Playing with Fire

Matthew 5:5

September 08, 2011

by Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper
Senior Minister

 Right now our hopes are playing with fire – and we want to make sure we don’t get burned. Second we want to stay lit. So many people tell each other that they are “burnt out” or a little “fried around the edges.” These metaphors fail to describe reality. The truth is many of us haven’t even been lit yet. We aren’t burnt out or even burning out. We are not machines. We haven’t even been lit yet. What is happening downtown is LIT precisely because it is so different than most of what we do. It has the beautiful ping of good crystal. Call and repeat all by itself is a new way of talking. TRAIN THEM. The meek are rising, and we are accepting a blessing by talking ourselves into blessed speech.

Occupy Wall Street is meek. The meek are people who respect power and know their place. They know how to keep their mouths shut. The meek are people without a microphone. They don’t think of themselves as attractive enough or rich enough or smart enough to say anything. Most meek people have internalized capitalism so much that they (and we) imagine that we should do what capitalism says, use its values for ourselves – and then if we have some time left over, we should have a little peace or do a little yoga or meditation or peace.

The blessed meek think differently than the meek. People who have been blessed as the meek, who believe Jesus saying they are blessed, come out of prayer to work. We come out of composure to stress. We come out of blessed for a few damned moments at somebody else’s office. We internalize peace, blessing, grace, security, love. We may get pulled out of them, sometimes even for eight or ten hours a day. (Ha!) But our home is our blessing, our composure, our constant prayer. We don’t “steal time” for yoga or prayer or joy or speech. Just the opposite is true. Our center is assured. Wall Street steals time from us.

Many of us claim not to have the time to pray. Laird, quoting Tessa Bieleckie, says that the key to the contemplative life is the art of stealing time throughout the day (note the capitalist memo) “so that prayer is not so much something we go to as something we come from. Prayer is not the tail on the donkey. It is the donkey. The things you imagine you must do are the tails.”

When Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek,” the meek find the power to open their mouths and manage their own time. Nobody owns your mouth. Nobody owns your time. Nobody owns the power of blessing. Each one of us has it. You might call it a trust account and not the kind that trustafarians have or that Wall Street manages. A trust account takes internalized capitalism and ignores it.

Internalized capitalism is when we fear what others will think if we are unemployed, or that unemployment is our fault, or that we might be lazy. It is the “what will others think mentality.” Blessed people wonder what Jesus thinks, or what they think, or what the meek think of them. We spend too much time looking up rather than looking around or – forgive me – “down.” Jesus tells us to look down and around and refuse to look up. He liberates us from internalized capitalism with a new kind of trust account, one not built on money so much as built on joy and peace. “Do unto those downstream from you what you would have those upstream from you do to you.” Jesus wasn’t kidding.

When blessed and meek, we dare to be happy just as we are. We dare to have value just as we are. We do not see our neighbor as our enemy. We know our neighbor is our friend. We refuse profit on behalf of peace. We follow Jesus to a generosity of spirit, hospitality of practice, a refusal of vengeance and violence. These things annoy the hell out of Wall Street and of Pharaoh.

We just put solar power on our house in Amherst. So much fun. Now this old farmhouse has funny looking stuff all over its roof. We are generating electricity. Saint Paul always said that you could tell a good religious spirit, a good fire of the soul, by its fruits. Religious and spiritual power is known not by what power it uses but by what power it generates. If you see religion emanating in hate, watch out. Hate can even happen in a magnificent movement. It surely can happen on Wall Street. It can happen in your own heart. It can happen in your own days. Get a bucket. Put it out. If you see religion emanating in love, blow on it. Get a bellows. If you can’t find a bellows, use your lungs.

The most dangerous part of internalizing capitalism is not getting burnt out or refusing the blessing of being lit. It is instead the silence, the slow fade of the fire in us. Many of us are so ashamed or embarrassed or internalized that we forget to talk to each other about our struggles. We wouldn’t want others to know! WE choose then passively to live in disease, which is not a sickness. It is what the French meant by the word. DESAISE. Disease is without ease. The capitalist didn’t steal ease from you. You gave it to them. I love the definition of addiction that says it is the refusal to ask for help.

If you find yourself moving back in with the oppressed meek, rather than the blessed meek, ask for help. You don’t need capitalism anymore. It needs you. Plus what has it done for you lately? Withdraw oxygen from its damning fires of rage and revenge and lies. Add oxygen to the fires of the meek. Build carefully. Gather twigs. Blessed are the meek.

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