In Theory

June 25, 2010

Imagine being trapped on the top floor of a burning house. As the flames creep closer, you look outside the window and see members of your congregation gathered below. They're looking up at you and praying that you make it out alive. But you know there is no way that you will escape death. If you had only one message for them about your religion or your religious experience that you absolutely had to impart to them, what would it be in 150 words or less?

While not certain that a valedictory message would be my uppermost priority at such a time, I would want to depart as I had lived: as a teacher. One of Judaism's most singular contributions is that of hope in a better tomorrow, and in commending that vision to my last audience I would emulate Moses.

When the great Lawgiver was about to return home to God, he charged Joshua as his successor with the words: "I encourage you and strengthen you."


This message echoes across the ages to be proclaimed by each generation to the next. Believing that tomorrow can be better than today, even if we are not personally here to share in it, is a vital teaching of the Torah.

Rabbi Mark S. Miller

Temple Bat Yahm

Newport Beach

In a traditional Zen story, a man is chased by a tiger. He comes to cliff and lowers himself on a vine. The tiger stalks above him, and a deep gorge lies far below. As he hangs precariously, mice begin to gnaw on the vine. He turns his head and notices a strawberry nearby. As he eats it, he exclaims, "How delicious!"

Can we appreciate our life in the midst of difficulties and suffering, and with the sure knowledge that death awaits us? In Zen practice, we experience a "small death" each time we are able to go beyond our limited preoccupations and enter into the broader experience of our life, our union with others and the universe. Rather than imagining events in the future, we must awaken to our life right here and now. How delicious!

Rev. Dr. Deborah Barrett

Zen Center of Orange County

Costa Mesa

Trust God! Love one another! Be patient and ... hurry, call for a rescue helicopter!

(The Very Rev'd Canon) Peter D. Haynes

Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church

Corona del Mar

My God is life affirming, so my first reaction would be to find a way to get to the roof so that the rescue helicopter — which my parishioners would have already called — could pick me up!

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