Consider Lawrence Kushner’s suggestion at the beginning of his conversation with Krista Tippett, a whisper, as he imagines it, from the shadows,“Hey kid…How would you like a direct experience of the divine? Would that help your religious life?”
And I can’t help but tell you my immediate reverberations with Kushner’s squib about the asking from the shadows of and into mysticism. When I was a junior in high school in a suburb of NYC in New Jersey, I went off with my best friend for a day in Manhattan. We saw a Broadway show, and then caught a showing of Jean Cocteau’s “Orpheus”, and into the early evening were walking along 42nd street just across from Bryant Park, the backside of the New York Public Library. As we walked along we were smoking tiny cigars we’d splurged on, and then a small fellow came quickly up beside us and asked, “Hey boys, do you want some girls?” My best friend returned to puffing on his dubious cigar and coughing, but I downcast muddled out, “No thank you.” I’m sure my mother would have been proud for the polite response.
But what a question Kushner poses! And what different imagines of “the divine” life present to us over and over. On 42nd Street or to the whisper from the shadows of Kushner, how would you answer? This is one way of approaching Kabbalah, and to begin to imagine the way of Kabbalah as a way into experiencing your own life everyday as a direct experience of the divine. How scary is that?
Kushner asks, “Would that help your religious life?” Would it? Is that what “your religious life” is about? That’s a central question to honestly confront and wonder. Do I really want to live my life, day by day, in the midst of the immediate company of God? Do I really want to recognize that all that I do and choose and don’t do, all of that is realizing God’s presence, making or unmaking God’s presence in the world and in me? Is that what God is about for you? Is God really so anxious to be recognized and relished about? Is that something that makes sense of who God is to you?
What is my “religious life” about anyway? Does mysticism and meditation of any sort, Kabbalah, Franciscan, Benedictine, Buddhist, Sufi, Native American and on speak to what YOU want in your “religious life”? What sort of “religious life” does Church offer? What sort of “religious life” do you want to live?
This week and the next three weeks we will being exploring how Kabbalah poses these questions to us, and invites us into wondering responses together.
For this Sunday especially to wonder and ask whether we want a “direct experience of the divine”, if that is what we want from religion and church anyway.
For our second gathering, Sunday, April 17th, we will look at the Kabbalistic understanding of Torah, of scripture.
For our third gathering, Sunday, April 24th, we will look at the Kabbalistic understanding of mythical story and ritual.
For our fourth gathering, Sunday, May 1st, we will look at the new revelations of God’s presence with us that Kabbalah daringly imagines and enacts and praises. And what in our Christian tradition and experience is so immediately daring and alive and challenging? Which takes us back to Kushner’s early whisper from the shadows, “Hey kid….”