Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Wilderness

Thursday, April 22, 2010 -- Week of 3 Easter
Earth Day
John Muir, Naturalist and Writer, 1914, and Hudson Stuck, Priest and Environmentalist, 1920

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 961)
Psalms 37:1-18 (morning)       37:19-42 (evening)
Exodus 20:1-21
Colossians 1:24 - 2:7
Matthew 4:1-11

First, a note about our new observance from the trial calendar Holy Women, Holy Men:

Muir, John [1838-Dec. 24, 1914] American naturalist and writer born in Scotland, but educated in Wisconsin. His interest in nature was infused with his Christianity. His efforts preserved Yosemite as a national park, and he is greatly responsible for many national conservation policies.
with Hudson Stuck [Nov. 11, 1863-Oct. 11, 1920] Priest, missionary to Alaska and environmentalist, Stuck immersed himself the cultures of indigenous tribes and worked to preserve the Alaskan wilderness from overdevelopment. (April 22, Earth Day)

We are in the desert today with Moses and with Jesus. 

Our reading from Matthew is the story of the temptation of Jesus during his forty days and nights in the wilderness. 

In our teaching at St. Paul's, we often follow the tradition that Benedictine monk Thomas Keating offers, using the story of the temptation as a template for describing the human condition and the problem that we are in.  None of us comes to full consciousness with our innate, intuitive union with God still intact.  In our early years we experience trauma that can be understood in three ways.  We experience threats to our need for security, our need for esteem, and to our need for power and control.  In response to those threats, we create compensating behaviors designed to try to achieve and assure our security, esteem and control.  We develop strategies around these the three instinctual needs, and they become energy centers in our life, influencing and motivating much of our behavior.  We exaggerate our needs for security and our needs for esteem and love, and our needs for power and control.  We become attached to the cultural symbols of security, esteem, and power.  Our lives become centered upon achieving these exaggerated needs through our own strategies.  This is our False Self.

At the center of our being is our True Self, our continual union with God, who gives us perfect security, perfect love, and who is perfect power exercising ultimate control.  The Spiritual Journey is the wilderness experience of dismantling our attachment to the False Self and trusting God in the depths of our being so we can be who we truly are, beloved children of God resting in God's infinite security, love and power.  This is our True Self.

Sometimes in workshops about the False Self-True Self we will invite people to reflect about the ways that their wheels fall off.  What are our habitual ways of creating anxiety, alienation and damage in our lives and in our relationships?  Usually our broken and dysfunctional patterns are a manifestation of our exaggerated needs for security, affection/esteem and power/control. 

The road toward healing and wholeness is the road of trust -- our surrendering of our exaggerated needs and our intentional turning to God to trust God to keep us, love us, and to bring about God's good intention over time. 

Another way of describing what our problems are is reflected in the ten rules God gives Moses in the wilderness.  God gives the people a basic framework to protect their relationships with God and with each other in community.  As I read the Ten Commandments again this morning, it struck me how central is the gift and command of the sabbath day.  I speculated that in our overworked and busy culture, the sabbath may be the most violated of the commandments. 

How many of us truly stop, truly rest one day a week?  How much more secure, loved and empowered might we be if we did?



At 9:01 AM, Anonymous janet said...

Thank you Lowell!

Such a healing path is laid out for us. I watched the morning a few hours ago. The light comes gently and absorbs the darkness, little by little. Nature responds in her own way.

The three and the seven (Augustine, I think), the commandments - love God (first three), love neighbor (the next seven).

It is good to give restful attention each morning, in prayer or conscious thought.

Peace, Janet

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Bill Fulton said...

Thanks, Lowell. This is the best explication of the temptation of Jesus I've read in terms of our inner lives. Thanks for explaining it with the true self/false self interpretation.


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