It’s Already There | October 9, 2022 by Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake
Change does not come from eloquence or persuasion. When injustice is the rule, justice always lies in wait. When oppression flourishes, freedom ever lurks. Where death is the threat, life springs into being. The darkness of power, unknowing, contains the seeds of a bright new light….
The Activist’s Tao Te Ching – Ancient Advice for a Modern Revolution,
Chapter Two, William Martin
The change or metamorphosis is already within. Spring abides in winter, light in darkness, and newness in the old. Justice buried in injustice still breathes, freedom wiggles within oppression, life resurrects within death. Metamorphosis is seeded in the status quo.
In many ways, the times in which we live are the worst of times as Charles Dickens stated so powerfully in his extraordinary novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Much is wrong—poverty, militarism, greed, unending violence, manipulation of the masses by the powerful few.
Two days ago, while conversing with a former student, I was startled by a roar and clamoring overhead. The blue angels were practicing for their weekend “performance.” I was shaken by the noise, which only lasted a few seconds. I wondered how people in war zones who are bombarded continuously retain any modicum of sanity. Yet so many do. What is within them that causes them to rise upon the destruction?
Often compromised and debilitated by the seeming ever-present reality of harm and the superficiality of much of the reporting of this harm (often not even classified as harm), we are often restless, anxious, and even fearful of the future.
Samuel H. Miller in his great book, The Great Realities, informs or reminds us.
Under it all there is a dream, perhaps a bit hard to remember, but a dream
That will not die completely, however much it is neglected or compromised.
It rests under much trampled soil. It remains through the roughest weather. It is silent amid the tumult of public catastrophe. We may turn our back on it, give ourselves to seemingly more exciting things, and even laugh at it at times as if we had outgrown it. But it will not die. God gave it to us. And some day He will want to see it, and what we have done with it.
It is of great interest to me that the only thing that Jesus’ students (disciples) asked of their teacher was to teach them how to pray. Why?
“This filled them with fury, and they discussed what they could do to Jesus. It was in these days that he went off to the hillside to pray. He spent the whole night in prayer to God.”
(Luke 6:11,12, Moffatt Translation)
This experience of prayer led to his choosing the disciples and thereby extending the breath of his ministry.
It is my thesis that the disciples made this request because they noticed that when he prayed, something very arresting happened to and with him. Renewal metamorphosed, an aliveness was reborn, a sense of urgency about his life and the lives of those he encountered swept over his countenance, his energy, his passion, his determination, his sense of urgency, and agency. More importantly, he reconnected or deepened his connection with the source of his life, God, the All-pervading Presence, the Universe, the Great Mystery and Immensity, that which gave him life, that to which his life would eventually return. Speaking and acting with authority and confidence always resulted. He rested in the Dao that existed before existence.
Then he went outside and made his way to the Hill of Olives, as he was accustomed. . .. He withdrew about a stone’s throw and knelt in prayer, saying, “Father, if it pleases thee, take this cup away from me. But thy will, not mine, be done.”
(Luke 22:39, 41,42, Moffatt Translation)
Dr. Thurman once described prayer as taking oneself out of prison, not asking the warden, parole board, or governor to take oneself out of prison, not pleading for a presidential pardon. He said it is taking oneself out of prison, suggesting that we put ourselves in prison and, therefore, it is we, and only we, that can take ourselves out, that can free ourselves. Do we prefer imprisonment over freedom? Various faith traditions help us wrestle with this potential paradox. We claim we want to be free. Often our thoughts and actions seem to prefer imprisonment if the prison cell is open just enough to let us breathe a little.
Dr. Miller says that the dream perhaps has only become a relic, but it is still there. The question is how to make it come true, live. How do we start doing something about it, something with it? He writes that this is difficult.
We are so tangled up in the old paths, so habituated in our coming and going, so attuned to the noise and scramble of the busy thoroughfares, that to get over to the less used way will be anything but easy. There is so much in the way, walls upon walls, fences, social custom, personal routines, reputation and success, the neighbors, even the family.
And of course, there are ourselves.
He then raises a profound question. “Do we really want it?”
Returning to our opening scripture, we read:
"Change does not come from eloquence or persuasion. When injustice is the rule, justice always lies in wait. When oppression flourishes, freedom ever lurks. Where death is the threat, life springs into being. The darkness of power, unknowing, contains the seeds of a bright new light. . ..”
Our task is to cease and desist blocking that which is already within us: freedom, light, wholeness, courage, freedom, power, resurrection, metamorphosis! We cover them with the debris of existence, the manacles of the status quo, the cuffs of tradition, the ball and chain of lethargy, impotence, compromise, and adjustment.
Join the flow of the Dao, the changing, ever renewing and expanding ecology of the universe, the still birthing cosmos, and know that we were meant to be free, audacious, light and darkness, harbingers of justice and the embodiment of this dream of a metamorphosed life and world.
If prayer is difficult because of past experiences, such as prayers not being answered in ways we had hoped, empty intercessory prayers, or not knowing how to pray, try meditation. Somehow go within and rediscover yourself, and your dreams. You will gather insights, strength for the days ahead, and new life. Make that journey within. Leave all the hurts and bruises by the side of the road. Travel within. You may hear yourself urging yourself to come alive. In the words of Thurman, “that is what the world needs, people who have come alive.” It is what we need ourselves, to come alive, step into what we have inherited, and live!
This may be the worst of times. It has within it the possibility of being the best of times.
Hear Dr. Miller again:
We may turn our back on it [the dream], give ourselves to seemingly more exciting things, and even laugh at it at times as if we had outgrown it. But it will not die. God gave it to us. And some day He will want to see it, and what we have done with it.
And some day God will want to see what metamorphosis has occurred in our lives. Is that what is meant by Judgment Day?
Please join us next Sunday at 3 pm in the sanctuary or over the internet for our annual convocation and anniversary of this great church.