Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them,"Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'
Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.
So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. -Luke 14:25-33
About This Weeks Prompts for Meditation
What are possessions? Just my stuff? Or, do my possessions include more intangible things to which I cling - ideas, prejudices, opinions, the filters through which I see the world? Are my relational obligations my possessions? And does my family possess me body and soul? What does it mean to carry the cross? What is my cross? Is my own life my possession, my world's possession, or God's possession?
Here, Jesus sounds as uncompromising as Moses. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live! Love God and live! Choose life! See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. (Dt. 30:19) But sit down and count the cost. It will cost everything! It will cost the crucifixion of Jesus and the taking up of whatever cross the world opposed to life gives you to bear, not only on your own behalf but for Life itself!
Choose life. What does it take to be alive? That answer is as specific and particular as each of our lives. Jesus calls his followers to Life. The things we cling to make us as dead as our possessions (meditation one). Likewise, our narrowly self-referential ways of seeing impede our embrace of Life. Life is in continual flux (meditation two). Finally, renunciation opens to generous living - true freedom, grace, the human person fully alive (meditation three).
Ever trying to let life emerge in my life, Truly yours, -Suzanne
Meditation One (introit) shaped by having
Possessions are often regarded as a kind of life-threatening drug, impeding the power of judgment. "Sloth and cowardice creep in with every dollar of guinea we have to guard" (William James). Having contributes to rendering the ego dependent. In having dead things the ego approaches being dead itself. Possession occupies those who possess and contradicts the ideal of having life. Even things that make daily life and work easier are seen to be a kind of seduction into the mentality of possessors and the existence shaped by having. Buddhism calls this craving, and the traditions of Judaism and Christianity call it avarice. -Dorothee Solle Mysticism and Resistance
Nothing is to be clung to as I, me, or mine. - The Buddha
Then he said to them all, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?" -Luke 9:23-25
You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? -Mark10:38
Fool! This night your would is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? -Luke 12:20
In the Sutra of the Third Zen Patriarch, it says, "Do not seek the truth. Only cease to cherish opinions." If we let go of this attachment, the whole Dharma will be revealed. Everything will be there. We have to let go of our preconceived ideas of how things are, of how we would like things to be. -Joseph Goldstein, The Experience of Insight: A Natural Unfolding
Have you heard about the Buddhist vacuum cleaner? It come with no attachments.
One dimension of this poverty is to be in the service of the poor. To share material, intellectual, and spiritual possessions with others and, above all, to share the most valuable of what we have, our time, with them is an aspect of the mystical understanding of poverty; having become praxis, it is an utterly clear mysticism. -Dorothee Soelle Mysticim and Resistance
Building The Temple of Solomon, Petrus Comestar's Bible Historiale, 1372
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? - Luke 14:28
Master of San Francisco Bardi, 14th century, this image was in my mind all week as I worked on these texts on taking up the cross and choosing life.
Meditation Two (insight) free from possessing
...it is our attachment to the thoughts we have of who we are that may be the impediment to living life fully, and a stubborn obstacle to any realization of who and what we actually are, and of what is important, and possible. It may be that in clinging to our self-referential ways of seeing and being, to the parts of speech we call the personal pronouns, I, me, and mine, we sustain the unexamined habit of grasping and clinging to what is not fundamental, all the while missing or forgetting what is. Jon Kabat-Zinn Coming to Our Senses We must have beginner's mind, free from possessing anything, a mind that knows everything is in flowing change. Nothing exists except momentarily in its present form and color. One thing flows into another and cannot be grasped. Before the rain stops we hear a bird. Even under the heavy snow we see snowdrops and some new growth. -Shunryu Suzuki 1904-1971 Zen Mind, Beginners Mind
Meditation Three (integration) living generously
Generosity has such power because it is characterized by the inner qualities of letting go or relinquishing. Being able to let go, to give up, to renounce, to give generously - these capacities spring from the same source within us. When we practice generosity, we open to all of these liberating qualities simultaneously. They carry us to a profound knowing of freedom, and the also are the loving expression of that same freedom.
The Buddha said that no true spiritual life is possible without a generous heart. Sharon Salzberg Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness
The Last Words The call to discipleship is a gift of grace and that call is inseparable from grace. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The glory of God is the human person fully alive. -Ireneaus of Lyons
Take Up Your Cross/ Choose Life
A nun friend of mine, having put off the decision to make her final vows for as long as she could, made her choice based on this old thought/imaging exercise. You are on your death-bed. What do you regret? When put this way, her decision was obvious. She would regret not having chosen a vocation as a nun. She's still faithful nearly forty years later.
Take up your cross and choose life seem opposed to one another. But when are you most fully alive? Probably when you are taking up your cross, that is, putting your life toward something larger, more meaningful than your own comfort.
I made a list of the times I felt most alive, and the times I felt most needed. Here's where the list overlapped:
As a mother - tending to my babies - feeding, changing diapers, singing to them. Keeping my toddlers from danger, trying to keep their ravenously curious minds fed. Reading to them. Driving the four children to lessons, practice, etc. The driving was pretty deadening, but the kids always opened up in the car and we had great discussions.
As a pastor - and later as a chaplain, sitting helplessly with suicidal young people. Blessing remains at Ground Zero in New York. And just a few brief glimmers here and there of being an effective person in pastoral or teaching situations before burning out.
In these vocations, in these moments, I felt utterly indispensable. And outside ego-self.
Now, a third vocation. You are on your death-bed. What do you regret? If I don't write, I will die. That is, my body may live, even comfortably, but my soul will die. In choosing life, I also carry a humiliating cross - difficult, fraught, like physical exercise, training in a class above one's ability level after all these years of motherhood and ministry. It's not that I feel alive while writing, but that when I don't write, I feel dead. As difficult as writing is, when I've done my allotted time for the day, I feel I've done what I'm supposed to do and can go on to do other things with a lighter heart and even enjoy those things.
Each day, I calculate the cost of writing and not writing. Writing is deep prayer - holding my breath, diving into the dark, retrieving an occasional pearl along with lots of worthless gravel - belonging not to me, but to everyone. I can't yet see the long term results of my labor, and maybe never will, but motherhood and ministry trained me in discipline, for disappointments, and in accepting that I can't possess or control the outcomes of my life and work.