Monday, February 15, 2010


This morning when I read Secretary of State Clinton’s words about Iran moving toward becoming a military dictatorship and the President of this country ignoring the needs of his people, I thought about the famous Iranian poet Sa’Di. One of the poems I read at the recent poetry reading with Darrell Bourque, Louisiana poet laureate, and performing artist Bonnie McDonald, centered on Sa’Di and his ideals. He was always chiding the kings of Persia to show justice and equity and penned 1300 pages of ethical verse, extolling moral excellence. He also wrote that we were all members one of another and that when one member was in pain and discomfort, other members would also be deprived of ease and security. I’m sure he’d weep over the lack of justice and equity evidenced in the recent activities of the President of Iran and his Revolutionary Guard.

Ironically, references to the geography of Iran appeared in my sermon yesterday when I was explaining The Transfiguration of Christ. I quoted from an unfinished manuscript that will never be completed entitled THE PARADISE OF CHILDHOOD. The passage concerned a peak experience or moment of transformation that occurred within me while I lived in Iran during the reign of the Shahanshah in the early 70’s. I think it’s worthy of publication here.

“I thought of the rare times we’re captured, unreasonably, by a sudden peak moment in anticipation of something unknown to come. These moments signal a corner we turn, a jolt forward into new life that we know will be good but we don’t know why. The mind crowds out everything learned, everything that has trapped us for years, and some rapture of unknown source floods out reason. The feeling is that the truth and the reality beyond are about to be discovered. At such times we may receive revelations, meet God.” That was written to describe a moment in time when I was encamped in the foothills of the Elburz Mountains, between the outlets of two great rivers, the Karaj and the Jaji Rud near Tehran. This is a city of many foothill oases in Iran, where one rarely loses sight of rugged mountain peaks, and every oasis is a green paradise compared with surrounding wasteland, as Iran is largely desert.

“We were near Shimiran, a place of pleasant pools and shady parks, where a sense of spaciousness and peace prevailed, away from the noisy traffic on Pahlavi Avenue. We see this avenue on television, often watch angry people shaking their fists at the camera and revolting against the government that Clinton describes as moving toward a military dictatorship. Pahlavi, even then, was a busy avenue where a cacophony of sound persisted.

“However, In Shimiran, peacefulness prevailed. That peak moment in time that came to me followed a morning prayer service at first light, and first light in Iran seemed to come, in the summer, at 4 a.m. The light in Iran was always lighter than light to me, perhaps because of so many cloudless days. I can only describe the peak moment following that service in the manner I just quoted from my manuscript. It was a glimpse of The Transfiguration, oddly enough in this Islamic country, something that allowed my personhood to become a fullness we call communion with God. Some have called it a time when the tyranny of sin and death are destroyed. I had no feeling that I was being drawn to the Islamic religion. Actually, in that moment, Christ’s transforming presence became the form of God’s life in the world and it offered to me an avenue of renewal for a mission in Christ…”

As I thought of Sa’Di this morning, I prayed that the people in Iran, who revere poetry, even the illiterate quoting it freely, will continue to absorb the words of their great poet and oppose the injustice and inequity that reside in the hearts of those who are moving toward the oppression of people that Sa’Di abhorred. 

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