Fire turns to stone,
rests as solid ground,
only when
river meets river.

Critical Mass

Hoc est corpus meum.
Et cum spirit tuo.
Critical Mass.
Missa cum populo.

The work of the people
in thrift store vestments,
home-made stoles,
Du Maurier incense.

Kneeling in the cloister
behind the record shop;
Approaching the altar
to receive:
Would you like fries with that?

Crack at coffee hour,
neither more nor less addictive.

Orthodox idolatry,
sacred profanity.

I heard your confession
when it was you
who should have forgiven me.

Michaelmas

"Virgin's Monastery (benedictine nuns), Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil05" by Cláudio Pastro ; foto de Eugenio Hansen, OFS - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Virgin%27s_Monastery_(benedictine_nuns),_Petr%C3%B3polis,_Rio_de_Janeiro_State,_Brazil05.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Virgin%27s_Monastery_(benedictine_nuns),_Petr%C3%B3polis,_Rio_de_Janeiro_State,_Brazil05.JPG
“Virgin’s Monastery (benedictine nuns), Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil05” by Cláudio Pastro ; foto de Eugenio Hansen, OFS – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Outside. Beside.
Closer than expected.
Too close for comfort.

Gestures and visions.
Function, not nature.
Here, not there.

Grabbing my attention
directing it back:
Beside. Inside.

Height to height,
glory to glory,
deep calls out to deep.

Passionfruit

Image
Image by Taka. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Life gave
what I took
for my own.

I learned
how to seize
with the hands,
how to tear
with the teeth.

I learned
what it felt like
to touch with the lips,
to press with the tongue,
to be surprised by how much
came out
when I broke the surface,
to be covered with sweetness
all over my body.

Now I know.
It’s complicated.

***

What I took
is mine.

I’m learning
how to build
with the hands,
how to hold nails
with the teeth.

Cleaning up
is never
as much fun
as messing up.

Construction
is never
as cathartic
as demolition.

Nails and wood
are not the same thing
as a tree.

They have no power
to give life.

I’m learning
what it feels like
to be covered with sweat
all over my body.

***

What I made
gave life.

It was an accident.
Nobody meant for it to happen
this way.
It just seemed like a good idea
at the time.

The hands that learned
to seize and build.
The teeth that learned
to tear and hold.
The facsimile of a tree.

I wasn’t expecting it
to be alive
when I broke the surface.

I was surprised by how much
came out
and covered me with blood
all over my body.

More forgetting
than learning
this time.

Not taken
for my own,
but given
by another.

Turn Aside

Image
By Audrey from Central Pennsylvania, USA (Daisy Drops Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Turn aside to the whole on fire:

Consuming, consumed
Unassuming, assumed
And so, beyond consumption
And so, breaking all assumptions.

In stillness, an explosion
In silence, a voice
Chain reaction
Isness.

Thousands of miles, even millions
Millennia, maybe forever
Light and color in the mind
Take off your shoes.

Let them go
Let them be
Ice irradiated
Becomes humble

And some of it fell on me.

A Psalm of Lament

Image
Oxbow Bend outlook in Grand Teton National Park. Image by Michael Gäbler. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

To love is to live

with an open heart,

a broken heart.

To give of oneself until empty.

To not grasp equality.

To devalue oneself.

To give to what only knows how to take.

To be the apple tree picked clean.

To be swallowed by darkness.

To be spent but not touched.

To play the whore and the virgin at the same time.

 

He did it.

Don’t mythologize.

Don’t romanticize.

Don’t let him be dismissed so easily.

He is the cheap trick,

the unfulfilled desire,

the itch you can’t scratch,

the pain that passeth understanding,

the walk like blues.

He is dead,

and gone,

and never coming back.

 

Really? 

Is that what you think?

Son, you talk an awful lot,

but maybe you should listen:

 

An unfamiliar voice.

A deer crossing the road in front of me.

A chipmunk on his way to do something (apparently) very important.

A bee otherwise occupied.

Green.

Blue.

Grey.

Brown.

Hot breath, 93 million miles old.

Cold fingers brushing past my cheek and through my hair.

A passion play:

astir,

exploding,

in motion.

Seeds of new life:

Sarah’s laughter knocked loose after 90 years or more.

The atmosphere is full of it.

What is it called?

Where is it from?

I don’t even know,

except to say

everywhere.

 

All of this is not an answer,

except to a question

I have not yet learned to ask.

It is neither an ending nor a beginning.

It is only a moment.