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Then



Psalm 119:73-96

92 If your Torah had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my distress.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for with them you have made me alive.
94 I am yours; save me
because I seek your precepts.

That just completely speaks for me. I would have perished without the delight I find in the Word and the Way. The principles I practice, which come from God, are precisely what is keeping me alive. I belong to God, and by following the Way I am released from distress, distraction and ineptitude.

Revelation 16:1-11

Then I heard the altar say,

“Yes, Adonai, God of heaven’s armies,
your judgments are true and just!”

There are places in the New Testament where the writer(s) use some literary device to indicate a quote from the Old Testament or Tanakh. I haven’t been able to discover by what method, but modern translations usually indent the quoted passage. This quote only applies to one of the Names of God: Adonai Elohim Elohei-Tzva’ot/Adonai Elohei-Tzva’ot, which is traditionally translated as “Lord of Hosts” but its literal meaning is Lord God of Armies.

Here are the sources of the quote in Revelations referencing this Name of God:

Amos 3:13; 4:13 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

13 “As a shepherd rescues from the mouth of a lion
a couple of leg bones or a piece of an ear;
so the people of Isra’el in Shomron will be rescued,
huddled under cushions in the corners of their beds.

“Hear, and testify against the house of Ya‘akov,”
says Adonai Elohim Elohei-Tzva’ot.

13 him who forms mountains and creates wind,
who declares to humankind his thoughts,
who turns the morning to darkness
and strides on the heights of the earth —
Adonai Elohei-Tzva’ot is his name.

The second line could be translated (according to Mounce) from the Greek as “your verdicts are trustworthy and just.”

What struck me though, was that the altar was the one speaking. What could that possibly mean? Wikipedia defines “altar” as “a structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes.”  So here, the one who accepts or receives the offering on God’s behalf is talking to God. So this altar is a conscious, living being with the power to speak. From there, my imagination led me to wonder how we as Christians might take on the attributes of an altar. When are offerings placed upon us? When someone asks us to pray for them or someone else, are they placing their prayer upon us as an offering? When someone forgives us, are we the table on which they lay down that difficult sacrifice? When someone confides in us, are we the surface on which their secret will burn and the smoke rise up as a gift?

And when we act as altars, does this passage tell us to say this?—

“This is for you, Lord God of Warriors, who rescues us from hiding under pillows in the corners of our beds; who turns the morning to darkness and who strides on the heights of the earth— surely your verdicts are trustworthy and just!!”



Luke 13:10-17

11 A woman came up who had a spirit which had crippled her for eighteen years; she was bent double and unable to stand erect at all.

I want to talk about the concept of “spirit,” as it’s presented here, in terms of a description of the way a condition manifests itself in a living being. It seems to me that we in the modern world can benefit from trying to penetrate this understanding. If we imagine that talking about the “spirit” of being crippled is not a naïve and backward expression, but rather that it is a quite sophisticated and adroit description of the manner in which conditions manifest themselves in human beings, then I think we will be able to reach a deeper and more complete understanding of ourselves. (When I say “conditions,” I am talking about states which we experience and which we describe using words like ‘illness’, ‘injury’, and ‘grief’, or ‘curiosity’, ‘health’, and ‘delight’. We could include specific conditions like ‘cancer’ or ‘addiction’ in this category also.)

The Greek word used for “spirit” in this passage is “pneuma,” which means “breath; air in motion; life-force; soul; mind.” If we substitute the word “mind” for the word “spirit” we get “a woman who had a mind of infirmity” (or of weakness, affliction).

Bringing the Zen lens into play, and taking the disease of addiction for a specific example, I think we could talk in a useful way about a person having “a mind of addiction.” In Zen, our practice leads toward the understanding that it is not useful to personalize the conditions we experience. We call the myriad conditions “samsara” and we call the discontent that arises from identifying with those myriad conditions “dukkha.” If we can be freed from our “mind of addiction,” or our “mind of infirmity,” or our “mind of greed,” then we are able to see clearly. It’s then that it becomes possible to “awaken” to reality. All that’s necessary is for us to understand that our minds do not have to be tied to any particular condition or phenomenon. We don’t have to grab hold of the idea of ‘addiction’ and use it to define ourselves. We might have an addiction that we must find ways to deal with, but it’s not necessary for us to have a mind of addiction.  

We can allow all the myriad conditions we experience to simply be what they are, without interference from our ideas and notions. This is a kind of release, and we experience that release as a form of liberation or deliverance; of freedom.

So when the Bible says “so-and-so had a spirit” —of illness, or madness, or whatever— I think we should be open to seeing clearly into that context.



Then,

when we are stuck

in traffic—

and the guy next to us flips us off

and his mouth goes up and down

very fast and

his eyes are all squinched up,

we can render our verdict

and say,—

“Oh well,

he has a spirit of fury

that afflicts him at rush hour

and ties him up

in knots of intolerance.”

Then,
we will realize his antics are quite entertaining.

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