Apple Tree Blossoming... Coastal Maine
Today's Saying: In the spiritual Body, what we do not say is usually more influential than what we say, and what we do not do is usually more edifying than what we do. Yes, there is a time to say and do, but the grace of not saying and not doing is highly undervalued in society and religion. We need time daily to practice non-doing and non-talking - to welcome Life to show Itself without our interference.
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When a teen, I was not a singer, and I was not trained in singing, though I came from a heritage of singers. And my paternal grandfather had many hymns published and taught music. I had never sung a solo before. I was, also, very socially shy. Yet, I felt this inner guidance to sing before our church congregation. It welcomed this offering in song.
I stood beside the piano. A first cousin, Amanda, our pianist, played the classic "Amazing Grace." I sang. The words poured out freely. And with the words, tears flowed liberally.
The congregation appeared to receive this offering with gratitude. And I enjoyed giving this gift. I do not know if it was pleasant to the ears in a musical way, but it was more than pleasant in another way. The gift was more than pleasing, for it was an offering of love. It was 30 years before I sang a solo again.
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Spiritual offerings are given in a spiritual communion for more than enjoyment. They are given for edification, inspiration, and communication heart-with-heart; they are extensions of Love Itself into the gathered meeting. As written in the early Church: "[F]rom whom [Christ] the whole body, joined and knit together by its every ligament, as each part is working as assigned, promotes the body's growth in edifying [building up] itself in love" (Ephesians 4.16, NRSV).
See, spiritual edification is pleasing, for it stems from love. The quality of my singing may have been subpar, but love decorates all things with satisfaction for being of love. The people gathered in Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church heard, I believe, the love, and they knew I loved the One I sang of, and they knew I loved them - we were spiritual family.
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The early Jesus followers chose "Body of Christ" to indicate the presence of one Christ in the churches. The historical Jesus had left, the living Christ was present. The son of man - humankind - born of Joseph and Mary, departed; the Son of God was among them. Christ was - is - the community of those who follow Jesus' teaching and embody the holy Spirit. If we look deeply into the eyes of a true Christian, we see Christ.
Buddhists can say the same as the Sangha - the community of Buddha followers. Each and All are Buddha. The Buddhakaya (Buddha Body) follows the Dharma (Teaching), or Dharmakaya (Teaching Body). Hence, with folded hands and head bowed, one bends to a Buddhist brother or sister, saying by this, "I bow to the Buddha you are." The two hands brought together signifies, "We are not two; we are one. You are Buddha; I am Buddha."
So, in Christian communion, like that of my youth, the giver and receiver is Christ giving to Christ, Christ receiving from Christ. The young boy singing "Amazing Grace" is Christ, the ones receiving the song offering is Christ. A spiritual Body is more than egos with egos. In a sacred fellowship, we, as persons, are not givers or receivers.
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When entering worship together, it is best we leave "i" outside the door. Then, the one "I," the single Self, shares with Itself through those present manifesting Presence. Hence, in the "I," is the Unity unimpeded by duality. Diversity is taken back into the prior Oneness from which variety itself arises eternally - that of time only finds unity in the Eternal. Such connotations as "Christ" and "Buddha" represent this preceding Harmony - in fact, eventually, the signifiers of the Timeless dissolve in Presence, in Silence.
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In the Light, we are giver and receiver, but as Christ, as Buddha, or as Son or Daughter of Spirit. When we gather, we are the Body of all those who follow the Way. We are never in private worship, even when alone. In the heart, the gate to Spirit, we are for we are, not for "i" am.
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Did I sing that day? Yes and no. The human part - Brian, Amanda, piano, song, ... - was the sacramental means for Christ to be present as Christ. When we see this way, we cannot claim the song or the singing, the prayer or the praying, the fellowship or the fellowshipping, ... We cannot say, "This is my church," or "This is my Meeting," or "This is my pew I sit in every Sunday."
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When awakened spiritually from the comatose of ego, we realize we - as a person - are a conduit of Love. Embodied in time, we are located in a place for the communication of the Timeless and Boundless. We do not feel a need to claim, "I did it." Instead, "By Grace, I was graced to be a means of Grace." When we have offered the gift, we do not cling to it, and it does not stick to us; it is free to work as a seed planted is left alone - no trace remains in us, for we have no sense of ownership of the gift or ourself. What remains in us like a fragrance lingering from the offering given? Gratitude.
Hence, we have no felt need to possess anything we give to the Fellowship. The hand could not say to the rest of the body, "What I hold is mine." No, it could say, though, "What I hold belongs to us."
In fact, we have no felt need to give anything to the Body, except what is offered through us as one with the whole Communion. Our words and actions need to express the Body, not just our urge to do or be heard. Mindfully, heartfully being present, a presence of Presence - Christ, Buddha, Love, Beloved, ... - is all needed from us for the edification of the Whole.
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Over time, we see the sense of the Body expands for us to include more and more beings. Possibly, it began as being only Christians or Christians like my community, or other Muslims, or other Buddhists. In time, we see we belong to the Body of everyone seeking to serve the Good, True, and Beautiful in compassion and kindness. Hence, the Body of Christ began for me as all Christians; yet, Christianity is not the Body of Christ - anyway, all the churches and Christians throughout the ages could never contain the Christ, even as all the Sanghas since the 500s BCE could never contain the Buddha. And those who truly know the Christ know the Buddha, and those who know the Buddha know the Christ - these know before they recognize they know.
Now, 45 years since that first solo, I cannot find where Christ begins or ends, or where one could separate Christ or Buddha as connotating different realities, finally. Love is boundless. So, when I pray, I pray with other beings of the Way throughout the ages and over the world, and the unseen. In the Body, I never pray alone, for I am never alone. I am, for we are. I do not need to feel this to know this - there is a knowing without feeling, for before feeling, even as this knowing is without and before thinking. Yet, at times, I do sense subtly this Body to which I - we - belong. Could it be that nothing and no one is outside this Body?
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.