May 31, 20202 Message from Dr. Benton
Passion and Peace, Our Home in the Universe May 31, 2020 Hard times require fierce dancing. - Alice Walker
Welcome members and friends of Fellowship Church! The opening video is of a “haka”…a ceremonial Maori dance to mourn the victims and honor the dead. This particular ritual dance was to pay tribute to two students who died in the Christchurch, New Zealand shooting last year. The profound sense of passion…of audacious, fierce indignation…shines through. It is a powerful response to the injustice of racism…of hate…and of fear. It is indeed what is needed today when we try to process the murder of George Floyd…of Breonna Taylor…of Ahmaud Arbery and so many others. Imagine if our society had access to such a powerful way to process the anger and sadness that flow from these events. Imagine if we were able to express such rage…such despair…such pain in a ritual like this. What would it take for us to respond with creativity rather than violence…with passionate, powerful actions that will lead to the transformation needed…the transformation of racist, oppressive structures in our society? Matthew Fox writes about this transformation as the Via Transformativa. This is part of what he calls “the four paths of Creation Spirituality”. This framework begins with the Via Positiva…the path of Awe and Joy...the path of passion and love of life…what Fox calls biophilia. Fox says that tough times require MORE JOY and MORE PASSION for living, “otherwise we succumb to necrophilia (love of death) and we lack the passion and moral imagination for acting effectively.” The Via Positiva is a source of strength and resiliency for tough times…it is the recognition of beauty…from the beauty of a flower to the beauty of a human soul…from the beauty of a waterfall to the beauty of an act of love. The second “path” that Fox describes is the Via Negativa…the path of emptiness and of despair…the “dark night of the soul” experience in which we have the opportunity to reflect…to reflect on hard, cold, stark realities. Ideally this can be a time to access the inner and outer resources required to prepare for the transformation to follow. Poet Rainer Maria Rilke spoke of this darkness in this poem:
You darkness, that I come from, I love you more than all the fires that fence in the world, For the fire makes a circle of light for everyone, and then on one outside learns of you. But the darkness pulls in everything: shapes and fires, animals and myself, how easily it gathers them! – powers and people – and it is possible a great energy is moving near me I have faith in nights. This darkness…this emptying of our souls is perhaps best known in the Christian tradition through the words of Job: The life in me trickles away, days of grief have gripped me. At night-time, sickness saps my bones, I am gnawed by wounds that never sleep. It has thrown me into the mud where I am no better than dust and ashes. I cry to you, and you give me no answer; I stand before you, but you take no notice. Job was in despair and he truly experienced the dark. It is these “wounds that never sleep” that are festering today through the constant news of injustice and outrage…of racism and bigotry…of ignorance and hate. And often we feel that there is no answer to our cry…we feel that God is not taking notice of our plight. Yet, I am convinced that anything that we experience…the joy and the pain, was first experienced by the divine presence…by the creative forces that birthed this universe…by our mother, our father, our creator and protector…however we envision that all pervading presence that holds us in life! Meister Eckhart agreed. He wrote: Remember this: All suffering comes to an end. And whatever you suffer authentically, God has suffered from it first. For our meditation today I offer the following music from the Taizé tradition in France entitled, When the Night Becomes Dark. This music has brought me through many dark nights…many difficult times. May its fire be a comfort to you.
If God is love, then it follows that we are being held right now in this dark night. And it is also true that when the night becomes dark, we are called on to act. It is this darkness…this Via Negativa, that is often necessary before we are able to access the resources required for us to act in this, our moment in history. This brings us to the third path described by Fox: the Via Creativa. It is our creativity as children of our creator that must be tapped in order to transform the pain…to transform the hate…to transform the fear…to transform our current realities. A teacher of mine, Starhawk wrote, We can know the dark, and dream it into a new image. She knew that the dark is essential in order to unleash the creativity required to transform our world. Fox says that the Via Creativa is the union of the Via Positiva and the Via Negativa…the creation of something new. I have always described creativity and art this way: anything we do, the next step of which is unknown. Of course this describes life…our ability to respond to any given situation, taking into account both the “original blessing” of creation and the silence and letting go that is also part of this creation. To respond creatively means that we may be able to channel our hurt and pain…our rage and despair and combine it with our awe and wonder…our love of life and our joy to make something new…something that has the ability to transform the current realities by unleashing our power…our power as co-creators with the all-pervading presence. Stepping up to this, our responsibility, is what is needed now. The time for waiting is past…in the words of one of the protesters of the most recent tragedy, “we’ve been told, ‘Everything takes time.’ Well, the time is up!” In this painful, often enraging time, I would like to remind us of the peace that is accessible to all…the peace that passes all understanding…the peace that many of us felt at the end of the opening dance of the students from New Zealand…the peace that can be the incubator of a new world. Hear the words of Jesus in this Taizé piece:
And the words of our Presiding Minister, Dr. Dorsey Blake: We have the imagination to [abolish these…forces], to create security and peace as dew in the morning. Now is the time!
- Dr. Dorsey Blake