Monday, June 18, 2007

06/15/07, Sermon

We don’t always recognize a door when it opens before us. We have our idea of an open door, and spend our time looking for what we have in mind, and don’t see what’s there. We think we know what we need, and pour our lives into trying to arrange the future of our dreams, and ignore the path to a different future because it doesn’t meet our specifications for The Way Futures Ought To Be.

Of course, we don’t know what future is the best of all possible futures, or even what it will take to have a life worth living. The good we serve is the good we imagine to be good, but there are goods beyond our capacity to imagine, and we cannot serve what we do not see.

The Holy Grail—true life, abundant life, the life that is our life to live in a future worthy of us—is hidden away, and we have no clue as to where it is, or how to find it. Now, when we don’t know which path is The Path, or which door is The Door, we better stop looking with these eyes, and stop listening with these ears, and stop trying to think our way forward with this head which thinks it knows what is good. We had better stop following the guides we think are the only guides into the life we are sure we want to live. And, we had better start developing those eyes that see, those ears that hear, and that heart that understands. The trouble is, that is too much like dying!

Giving up, handing over, letting go of our ideas about the good, surrendering the future of our dreams, trading in these eyes and these ears for those eyes and those ears, this head for that heart, who can do that? The search for the Grail is as arduous as it is because the task is that of dying. Dying to our idea of the good so that the truly good might bless us with its goodness. This is the theme of all the journeys of the spirit. Death and Resurrection. Don’t think it doesn’t apply to us, here and now. The journey forward is a journey into death and dying. The path to the empty tomb winds through Gethsemane and across the face of Golgotha. The spiritual quest is no walk in the park.

The journey to the heart of truth is a journey into the heart of darkness, and requires us to understand that we don’t know a thing about the nature of the future that has our name on it. We have to get out of our way if we hope to find the way to the Grail. Before we can get to the Grail, we have to change our ideas about what it means to be fully alive. We don’t know what it means. We are looking for an easy path to the future of our dreams, and are not interested in a different future, and would not call it “life” if it were handed to us on a silver platter with our name engraved on it. You see the problem. Before we can be served by that which is uniquely suited to bring us to life, we have to change our minds about what it means to be alive. We have to know that we don’t know what it means, and wait to see. It is very difficult to see what we are not looking for.

Our preferences, and our disinclinations, and our desires get in our way, and keep us from recognizing what is in our best interest. We cannot see the way to the future with our name on it because we have a different future in mind. How do we sit before our future with no preferences to interfere with our ability to perceive the way that is opening before us? How do we stop trying to serve ourselves, trying to deliver the future of our dreams to ourselves, so that the Grail might present us with life? How do we give up the good we have in mind, in order to be graced by the good we would never consider to be good? How do we suspend the techniques, strategies, approaches, ploys and gimmicks that we use to get our way, and simply step into the darkness, trusting that the way that is The Way will open before us? How do we take control of our lives from our left brain and give it to our right?

You see why the search for the Holy Grail is so difficult, maddening, and fraught with peril. We are the enemy we meet along the way. No one knows our weaknesses, deficiencies, and insufficiencies better than us! Who better to defeat us than ourselves?! And, who better to overcome the resistance within than, ourselves?!

How do we know what to do? Where are we better off? What is optimal? When is a mistake not a mistake? Our left-brain, rational, logical, intellectual side wants to know. But, there are no maps to the Grail site. No directions. No instructions. No plan of action. The left brain will never find the way. Because we can only get there by fooling around.

Fooling around is what our right brain does best. When you fool around, completely content with fooling around, absolutely intent upon fooling around, with your heart set entirely on fooling around, magic happens. A pattern begins to emerge. Boom! As, John Madden would say. A door opens. A path appears in the wilderness. A horse trots up saddled and ready for the journey. And, just like that, we are off on the Great Adventure!

The Adventure that of developing eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that understands, is comprised of three simple, yet unending, tasks, all of which must be carried out in the spirit of fooling around: asking, seeking, and knocking. On the Adventure, we turn over leaves and stones, and probe into dark corners. We peer and poke. We wander about and fool around. Mostly, we fool around. The Search for the Holy Grail is really Enlightenment by Fooling Around.

But, it’s a very special kind of fooling around. It is fooling around with our attention completely attuned to what we are doing. We fool around mindfully, consciously, as though we are being paid to knock on doors and make inquiry regarding the point, the purpose, and the nature of life. We don’t know what it means to be alive, or where true life, abundant life, is to be found. And, so we ask, seek, and knock.

“What’s wrong with you?” is one of the essential questions in the search for the Holy Grail. Implied in that question are other questions: “What would it take for you to be well? What does it mean to Be Alive? What is keeping you from being fully, wholly, completely alive? Upon what does your vitality depend? What are you waiting for before you begin to live?”

Another essential Grail question is “Who does the Grail serve?” This is another way of asking, “What’s the point? What is the meaning of the search? What am I getting out of all this? What do I truly need? What am I after? What am I about? What do I have to do with you? What do you have to do with me? Where do I stop and you start? What do our lives mean for each other? How can we be of most help to each other? How do we know when we are living well? What does it mean to be successful? How do we gauge the quality of our lives?”

There are no definitive, absolute, certain and sure answers to any of these questions. All of our answers are tentative and conditional, and subject to change without notice. So, we are always asking them and wondering what the answers are now, in this moment of our lives. We are always finding, and re-finding, the Grail—always discovering anew what it means to be alive in the time of our living, and what the implications of life are for each other and for all of our relationships.

The tasks of life, the requirements for life, living, and being alive, change over time. Which means that the fundamental task, the Great Work, so to speak, is being open to grace in the moment of our living. We have to be open to the doors that are opening to us. We have to recognize the doors that are inviting us to step through into a future we would never imagine on our own. Developing eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart that understands is about being open to grace.

It’s about not closing ourselves off to possibilities and opportunities that may come disguised as, well, the complete loss of everything, or the complete opposite of everything we think of as valuable, good and worthy. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. Joseph was sold into slavery. We can’t tell what something means just by looking. We have to get into it to see.

Eyes to see means seeing more than meets the eye. Means seeing beneath the surface, past the obvious. Means seeing what is there, and what is also there, and what has the potential to be there if we are creative and cooperative. Eyes to see are always looking to see what is to be seen—looking to see more than can be seen by those who think they already know what’s there.
Eyes to see turn things over, pick things up, look under and around and behind things ordinary eyes see through, or look past, and take for granted. We learn to see that way by being free enough to fool around.

We see things differently by fooling around, by not being serious, by not being locked into “the right way” of seeing, or living, or being. By walking backwards, and standing on our heads, and dancing at funerals, and mourning at weddings, and asking things like, “Is it better to succeed or to fail?” Or, “Is it better to have what you need, or to not have what you need?”

Eyes that see, see that there is nothing worse than having eyes that think they see. Eyes that see are always looking for different things to see, and different ways in which to see them. Hearts that understand, understand that nothing is only what it is, that everything is more than it appears to be, and opens, if we allow it, into paths of wonder winding through strange worlds and carrying us into the company of light-bearers and life-givers, with whom laughter is the norm, and joy is the daily fare.

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