ISAIAH’S PROPHECY invites his hearers to
“Lift up thine eyes round about, and see … thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged.” – 60:1-6 KJV
That kind of vision is what religion has always been about for me. The Latin religio means “to bind again”. The repair of a broken, ‘stressed out’, precious thing. Holiness leads to wholeness. And wholeness must involve the holiness of all humankind if it’s to be real whole-ness.
Our religion, across the traditions, must aim to bind humankind together in love. The price involves a willingness to surrender power though, a willingness to be truly ourselves whilst being possessed of hearts ‘enlarged’ enough to allow and to celebrate others being truly themselves. And with every passing moment of our reluctance to “see, and flow together” holy innocents pay a terrible price – with their lives.
So it was with joy that I learned this morning that one of our older parish fellowship groups has elected to spend a month or two studying the wonderful little book The Raft Is Not The Shore – Conversations Toward A Buddhist-Christian Awareness by the Buddhist teacher or Thich Nhat Hanh and the Jesuit priest Fr Daniel Berrigan.
Here’s a ‘tiny window’ on the book from Chapter 4. Priests and Prisoners
Nhat Hanh: Talking of prisoners reminds me of a story of Camus. (Albert Camus: The Stranger) A prisoner is to be executed in the morning. He is visited by a priest. The prisoner thinks of the priest as living like a dead man, and the prisoner knows he has to work out his own salvation. The chaplain cannot understand him.
Berrigan: The priest wants to “help him believe”, he says.
Nhat Hanh: Yes. The prisoner refuses not because he wants to refuse Christianity. He refuses “salvation” because he knows the priest who has come to see him understands neither himself nor the man he wants to save.
Berrigan: And in this he is quite right, it seems to me. That priest was only interested in some abstract declaration of faith. He came in bad faith, being in the employment of executioners; and, of course, a prisoner would be sensitive to that, if he has any self-respect at all.
Nhat Hanh: It seems that the prisoner had a tiny window to look through, and he saw the sky. I think that kept him alive, not the priest – page 55
Communities fail because they lack imagination and spiritual contact and soul and a sense of others and staying power and courage to move together and to live together – page 138
Only good can come out of any dialogue that recognises that “the raft is not the shore”, that “we haven’t got there yet”. Robert Coles said of this little book: “An important and stirring gift for those of us who hunger for the brave wisdom these two spiritual giants dare speak during their extraordinary colloquy …”
Only good can come out of a frequent reading of the world’s great prophets, Isaiah amongst them, reminding us that if we’ll only keep travelling together the time will come when
thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear and be enlarged.
Hope. A Life-Raft for all of us.