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But by My Spirit

Zechariah 4:1-14

6—‘Not by force, and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says Adonai-Tzva’ot.

Ephesians 4:17-32

17—do not live any longer as the pagans live, with their sterile ways of thinking.

22—you must strip off your old nature, because your old nature is thoroughly rotted by its deceptive desires 23 and you must let your spirits and minds keep being renewed, —

30 Don’t cause grief to God’s Ruach HaKodesh, for he has stamped you as his property until the day of final redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, violent assertiveness and slander, along with all spitefulness.

Matthew 9:1-8

2—When Yeshua saw their trust, he said to the paralyzed man, “Courage, son! Your sins are forgiven.”

—“by my Spirit”

—Names of God

—sterile ways of thinking

—deceptive desires

—let your spirits and minds keep being renewed

—saw their trust

There is a sort of numinous pattern that connects one understanding to another in my reflections, but I’m having a hard time articulating it today. The linear progression from the Old Testament, to the New, to the Gospel, just isn’t working as it usually does.

There is a separation between the idea of “not by force, but by my Spirit” as an announcement particular to “the Lord of Hosts,” and the Buddhist perception that ties together the ideas of “sterile thinking,” “deceptive desires,” and the moment by moment awareness that lets our “spirits and minds keep being renewed.” Then there is the metanoia in the last phrase that brings me back full circle to my understanding of how power and blessing is manifested through the observation of trust. Not the act of trust, but the seeing of it, or maybe the feeling of it.

I don’t know if there is any significance to the pattern of two; three; one, but it seems almost like the shape of a chorus in a song. Or perhaps it might represent a chord; or the steps of a dance; or maybe the sculpting of clay into a figure.

How to translate that perception into words on a page— there’s the difficulty.

It was the “not by force or power” that first struck me. Answering force with Spirit— the actionless action that takes coercion by the hand and bows it into the dance; the motionless movement that responds to the pressure of power with a neat little two-step.

Then came the Name: Lord of Hosts. The word Tzva’ot means “encampment” or “things in an orderly pattern.” I always think of a field of soldier’s tents laid out in orderly rows.

So, the Name that speaks this message to us is the God of our tidy patterns, the Commander of our careful entrenchments; the Quartermaster of our fortified garrisons. And what does this Name tell us? “Not by coercion, not by power, but by my Spirit!”

This led me through several bows and do-si-dos to a memory of my Zen teacher talking about how to observe ourselves and the patterns we make with undemanding equanimity. In other words, don’t make judgments about them; don’t force them; don’t try to use them to control anything.

The teaching is the same whether it’s in the Old Testament or the New; in the Gospel or the Sangha. It’s about how to have a light touch, how to avoid “sterile ways of thinking” and how to clearly see the ways in which our patterns become little lying dictators ruling over our desires.

The Lord of Encampments says: “Don’t get stuck in your patterns— let your spirits and minds keep being renewed.”

And lastly, “Look for trust; and when you find it, let it in; let its power manifest itself through you to send my grace and glory, my healing and help, my blessing and benefit, spilling into the world."

From up on the hill all I can see are aisles of tents.

My eyes trudge down the ordered rows —

all alike, all motionless, all inevitable.

But when I come down into the camp,

among the cook-fires and the tent-ropes,

I see one mending a harness,

and one brushing a horse.

Two there playing cards,

and over there two chopping and stacking wood.

I can smell woodsmoke and leather;

dung and dust; bacon and laundry soap.

I can hear laughter and snoring;

the thunk of an axe; the clang of the blacksmith’s hammer.

Here there are eyes with pale crow’s-feet

in tanned faces, squinting past the glare;

hands with big knuckles and calloused palms.

Here there are dusty pants-knees;

sweat stained shirts; scuffed boots.

A breeze blows through the camp,

and we all stop and turn into it,

trusting it to cool our heads.

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