Brian C. Taylor lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he has been Rector of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church since 1983. He is the author of Setting the Gospel Free: Experiential Faith and Contemplative Practice and Becoming Christ: Transformation Through Contemplation. In this richly developed and ethically challenging devotional work, Taylor examines the core teachings of Jesus and finds within them a cogent delineation of what it means to be human. The chapter headings say it all: become simple, change the world, be earthy, forgive others, pray for what you need, love everybody, be a prophet, help the poor, wake up, be yourself, do it now, and much more.
Taylor presents the actions and words of Jesus as both profound and hard-hitting. To follow him is not an easy or convenient path. When Jesus says become like a child, we perk up and think of the ease of it, but it involves being totally open to the moment and in this culture of multi-tasking, that openness is subversive. We try hard to be good but Jesus also wants us to clear away the things that get in our way. Practicing the art of subtraction in a culture that worships gathering as many goodies as we can is heretical.
Taylor does a fine job showing that the Buddhists aren't the only ones who have great respect for the spiritual practice of equanimity. He points out that for the Christian it is "one of the fruits of a life given to faith, worship, and prayer." The author hits high stride when he reveals how difficult it is to practice hospitality in a milieu where class consciousness is rampant. He reminds us that if Jesus were living today, he would be partying with bikers, druggies, punks, gays, misfits, and poor minorities.
In a telling vignette, Taylor relates how his congregation was punished by the diocese when they decided to publicly invite and welcome gay and lesbian Christians in a liturgical peace offering. He then salutes South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission for demonstrating to the world how both justice and undeserved love can exist side by side when forgiveness is practiced. The following passage puts up-front Taylor's writing skills and his love of Jesus as the One who calls us to be ourselves:
"Do you feel God most directly when you sing the blues? Then sing the blues and call it prayer. Do you blurt out things that everyone seems to be thinking but no one is saying? Blurt one, and call it the prompting of the Spirit. Do you love to cook and eat? Hold parties and consider it Holy Communion. Do you like to keep things neat and orderly? Count the church's money on Sundays after services and remember that this, too, is service to God.
"Jesus was very clear about this. As humans, we are salty, filled with unique flavors, we shine forth a particular quality of divine light. Don't suppress these divine gifts, he said . . . Be yourself. For by seeing you as you really are, by seeing your light, others will see in you the One who is the source of your light. By keeping your saltiness, others will taste the Spirit as it moves through your life. And then they, too, will know that the only place they will ever find God is in the authenticity of their own lived experience."