Tuesday, November 19, 2013

the Search Poem or "Let Me Tell You a Story"

This is the poem/homily I wrote for my ministerial fellowship committee appearance, and I've shared it with my Interim congregation as well as for colleagues.

It is personal, and yet it has the feeling of journey, of search, that many people such as Unitarian Universalists have or are going through in their religious life. It is not finished, and I hope to continue to build on it as I learn of other ways to enter religious journey by being a minister to the society.

Let Me Tell You a Story
by Rev. Jim Parrish (all rights reserved)

Let me tell you a Story!
It’s not very long,
And from me a little story
Is so much better than a song!

It’s a story about a young man, or woman, 
or other,
our seeker, if you will
Who ponders the stuff of the universe
Or verses the stuff of ponds and windmills

Either way, it is a wondering done
about God, or Buddha or trees
lots of thought about love and war
And some questions about the workings of knees

There was trying to make sense of biblical lore
Which seemed kind of fanciful, sexy and sad
Because the God therein was loved by its people
though they couldn’t tell if he was happy or mad

And Jesus was a Rabbi who rocked the boat
filling the Mount and Plain with ancient words
Love thy Neighbor as Thyself…
But the neighbors were Roman Curs...

So his life was shortened to minimize the pain
But the damage had been done
God as Love became a Gnostic sermon
and Christ followers worshipped in common homes

But God as love was too universal
speaking to power in a passive voice
and arguments broke out about theology
with unity and trinity as opposing choice

So Christianity became complex and loud and bold
with theologians competing for a Patron
Emperor Constantine was looking for an army
it seemed a marriage made in heaven

Now, The joining of politics and religion is very old
The power of state held by goddess or god
its been all the rage and fashion for us
since humanity started breaking the sod

So even with a reformation, the seeker thought
And Enlightened the west became
Religion and state - state and religion
was a state we couldn’t declaim

So in our story the testaments surrounded our seeker
its gospels culturally embedded
Which made for a great deal of confusion
In knowing just where they were headed

Religion and God had so many meanings
for war, for peace, for science
it was hard to decide which banner to follow
which dogma, or creed to be compliant

Discouraged our seeker thought, and exclaimed
What about the East?
Maybe some enlightened thought to find
to sit with in silence - give my soul some ease

Becoming a Buddha seemed a natural goal
A quest to a higher station
And our seeker, in a religious whirl
Could use some quiet meditation

It made sense that all life is suffering
that suffering we would sit and reduce
grasp hold and use the eight fold way
begin to peacefully walk life through

But our seeker also has a fire inside
that wants to right some wrongs
and Buddhist thought struggles sometimes
to be an active force in the throng

So try as our seeker might
to float peacefully through this world
something inside called out for action and change
like a flag in the wind unfurled

So what is Religion… our seeker cries
Why is there no easy meaning
something that I can hold in my emotional breast
and yet… to my head not be so demeaning?

Why can’t I have action in Love
while attaining inner healing?
Why do the religions fidget so much?
Don’t they all have the same meaning?

but religion seemed to mean so many things
To so many of those around
That our young seeker twirled and whirled
and went falling, falling, stunned to the ground

Yet, while down, down with face in the turf
some marvelous things were discovered
The earth felt, well earthy, smelling rich and alive
and our seeker began to recover

What if god were here, thought our seeker, in the earth where I lay
god evolved from the very dust as we?
That would mean we are part of it
and all of it is part of me

And if this earth is who we are
and what we are going to become
then a question, the question must be asked
Where, where did this dust come from?

Then our seeker turned over and gazed up, out and away
into the far burning stars above
and fell into the yawning universe
falling deeply, deeply  in love

To lay grounded and flying all at once is fantastic
floating high while holding onto the earth
with stardust falling all around and around
our seeker’s heart and mind almost burst

My science classes, the seeker exclaimed!
I remember, I remember it all now
there is so much more that we do know and claim
more than many religions will avow

How we evolved from the very dust I lay
into creatures great and small
Everything is related to everything else
and us related to all

How marvelous a happening
An unfolding evolution to behold
mysteries of Trees and knees were answered
and secrets of life were told...

but science didn’t answer all of the questions
like why love and war still fought
why the universe was flying apart
and how a brain might have a thought

Again our seeker was perplexed
with life’s answers still incomplete
science told the truth,  but religion held love
and sometimes both cried... deceit!

So, discouraged that no answer from all the above
came no closer than  42
our seeker wondered if life is just a long, lonely journey
with no destination we might come to?

But “wait” our seeker sighs,
if there is one thing on this journey I’ve learned
is that I hold both religion and science
in my body and my souls concern

I’ve learned that religion can be true
and that love can be science
And that politics, if it were to make any sense
must listen to the technician, and the pious

I see that Love is found in relationships
As Jesus was trying to tell
and a most important connection there
is knowing ones own Buddha-self

So my journey as a human being
Is to find a way to bring
all of my ways of seeing the universe
into focus and esteem

To not dismiss a religious myth
because it is untrue
but let its lovely human story
hold my hand in life’s ado

To let truth become my starry guide
with love to provide it substance
I’ll pay attention to the inner self
so my relationships have my full essence!

With this resolution in our seeker’s heart
the journey was nearly done
but a story is sometimes  incomplete
without a riding into the sun

We visit again our young ponderer,
who is now a little old
but has never given up the seeker’s quest
to find the human soul

This seeker found that the journeys road
was life itself, you see
that answers led to questions, questions to answers
so that the journey - the journey was the key

But seeing is not as easy as being
And being is sometimes a thorny crown
if your questions are a little different
and you’ve never conformed to the crowd

The pursuit of the “why” of life
can become wearying, and lonely
So our seeker Sought company,
someone who might share an "existential interrogatory"

But where might this community be?
One that respects questions profound
But doesn’t limit its search
To one book, or prophet, or tired old blood-hound?

That place, I suggest, in this story at least
is one that we in this UU movement might offer
a respite from the seeker’s journey
yet many more questions to proffer

A place, or a gathering of seekers, of doubters,
to whom a small truth is a golden heart,
who see the question as only the beginning of life
and love the journey that it starts

And I hope, beyond hope, that the seekers will find us
so they are not wandering alone
that we can learn from their unique journey
and the seeker can have a home

And I hope again that we as a community of seekers
Haven’t the full journey forsaken
By clinging to our own pathways so tightly
That our world cannot be shaken…

 (to the congregation)
Look around you… there are many seekers here today
With many different poems describing their journey

A journey that takes us from birth to death
A human adventure in living fully in this universe

Shall we continue on that journey together
Covenant to hold each other in love
As we continue our traditions dialogue

Dialogue between seekers at the edge of understanding
At the edge of Religion and Science
Learning and practicing love and inclusion
So that we may lead ourselves and humanity to a better way

Let us step on that path, again and again and again
And I promise to be a companion on that path
What else could I do that could be more important?
What else could I do?

So may it be

Closing Words:
As my meditation master said every day at 5am, 9am, 1pm and 6pm for a week, 
momentarily breaking the silence surrounding us…
You must practice… 
Begin again, Begin Again, Begin again

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thoughts on Fall Wind

Wind I

Falling leaves dance above the pavement
in spiraling yellow and orange
a single leaf defies gravity
riding an updraft
serenely floating, almost stationary
except for a lazy spin that captures me
in its other world

Wind II
Grey air full of mist
blown south to north under full clouds
challenge my wipers to a contest of sight
in the brief clarity of an arc shows
a darker cloud in the sky above
a fluttering flag across the highway
one end attached to a power line
the other waving wildly free
then the starlings
blown struggling from their roost
regain their composure
rein in their companions
and furl the flag into a black line on the wire

Jparrish 2013