Worthy Is the Lamb

It’s the Holiday Season in the United States.  Lights, music, trees, the gusher of retail dollars and – Messiah sing-alongs.  Yes, as a member of the Taos Community Chorus (tenor until faced with a high A), I am participating.  How many times, how many places?  And yet these texts from Isaiah and Revelation, set to Handel’s exuberant music, continue to inspire and thrill.  May the abuses and domination of all twisted religious expression wither and perish.  Please, dear God, save this glorious music.

One of the most powerful choruses is based on a surreal image from Revelation 5:12: “Worthy is the lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” (NRSV) Or in the King’s English used by Handel, “Worthy is the lamb that was slain.”

The obvious reference here is to the glorification of Christ, crucified by the threatened powers and resurrected in an immutable assertion that life as intended, the true spirit of love and compassion, can never be conquered, whether by evil intent or physical demise.

But it seems to me there is more in the phrase.  As we journey from our experience of scarcity and fear under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; as we begin to know and trust it as the Tree of Life, there is always a lamb to be slain.  The Buddha asserts with certainty, life is duhkha.  We will suffer.  The innocence of the lamb will be ravaged.  We can delude and harden ourselves.  There will be sickness.  There will be abusers and victims.  There will be war and hunger and loss of loved ones.  And in the end, we will die.

No lamb avoids the slaughter.  Worthy is the one that faces and embraces it.  It’s not that some perverse deity requires blood to be satisfied.  It’s that we don’t pass the test of life without dying to the lies.

We can paste over it with Christmas presents and walls of security and comfort.  We can mask it with youth and pleasure.  We can pretend to fend it off with walls and guns and warehoused kids at the border.

Or we can make a different choice.  We can die right now and get on with the real thing.  Die to fear.  Die to domination.  Die to greed and anger, our selfish anxiety and hoarding.  In the end, it avails us nothing.  Why not end it now?  Why not make the choice, today, to shed all of this and replace it with the giving and receiving of blessing, honor, glory and power?

So let’s sing it, clear and strong.  Worthy is the lamb, the lamb that is slain:

  • The family turned back at the border. Worthy is the lamb.
  • The youth taken by opioids in the towns along the Ohio River. Worthy is the lamb.
  • Christine Blasey Ford.  Worthy is the lamb.
  • The “deep state” public servant, courageous enough to blow the whistle. Worthy is the lamb.
  • Jamal Khashoggi. Worthy is the lamb.
  • The Walmart shoppers in El Paso. Worthy is the lamb.
  • The Syrian hospital patients in the sights of the Russian warplane.  Worthy is the lamb.
  • The indigenous environmental activists killed by governments and corporate thugs in Latin America. Worthy is the lamb.
  • The young women lured to hotel rooms and private jets by promises of open doors to the future. Worthy is the lamb.
  • You and I, friend, when we die to all of this, die to our comfort, our greed, our fear and embrace the cross that leads to real life. Worthy is the lamb.

Worthy, worthy is the lamb that is slain.  Blessing, honor, glory and power be unto her.

Worthy.

 

© Jerry S Kennell, Two Trees in the Garden.  Feel free to quote, as useful, with proper reference.

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Jerry Kennell provides spiritual direction in person and by Skype at Two Trees Center for Spiritual Development.  Contact jerry@2treegarden.com or by phone or text to (970) 217-6078.  Click FOLLOW to be notified of future posts.

Creation

Creation is amazing.  Things keep happening on a seemingly infinite scale from small to grand, subtle to nuclear, still to beyond the speed of light.  What’s it about?  Where do we fit in?  Our vision is so limited and, given the immensity of the whole thing, we mostly just ignore it and go on our way.

Going on our way, however, is exactly our problem – or better put, the problem of “our.”  The premise of Two Trees in the Garden is that, under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, we became conscious, we woke up to “I”, “my” and “our.”

The “going on our way,” the “going” and the “way” of “our,” all happened on a road of fear.  We believed ourselves to be alone and separate.  We became aware of death.  The response of “I,” “my” and “our” was greed and a grasp for power and control.  Anger, deceit and violence became our tools.

But “our way” is not the way of creation, of true reality.  It is only halfway.  It is not whole.  It is “self”-deceived.  We don’t know it, but true reality is that we are under the Tree of Life, not the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is only our limited misperception of the real thing.  And that real thing, the real tree, is love, goodness, beauty, relationship, peace, the surprise of creation, rest and enough.  Why would we not want these things?  How do we get there?

It’s been called by many names, this turn from “self”-deceit to connected reality:  enlightenment; awakening; conversion; second birth; born again.  And in our despair, we look for any one of these (they are all the same) as some sort of magical elixir that, if we can only reach it, grasp it, experience it, will make us happy and solve our worldly fears and woes, maybe even save us from death.  And it always seems elusively just beyond “our” reach.

But it’s not elusive at all.  Yes, it is beyond “my,” “our” grasp.  The problem is that we are grasping at nothing to be grasped.  And we are missing everything.  Because enlightenment, awakening, conversion, second birth, being born again are the simple choice of turning from deception and coming home to reality.  And “reality,” is “not grasping.”

Creation, friends, is the impetus, the impulse, the word of love breathed infinitely and eternally into the void.  And we are part of it and with it, not separate, as our fear – the fear that is “I,” “my,” “our” – would have us believe.  And our fear is only that, a belief upon which we act, resulting in our unhappiness, the unhappiness of “our.”

Alas, what must “I” do to be saved?  It’s so simple.  Confess.  Confess and submit.  Confess that you, the real you, are connected to and one with the great I Am, the love and exuberance beyond all knowing that is part and parcel of all you see, unfolding with joy and confidence into all you cannot perceive.

It’s a piece of cake, a walk in the park, a look into the eyes of the beloved.  When deceived “you” lets go of grasping and submits to real everything, you are alive, awake, born for real under the Tree of Life.

© Jerry S Kennell, Two Trees in the Garden.  Feel free to quote, as useful, with proper reference.

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Jerry Kennell provides spiritual direction in person and by Skype at Two Trees Center for Spiritual Development.  Contact jerry@2treegarden.com or by phone or text to (970) 217-6078.  Click FOLLOW to be notified of future posts.

Fight the Good Fight

I grew up in the Midwest region of the United States.  Feelings were pretty much just a bad thing.  It’s not that we did not have feelings.  We just did not admit to having them.  Let’s take that a step further.  We denied having them – especially anger.  So we got angry and did not know we were angry.  We did not know how to recognize, accept and deal with our feelings.  That means they could get really out of control.  And they could do a lot of internal and external damage.

Now, at almost 66 years of age, after losing the benefit of too many conflicts to unrecognized and poorly managed anger, I think I am beginning to learn.  Note that I said, “losing the benefit.”  The joy of the good fight is the transformation that can come in fighting it.

There are fights worth fighting.  And there are ways to fight them.  There will be feelings involved.  The key is to recognize these feelings without allowing them to take charge.  Pema Chodron uses the Tibetan term shenpa.  She says that it is often translated to mean attachment, and that certainly is part of the reality.  We get attached to our feelings and it becomes impossible to distinguish ourselves from them.

But Chodron says a more accurate definition for shenpa is the idea of getting hooked.  A feeling surges up and hooks us.  Or we hook onto it.  Either way, it is painful, it is powerful, and it is hard to get free of it.

When we get hooked by our anger, we leave and lose the fight.  We leave, because our energy becomes consumed by our anger and we have turned our attention from the fight to the overwhelming urge to satisfy our anger.  We also become attached to an outcome rather than a process.  We want only to defeat our enemy, not to stay with a creative process to an undetermined but perhaps mutually satisfactory conclusion – the real benefit of the fight.  Everyone loses, because our anger is the only thing our enemy can see in us.  Any merit in our case has left the building.

As humans, we will experience shenpa.  We will get hooked.  The trick is to recognize when it happens, to hold ourselves with compassion and to not let the hook take control of our actions.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna urges the reluctant Arjuna forward into battle with his relatives.  Arjuna balks and laments.  This is his family.  And yet the fight needs to happen.  Wrong needs to be confronted.  Issues in relationship need to be resolved.

Loving our enemy does not equate to being nice to our enemy at all costs or abandoning the engagement.  True love for our enemy treats the other with compassionate understanding while never shying from truth, to the extent that it has been shown to us.

That stance requires openness.  We must pursue the cause valiantly without the shenpa of becoming hooked to a specific outcome.  We must engage with full energy, even as we remain humble and open to new revelation and the change that comes from truly engaged relationship.

Life under the Tree of Life is not passive.  Neither is it aggressive.  Rather, it seeks transformation, not destruction.  And it is open to the surprise of self-transformation, change that is larger than we can imagine, the transformation that comes from full, open and compassionate engagement.

© Jerry S Kennell, Two Trees in the Garden.  Feel free to quote, as useful, with proper reference.

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Jerry Kennell provides spiritual direction in person and by Skype at Two Trees Center for Spiritual Development.  Contact jerry@2treegarden.com or by phone or text to (970) 217-6078.  Click FOLLOW to be notified of future posts.