Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Be Awake!

You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. (Romans 11:13)

It’s an almost disturbing thing, notes my protesting voice, that religious sages spend so much of their time informing me that I’m asleep. In one way or other they all teach that the basic rule of the spiritual life is neither prayer nor worship nor service to others but simply being alert to what is, that all the rest of it, the prayer, the worship, the service springs from cultivating this basic fact. Being awake is the foundational teaching in Buddhism. We read in last Sunday’s Gospel, "For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.” The prophets came to show Israel that God’s ways were not always the same as theirs. Since Israel was beloved of God, it suggests that there is no great soporific than thinking that just because God chose us, we have it made.

On the other hand, how many times have religious nuts gotten up and told us to shape up and look sharp, that the end is near, only to have it fizzle? To name but two, in 1844, followers of William Miller were told that the world as we know it was going to conclude on October 22. Many people, believing him, sold all that they had and went out to await the rapture that never happened. Interestingly, however, the Bahais believe that the old world did in fact come to an end that year, but that most of us were too busy looking the other way to even notice. Many of us still remember the rapture hysteria that swept the United States during the Reagan years, that resulted in the odd, badly written and quite terrifying “Left Behind” series of fourteen novels in which religion is turned into war. Meanwhile, we're still going, eating, drinking, getting hitched and unhitched, making money, worrying about our kids, driving our cars and so on.

Or are we? If we're not awake, how can we be sure?

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