symbolism and inspiration

Millis, MA

Heather's been reading a book I just finished, White Lotus, by John Hersey. It's a story of a future where Americans are enslaved by the Chinese, a retelling of Black history in America so that white people can better identify and understand their struggle under oppression. Well done, I thought. And I especially liked his invention of a nonviolent protest, the "sleeping bird," that made sense for the Chinese Buddhist culture. The protesting slaves stood silently on one leg with head bowed, imitating a helpless sleeping bird. This was meant to speak to the Buddhist teaching against harming living things, reminding the Chinese oppressors that the slaves are living things as well. The simple symbolism is beautiful. And the climax, where the main characters finally abandon their fruitless forceful struggles and find strength (and freedom) in courageous weakness, brought tears to my eyes.

It also reminded me of the simple symbolism of pilgrimage, and how that can be inspiring in itself, even if nothing more is said. Freedom, direction, faith. I wonder if that's what impressed the man who gave us money without much of any explanation of what we are doing. "It's the least I can do," he said.

And I thought of what someone told us during the Common Cathedral visit. That it's not nearly as important to offer people a workable plan for ministry as it is to inspire them to follow Jesus more closely (and with more abandon) and discover what unique thing God is calling them to do. They can then work out the details as they go. That made sense to us. Jesus' teaching and way of living offered the extreme in challenge and inspiration, but most of that is usually lost as people try to make it fit with what they see as the practical necessities of life "in this world." Hopefully, actions like this walk (and our ministry at Plow Creek) will inspire people to look again at what Jesus actually said and did, and recall his astonishing promises. Maybe make people wonder again if extreme freedom and extreme good might actually be possible "in this world."