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Other Gods


Psalm 139:1-17
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

Joshua 23
15 But just as all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the Lord your God has given you, 16 if you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them.

Matthew 27:11-23
13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.



My reflection started with the reading from Joshua in which the only phrase that really jumped out at me was, “other gods.” I started to get tangled up in trying to read between the lines of what sounded like an abusive, authoritarian, ‘do-what-I-tell-you-or-else’ sort of God.

But.

I kept coming back to the phrase “other gods.” I remembered my training as a novice in the Community of St. Francis all those years ago. I was encouraged to use a form of reflection on scripture that was derived from the Jungian practice of dream analysis in which all the elements of a given dream are imagined as parts or characteristics of the dreamer’s interior world. In this sort of reflection, the words of scripture are taken as a story set in our own internal landscape. I have always found this method useful.

In this Inland Territory, each thing described takes on an evocative aspect.
In the reading from the Psalm, God is everywhere in this land, and there is no place that we can go where God is not there.
In the reading from Joshua, in this Inner Land there are these elements: a land at rest from its enemies— a nation called “Promised” and “Israel”; a call to witness by an old wise man of authority; an inheritance; a war and occupation. There are also remnant nations; other people living in this land, who worship other gods.
There is a caution about following a Way and not straying from it, and a warning not to “mix” with the other nations ‘among you’; and advice not to mention their gods or bow down to them. There is a recommendation at the end and a warning:  “Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. For if you turn back (emphasis mine) and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.”

That changes the story.

Now I’m hearing a story about a Way of understanding. Within us are many nations, many Kingdoms other than God’s. We have traveled long and far within our own Inland Territory; we have grown old and wise; we have learned to rest from enemies. All this is kept safe by the promises between us and the Indwelling God. Our long expedition has taught us to be pathfinders, and there will always be the need to choose among many tangled paths.
So, within us we hear the voice of Old Wisdom reminding us that we know how to choose which Path. We know not to cling to anything but Love, and we know the consequences of clinging to anything that is not Love— we’ll get lost— and all the other nations will crowd in, pushing and pulling, with their nets and nooses.  We’ll have branches whipping us and thorns clawing us, and the ground will not be firm and solid anymore. If that happens, we’ll be stuck and we’ll just struggle uselessly until we die.

Here’s the thing, though— the story is not about conquering nations, killing, or genocide—all those nations are still alive inside of us.

Those nations might have gods called Power, Status, Wealth, Glamor, or Rage, but if we hold on to our own God, whose name is Love, and we don’t accept marriage proposals from anyone whose name is Hate, Greed, Fear, Desire or Pride, then we’ll stay on our feet, and our feet on solid ground. 

If we remember to love God, 
then wherever we go, 
whatever nation we find ourselves traveling through, 
we’ll always be aware of God’s Presence 
and we will never need to answer any 
of the charges brought against us.

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