Monday, September 17, 2007

Security, Power and Control

Monday, September 17, 2007 -- Week of Proper 19
(Hildegard, Abbess of Bingen and Mystic, 1179)

"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

Audio Podcasts of today's "Morning Reflection" and those from the past week are available from (go to St. Paul's Home Page and click "Morning Reflection podcast")

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 982)
Psalms 56, 57, [58] (morning) 64, 65 (evening)
1 Kings 21:1-16
1 Corinthians 1:1-19
Matthew 4:1-12

From the time I first read Thomas Keating's seminal book about centering prayer -- Open Heart, Open Mind -- I have been helped by his description of the human condition. An important part of his description of our struggle centers around the spiritual work that each of us is called to in the dismantling of the false self. His description of the false self is particularly helpful, and it is based on the story we read today about the three temptations of Jesus in the wilderness.

Keating teaches that we all experience exaggerated needs for security, esteem and control. Instead of trusting God for these essentials, we act out of our own compulsion to achieve them for ourselves. From early childhood, we discover ways to fulfill our exaggerated needs for security, esteem and control.

Jesus faced the same needs, and rather than giving in to the temptation to secure them on his own, he trusted God. God gives us perfect security, perfect esteem/love, and God is in control, God's power is sufficient.

Famished after fasting forty days in the wilderness, Jesus is tempted to use his own means to "command these stones to become loaves of bread." His answer is to trust God: "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." The temptation to security.

From the pinnacle of the temple, Jesus is tempted to a spectacular display, guaranteed to make him famous and to cement his identity, which the devil challenges -- "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down." And, the devil quotes scripture to boot. Jesus foregoes the path of winning fame with the public stunt, and does not put God's love to the test. The temptation of esteem.

Finally, the devil offers Jesus "all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor... All these I will give you." The temptation to power and control.

Keating is sure that the faults and failings in our life are almost always connected with our exaggerated needs for security, esteem and control and the energy centers we build up to assure that we meet those needs out of our own resources rather than out of trust for God. We have been doing that since childhood. So much of our personality and behavior has been hijacked by our strategies for security, esteem and control that we have created a false self which dominates our attitudes and actions.

Dismantling the false self is a major part of our work in the spiritual life. Letting go of our programs for achieving our own happiness through our own means is a major part of our lifetime work.

The truth is that we don't have to earn or achieve our own security, esteem and control. They are all free gifts from God. We are ultimately and always safe and secure within God. God loves us perfectly and cherishes us as God's own children. God is in control; God's power is ultimate.

Much of the spiritual work for our lives is represented in the story of the temptations of Jesus -- letting go of our exaggerated needs to grasp what we believe we need for happiness, and trusting God for our security, esteem and control. Keating is sure that everything that gets us in trouble, separates us from God and from our true selves, and everything that makes us miserable is connected to these false energy centers we build around our projects to meet our own needs.



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The Rev. Lowell Grisham
Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, AR

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.


At 9:50 AM, Anonymous pearl Brick said...

Thank you for illuminating scripture this morning for mr ! It makes the spirit of the living God fill my house.

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Dear Pearl,
Thanks for you generous comment.


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