I stumbled on this Buddhist thought of the day yesterday from Ask the Awakened by Wei Wu Wei
A myriad bubbles were floating on the surface of a stream. ‘What are you?’ I cried to them as they drifted by. ‘I am a bubble, of course’ nearly a myriad bubbles answered, and there was surprise and indignation in their voices as they passed. But, here and there, a lonely bubble answered, ‘We are this stream’, and there was neither surprise nor indignation in their voices, but just a quiet certitude.
How often do we respond in the same manner as the myriad bubbles? Our sense of self righteousness at times and the superiority that we feel in this world and over those around us is frightening. There are times when we all want to be recognized and we want to be acknowledged. Each of us is often pleased to announce that in the stream of things, “I AM A BUBBLE, OF COURSE!” Hear the wisdom that is offered in that little passage above. The singular lonely bubble responds, “we are this stream.”
There is a lesson for the people of God in this powerful illustration. How often in our Christian communities do we hear this kind of conversation? In ordained circles it often manifest itself in comments like, “I am the chair!” OR “I am the Bishop!” OR “I am the Director! OR “I am the rector!” I was once reminded by a priest that he was the rector when we disagreed on a matter of no real importance in the life of our parish. It is a not conversation limited to the ordained. Among the ‘priesthood of all believers’ we often hear comments like, “I have been on this council for 30 years!” We sometimes hear threats like, “If that is what ‘they’ are going to do then ‘we’ are going to leave this place.” At a diocesan meeting a few years ago I actually heard a lay person declare that if certain persons were not included on a committee, he would see to it that whatever work the committee tried to complete would be scuttled at a higher level. All of these comments are designed to control and to suggest that there are ‘big bubbles’ out there that need special attention and that those bubbles should be recognised. On many levels the church has encouraged this behaviour by rewarding such behaviour with honours and accolades at every possible moment. All the while we miss the point. There are NO bubbles without the stream. I have often said that the church survives in spite of itself and not because of itself. The reason I believe the church is able to survive, and in some places thrive, is because of those smaller, quieter bubbles that in certitude solider along doing the working of loving and living, feeding and fostering, embracing and engaging, proclaiming and pardoning. Each of these bubbles sees only the stream and not their manifestation in tide. I am grateful that our church community at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake has been working hard to integrate and to realise that we are collectivley indeed, the stream.
Jesus was iterative in teaching servant-hood and humility. There is a need for us all to be reminded from time to time that we are a part of the stream, we are not apart from it. The church uses the image of “the Body of Christ” to convey they same image. We are all important members of the same body. So let us look about the stream in which we swim and realize that we are all a part of the naturalized flow and the Giver of Life and Love makes has transformed that stream into a living stream. We are all in this boat together!