Follow Your Bliss
Friday, October 31, 2008 -- -- Week of Proper 25
Eve of All Saints (All Hallows Eve)
Today's Reading for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 991)
Psalms 40, 54 (morning) 51 (evening)
Ecclesiasticus* 34:1-8, 18-22
* found in the Apocrypha; also called the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach, or just Sirach
OPTION for Evening Prayer, Eve of All Saints, p. 1000
Revelation 19:1, 4-10
Joseph Campbell, the great mythology scholar, coined the phrase "Follow your bliss." During an interview with Bill Moyers, Campbell quoted from the last line of Sinclair Lewis' "Babbit": "I have never done the thing that I wanted to do all my life." Of that line, Campbell said, "That is a man who never followed his bliss."
Jesus says the same thing today as he tells the disciples not to worry about money, power and prestige. Instead, follow your bliss. "Strive for God's kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."
Frederick Beuchner said that "vocation happens when our deep gladness meets the world's deep need."
How many people have followed the path of Babbit? Doing what someone else expected you to do, striving for money or respect. Jesus tells his disciples, "Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing." Rather than living a life motivated by worry or anxiety, pleasing others or meeting artificial goals, follow your bliss. Let your deep gladness meet the world's deep need. Seek ye first the kingdom of God. And all these things will be given to you as well.
A note about the reading from Revelation.
Maybe you remember when Pope John Paul II survived an assassination attempt. Suddenly "end-timers" had their answer. He was the Antichrist. They were reading our chapter in Revelation today. The dragon gives power, throne and authority to a beast with ten horns and seven heads. "One of its heads seemed to have received a death-blow, but its mortal wound had been healed." A-ha, said John Ankelburg and a host of other end-time dispensationalists. For them, the papacy had long been the primary candidate for the Antichrist, now it had happened.
You would think that with a two-thousand year history of being wrong the strange tradition of trying to historicize apocalyptic literature literally would have eventually become embarrassed and quit. Not so. Just the other day I saw Ronnie Floyd on TV identifying Magog as Putin's Russia, and I think he was saying that Gog had something to do with Islam. Stand in line Ronnie, with a centuries old tradition of abusing the Bible with trivial contemporary silliness.
John is writing about the Roman Empire. He is condemning the civic cult of emperor worship which began with Julius Caesar who was declared a deity by the Roman Senate after his death. Though he was wounded mortally, the beast of Caesar continued and all later emperors claimed to be sons of the divine Julius or of his great successor Augustus. The beast is the Roman Empire and its Emperor.
At the time of John's writing, there was no specific persecution of the church, though Rome ruled with an iron fist. The great threat that John speaks to is the threat of Roman life and culture, the Empire's lure of luxury and glamour and power.
Anyone who wants to make Revelation contemporary doesn't have to do too much imaginative stretching. You don't need to tag the pope or Russia. You need only look at the Empire-qualities of our own culture. You need only look at the temptations of wealth, power, sex, celebrity, and violence to see the beasts that John decried.
John condemned these temptations with vivid apocalyptic imagery. Jesus invited us to turn away from these lures with simple earthy imagery. "Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. ...Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. ...And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things..."
God knows our needs, and they are deeper than material needs. Follow your bliss, and you will find your life, Joseph Campbell would say. Let your vocation be the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need, Frederick Beuchner would say. Seek first God's kingdom, and all these things will be given you, Jesus tells us.
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
If your heart follows your bliss, there will be your treasure. If your heart follows treasure, you have sold your heart to the empire.
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About Morning Reflections
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 www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html
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