Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Shine the light

It is said of a certain Talmudic master that the paths of heaven were as bright to him as the streets of his native town. Hasidism inverts the order: It is a greater thing if the streets of a person’s native town are as bright to them as the paths of heaven. For it is here, where we stand, that we should try to make shine the light of the hidden divine life.

          Martin Buber, The Way of Man, According to the Teaching of Hasidism

(New York: Routledge Classics, 2002), 31 (quoted by Rohr, 6/29/22



let your light so shine

Jesus said

let your light shine in the darkness

for you are the world’s light  (Matthew 5)


but how?


what does it mean to be a lamp in the darkness?

what does it mean to shine the light of the divine

in the streets of one’s native town?

in one’s state

in one’s country?


is it a matter of zeal?

or power?

do we change the world by grabbing hold of the reins of power

and forcing


even faith?


when we grab power

when we embrace the way of dominance

what do we reveal?


it is tempting

to think that if we control the courts

and control the government

we can impose righteousness


we can “win the world”

but Jesus knew better

Watch out! He said

beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Empire

what profit it you to win the whole world, and lose your life


if you want to follow me deny yourself

take up a cross

and follow


follow, follow, follow

love your neighbor as yourself

feed the hungry

free people from oppression

clothe the naked

welcome the stranger

give water to the thirsty (Matthew 25)


we cannot be light

when our hearts are full of anger and resentment

when we carry forward and repeat the way of domination and greed

we cannot be light when we carry hate

and pass it on from generation to generation


we can only be light when we break the cycle

of abused power

and retribution


Jesus did not grab power

he did not collaborate with the Sadducees

or stack the Sanhedrin with “his people”

he looked at those who tried to impose righteousness

who shamed and judged

and threw stones

and said “are you kidding me?”


he ceded power

he lived a life of radical love, and acceptance

a life of forgiveness

a life of compassion


and said

this is the way


he died on a cross

and said the way of hate and retribution

stops here


we are the light of the world

we are called to shine

to make the streets of our villages and cities

shine with the light of Love


we don’t do that with abortion bans

or prayer at the 50-yard line

we don’t do that by creating and theocracy

based on arrogance and coercion


we do that by facing the darkness in our own hearts

and, through repentance

letting the light of love shine there

at the center of who we are


emptying us of hate

and the need for power and control

and retribution


and then

letting that light leak from our souls


by being people of compassion

and forgiveness




by working to create a world

where no desperate person has to die of heat stroke

in the back of a semi-truck

where no desperate young woman has to believe

abortion is her only option

where no person of color has to automatically fear

the lights of a patrol car


for it is here

where we stand

in the middle of the mess

in the middle of the pain and suffering

in the middle of the despair

that we need to shine


not by grabbing power

but by empowering

not by coercing

but by transforming through welcome and love


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