For we did not heed the voice of the Lord, our God,
in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us,
but each one of us went off
after the devices of his own wicked heart,
served other gods,
and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God. – Psalm 79.8 – 9
It’s a common experience to acknowledge that the prophetic dimension confronts us bluntly. With the prophets, there’s little banter, but lots of bluster. Such prophetic heaviness is not my favorite aspect of the Hebrew or Christian scriptures. And it’s certainly difficult to endure for very long whenever I hear it as a form of preaching or teaching.
So, perhaps one way to approach today’s lectionary reading from the Psalms, is as a psychological method describing what today we would call our inner multiplicity. That is to say, what the psalmist referred to here as a wicked heart is actually what we would today call unconsciousness, especially in its expression through our psycho-spiritual fragmentation. As such, we often say one thing, and do another. One part of us hasn’t gotten the memo, or simply forgotten it altogether.
Thus, in a sense, to do evil is to perpetuate unconsciousness – especially in the form of negative emotions that so often lead to violence. Such violence can be subtle, such as passive aggressive bullying, or blatant irruptions, such as hitting or yelling.
The practical invitation is to remember and return to a Center that is deeper than your fragmented self – and this Center, in the Hebrew-Christian tradition is grounded first and foremost in the living and written Word of God, an influence that has the capacity to awaken us and lift us up out of our foggy unconsciousness. When we remember and return to that Center, we often experience a recovery of our senses, a return to a healthy, whole, unified, balanced, integral state of being that feels like joy and leads us to not only worship, but also to flourish as a human beings for the Glory of God, and, amazingly, also for our delight!
Paradoxically, children represent, in fully undeveloped form, this wholeness grounded in and around a God-Center. They may not be able to articulate it, but they LIVE it – and manifest such freedom and joy, we can’t help but to belly-laugh with them, and even perhaps pine for such freedom ourselves.
As adults, that freedom comes from living in relationship to and with the Center – represented by the Word of God. In time, even this shifts and unfolds into something more profound than we can imagine – the experience of divine union – which St. Paul refers to in many ways, but which is best summarized like this: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me “(Galatians 2.20).
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