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PRAISE THE LORD AND PASS THE DAINTIES!

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”    Psalm 34:8

We drank toasts, and I made a speech, telling them that He who was present at the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee was with them in their innocent mirth; that it was the bounty of the great God which had provided their dainties for them so abundantly.”      

The Right Reverend Thomas Nettleship Staley, first Episcopal Bishop of Hawaii, reflecting on his first Luau, as guest of King Kamehameha IV.

 

Here on the garden island of Kauai where I live, dainties abound. They’re delicious reminders of God’s goodness and blessing. For those unfamiliar with the King’s English, a dainty is not just something frilly you wear underneath your clothes. It’s a delicacy, something pleasing to the taste buds, beautiful and satisfying, a savory morsel reflecting God’s love.

Sometimes religion gets it all wrong. Take the earliest Protestant missionaries to Hawaii, for example.  They preached a religion of scarcity, a God who constricted rather than liberated, a creation that was to be avoided rather than enjoyed.  If it was fun, it must be of the devil, if it was good then it must be bad, these confused souls seemed to suggest.

In 1862 along came the first Anglican Bishop Thomas “I’ll toast to that” Staley, representing a religion that was born of Celtic roots on distant islands. At his farewell sermon in Westminster Abbey in London he pointed out that the skin God put on us is not a “crust” to protect us against the enjoyment of daily life, and that religion was never designed to make “innocent pleasures” the less or to crush one’s natural instincts. Then he told the story of Jesus’ first miracle turning water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. At his first sermon in Honolulu he said that Christianity is not sourness and taboo, that God would have us use thankfully all the gifts given to us, which is true “temperance.”  Then he told the story of Jesus’ first miracle turning water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. At his first Luau, he spoke fondly of arriving by horseback, observing a new wave phenomenon called “surf-riding” and described a feast of “every kind of dainty” including fish, pork, poi and refreshing tropical beverages.  Then began dancing, the bishop said, marked by “grace and propriety”, no doubt to reassure any crusty puritan who might object on religious grounds. Finally, he told the story of Jesus’ first miracle turning water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. He sure liked that story!

The good bishop got it right. On every day of Creation, our good God looked over all that He had made and said: “Oooh, that’s good. That’s real good!”  This more accurate and emphatic rendering of the original Hebrew suggests that God hallows everything that God has made. And that religion, if it is true religion, tastes good.  Such “dainty dogma“ does not disallow for facets of religion that are demanding and challenging. But it does suggest that religion, at least envisioned by the God who created our desire to be religious, is not just another bitter pill to swallow. And that the more we enjoy God’s good gifts, the more likely we will share them with others.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Praise the Lord and pass the dainties!

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ARE YOU SURE?

Certainty undermines one’s own power, and turns happiness into a long shot. Certainty confines.

Dears, there is nothing in your life that will not change – especially all your ideas of God.

Tukaram (c. 1608-1649)


The antithesis of the spiritual life is certitude. The enemy of faith is certainty. The opposite of truth is conclusiveness. The good question, pondered openly, will take us much further on the journey toward awareness and completeness than the final answer, uttered with unchangeable presumption.

Surety is a shortcoming that is shared by every persuasion on the entire spectrum – whether one is an atheist or a fundamentalist, spiritual or religious, conservative or liberal, ascetic or aesthetic. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Albert Einstein discovered abundant truth about the universe because he began with the inner truth that “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” What we seek is what we might be able to find. If our search ends with certainty, we have already limited ourselves, our understanding, and our God.

To gaze into the vast open space of unknowing and get lost, to dive into the deeper waters yet unexplored, to come face to face with a component of the self we had previously denied – these are the ultimate pathways to “knowing”. Without such openness and without such a posture of receptivity, we will find ourselves returning to that place where we have always been.

It is important to recognize that the question mark and the exclamation each contain a dot. Each dot hints at something more to come, something not yet said or seen or fully expressed. Connect those two dots and you might be on to something – something that questions, exclaims, and discovers – something that is real, life-changing and true.

To stand at the threshold of what we do not know and say “I wonder” is to embark on the spiritual journey. I wonder. I just wonder. In such wonder, is the beginning of faith.

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