Monday, March 31, 2008

Thursday 3 April 2008

This will sound a bit like Jesus...maybe others.

To lay down one's life for what one considers to be right is the very core of satyagraha. (soul-force)

The sword of the satyagrahi is love, and the unshakable firmness that comes from it.

It is odd to even use the word sword in association with love. One brings about harm and destruction while the other (love) makes a bridge so that the separation that causes war and fighting will be undone. Then again, the sword or its many equivalents in battle is primary to warfare. In the same manner, love, is the primary instrument in acts of non-violence and it is the force from which change and action is to begin. It almost seems unbelievable that one can love an enemy so much that one would die for the well being of that enemy. That is a force beyond my imagination and yet there are so many who have been a part of this soul-force. One of the great powers of satyagraha is that it leaves a witness for those who are looking on. It gives all of us a look at a possible way of facing the dilemmas of the day with a whole host of alternative patterns of life. To be a witness to such love inspires that love in others.

Connection: After an event in the day that was less than non-violent, it would be a good practice to review the event and begin to see what the other options of action would have been if we were practicing soul-force.

Be our strength and resting place, O God, so that as we enter the many events and trials of this day we will find rest in your promise of new life. In that promise, we are able to enter the ways of non-violence for there is no need for us to over power anyone in order to make something of ourselves. Thanks be to you, O God. Amen.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

The path of non-violence is one that demands constant attention. From Gandhi:

The first principle of non-violent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating.

I suppose we must become aware of what is humiliating for ourselves and for others. Some of that comes with the ability and willingness to be aware of others and how our actions touch the lives of others. From words to actions, we are to be constantly on guard. That doesn't mean we cannot speak or cannot act without fear of harming another. Rather, I think it means that we must have a greater view of the world than our own short-sightedness or self-centeredness. Maybe one way of not cooperating with everything humiliating is to be a humble presence. By that, I mean, one who is listening and interacting with others so that we come to some understanding of the needs and conditions of those around us. As we act within this framework, it would seem we would come to see when others are being stepped on and put down and humiliated within our presence. We do not have to participate in such activities. We can speak up and we can even serve as one who brings the consequences of our actions to light so that everyone will see how quickly people are humiliated. To be humiliated is a dreadful place to be...maybe that is why people are quick to humiliate enemies and those with whom we disagree.

Connection: I hate it when I look in the mirror and realize that my actions and words have caused someone to be humilated. In those moments, that which I would usually call evil...becomes me. Not a pretty sight in any day.

Lord of All Truthfulness, keep us in the way of your peace. Remind us to build up those around us and not use our time to tear them down. It is too easy to act violently toward others. We long for the power of your Spirit to guide us when we so easily are side-tracked from you peace. Amen.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tuesday 1 April 2008

This almost sounds like an April Fool's Day statement.

In non-violence the masses have a weapon which enables a child, a woman, or even a decripit old man to resist the mightiest government successfully. If your spirit is strong, mere lack of physical strength ceases to be a handicap.

Maybe it is the April Fools thing that has my imagination going off on this one...but imagine this. What if the people of Iraq were united under the banner of such a soul force. What would we, the most powerful force in the world, do?!? It is hard to imagine such a movement in a place of so much division. And yet, what if? How would we face up to such a force? What if those many people rebelled in an non-violent manner in order to secure the resources and wealth of their land for themselves? Would we be like the British in India and find that we are acting quite contrary to the values of life we claim to hold among us? The spirit of a people is visible in the humblest acts. In acts that are set firmly on a foundation of hope that is able to propel the most vulnerable and weakest ones into acts of resistance and love and hope.

Connection: The mere lack of physical strength ceasese to be a to would be all the other forms of strength that we use to lord over others. To re-view our notions of strength could be the way we find honor in other ways of being fully human - ways we once may have considered weak or lame.

Precious Lord, we are caught up in the middle of your blessed Reign and yet we so often do not find ourselves following along your way of peace and justice and love for all. We need to be moved by you into the domain you have claimed for us for new life. Amen.

Monday 31 March 2008

I found this to be an alarming piece by Gandhi. By alarming, I suppose it is because I am not quite able to get my mind around it.

To me it is a self-evident truth that if freedom is to be shared equally by all - even physically the weakest, the lame... - they must be able to contribute an equal share in its defense. How that can be possible when reliance is place on armaments, my plebeian mind fails to understand. I therefore swear and shall continue to swear by non-violence, i.e., by satyagraha. or soul force. In it physical incapacity is no handicap, and even a frail woman or a child can pit herself or himself on equal terms against a giant armed with the most powerful weapons.

Obviously, the weakest and the lame cannot do much against an oppressive power. And yet, their witness to something greater than this evil is the greatest power of life. No, a weakest cannot defeat the greater power. That is not the issue here. Rather, the witness for something other than oppression can be lifted up by the weakest and at that point, the "giant armed with the most powerful weapons" stands before a power that has, simply by stating its position, made the worth of the weakest one something that must be dealt with by the giant. At that point (of great risk), the weakest makes a stand that can be the end of him/her. But then again, the giant also risks by the actions s/he takes. Think back to the people walking over the Edmund Pettis bridge in Selma, Alabama ready to be met by the force of the giant of inequality during the civil rights movement in the U.S. Within the brutality of that meeting, the giant fell at the hands of those who asserted their worth even though they were considered the least...and less than that.

Connection: The ability to say "yes" or to say "no" is something that can come from any of our lives. That stand, can be one of great risk and yet it is one that simply needs the force of one's being making a statement for life.

Come, Holy Power of Peace, and call forth from all of us the power of your love that overcomes even the cold, stone tomb to bring new life to expression. Amen.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday 28 March 2008

Some the most simple statements by Gandhi seem to make so much sense and yet demand a whole life change.

A non-violent revolution is not a program of seizure of power. It is a program of transformation of relationships, ending in a peaceful transfer of power.

Sounds quite like Jesus speaking with his disciples about being servants rather than gaining power to lord over others. In this kind of revolution that Gandhi proposes here, the revolt...and what becomes revolting to those who have power and expect preferential that all people will be honored and power will not be taken from anyone. Instead, the power of every one's being will be maintained...from those considered the least to those considered to be the greatest. There may be differences in our power of being and our skills and our abilities, but within the realm of a non-violent action, all have a place and each and every life is held to be sacred. This frees everyone to be servant...and with that...everyone will be served. This can be a frightening situation for those who have great power and like to use it for their own benefit. Then again, this can also be frightening for those who have had little power in the community and are now given the opportunity to join in the fullness of life within this transforming community.

Connection: As long as we continue to press for my way to be the way even if it means that others will be pushed down - even verbally - there is a brutality in our day that need not continue. Honoring the lives of others is a step toward resisting the temptation to live according to grasping power and begin living by power sharing.

You bless us, O God, with so many ways to experience the wealth of others. Too often, we try to use their gifts for our own good and ignore how their gifts, like ours, help to build up the whole people and maintain every one's welfare. Make us aware of how vital it is to listen and share and bring about a new form of power among us. Amen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thursday 27 March 2008

Here is an interesting piece by Gandhi as he looked back at his life.

I claim to be a votary of truth from my childhood. It was the most natural thing to me. My prayerful search gave me the revealing maxim "Truth is God" instead of the usual one, "God is truth." that maxim enable me to see God face to face as it were. I feel Him pervade every fiber of my being.

After reading this several times, one little light went on for me. If we say "God is truth," we must first come to an understanding of what God is. We need only look around at the overall variey of expressions of God and we will see just as many impressions of God. When we are all honest with ourselves, it would be my bet that all of our expressions of God - even those we hold so dear - are less than truth. The God of Christian Nationalism is not the God I would call God. The God of the Nazi Regime would not fit either. The God of some aspects of liberalism would also not fit the bill for me. When we are left to fashion who God is and then we claim that our God is truth, how do we enter into an honest and vulnerable dialogue with those other than us. It seems as though we would be very much tied to our God as the way of truth...and that would get in the way of real dialogue. But if we sit at the table and press on for truth without making it fit into the way we have shaped or the way we perceive our God, we may find ourselves in the presence of a real sense of the God who is more than "my" God or "our" God...but rather, God in the fullest.

Connection: We are called to come together with our guns ready for battle on behalf of what we consider God. We are always called together to faithfully contemplate what is truth and how that truth can be among us in the midst of the power of this day.

Open up our hearts, O God, that we may continue to be open to the ever-expanding way that you enable us to see what is the way of truth in this day. When our hearts are open, there is always the opportunity for new vision and hope. Amen.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Wednesday 26 March 2008

I'm always finding that Gandhi's reflections are ones that are so important for me that I am always trying to fit them into my language and life experience. Here's another example.

I claim to be a passionate seeker after the truth, which is but another name for God. In the course of that search the discovery of no-violence came to me. Its spread is my life mission. I have no interest in living except for the prosecution of that mission.

What a mission! I keep tossing around the idea of that journey of finding what is the truth and how that is what led Gandhi to the life of non-violence. Too often for me, I claim to be looking for the truth but often find myself settling for quite a bit less. When that takes place, I am quick to judge, quick to seek the down fall of the other, quick to settle for less than the whole truth. All of these options are acts of violence even when I try to convince myself that they are not hurting anyone. This mission is bold and, as we saw in Gandhi, dynamic...full of a power that transforms the world and brings something that has not been...into what is possible. It makes me wonder about what I make the mission of my life in the midst of this great and powerful and eternal love of God that is always available to me and ready to shape me again and again. If the good news is really as good as we is it involved in shaping the mission of my life for the rest of this day...and beyond.

Connection: The smallest part of our day can and is a part of the dynamic mission of God's Reign flourishing among us.

Lord of the Resurrection, we are often held back - by ourselves. We claim the power of you living presence but then...forget about the living. Be our strength and encouragement. Amen.

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Again we are drawn by Gandhi into the reality of non-violence being a part of our most private and public faces. .

For me non-violence is a creed. I must act up to it whether I am alone or have companions. Since propaganda of non-violence is the mission of my life, I must pursue it in all weathers.

A creed is a "this is who I am" statement. Most often we think of creeds like the ones we recite in worship. The creed is spoken among us so that we will know where we stand as a community and those who enter the community will have an abbreviated look at who we are. A personal creed demands action. It is not only held within us. It is not only spoken. It is the skeleton of who we are within the actions of the day. We "act up to it" for it is the foundation from which the other actions of our lives will emerge. If non-violence is a creed for us, then we and others can look at the vision of non-violence and look back at our lives and take a good look at how they fit together or are quite different from one another. I find that the creeds we use in worship are often "out of step" with the language and the images of all the "ordinary" folk who come to worship. It is hard to "act up to" the ancient creeds of the Church if they cannot be readily translated for today or are so covered over with ancient battles that we don't understand how it is to make sense today. When Gandhi says the non-violence is a creed for him, it is a foundation from which we are able to discern our steps within this day but also a place to which we can turn to understand how non-violence was a part of the past.

Connection: So, if you had to come up with a creed for yourself...and then for a community, what would it sound like. Better yet, what would it look like alive among us?

Too often, O Lord of Life, we shuffle so much of the time in our lives that we are not able to state what is our foundation...our guiding light...the root that keeps us grounded. We continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire us to reflect and pause and be refreshed by your promise to be the beginning of the new life available to us today. Amen.

Monday 24 March 2008

Sorry for the late post today. Here's a brief insight from Gandhi that caused me to pause today on this day after the events of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and the Resurrection of our Lord.

In non-violence the bravery consists in dying, not in killing.

As much as I thought about this comment, I have just as much raced through my mind about how hard it would be to kill. In addition, I wondered about how brave one must be to be put in a position in which one is called on to kill...and that is under the threat of being killed. It is as though I should not make a comment at all since I have never been in a situation like that. Then again, there are so many ways to kill that do not demand any bit of bravery. At least that is not what is the motivating power at hand. Rather, killing at times can be done not as an act of bravery...but as one of cowardice. This may be a "get them before they get us" which is so motivated by fear, it would be easy to confused this action as bravery when it is rather fear-based and fear motivated. We saw throughout the Holy Week stories of Jesus that his bravery was a constant witness to non-violence. I should really say a witness to the Reign of God that is not bound to violence but is completely supported and sustained by love, justice, peace, forgiveness, etc. When we, with Jesus, reside in this Reign, acts of bravery are, at times, a matter of laying down ones life for the well being of the other...even if the other is our enemy. In that way, we act from a secure center - a ground that is able to be our sustenance even when we are in the face of death's many threats.

Connection: I suppose dying to our ego needs/greeds takes as much bravery as other ways of dying within our lives. This may be the way we begin the journey of non-violence - even today.

In your dying, O God, we are raised up by you. As we are raised up, we become a part of the community of people who are assured of your presence with us at all times and even through what would be the end of us. We give you thanks for your presence and how you do not abandon us but rather call us to come and live even as death threatens us. Amen.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday 21 March 2008

We each must pick up our cross and carry it. This is also the way of non-violence. More from Gandhi.

If one does not practice non-violence in one's personal relations with others and hopes to use it in bigger affairs, one is vastly mistaken...
My optimism rests on my belief in the infinite possibilities of the individual to develop non-violence. The more you develop it in your own being, the more infectious it becomes till it overwhelms your surroundings and by and by might oversweep the world.

Again, the focus is here with me...with the person. Even as I look at the events of this Good Friday, we are reminded that each of us is to pick up the cross and follow Christ. It does me no good to demand that others follow. I must follow. As that takes place, there is always the invitation to other to come along. Sometimes it is by direct invitation. At other times, it is the witness of the new life that brings others along the way. It is a way of action and words. It is a way that faces the possibilities of a new world and then takes steps within its life. Non-violence like the way of the cross is a life theme. Sometimes we may be alone in that walk. At other times, it will be a crowd...a village...a congregation...a gathering of strangers brought together by this life.

Connection: Developing a life of non-violence, like picking up one's cross is always a risk. And yet, that is a part of the invitation because we are entering into a life that is quite contrary to the pattern of the world. And yet, within this day and these acts, the world begins to see some new life.

Blessed are you, O God Most High, for as you Beloved walked to the cross and through the stone, cold grave into new life, be our strength and our resting place as we once again begin to follow in the way as we begin this day. Amen.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thursday 20 March 2008

On the Maundy Thursday when the command to "love one another" is our focus, here is another look at the life of non-violence by Gandhi.

Belief in non-violence is based on the assumption that human nature in its essence is one and therefore unfailingly responds to the advances of love...The non-violence technique does not depend for its success on the goodwill of the dictators, for a non-violent resister depends on the unfailing assistance of God which sustains him throughout difficulties which would other wise be considered insurmountable.
Jesus live and died in vain if He did not teach us to regulate the whole of life by the eternal law of love.

The command to love one another as Jesus said he loved his followers is one that is meant to change life - completely. It is to be the center of who we are in the sense that we agree with Gandhi's notion that "human nature in its essence is one and therefore unfailingly responds to the advances of love." Unfortunately, if that is the essence of our nature, the power of violence and the pull of self-centeredness is one that is so seductive, we dare not listen to the voice of love...even when we see it raised up from the dead. And yet, the ones whose center of life is grounded in this love, there are many options within our lives even when it appears that violence must be our next step. This is no way of cowards. This is why I so often wonder about myself and if this way of non-violence or Jesus-love is a way I can follow completely. I can so easily be frightened and give into a way that lives within the various forms of a violent culture. This is why we call out in the Prayer of Thanksgiving at the Eucharist: "Come, Lord, Jesus" and "Come, Holy Spirit." In the midst of the love of Christ, we need to see that we can live within that love and our God will be there with us.

Connection: Tonight, in the washing of feet and the sharing of the meal, be open to this strange way of living within our world.

Lord of New Life, we long for the peace of the whole world and a love that is the power to bring reconciliation and forgiveness and peace among us. Come, Holy Spirit, grasp us and be our breath of life. Amen.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wednesday 19 March 2008

This is an interesting comment by Gandhi about non-violence (ahimsa) and language of the Lord's Prayer.

When the practice of ahimsa becomes universal, God will reign on earth as He does in heaven.

I know this cannot be proved by argument. It shall be proved by persons living it in their lives with utter disregard of consequences to themselves.

It will come. Part of the coming of the Reign of God is that we begin to live within it already. There is no meeting around a table to discuss how it can come among us. We are invited to wake up and walk and live there. Other may not...and yet we still are pulled into the of that Reign. It sounds as though this is what Gandhi is saying about non-violence. Live it and do not be concerned about whether others are doing it or the majority of others are doing it. Live within its life. The witness of this life is the power that turns heads and enable others to take the step. This may not be the most popular way to go and it may be a way that brings rejection. Having said that, we are invited to continue on and maintain the practice...the life.

Connection: We never need wait to be a part of this Reign. Today is always the beginning point - again.

By the power of your Spirit, O God, you open up the pathways of your gracious Reign and we then begin to meander within its life. Keep us there and continue to remind us of the fullness of life that comes as we share in the life of your promised Reign. Amen.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tuesday 18 March 2008

Again from Gandhi on non-violence.

The power at the disposal of a non-violent person is always greater than he would have if he were violent.

There is no such thing as defeat in non-violence.

At first I wanted to dismiss this opening line. It was the use of the concept of power. I would have said that "the 'options' at the disposal of a non-violent person is always greater than he would have if he were violent." I say that because warfare (with its many faces) seems to enter onto the scene way before we exhaust the variety of ways there may be to resolve a problem. Then, I realized that for a person to have options is to be in a position of power. Rather than being stuck like a trapped animal in the corner - quite powerless except for a burst of violence - a non-violent person sees opportunities, nuances, ways to turn and bend and create a moment of transformation that may not be obvious at the outset of the situation. In this way, a person could argue that there is no such thing as defeat. We are defeated when our way is not the way. When victory is defined in limited terms that helps make for a scene that creates an "us" and "them," someone loses...someone must be defeated. But in the realm of non-violence, we are introduced to all the ground between here and and them. On that ground and as we are open to the turns and discovery on this way, we are not defeated. We have rather, redefined the world view and are able to live with something other than what we had to have.

Connection: For many folks, defeat (on any level) is hard to take. When the day is shaped by winning and losing images, we paint ourselves into an unfortunate corner. Keep looking for new ways to paint the day with an eye toward openness and transformation.

Come, Liberating Lord, and begin to dismantle our fears and encourage us to leave our warring ways behind us. The expansiveness of your grace is the power to keep us open to new life. We need the power of your spirit of life to stay focused on your way and walk there. Amen.

Monday 17 March 2008

The journey through Holy Week is a very good time to consider some of Ganhdi's thoughts on non-violence. We will be able to see our Lord in his discussions. (again, all quotes this week will be from: Non-Violence in Peace and War -1948)

Non-violence implies as complete self-purification as is humanly possible. Man for man the strength of non-violence is in exact proportion to the ability, not the will, of the non-violent person to inflict violence.

It moves to action. Non-violence as a theory is fine to study. Then again, it does long to be our life. For all of us, this means taking a new route in life. Gandhi calls for a "complete self-purification" and it seems that he does this because the way of non-violence is so contrary to the core from which we so easily act in life. I know that I am always battling with acting rather than merely "willing" that I would be a practicioner of non-violence. It is not impossible...but it does take making the move into action...being able to live within that vision within the ordinary stuff through which I walk everyday. I do not think that this "self-purification" is a renunciation of who we are. Rather, we affirm who we are and the power that we have...and then, we rest there so that we are able to resist any attempts to be more than who we are. The moment we become unsettled and dissatisfied with our position in the world, it is the time that we begin to turn to violence to make the world as we would want it. It is that aspect of our humanity that must be "purified" so that we can take on the journey of non-violence.

Connection: "Feet don't fail me now." In the middle of the actual events of our lives, the path of non-violence shows forth when we take the

Precious Lord, just as the disciple's seemed to have the will to stay awake whileJesus went off to pray, they were not able...they slept. We know that we are quite like them. We ask that your Spirit be the power for this day that keeps us faithful to your way of life. Amen.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday 14 March 2008

Here is more on the spirit of non-resistance.

The acquisition of the spirit of non-resistance is a matter of long training in self-denial and appreciation of the hidden forces within ourselves. It changes one's outlook on life...It is the greatest force because it is the highest expression of the soul.
If one is to combat the fetish of force, it will only be by means totally different from those in vogue among the pure worshippers of brute force.

In a culture that is consumed by a "fetish of force" the way of non-violence is usually something that is ridiculed...even by those who claim not to be a part of such a fetish. As I mentioned earlier this week, this movement toward force and violence in our lives happens quickly and can overwhelm us in a moment. Gandhi stresses the time that is needed to help us turn to a way that is able to resist such temptation to violence. It is as he notes, something that "changes one's outlook on life." We do not simply want to prevent a violent act, we want to redirect our lives...change our open to a possibilities that is truly ours but rarely one we choose to live: non-violence. I find that it is not easy to remember the force of non-violence when I am in the middle of a situation during the ordinary moments of the day. It is as though violence (of many kinds) is able to seduce me and I lose perspective on what is really the "highest expression of the soul."

Connection: Watch a bit of television this weekend. Be mindful of this "fetish of force" and how easily we fall into its power. Also, take note of the difference between watching this force like an object outside of us and, if possible, how it seduces us when it is a present reality within an encounter during our day.

When you peace comes among us, O God, we are in the presence of a power that can bring all things to rest. In the midst of that rest, we are introduced to a new way of playing in the garden of your creation. We long for that opportunity to rest in you. Amen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Thursday 13 March 2008

More from Gandhi.

Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being.

I was in a conversation just this week and as I read through this quote, the scene played back through my mind. It was painful. It is so important for me to follow this path of non-violence, but "wham"....just like that, I give it up and turn toward another way. Rather than listen and give myself over to questions that seek clarification without judgement, I'm ready to dismiss and prepare for some kind of verbal battle or at least a less-than-open exchange of ideas. From the heart...from the very center...from the core...from the foundation, comes the way of non-violence. Unfortunately, I am too willing to speak of that core without letting my life rest there. There can be any number of reasons for not sticking to that core....but none of them come from that core. Instead, so many other factors and powers and choices lead me away (in a moment's time) to fight and argue and attempt to make the world into a world I would make...not you! Again and again, if we are to follow this life of non-violence, we must review how we are about to enter the present and pray for the peace within our hearts that allows us to listen and share and, if need be, resist with a sense of peace and honor and worth.

Connection: Too quickly we are moved to act from a place within us that is not well...not healed...not at peace. In those moments, we then are so eager to defend our self and our ideas that we resort to a life of violence that comes in many forms. It is a good exercise to see how many forms this violence takes within one day's time.

Come, Creator of All That is New, come and heal our hearts with your presence that we may find ourselves available to new life and your grand domain of hopefulness. Amen.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Here is what Gandhi writes on non-violence (all quotes from here out will be from the book noted below)

There is no half way between truth and non-violence on the one hand and untruth and violence on the other. We may never be strong enough to be entirely non-violent in thought, word, and deed. But we must keep non-violence as our goal and make steady progress towards it. the attainment of freedom, whether for a (person), a nation or the world, must be in exact proportion to the attainment of non-violence by each. (Non-violence in Peace and War- 1948)

A half truth is no truth...and half violence cannot be non-violence. We stumble and we stand tall. It is much like the notion of a saint-sinner. What are we...both! We cannot play the game that insists that we can be simply one or the other - and that's the whole story. Rather, we move...we are influenced by our situation...we are pulled here and there. And the meantime, we run the good race...we keep our eyes on the prize...we risk trusting in resurrection and leap into the way of truth and non-violence...the way of hopefulness...the life of joy overflowing. Each of us are invited into that path. Each one of us are needed. Each one of us helps the whole grow more and more at peace.

Connection: There is such a short distance between truth and untruth...and yet it is so very real and makes so much of a difference in life. That could mean it only takes a little push and pull by others to helps us walk in the truth.

When your Spirit takes hold of us and moves us into the way of all truth, O God, we becoming a shining light to others and that light encourages others to shine. When we are in the presence of you light shining in others,

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Principles of non-violence continue...

Since ahimsa is a (person's) nature itself, it can be learned by all, though Gandhi is careful to state that he does not expect everyone to practice it perfectly. However, all (people) should be willing to engage in the risk and wager of ahimsa because violent policies have not only proved backrupt but threaten humanity with extinction.

When I consider myself a coward, it is often because I know how difficult it is for me to stick to this path of non-violence. At times, fear or other factors make me rigid and at other times I become as wind-blown as grass bending in the wind. I cannot emphasize enough how helpful it is to know that "all people should be willing to engage in the risk and wager of ahimsa." Even me...and you. We can bind ourselves together to be the encourgemant that makes us move beyond what we fear. We each need each other so that we will remind ourselves just how bankrupt those acts of violence and vengeance and coercion really are. Only by exposing them by seeing the power of non-violence do we begin to choose the path of ahimsa.

Connection: We are all frightened away from the way of non-violence for many and various reasons. Each person is swayed by different powers. It is good for us to share those with others who will help to nurture peace and courage in us.

Blessed Lord, you take us to the the the places we would rather not go, and then you provide us with saints who, though just like us, become the spirit of encouragement and hope. It is as you Spirit is ignited among that we begin to face and move beyond what has held us back and prevented us from shining forth with you light. Amen.

Monday 10 March 2008

This week we begin a section on the principles of non-violence.

Ahimsa (non-violence) is for Gandhi the basic law of our being. That is why it can be used as the most effective principle for social action, since it is in deep accord with the truth of (human) nature and corresponds to (humanity's) innate desire for peace, justice, order, freedom, and personal dignity. Since himsa (violence) degrades and corrupts (humanity), to meet force with force and hatred with hatred only increases (humanity's) progressive degeneration. Non-violence, on the contrary, heals and restores (humanity's) nature, while given humanity a means to restore social order and justice. Ahimsa is not a policy for the seizure of power. It is a way of transforming relationships so as to bring about a peaceful transfer of power, effected freely and without compulsion by all concerned, because all have come to recognize it as right.

I must admit, I think that people really do desire peace, justice, order, freedom, and personal dignity. I also know that we choose to be a violent people because we have our own way of seeing such characteristics. Unfortunately, we are too often unwilling to enter into the discussion needed to flesh out how our differences need not be reasons for war...but rather opportunities to pursue peace all the more. It is only within that non-violent willingness to open up our hearts that we begin to see the vision for peace or justice that is really at the heart of others. It is in those moments that the day is able to be open to transformation rather then to the plotting of warfare and revenge and the violence that so often typifies how we deal with a divided house. It is quite amazing how quickly we fall into the realm of violence...too fast...too easily.

Connection: Are we being drawn toward others or are we working to separate ourselves from them? This may be an interesting thing to watch today.

Restoring Lord, you know us and you see how much good there is within all of us. Open our eyes so that as we look at one another, we can begin to give the "other" space for them to be known to us as we become known to them. Amen.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Friday 7 March 2008

Today come a tie between telling the truth and the life that it may bring with it.

I should be quite obvious that satyagraha (a vow of truth) has nothing in it of Western middle-class banality. It does not mean "honesty is the best policy," because it is far more than honesty and it is infinitely more than a policy. One does not obey the prajnatman (the solar spirit), or intellectual principle, the "spirit of truth," simply in order to get something out of one's obedience.

The truth may turn out in terms of the current moods and trends of a blind society to be supremely unprofitable. In that case, when truth become absolutely the worst policy, one follows it anyway, even when it leads to death.

Even unto death. There are so many ways we jump off the boat of truthfulness. I would suggest it is part of our nature...the part that is so turned-in-on-self that we cannot go all the way to truth. We will only go as far is it can help us or support us or be our weapon to use on others. But then, this is not truth at all. We can argue forever about whether someone is being honest...but that will say nothing about whether someone is living and speaking the truth. Truthfulness pushes us to look beyond our own circumstances - in which we may being quite honest - and come in touch with the greater truth that takes into account more than my story and my side. We may enter into warfare - on any level - and do so with a sense of being honest with ourselves/our side. And yet, to be open to hearing the story of the other side brings us a bit more in touch with truth. We must constantly keep open the dialogue so that truthfulness is not merely end with what we know already.

Connection: We may never know every side of an issue or a problem or a situation. But we must press on to hear it all. And then, when we act, we are encouraged to act not just on the basis of what will be good for our side, but what will be good for all. Pressing for this may not be appreciated and may eve encounter hard resistance.

Come, Lord of all Truthfulness, and continue to engage us with the world in which we live. It is too easy to come to rest in the places we like best without searching out the place that will open up the lives of more and more people. Grant us the wisdom to listen to your Spirit of wholeness. Amen.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Thursday 6 March 2008

We've been looking at the place of repentance and truthfulness and the spirit in the life of non-violence. Merton keeps pressing with words of others.

The Shepherd of Hermas speaks of the Spirit of Truth as a trust given by God to (humanity), living and dwelling in (them) in order to be returned to the Lord undefiled by any lie. "Love truth and let nothing but the truth issue from your mouth, in order that the spirit which God has settled in this flesh of yours may be found truthful in the sight of (people)...Liars ignore the Lord and defraud Him since they do not return the Spirit received from Him, namely a Spirit in which there is no lie." Hearing this, Hermas weeps and declares: "I have not yet spoken a true word in all my life!" And the Angel tells him that this declaration is the beginning of truth in himself. Of course in this context truth and forgiveness go together, and there must be one truth and one forgiveness both for myself and my brothers/sisters. Both truth and mercy are falsified when I judge by a double standard.

Hermas' weeping is so real. It is wonderful to hear about forgiveness and to hear about how we are forgiven and encouraged into new life...but, how short I fall!!! And yet, the light of Christ's Spirit continues to shine and call us into a new way....always...and...always. Caught in the lies of our lives, there is always the abiding presence of the one who is the power that creates truthfulness. It is always an available gift. If you are like me, this gift is very often ignored as I pursue the ways of life I have in my mind. That is the problem. My mind will always lead away from such truthfulness - it is too tied into saving myself or making something of myself. Here is where that Spirit is needed. Geez...pull me into the truth, O Lord! But then, just as I am pulled into the sweetness of that life, isn't it odd how quickly I am able to move away from such truthfulness. I continue to trust that truthfulness is a gift given to the whole community. Alone, we too often find it easy to spin off into "liar" mode. Then again, we are not about simply truthfulness in our individual lives...we are encouraged to pray for the gift of truthfulness flowing down upon all of us. That is the vision of the Reign of God...this new life of repentance...recreation.

Connection: It takes great vulnerability to let our lies be uncovered. For then, we are invited to be something new...whew...that's not always what I want.

Come, Lord God, and ignite within us the Spirit of your truthfulness and the courage to face ourselves and walk within the possibilities of a life of repentance and hopefulness. Amen.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Merton goes on to describe the power needed to bring about repentance/recovery of one right mind.

This is obviously something much deeper than a mere interiority or a form of pious and introverted recollection. It is supraconscious and suprapersonal. And it obviously implies the ability to come into unity with the prajnatman (the solar spirit), or what the Greek Fathers would call the pneuma (spirit - breath...).

I may be a simpleton, but I need this outside power..this spirit. I know how easy it is for me to crawl into myself or remain in what is comfortable for me. But then there is this pull...this tapping on the shoulder...this heart-felt reminder...this power that does not let me fool myself into believing that I can find rest and peace and hope on my own. It is my bet that many people of many religious and secular mindsets trust in this kind of power that is "outside" of ourselves and yet is very much a part of us. It may be the living force that will help all of us talk and live outside of our boxes and begin to be moved into a wider sphere of consciousness and boldness of life. Can this movement be the movement of repentance?

Connection: Connecting to such a power may be as easy as letting ourselves breath...deeply and without restraint. Who knows what we will take in...and let out.

Spirit of Life, we are unsure of where we will go this day. Our calendars tell us one thing, the people in our lives add to that direction giving...and yet, your spirit blows in, with, under, and through all of this day and we may find ourselves involved with a life we did not anticipate as we started the day. Continue to blow around us. Amen.

Tuesday 4 March 2008

For the rest of the week Merton will be sharing words from a variety of church teachers.

(Ananda) Coomaraswamy...once outlined the meaning of the process called metanoia, or recovery of one's right mind, the passage from ignorance of self to enlightened moral awareness. "Repentance," he said, quoting Hermas, "is a great understanding" ( and by no means an emotional crisis!) It is the ability to cast off the intolerable burden of the past act, no longer seen as irreversible. But obviously no person enclosed in oneself can utter an omnipotent word of command and abolish his own sin. The "knowledge" and "understanding" which is truly the "great (and repentant, liberated) understanding" is therefore "understanding-with" or "con-scientia" (conscience). "A kind of synthesis or agreement by which our internal conflict is resolved and 'all the knots of the heart are loosed.'" It is to understand "with" our inmost self "in a union transcending consciousness of a within or a without."

We cannot be a non-violent person without taking on the journey of repentance. I enjoyed hearing other ways of putting that. "The recovery of one's right mind" is especially good. It is that mind that is is the recovery of our potential to be fully human as God created us. Therefore, all the ways we fold into ourselves and become self-centered are let go and we once again grasp hold of the gift of full life that is ours for the taking. "All the knots of the heart are loosened" is another good image. As we all know, that is not something we can do simply on our own. Those knots can come back and become more tight than before any loosening. It is good, for people of faith, to be reminded of the power of our God to loosen those knots. It is then that we are placed within a situation of repentance - turning around - grasping hold of the gift - being liberated within and without.

Connection: Repentance is not such a bad word - even though it has been used to beat people down. It is a word worth saving as long as we save some of these wonderful images of new life.

You call us to turn to you, O God, and trust the story you tell about us. Too often we are not satisfied with those words of love and look to find our own way. Call us back again, O God. Amen.

Monday 3 March 2008

Welcome to a new week. Today Thomas Merton shares what he sees as Gandhi's legacy of non-violence.

The evil we suffer cannot be eliminated by a violent attack in which one sector of humanity flies at another in destructive fury. Our evils are common and the solution of them can only be common. But we are not ready to undertake this common task because we are no ourselves. Consequently the first duty of every man is to return to his own "right mind" in order that society itself may be sane.

I would imagine that Gandhi would be saddened and have much to say to the world of today where terrorist fly off in destructive fury and nations fly off to make war. It is as though we do not have the heart to enter into any other action than to fight and attack one another. We even hear people making fun of those who suggest that we talk with enemies before we find ourselves at war and in battles that seem impossible to stop. To return to a "right mind" is vital but it is not all that easy. Who wants to change direction and begin to live in a new way when the way we live has been able to give us what we want? When we are willing to go in a new direction, repent, both sides will find that they must abandon some positions and take on new ones. As we all know, that is easier said than done. Then again, Merton reminds us that it is a common task. It is something we can enter into each day. Today is always an opportunity to step into and live from that "right mind" where reconciliation and forgiveness and truth shapes who we become.

Connection: It is always possible to return to our "right mind"...our "right heart". It begins with the actions of this day.

When you call us to turn around and come home, O God, we hesitate. It is not easy to stop the ways we have been moving in life and turn around to grasp the life you offer to us within you Reign. Inspire us to be open to the changes of life that bring about peace and justice and mercy and hope. Amen.