When it was Rabbi Lerner’s time to speak at his International Association of Sufism Humanity Award Ceremony he led off—as he so often does—with leading us in ritual. He invited us all to stand and chant “under the fig tree…and we shall learn war no more,” a marvelous prayer based on Isaiah 2:4.
I was reminded of a gathering we were both part of a few years ago when the Dalai Lama gave a public address in San Jose. We were both on the dais along with several others to speak each from our own traditions following the Dalai Lama’s talk. Then too Lerner began with a spirited and unselfconscious chant to get all involved. He is good at that. He prays from his heart and with a child-like smile that warms one up for the prophetic words and critical thinking that are sure to follow.
His words at this event were words I have heard frequently from his mouth lately—and we should all be listening when he calls for a new “bottom line” of awe and wonder, generosity and justice to permeate all our cultural life and work, politics and professions.
I see here a very parallel message to my own about “Work as Sacrament” and the “priesthood of all workers” who are all meant to be “midwives of grace” and that grace includes the Four Paths, the awe and wonder and gratitude; the awareness of suffering in the world; the creativity applied to social and personal transformation that must happen together and that leads to shared justice making and joy.
In many ways I have considered my life’s work to renew my Christian tradition by re-integrating Jewish wisdom into my Christian lineage.
It is a wisdom that was often sacrificed through the centuries as Christianity took a giant detour away from Jesus’ teachings into empire building and employed the dualistic philosophy of Plato and Augustine to render that project successful.
It is such a breath of fresh air, i.e. spirit, to hear prophetic rabbis like Michael Lerner speaking and acting out of Jesus’ tradition, namely the Jewish tradition.
So often I feel Jesus’ presence and teaching when I listen to Rabbi Lerner and other Jewish prophets (including Rabbi Heschel and Karl Marx).
Speaking of “fresh air,” let us remember that the words “air” and “spirit” are identical words in many languages in the world including the Biblical languages.
Air and wind after all are invisible—as Spirit is. But that does not mean they do not exist, in fact, we would be in pretty bad shape without air and wind. We see their effects, not their objective presence. So it is with Spirit.
The entire evening was a blessing, I felt myself swimming in wisdom with each speaker and each conversation shared. It was better than church.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you agree that we need to recover the Jewishness of Jesus and step back from empire-building if we are to put his teachings into practice? If so, what are practical ramifications of that for religion, church, and the renewal of both?
Do you subscribe to Lerner’s new “bottom line”? Meditating on that deeply, what follows from that invitation both personally and publicly?
Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”