One of the really cool things, in my mind, about being both religiously pluralistic in perspective, as well as intensely interested in contemplative practice and mystical thought, is that you get to think about how practices and concepts from outside one's own religious tradition can positively impact one's own spiritual practice and journey. I've talked a bit about what I've been learning from Jewish religious and mystical tradition (check out my first midrash,) and I had an interesting thought this morning about koans. In our morning Lectio Divina practice, we read Matthew 5, which has this verse (13): "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot."
This is really nothing but a koan. Salt's essense is it's saltiness - if it loses it's saltiness, it is no longer salt.
I think a Christian koan isn't really much like a Zen koan, and shouldn't be structured like one. But I think that the essence of a koan, just like this verse, is that it contains paradox and unexpected twists, that make you really have to think about your own concepts and ideas. I've been doing a fair bit of bible reading lately (gee, I wonder why? Oh, right, I'm in seminary!) It's been a challenge at times to be faced with verses that go against the grain of my own ideas and perspectives about God, the world, and human beings. And it's our ongoing work to not toss out the baby of the kernels of truths and opportunties for thought, contemplation and knowledge of God present in the Bible with the bathwater of text that is sometimes flawed and very much from its temporal context.