Monday, May 09, 2011

Thich Nhat Hahn, Jesus, Water, Blood and Flowers

A photo my daughter took of me today by the red LOVE mosaic my kiddos gave me for Mother's Day. It goes great over the red brick fireplace, don't ya think?

Each of us is a flower of humanity and if you are not smiling, something is wrong. You have to breathe in for the flower to be in touch with the water of life, in order to be refreshed and smiling like the flower." Thich Nhat Hanh, audio-CD of Peacemaking.

There's something about the way Vietnamese Buddhist monk and Nobel Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh speaks - slowly in his Vietnamese accent and with a smile in his voice - when you hear him say things like the statement above (which reads almost cliche and silly when written down), it sounds utterly wise and profound. These words are, in the words of Zen Buddhism, a kōan, something to be wrestled with and questioned and thought about. At face value, the truth in the words seems simple enough, but it holds yet a deeper truth. Golden apples inside a silver bowl.

Jesus spoke in kōans. You often hear it said that he spoke in parables. He spoke of things that at the time, made people think he was a nutjob. One of my favorite parts of his teaching is when he started telling everyone that if they wanted to follow him, they were going to have to drink his blood and eat his flesh. I can imagine like 90% of the crowd disappeared. I can see them exchanging glances and quietly slinking away. When you read the text before that bit, you can tell he was getting increasingly worked up and belligerent like he was trying to freak people out or something to see what they would do (This is in John 6). And they left. "On hearing it, many of his disciples said, 'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?' ... From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him."

This is why I like Rob Bell so much. Bell, a pastor of the Mars Hill Bible church in Michigan and author of Love Wins, The Velvet Elvis and SexGod, is a genius. But anyway, he talks about the figurative meaning of many Bible passages rather than focusing so much on the literal view which the church has gotten so distracted and sidetracked from the deeper message that Jesus brought. Jesus also talks about being the living water, and so that is why the quote above so resonated with me. Truth is truth, it is universal. And it is true that when we are not drinking of the water of life, we are not smiling - like the flower.

But drinking in the water, drinking the blood, is not so simple as... it sounds. We Christians now have communion and we take it for granted what Jesus meant. But is that what - or all - he meant? What does it really mean to commune with God, to drink his blood and eat his flesh? Is it to share also in his sufferings? To eat and drink of the type of life he lived. People can read the Bible, fold their hands and get down on their knees and pray, go to church and still not blossom like the flower. So what makes a person smile like the flower? What does it mean to truly drink of the living water? To drink of the blood? Are you smiling like the flower? And if not, why? That is your kōan to ponder.

1 comment:

Josh said...

Wow, that's deep. But, I agree with you. It is not just going through motions, but where do the motions originate from? Somewhere deep inside? or even outside, as the blood/ water analogy? Thanks for the insight