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A Secure Attachment With Jesus: The Gospel of Mark
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Monday
Oct122015

Having Jesus in Your Heart 86

 

“When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, ‛As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.’

“At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the palace of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. ‛But not during the Passover celebration,’ they agreed, ‛or the people may riot.’....

“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, ‛How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?’ And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.” Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16

 

“There are thoughts that derive from perception, and thoughts that derive from conscience, and thoughts that derive from no conscience. Thoughts deriving from perception exist with those who are moved by love to the Lord. Such thought is the most internal to exist with a person. Perception from the Lord is the means and the source of their thought, and thinking contrary to perception is an impossibility.

“Thoughts deriving from conscience are of a lower order and exist with those who in life and in doctrine are moved by good that stems from charity and faith. For them as well, thinking contrary to conscience is an impossibility, for that would be thinking contrary to the good and truth which the Lord dictates to them by means of conscience.

“Thoughts deriving from no conscience however exist with people who do not allow themselves to be governed inwardly by good and truth, but by evil and falsity, that is, not by the Lord but by themselves. They imagine that they think inwardly just as much as those who do so from conscience and perception, the reason being that they do not know what conscience is, still less what perception is, though the difference between their thought and that of people thinking from conscience or perception is as great as that between hell and heaven. People whose thought is devoid of conscience think from every evil desire and false notion, and so from hell. When they think in any other manner they do so from an outward respectability for the sake of reputation. But people who think from conscience do so from a love for goodness and truth, and so from heaven.” Secrets of Heaven §2515

 

I can describe or you a very annoying practice I have. I wait for the perfect time to call someone I need to talk to about some plan we are both involved in. Or, even more complicated, I look for the perfect time to call someone to ask them to do something. I notice myself doing this. I almost know why I do it, and I am working on a solution. So far, simply telling myself to pick up the phone and call has had inconsistent results. There is a deeper matter here, having to do with my way of being, and the thoughts and feelings that come from that way of being. Perhaps you have a variation on this practice.

So what happens when we begin watching for a specific circumstance to arise, or the perfect opportunity to appear, or the best chance to arrive before we act? Do we search for the perfect experience or sensation, pining for it. Do we find ourselves making assessments about the experience afterwards?

Do you remember choosing to take on a new behavior? Do you remember stopping a specific behavior. Recently I have stopped eating grains. I have the occasional sandwich, tortilla or piece of bread that comes with a meal. But that happens less than once a week. And I really miss bread. But I judge that I feel better having lost the weight I associate with eating grains. This is a not so mundane example of the experience Judas had.

Imagine for a moment what the Gospel of Matthew is describing. Jesus and his large retinue of twelve Apostles, and the men and women who were devoted to caring for them, arrive in Jerusalem to some considerable public attention. For almost a week Jesus is spending his days outside the temple giving speeches, healing people. On what become the last day of his pubic teaching he describes the coming rejuvenating cataclysm. I imagine the public making a variety of interpretations, some more scary than others. The Apostles see more or less clearly, with greater or lesser alarm, Jesus’ resignation to his – and their – death. That evening, Jesus speaks privately to the Apostles. Noting that in two days there will be the annual Passover celebration, and he adds that “the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

There is then a short story we did not read which tells u that Jesus spends the next day in the house of a convert he healed from leprosy, in Bethany, a morning’s walk outside of Jerusalem. During the day a stranger comes into the house, and she uses an expensive, fragrant oil to give Jesus a treatment we would associate with a spa. Bathing was not a common practice, and if everyone applied a bit of a perfumed oil, gatherings would be pleasant affairs. The Apostles, we are told, object to the expense, righteously declaring that the money could have been given to poor people. After all, that is what Jesus had been preaching lo these three years! However, Jesus reframes the act into an anointing of a body for burial. The story ends abruptly, it seems to me, without any description of how the Apostles felt, or even any outward reaction.

And we picked up the Gospel account in the very next verse: “Judas Isacriot...went to the leading priests and asked, ‛How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?’ And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.”

As we will see from the personal application of the spirit of this story, Judas is not nobly, if erroneously, forcing the confrontation between the overwhelming power of Jesus and the inevitably failing, corrupt ruling powers. Rather Judas is overcome by an urgency to get what he can before the whole operation comes crashing down. Likely a part of his justification is that they will be able to do so much good afterward, giving them a chance to accomplish the goal of becoming the new governing power.

We have all been in this spiritual circumstance. We experience a new and immature inner state of nobility, of power. We have a glimmer of the goodness for all people if we all had this perception. And there is a certain pleasure that comes along with that perception of goodness. It is the first time we experience the process of thoughtfulness becoming connected with a faith. In the first attempts at this process, begin in only the first stage of life, (and as a consequence to be sure of our fallen nature), the pleasure of the faith begins to dominate. We enjoy the feeling, the thoughts and emotions, we associate with the accomplishment of our noble goal.

If you cannot identify this process in yourself, consider some good meaning person, or well intended institution, which has morphed into someone or something overbearing or oppressive. While we can use obvious examples of evil people, and we see it clearly in addicted people, I urge you to find a personal story.

For me it is the pleasure of eating grains. A little bread now and then enhances my God-given enjoyment of food. But when I seek it out, as a substitute for nutrition because it tastes good, I will be ready to accept the most meager of rewards – a gain of thirty, and not sixty or hundred fold – to continue to have the pleasure. For I now connect in my mind the pleasure with the original, eternal, spiritual goal of happiness in heaven, which is indeed, the Lord’s intention for me. The perception has morphed into a faith in myself, in my own pleasure, in the sensations of this world.

Caiaphas and those under his power are the leading ideas of my intellect that are easily swayed by my ego, my desire for the feeling of self-generated power and control. I know these ideas come under the influence of the powers of darkness. They offer me a reward to staying in power. It is comfortable and stable, and easy. Judas, my sensations themselves, and the thoughts and feelings that explain and rationalize the supremacy of those sensations, seduce me into actions that work to actually suppress any inner, spiritual, eternal principles or goals. And I do not pursue these sensations from any righteous or noble intention, but from a perversion of higher, deeper goals. My desire for self gratification, cunningly manipulated by my ego – or spirits influenced by devils – hides behind manipulative reasoning or the astounding ability humans have of lying to themselves about what is going on in their own spirit.

Now, the Lord does not abandon us to an inevitable fall into hell. Indeed, as we know, the betrayal by Judas, while inevitable, was accounted for in the process of his glorification, and so in an image, in our salvation. It is a law of Providence – the way the universe works – that when a thought or feeling is maintained over time, and used in service to self-gratification and supremacy over the rule of spiritual, thus eternal, principles, that there will develop a dependence upon, a slavery to, and eventually the death of, the pleasures and delights of those very sensations that are being propped up by our intellect.

We learn, sometimes by a kind of tough love, and certainly by collateral damage in our lives, that when our seeking for sensations apart from our well being becomes a grasping for those pleasures, and eventually an urgent groping, that we are then in the control of the powers of darkness, the spirits under the sway of devils of hell.

Our first actions are likely misguided; a Judas in our midst. We begin to seek an opportunity for the next piece of knowledge that will give us a sense of success and power, not noticing how fleeting that power is, and how deeper into the pit we are being taken, thus a increasing the urgency for another perception of success.

The Lord is encouraging us to pause and consider what is happening in our minds, hearts and bodies. As we read: “In our thought we can accept what is good and reject what is evil, since we know from the Word what is good and what is evil. What we accept in thought from affection becomes part of us, while what we do not accept in thought from affection does not become part of us. This enables us to determine the nature of the inflow into us of the good from heaven and of the evil from hell.” (Emphasis added). We have in mind true ideas and memories of good feelings. So we read the Word, we listen to wise people, we find the support of fellow travelers on this journey. We bring those good and true ideas into our thinking speaking and acting. And the laws that operate in our spirit will establish a new affection for those ideas. We will begin to delight in them, and those good and true ideas begin to have supremacy over the sensations that manifest them.

And the urge and drive for the sensations is replace with a spiritual, eternal delight – even a passion – for the Lord’s goodness and truth instead of what we have made up or perverted by our desire to own and control them. So there is promise. Hope is always available when we cultivate skills such as non judgmental observation, giving to others, gratitude and useful work. These will prepare our hearts and minds for the presence of Jesus where he will dwell in us, and we with him.

 

Monday
Oct052015

Having Jesus in Your Heart 85

 

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers you were doing it to me!’

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers, you were refusing to help me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46

 

“In the spiritual world where we all arrive after death, no one asks what our faith has been or what our beliefs have been, only what our life has been, whether we are one kind of person or another. They know that the quality of our faith and the quality of our beliefs depend on the quality of our life, because life constructs a belief system for itself and constructs a faith for itself.” Divine Providence §101

“The Lord's kingdom begins in a person in the life that belongs to works, for they are then at the start of regeneration. But once the Lord's kingdom is established in them, the kingdom ends in works, and then they are regenerate. Indeed the internal of a person is in this case present in the external in a corresponding fashion. And because works are done by the external of a person while charity and faith rooted in charity dwell in their internal, works are therefore at the same time charity. And as it is in the works of the external of a person that the life of the internal so presents itself, therefore....those who have done good works will enter into eternal life and those who have done evil into a state of damnation.” Secrets of Heaven §3934:8

 

 

 

This third story Jesus tells begins by entrancing our imagination with a grand, royal scene. The divine love itself is as a king, enthroned, incarnated, ready for our audience before him. His overwhelming majesty is moderated by the gathering of his agents and messengers. He is prepared to oversee the conclusion of our lives, the results of our choices. And so, Jesus describes the scene as a herd of sheep and goats, who each find themselves among their kind. A judgment has been made, it seems. And yet, as Jesus tells the parable, the lesson must be made manifest and obvious in order for us al to learn from it.

In fact, we bring ourselves to this situation, this circumstance. We each are invited to be a certain kind of person. Our beliefs certainly inform our choices, speech and action. But it is not the statement of our beliefs that sets us on the right or left hand of our Creator and Savior. We have brought ourselves to this spiritual place by our own footsteps, a path we have chosen.

Some people have stayed a course, of their own choosing, that did not waiver from self absorption. They saw a goal, noble and of service to the world and family, that held on a tight schedule. If there was a task that beckoned, even called out to them from a state of need, they did not leave their strict regimen, fearing the loss of resources and missed opportunities.

Others stayed a course, again of their own choosing, that did not waiver from self sacrifice. They felt the needs within and around them. If there was a need expressed within their ken, they sought to serve it. They traveled a thin wire, always attending to the balance they needed to maintain to be able to continue the journey. Each fall was a lesson, each scar a toughening.

We all inherit our destiny. It is the result of the investment we make in our lives. As the previous two parables have revealed, God invites us to prepare to receive our inheritance. We are offered the chance to put aside our fear of lack and loss in a life of trust in the Creator and Sustainer. We learn by experience the pain and delight of acting from a faith that the Lord’s description of happiness is real, doable and valuable.

Jesus view is wholistic. Children, and those in the beginning of their journey of faith, are asked to observe the physical needs of those around them in this world, here and now. We are to give food to the hungry; we are to give water to the thirsty; we are to give homes to migrants; we are to give clothes to the naked; we are to provide care for the sick; and we are to visit those imprisoned. Notice that Jesus does not say that we are to end all hunger, thirst, homelessness, etc. After all, here is Jesus, God incarnate, with the full array of power to make food, drink and covering, heal sickness, restore freedom and even life, and he does not remove those curses from the earth. Our lives are worthless if we do not end these man-made scourges. Our lives are blessed when we simply do these things.

And then (and this just blows my mind every time I remember it), the blessing is not that someone is cared for, or even saved (although they are!). The blessing is not that I have a new abundance in my life (although I will). The blessing is that I will experience regeneration, an end, a purpose for an eternal life! This is the greatest possible inheritance, the greatest possible value a life can have.

Jesus makes it clear that it is the indwelling of his love that accomplishes the work of first gifting us with love, then connecting it to works of charity, and so connecting: a) our spirit to our body, making life here pleasurable; b) our spirit to God, giving us delight; and c) God to his creation, through us, completing his entire intention for creation.

Jesus tells no more parables in the Gospel of Matthew. He has given all the good news he needs to convey by this means. You have enough. Now comes the suffering necessary for the integration of his love and wisdom into your life. The blessing of his abiding in your heart will be accomplished. Continue your walk in confidence in his leadership, for you will be following a true heart, a love for God and others that is his love dwelling in you.

 

Monday
Sep282015

Having Jesus in Your Heart 84

 

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

“The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let us celebrate together!’

“The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let us celebrate together!’

“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

“Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:14-30

 

“If it did not appear to a person that he lives of himself, and thus that he thinks and wills, speaks and acts as though of himself, the person would not be human. From this it follows that if a person did not manage all the concerns of his function and life as though by his own prudence, he could not be led and directed by Divine providence. For he would be like someone standing with hands hanging limp, mouth open, and eyes closed, holding his breath and awaiting influx. Thus he would strip himself of his humanity, which he has from the perception and sensation that he lives, thinks, wills, speaks and acts as though of himself, and strip himself at the same time then of his two faculties, freedom and rationality, which distinguish him from animals....If you wish to be led by Divine providence, therefore, use prudence as a servant or assistant who faithfully manages the goods of his lord. This prudence is the mina given to each of the servants to do business with, of which they were to render an account.

This prudence appears to a person to be his own, and he believes it to be his own as long as he keeps shut up in him the most implacable foe of God and Divine providence, namely, love of self. This love dwells in the interior qualities of every person from birth. If you do not recognize it (for it does not wish to be recognized), it dwells secure, and it guards the door to keep the person from opening it and thus the Lord from casting it out.

A person opens that door by refraining from evils as sins as though of himself, with the acknowledgment that he does so from the Lord.

It is this prudence with which Divine providence acts in concert. Divine Providence §210

 

At our creation, God gives us life. He breathes in living. And with life comes accessory talents. Among these accessories are gifts of intelligence, understanding, and intellect. These accessories are not set at our creation as is our reception of life from God. For instance, our intelligence can be transformed into wisdom. This is the inner meaning of the parable of the “talents,” the name of the measure of silver, given to three servants of a rich master who was going on a long trip and wanted his wealth cared for, and wanted to assess the character of his three most important servants.

We all have a free gift of natural intelligence from conception, which becomes our own, and can become spiritual intelligence, which is wisdom, upon the successful acceptance of it. It is a gift which is ours to have in its use. This gift is not acquired by accomplishing some task. And it is not maintained by storage for future use. We do not earn the gift. There is nothing we can pay, no challenge we can overcome, that equals the value of the gift. It is not a quid pro quo. The gift becomes ours whenever we decide to use it, by our own deliberate choice. So burying the talent is simply not using it.

Under what circumstances would we do this, and not use our talent?

A curiosity about this gift is that it feels as though we have been left to our own devises, that we are our own master, independent of the divine Creator who gave us the gift of intelligence. It is only when we stop and reflect, and make the evidence of our senses and ego subject to the judgment of our deeper, rational thought, that we see clearly the presence of God as the force of life that motivates us. That is why there is the necessity of a certain maturity in order for us to accept the gift.

So what do you do when the Lord goes to a far country? When his love is not felt, when his truth is not evident? There are common circumstances we have all experience of feeling badly about something. For instance, when we realize we don’t love someone; or when we regret that we have treated someone badly. We just don’t know how to love them. Or there are times when we don’t know what the right thing is to do. It is as such moments that the maturity of our intelligence, the state of our wisdom, is revealed to us.

It is critical that we remember that Jesus is not talking about three other people. He is talking about three ways we each use his gift of intelligence. Also, the number of bags of silver do not symbolize more or less giftedness, but rather each describe a distinct formation of our intelligence, as it exists in our life at a particular moment. For, unlike my current expectation that more begets more, in each instance, the talent is simply doubled. Jesus made the point that more talent does not accrue to us more spiritual benefit, emphasizing the lesson that it is the formation and use of our intelligence and wisdom that brings the benefit. The development of wisdom is not dependent on how much we start with, or the amount, or kind, of effort we make. It is that we use the gift.

There is first the inner 5 talents. There is a part of us that simply knows what is good. We know how to act on it or say it. It comes naturally. For some it is speaking powerfully to someone in need of encouragement. Or in need of correction. In others it is acting immediately and forthrightly, rescuing one from a danger, lifting another into joy. Is there something you have simply known how to do? Perhaps people have observed it, congratulating you, but you don’t know how you deserve praise. You only know that others have wondered how you do it because they never could.

And then there are the inner 2 talents. This form of intelligence or wisdom has been acquired. Maybe you have practiced a craft and can now bring joy or beauty into the lives of others. Or perhaps you have learned how to pierce through the rhetoric and jargon and reveal the essential point. Or you can see into a person’s heart, or identify an illness, and perceive precisely what is wrong and what will bring healing. You don’t remember a time you did not do this, and occasionally someone will remark “How did you know that?” When you think about it, you realize that you learned something in the past, and you cultivated it, bringing the talent into full expression.

And then there is the inner single talent. This is the form of intelligence that is unborn, or unformed. This is your wish to be able to do something wonderful, or be effective, or become a large or noticeable person. Maybe you have a tidbit of knowledge from a book or the internet, or a colleague. Maybe it is an ability that came easily because of your physique (like long legs giving you the talent of running fast). You may have a clear vision of what you could do, but you have yet to act on it. You have not practiced. And so the inner talent or desire goes unexpressed. In the teachings for the New Church, this is considered a truth without a love. It is faith unconnected to charity. It is an inner reality not yet infilling or driving an action.

There are several problems with this last formulation of your intelligence. First, by burying it you may believe you will then always have it at the ready to dig up and use. But when the chance comes, you lie to yourself (perhaps simply by habit and so unconsciously) about some barrier to digging it up, and it remains a talent unused. There are people who are afraid of success – that people will come to expect more from them, and that stops them from using their God-given talent.

Some people bury their talent just so they can show others when they dig it up and display it like a precious treasure that they own and are carefully preserving. The Lord’s love and wisdom are never actually ours, and he does not need or want us to protect it. By putting our talent to work, even when it feels like we are giving it away, God’s intention is actually fulfilled, and we feel blessed. Paradoxically, the gift becomes ours, it is multiplied, and I, and everyone else, sees it to be a gift from God.

Another problem with burying our gifts is that they then never grow and become living in us. There is no chance to align this inner wisdom with an embodiment through us. I may fear ruining it, having it damaged, by exposure to others’ opinions or suggestions. It remains a wistful thought, an aphorism, that I can display at will, but never use to improve my life or anyone else’s. My talent becomes self satisfying, seeking to be impressive rather than serving others and making an impression in others’ lives.

The Lord’s is giving us the opportunity to give measure and substance to our wisdom by acting on it. And note this well: we will not delight in the use of a talent that we have not either brought into practice – either a natural talent or a practiced one – by our own choice and power. For it is not the results, the performance, that increases the value of our talent. It is the process of infusing matter with our spirit. Every time we use words that comfort, heal, or actually correct a person, we are employing a talent – a knowledge and love – that has its source in the Lord working through us. As Jesus points out so powerfully, by simply investing – using – the intelligence and craft we have been given or acquired, the store and value of the gift is itself increased! I can let go of the mind-stopping anxiety that I am responsible for the increase. I am only responsible for the connecting of my inner life and outer action.

And look what reliance upon a gift from the Lord does for our fear of failure! Because we are using a God-given talent, a wisdom we either simply have or one we have cultivated, it is no longer our self, our ego, our proprium, that is doing the acting or saying the words. So there is no need to defend our self. It is not a matter of ME looking good or being right or being liked. I will really experienced God’s being good!

You are invited to again participate in the transformation, the regeneration of the gift that the Lord has already given you. Take a moment to think of your gift in whatever formulation it is currently. And now, simply acknowledge it as a gift. And now, imagine yourself as the actor, the messenger, the investor, of that gift for the Lord. While you cannot image the precise results of your effort, indeed the results are none of your concern, you can experience the blessing of the increase of the value of the gift as it is used in your life.

With this observation about your gifts in mind, you will be able to come to the Lord for encouragement, for redemption, for a cleansing, that you would now be free from fear, clear in your sight, and empowered in your speech and action, to bring your gift to the altar that it may become living and useful precisely because, you now know, it is the Lord’s. And know that the blessing you feel is the Lord saying, Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.

 

Monday
Sep072015

Having Jesus In Your Heart 83

 

Jesus said,
“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’ All the virgins got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’ But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to those who sell, and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Later, when the other virgins returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door to us!’ But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’
“So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour the Son of Man is coming.” Matthew 25:1-13

“Since the Word consists of teachings about good, people need to know what good is if they are to have any understanding of the Word. But no one can know what good is unless they try to lead a good life in accordance with the Word. For when someone tries to lead a good life in accordance with the Word the Lord instills good into that person's life. The person then comes to perceive that good and has a feeling for it, and as a result recognizes the essential nature of it. In no other circumstances does it appear, because it does not come to be perceived. All this makes clear what the condition is of those who merely know the things contained in the Word, convince themselves that they are true, yet fail to act on them. They are people with no real awareness of good, nor consequently of truth, for truth is known from good, and never exists without good except as some piece of lifeless knowledge which passes away in the next life....The ‛virgins who took lamps but no oil’ are those who hear the Word, read it, and say that they are believers, yet do not on that account perform any good deed at all, or who if they do, are not moved by a love of good or of truth but by selfish and worldly love.” Secrets of Heaven §9780

Jesus challenges us to use our lives intentionally and wisely. It does me no good to awaken in the morning and carelessly go through the day as if I had not choices and not responsibility for the consequences that come my way.

Jesus asks me to approach every day as a special one during which I have the opportunity to attend to how I will manifest my unique self, my love, my personality, my gifts, my skills.

And Jesus is also pointing out that I am always part of a community. I never go into my day alone. Even if I do not have a partner sharing my bed or home, as soon as I am conscious there are people impacting my decisions more or less consciously, more or less directly. From the house I live in, to the food I eat, to the work I do, I am part of a larger process of living here and now.

So this parable is such a rich lesson for living in the present, prepared for loving my neighbor and my God with the gifts given and skills acquired. The regrets I have the greatest work putting aside are those arising from remembering when I didn’t give love. Every time it happened, as see as I look back, I had come to that moment with an empty lamp. I was carrying the truth, surely. It was certainly right, correct; and foolish, careless. When the oil ran out, I could no longer see, even though I had a most beautiful and functional lamp. The lamp alone is not sufficient to living a life of caring, or manifesting love. Love gives the truth its energy and impetus to do its work and give us the benefit of light. I might begin to change my language – it is not truth that gives us light, it is love flowing and fueling that gives us light.

The oil of love that fuels our life is hidden inside the lamp. Indeed, the container of the lamp is required for the oil to be used to give light. The flow of the oil is by capillary action. (Which “occurs because of inter-molecular attractive forces between the liquid and solid surrounding surfaces. If the diameter of the tube is sufficiently small, then the combination of surface tension (which is caused by cohesion within the liquid) and adhesive forces between the liquid and container act to lift the liquid.” From Reddit’s askscience section!) Here is yet another wonderful experience of God’s laws of nature operating behind the scene, providing an opportunity for our intelligence, to produce something useful and helpful.

So, again, I rise from my bed in the morning, and I prepare for the day, with care and intention. It is so gratifying to recognize, all along the way, that the Lord is quietly and consistently and unceasingly providing for me to have delight this day. I get to experience connecting with other people (and can there be any better image for this than a wedding feast?), my preparations to love make the light I bring to the world (which is the Lord’s truth being fueled by his love!), so wonderful, delightful and useful.

It is my task to keep the lamp filled with the oil of love. The Lord is constantly flowing in with his love. My work is to accept that love as a gift to inform my use of the truth I know. When I do not use his love, I will run out of love and the light will not bring the reality of life – its large and eternal scope – into my awareness. Without love I see only the natural, superficial, outer edge of life. When the Lord Jesus Christ is dwelling in my heart as the love I am manifesting as light, he literally, figuratively and spiritually, gets me up in the morning.

 

Tuesday
Aug112015

Having Jesus In Your Heart 82

 

[Jesus says to his Apostles] “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.

“A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 24:42-51

[Swedenborg reports this experience of the spiritual world, which is just one among very many, that convinced him that there is a permanent, spiritual community of those who reject the notion of, and influence of, a loving God, for which Swedenborg uses the commonly accepted term “hell”].

“From each hell there breathes forth an aura of the cravings that obsess its inhabitants. When this aura is sensed by people who are obsessed with a similar craving, it touches their hearts and fills them with delight because the craving and the delight are inseparable – whatever we crave is delightful to us. This is why [people now passed into the spiritual world] turn in that direction and are impelled there by their hearts' delight. They do not yet realize what kind of torment there is in hell, and the ones who do know still feel the craving. In the spiritual world we are all incapable of resisting our impulses because the impulses come from our love, and our love comes from our intent, and our intent comes from our nature, and we all act from our nature there....

“The “gnashing of teeth” [which Jesus uses to describe the spiritual experience of hypocrites] is the constant clash and strife of false convictions with each other (and therefore the warfare of the individuals who hold the false convictions), united to contempt for others, hostility, derision, mockery, and blasphemy. These even break out into various kinds of butchery. Everyone there is defending his or her own false convictions and calling them true. From outside the hells, these clashes and battles sound like gnashing teeth, and they turn into the gnashing of teeth when truths from heaven flow into hell.

“In these hells dwell all the people who acknowledged nature and denied the Divine. The people who deliberately convinced themselves are in the deeper hells. Since they cannot accept any ray of light from heaven and can therefore not see anything within themselves, most of them focus on their senses and their bodies. These are people who do not believe anything they cannot see with their eyes and touch with their hands. So for them, all sensory illusions are the truths on which they base their arguments. Because teeth correspond to the outmost aspects of nature, and to our own outmost natures, which have to do with our senses and our bodies; and because in the spiritual world false statements grate; therefore, their arguments sound like the gnashing of teeth.” Heaven and Hell §574, 575

 

The wonderful consequence of our really hearing Jesus, and having him in our heart, is that we experience an awesome, intimate connection between our inner, spiritual sensation of life, and our outer, physical sensation of life. This is when we look at a tree and smell its fragrance, and understand its contribution to the world, and feel delighted by its presence in our experience. All at once. This experience is when we are with a loved one and we have a pleasurable sensation of their proximity or touch on our skin, and we think of their affirmative contribution to our life, and we feel delighted by their being in our life. All at once! This experience of life happens when we accept the Lord’s unconditional love for us as one of his creations, and appreciate the mystery of our connection to our God, and delight in our intentional dependence on his love. Again, all in the same moment.

This is the experience Jesus was giving his closest allies even as he was preparing to do what was necessary – to himself – to connect his inner Divine life with his outer physical life. We know from his prayer in the garden only a couple of days later, that, while knowing the spiritual and physical agony that was coming, and while steeling himself for the experience, he would rather not experience it. So he prayed, watching what was happening in him and around him, while setting his jaw in readiness. But, I imagine, he did not grit his teeth. He watched what was happening in and around him, as he counseled his Apostles to do. And he readied himself, like the good servant in the parable he created for them.

“Gnash,” may have its roots in an attempt to describe the sound of grinding teeth. Medically, the term is “bruxism,” from the Greek word for the grinding of teeth. We can put aside the issue of our grinding our teeth during sleep or while awake due to stressors, known or unknown. Such problematic physiological or psychosomatic behaviors are not our concern here.

To our point here is our personal experience of reacting to circumstances by clenching our jaw, setting our teeth, but then twitching our muscles because we simply must be moving something in reaction to our inner state irritation. Likely we are also clenching our fists, and making more or less audible groans, depending on the situation. Anyone watching us will see our cheek muscles bunch and twitch. Akin to smiling or frowning, I am sure gnashing our teeth is a universal sign of annoyance with a person or circumstance.

It is instructive, as we approach the spiritual circumstances that Jesus describes as gnashing our teeth, that it has been reported by a variety of professionals* that people who tend to more or less consciously grind their teeth also respond differently to depression, hostility, and stress compared to people without bruxism. Also commonly noticed are aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personality types. It has been suggested that suppressed anger or frustration can contribute to bruxism. In what must have been a difficult experiment to conduct, it was recorded that the rats who witnessed the electrocution of other rats were under emotional stress which may have caused their bruxism-like behavior.

Jesus, and now modern science, is telling us that we will become angry when we experience, or anticipate experiencing, any circumstance that attacks our truth and/or our desires. If someone or some situation casts doubt on my rightness, or thwarts, or threaten to thwart, my desire, I will react. For instance, I will watch very carefully, perhaps in a heightened state of awareness. And I will prepare myself, I will get ready to act. Mentally, I will be marshaling my arguments for why I am right, and to defend my desires, I will be creating feelings of disgust and righteousness with them or the circumstance.

Now, it makes perfect sense, and is quite acceptable, if you are confident that you are not one of the evil hypocrites that Jesus is exposing here. But I invite you to be mindful for a moment, and simply, and non-judgmentally, notice your version of this experience. As Jesus suggests: watch. And then be ready to respond when God’s love and wisdom show up at your mental doorstep when you least expect it.

In order to do as Jesus tells us here, we have to position ourselves to watch. We need to be ready to observe. And so we read the Word and other helpful literature and media; we gather spiritual principles that have proven to be operative; we memorize aphorisms that will be ready helps in times of stress; and we listen to people we consider wise in resolving life’s conundrums. And then we adjust our thoughts and their associated feelings, and we adjust our behavior, based on people’s reactions and our inner observations. We react to the inner messages of unhappiness, anger, sadness and fear. Slowly, we build up a viewing stand from which we watch what is happening to us.

Jesus is saying that acting from our faith with sincerity, justice, and honesty will create the circumstance in which our inner truth and goodness, which are available to us because God loves us and so already dwells in us, will become connected to our experience of our living. And there will be a feeling of delight and connectedness in our whole being. And, he further predicts, that acting selfishly, materialistically, dishonestly, will create a circumstance in which our inner truth and goodness, which are available to us because God loves us and so already dwells in us, are not connected to our experience of living. And there will be a feeling of frustration and disconnect.

I know I have experienced both states. Likely you, dear reader, have as well. So what shall we do? We are faced with our own, finite and smaller version of Jesus’ experience that inspired him to make up this parable. We are to watch, get ready, and so avoid weeping and gnashing our teeth. 

And now a reality check. This is not merely a thought experiment. It is not the case that people quietly and privately suffer a lack of connection to the Divine while they work through their issues, as I am saying Jesus is recommending. The spiritual states that lead to people gnashing their teeth more or less immediately and profoundly affects all life on the planet. These are the people whose selfishness, materialism and dishonesty takes away peace, destroys life, drives them to take all of what they want.

So here is the challenge. How many of us have gnashed our teeth when we have come up against a selfish, materialistic, and dishonest hypocrite in our life? I have! And this gives me pause. With what am I in conflict such that, physiologically and psychosocially, has led me to my gnashing my teeth? I need to watch, and ask myself: did I not get my way? Was my truth attacked? Was I denied the delight the world owes me? I thus prepare to respond from a faith that is love for God and the other. I take a deep breath, I relax my hands, and I unclench my jaw.

Jesus is not haranguing us to shame us. He is challenging us to watch and get ready, to rise above what we discover to be our selfishness, worldliness and hypocrisy in the light of the Word lived in life of usefulness.

The Lord Jesus Christ is promising to be present in our lives so that we know the beauty of his truth, the delightfulness of his goodness, and the pleasure in our senses, arising from the physical world. We are not to fear taking on the responsibilities of living that our Lord gives to us, thought we pray in fear for the coming temptation battle. He actually intends that we feel so in control and responsible that he does not appear present! Until that moment he appears with a blessing! And our inner delight is knowing that, even in the midst of an intense experience of pleasure or pain, we are ready for his appearing at any moment. Indeed, we welcome those moments when, as watchful as we usually and normally have come to be through much practice, we see and feel his presence then, even as he has assured us he always is.

 

* In the following studies

Shetty S, Pitti V, Satish Babu CL, Surendra Kumar GP, Deepthi BC (September 2010). "Bruxism: a literature review". Journal of Indian Prosthodontic Society 10 (3): 141–8. doi:10.1007/s13191-011-0041-5. PMC 3081266. PMID 21886404.

Lobbezoo F, Van Der Zaag J, Naeije M (April 2006). "Bruxism: its multiple causes and its effects on DENTAL IMPLANTS - an updated review". Journal of Oral Rehabilitation 33 (4): 293–300. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2842.2006.01609.x. PMID 16629884.

"Bruxism/Teeth grinding". Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 19 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-11.

Manfredini D, Lobbezoo F (2009). "Role of psychosocial factors in the etiology of bruxism". Journal of Orofacial Pain 23 (2): 153–66. PMID 19492540.

Poveda Roda R, Bagan JV, Díaz Fernández JM, Hernández Bazán S, Jiménez Soriano Y (August 2007). "Review of temporomandibular joint pathology. Part I: classification, epidemiology and risk factors" (PDF). Medicina Oral, Patología Oral Y Cirugía Bucal 12 (4): E292–8. PMID 17664915.

 

 

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