One of my favorite podcasts is Krista Tippett’s On Being. She has interviewed a wide range of people including theologians, scientists, social activists, artists, poets, political leaders, and others from all over the world. Recently, she had one of my favorite writers on her show, Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest whose best selling books include Leaving Church, The Preaching Life, and An Altar in the World. I have written about Taylor previously on this blog. (enter her name in the search box at the right and many posts will come up where I mention her.)
I listened to their conversation and found it so inspiring, I decided to share a few excerpts with you today. They begin by talking about holiness, quoting Teilhard de Chardin who said, what we need at this time “is a new definition of holiness.” Tippett asks Taylor how she would define holiness and Taylor says, holiness means “to keep one’s balance while the earth moves under our feet.” She adds, “to be holy is to be a seeker of the really real.”
Tippet notes that the word incarnation seems to be very important to Taylor. She even has a chapter in one of her books entitled, “The Practice of Wearing Skin.” Taylor says that early religions always involved the body. They included things such as dance, music, incense, tattoos, for example. She asks, “In our current church did the body vanish? Did faith go up into our head?” Taylor adds, Jesus emphasized loving the neighbor–which would include the neighbor’s body, the leper’s body, the orphan’s body. Jesus gave us a clear mandate “to care for the incarnate soul.” (See Mt. 25!) Taylor adds, that today we are to care also for “the body of the mountain… the body of the river…”
They discuss suffering. Taylor reminds us that someone once said, “Deep suffering makes theologians of us all.” She also says, “The questions people ask in Sunday School rarely compare to the questions we ask while we are in a hospital. This goes for those stuck in the waiting room as well as those in hospital beds.”
When Tippett asks Taylor about prayer, Taylor laughs and says, “I would rather show someone my checkbook stubs than talk about my prayer life.” But she compares prayer to hanging her laundry outside on the line… or filling a trough with water for a thirsty horse. She agrees with Brother Lawrence who wrote centuries ago that doing ordinary tasks with reverence is a kind of prayer—whether we’re sweeping a floor or flipping a pancake.
Taylor mentions that once she was asked to speak at a parish. She asked the priest, “What would you like me to talk about?” He said, “Why don’t you talk about what’s saving your life right now?” She finds herself reflecting on her current now. She’s in her early 70’s, she’s married to a man who is 86, and they are going to more funerals than baptisms. “Right now,” she says, “has become a place where I can find, every day, great joy if I don’t get too far ahead of myself. There is something in every single day that is worth staying alive for.” She talks about her endeavors to be a better spouse, grandmother, aunt, sister.
Taylor says she is “trying to stay in the present moment as best I can and being amazed at life as it unrolls every single day. Life is more than scenery as I rush from here to there. It’s the real deal…. God is as close to me as the heartbeat in my neck.”
If you’d like to check out “On Being” just click the word “Home” below.
Is there anything that stood out for you in this interview?
How would you define “holiness”?
Do you feel the body is a part of your faith? If so, how? Or do you feel your faith is primarily in your head?
What is “saving your life right now?”
It’s time for another Carrie Newcomer song. Barbara Brown Taylor says that great suffering makes theologians of all of us. What saves us during such difficult times? Our personal relationship with God, with Jesus, yes. But sometimes God puts human beings in our lives that support us during trying times. This song is about providing sanctuary for people who are experiencing deep suffering… (The visual below shows that breath-taking phenomenon called “murmuring,” where a flock of birds form ever-changing patterns in the sky before settling down for the night. Researchers can’t explain how they manage to do this without crashing into each other… But researchers think they do “murmuring” to frighten predators away and to bond as one community.)
I invite you to write a comment below. Don’t be shy…