Skip to main content

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.


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.


Popular posts from this blog

Heigh Ho

Psalm 142
By the road that I am walking
they have hidden a snare for me.

Numbers 24: 1-13
“I summoned you to curse my enemies. But here, you have done nothing but bless them — three times already!"

Romans 8: 12-17
15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to bring you back again into fear...

Matthew 22: 15-22

“You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap me?

The Way:
Snares, contrariness, fear, and traps. That’s samsara, is what that is. The literal meaning of “samsara” is “continuous flow.” If you want a synonym for ‘samsara’ maybe “flux” would do.

Necks in a noose, getting the opposite of what we expect, being betrayed by freedom, and hearing our own double-dealing words echo in our ears. There’s no escaping it, until we stop trying to escape it. That’s when all the sticky tangles just dissolve without even a sizzle. Where did they go? Who cares?
There are so many clues embedded in our language that tell us what we already know:
“There ya go.” —  “It is what it is.” — “Even so.” — “Can’…

The Time That Is Given Us

Readings from Sunday 8-19-2018
Proverbs 9:1-6
To those without sense she says,
“Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.

I’m all over the map today. At first I thought my role might be that of Wisdom, building a house and calling to “those without sense” to come in. Then vertigo set in, the world whirled sideways, and there I was standing there stupidly trying to figure out where the voice came from that was calling to me. How about this?— “Without sense” might mean someone “who’s got no sense” but it might just as well mean someone who just can’t make sense of anything. How many times have we heard someone say that “nothing makes sense anymore”? Hello.

Psalm 34:9-14
13 Keep your tongue from evil-speaking *
and your lips from lying words.

But what if my words aren’t a lie? What if my words are not evil in intent, but instead lay bare the truth of an evil? Is that what I’ve been doing, shutting my teeth on honest words for no better reason than because I do…

Apples and Carts

Acts 11:1-18 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
11 The emissaries and the brothers throughout Y’hudah heard that the Goyim had received the word of God; 2 but when Kefa went up to Yerushalayim, the members of the Circumcision faction criticized him, 3 saying, “You went into the homes of uncircumcised men and even ate with them!” 4 In reply, Kefa began explaining in detail what had actually happened: 5 “I was in the city of Yafo, praying; and in a trance I had a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners from heaven, and it came down to me. 6 I looked inside and saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, crawling creatures and wild birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Kefa, slaughter and eat!’ 8 I said, ‘No, sir! Absolutely not! Nothing unclean or treif has ever entered my mouth!’ 9 But the voice spoke again from heaven: ‘Stop treating as unclean what God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled back up into hea…