LION AND LAMB TOGETHER

One fine Sunday, Berel decided to go to the local zoo with his wife and kids.

As he neared the lion’s cage, he was astonished to see a lamb lying peacefully with a lion beside her.

“That’s wonderful,” he cried. “Finally, the prophecy from the Good Book is realized!”

Berel ran to the zookeeper. “My congratulations! You have finally made everyone see that peace is at hand.  But tell me,” he implored the zookeeper, “how do you make a lion lie down with the lamb?”

“It’s no problem,” replied the zookeeper. “Every morning, I simply put another lamb in the lion’s cage!”

Source: Slightly adapted from Gedalia Peterseil,
Tell It from the Torah
(Pitspopany Press, 1998) page 143

CONSIDER THIS

Here’s God’s dream for humanity according to the Good Book:

The wolf will romp with the lamb,
the leopard sleep with the kid.
Calf and lion will eat from the same trough,
and a little child will tend them.

Cow and bear will graze the same pasture,
their calves and cubs grow up together,
and the lion eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens,
the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent.
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill
on my holy mountain.
The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive,
a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide. – Isaiah 11:6-9

Normally the lamb is lunch for the lion and the goat is a snack for the leopard.  Animals that don’t normally get on – eat together and rest side by side in peace.  And what is more “a child will lead them”,  the prophet Isaiah says.  Animals that we would hardly describe as suitable pets for a child – wolves, leopards, lions and snakes are play mates for a little child. There is no fear and no anxiety.  The helpless and the innocent live in safety and have no dread of the big and the powerful.

Is this just a perfect picture of a perfect world?  Is this just a dream, a surrealistic vision? What do you think is possible in a world that is still wounded by so much division?

DRY LEAF AND MUD PIE

Dry Leaf and Mud Pie were very good friends. As they approached old age together, they decided to make a religious pilgrimage to Banaras, the Hindu holy city on the banks of the Ganges River. They believed that if they washed in that sacred river, all the sins of their lifetime would be erased. They understood the distance and the dangers of such a trip. They knew that heavy rains and strong winds were the two greatest hazards they would face.

So, they decided on a clever strategy. When the rains poured down, Dry Leaf would shield Mud Pie until the storm passed. When the heavy winds blew, Mud Pie would sit on Dry Leaf until the sandstorm was over. One bright, sunny morning, Dry Leaf and Mud Pie set out on the long, difficult pilgrimage to the holy city of Banaras. They traveled just a short distance when the sky grew dark and rain began to fall. Dry Leaf shielded Mud Pie until the rain stopped. Their strategy worked, and they laughed as they continued on their way.

As they got further down the road, the sky clouded again, but this time, the wind blew in with a terrible force. Mud Pie sat on Dry Leaf until the wind died down. Their strategy still worked, and as they traveled on, they started to sing. They had gotten almost to the holy city before the sky clouded over again.

Then something terrible happened. The rain poured down, and the wind blew — at the same time. Although the two friends tried their best to help each other, it was of no use. Dry Leaf blew away and was never seen again. And Mud Pie was washed away.

Source: Jim Sichko, Stories from the Journey
(Open Road Media, 2014) pages 99-100

CONSIDER THIS

There comes a time in life when no matter how much we are loved and helped by another, it’s not enough. Even the love and support of our best friends can’t help us. A time will come when a help from elsewhere, larger than the mere human, will be your only refuge.

WITH ARMS WIDE OPEN

The legend goes that the 19th-century Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) made a clay model for a statue of Christ the King, arms outstretched, raised high in gesturing command, his head held high in triumph.

He left the soft and moist clay figure to harden and and in the morning when he entered the studio to finish his work, he couldn’t believe what he saw. The weight of the soft clay was too much for the inner structure and instead of  a head held high, it had bent downwards, and the arms originally raised in triumph had sagged and fallen low.

Initially Thorvaldsen was deeply disappointed, even disturbed, but when he looked again he saw that the statue with open arms, now expressed something deeper than kingly triumph and victory; it expressed welcome and forgiveness.

Note: The original statue of the “Christus” can be seen at the Vor Frue Kirke (Our Lady’s Church), the National (Lutheran) Cathedral of Denmark

Source: Unknown. Retold as I remember hearing it.

CONSIDER THIS

How big is your circle of compassion? How wide is your embrace?

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.

“Outwitted” in Edwin Markham, The Shoes of Happiness, and Other Poems (1913)

LAST WORDS

Alice Kahana, an artist living in Houston, has a painful and vivid memory of her journey to Auschwitz as a fifteen-year-old girl. On the way, she became separated from her parents and found herself in charge of her little eight-year-old brother. When the boxcar arrived, she looked down and saw that the boy was missing a shoe . “Why are you so stupid !” she shouted at him, the way older sisters are inclined to do so. “Can’t you keep track of your things?”

This is nothing out of the ordinary except that those were the last words that passed between them, for they were herded into different cars and she never saw him again.

Nearly half a century later, Alice Kahana is still living by a distinction that was conceived in that maelstrom. She vowed not to say anything that could not stand as the last thing she ever said.

Source: Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander,
The Art of Possibility
(New York: Penguin Books, 2000) page 174

CONSIDER THIS

  • Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.
  • Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.

FEAR AND PLAGUE

A traveler was wandering in the desert when he met Fear and Plague. They said they were on their way to a large city  where they were going to kill 10,000 people. The traveler asked Plague if he was going to do all the work. Plague smiled and said,  “I’ll only take care of a few hundred.  I’ll let my friend Fear do the rest.”

Source: Iam A. Freeman (Todd A. McCain),
Seeds of Revolution: A Collection of Axioms, Passages and Proverbs, Volume 1 (iUniverse, 2014) page 33.

CONSIDER THIS

  • What is it that you fear?
  • How much of your life is stolen away by fear?

Here are two quotes to chew on:

  • Do that which you fear to do, and the fear will die. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Fear enlarges as you move away from it, but shrinks as you move towards it. -Anon

THE GURU’S CAT

When the guru sat down to worship each evening, the ashram cat would get in the way and distract the worshippers. So he ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship.

After the guru died, the cat continued to be tied during evening worship. And when the cat expired, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be duly tied during evening worship.

Centuries later, learned treatises were written by the guru’s scholarly disciples on the liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed.

Source: Anthony de Mello, The Song of the Bird ,
(Image; Reprint edition, 1984) page 63.

___________________

Another rendition by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Indians around here tell a cautionary fable about a great saint who was always surrounded in his Ashram by loyal devotees. For hours a day, the saint and his followers would meditate on God. The only problem was that the saint had a young cat, an annoying creature, who used to walk through the temple meowing and purring and bothering everyone during meditation. So the saint, in all his practical wisdom, commanded that the cat be tied to a pole outside for a few hours a day, only during meditation, so as to not disturb anyone. This became a habit – tying the cat to the pole and then meditating on God – but as years passed, the habit hardened into religious ritual. Nobody could meditate unless the cat was tied to the pole first. Then one day the cat died. The saint’s followers were panic-stricken. It was a major religious crisis – how could they meditate now, without a cat to tie to a pole? How would they reach God? In their minds, the cat had become the means.

Source: Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
(Riverhead Books, 2007) page 227

CONSIDER THIS

Be careful not to get too obsessed with the repetition of religious ritual just for its own sake.  It can happen that we get so caught up on the externals that we lose sight of the essentials. Religion and tradition can give us false security and complacency. It may be useful to remember that it is not the tying of the cat to the pole that has ever brought anyone to transcendence, but only the constant desire of an individual seeker to experience the eternal compassion of the divine.  Flexibility is just as essential for divinity as is discipline.

The story of the guru’s cat is an encouragement and an invitation to review what we do habitually and to ask: Why do we do what we do? Why do we say what we say? Why do we use what we use? Is what we’re doing still appropriate and beneficial today? Is what we’re doing on a daily basis still achieving what it was originally intended to do? Or is it perhaps becoming a distraction, clutter, confusion … another guru’s cat?

 

THREE BLESSINGS TO CHOOSE FROM

A seasoned pastor was meeting with a variety of members from his parish faith community. Gathered for the meeting were associate pastors and pastoral assistants, members of the pastoral council and the finance committee, as well as members from the many ministry groups in the parish.  They were meeting to plan the year ahead but also, and most importantly, to explore together ways of tackling the parish debt.

In the midst of the meeting an angel appeared saying to the pastor that she had come to reward him for his many years of devoted service to his community. He was asked to choose between three blessings: infinite wealth, infinite fame or infinite wisdom.

Without hesitation, the pastor asked for infinite wisdom. “You got it!” said the angel, and disappeared. Silence followed as all heads slowly turned toward the pastor, who by now was glowing in an aura of wisdom.

Finally the chair of the pastoral council leans in and whispers into the pastor’s ear, “Say something.” The pastor looked at them and said, “I should have taken the money.”

Source: Re-imagined and retold by Philip Chircop
Tuesday 20th September 2016

CONSIDER THIS

God answered Solomon, “This is what has come out of your heart: You didn’t grasp for money, wealth, fame, and the doom of your enemies; you didn’t even ask for a long life. You asked for wisdom and knowledge so you could govern well my people over whom I’ve made you king. Because of this, you get what you asked for—wisdom and knowledge. And I’m presenting you the rest as a bonus—money, wealth, and fame beyond anything the kings before or after you had or will have.”2 Chronicles 1:11-12

Imagine that you are offered three blessings to choose from: infinite wealth, infinite fame or infinite wisdom. Which one would you choose and why?