The Three Wise Men From the East

This Christmas I made a special note of something I have not given much thought in previous years.  Wise men coming from the East.

I think this is a significant bit of information, perhaps information we choose to leave in the recesses of our mind. What does this say? It doesn’t say that all people from the east are wise but I think it fair to say that other cultures and religions have wisdom.

I have been thinking a lot about the “self” from a psychological and biblical viewpoint. The main drive of my thought began with the concept of dying to self that we find in the Bible – who is this self we have to die to? Who am I? I think our modern concept of dying to self is really quite damaging. Dying to self has been reduced in most instances to fighting against the desires of the flesh. The word flesh here is not always that helpful either, I automatically think of sexual things…is that what the bible is talking about?  It begins from a view-point which I believe is based in scripture, but as we are finding time and time again – we interpret scripture with a bias. We all do it, there is no avoiding it. When we have a bias it is extremely hard to see or believe anything else as being possible. This is complicated even further because the Bible is said to be the Black and White Word of God, so any one starting from a different bias is regarded as “Anti Word” or “Anti-Christ”

My bias at the moment is suspicion. I have realized that religion, as a “Power and Authority” of this world has a kind of power of its own, a spiritual force that can not be nailed down to this person or that person. The best analogy I have been able to find for this deception comes from the movie “The Matrix”. The program is self protecting and keeps humanity in a state of deception.

Buddhism is a very intuitive religion and I believe contains a lot of wisdom from the “East”. Every time I saw the parallels with where my thoughts were heading and the similarities my thoughts had with Buddhism I was filled with fear. We are taught to fear other faiths. Our faith is good and the other is evil. Despite this fear I think it worth listening to what Buddha has to say about self;

Buddha taught that if we can see through the delusion of the small, individual self, we experience that which is not subject to birth and death.

The delusion of self is not that easy to describe, psychology is making progress in studying it – and that is the point, it is a real earthly thing. Should we be surprised that even creation itself reveals the mysteries of life and our creator?

Now to a parable of Jesus found in Luke.

When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host;  and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.  For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

We all grow up with a small individual self – that is part of being human. This means that as we read a parable like the one above, we will always take the place of honour. I know you may object and beat your breast and repeat the old Lutheran Mantra: “I a poor miserable sinner….” and believe you are taking the humble seat. This is I believe the beginning of low-level religion, “I” am being humble. There was a study that ran a few years ago that had inspirational drawings that represented what I am talking about here. It was called “The Divine Drama”. It showed a man with an arrow above his head that was turned in on itself. In this condition it is impossible to enjoy Kingdom life as it is meant to be.

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The arrow I believe symbolizes more than just selfishness, it symbolizes well, the nature of the small self. It is self referential. I look to scripture to find a means of climbing the spiritual ladder.  Here are a few other examples of low-level religious activities that are part of the internal dialogue of the small self: “If only we could return to First Century Christianity”  “The problem is our entertainment worship we have today, we need to have the real deal”  “We need to submit to the authority of Scripture” It really is no different to the internal dialogue that  fanatics engage in before releasing the trigger….”There is no God but…” Kaaboom – the danger of our I am good you are evil religion.

The parable takes us to a higher level. The host comes and whispers in our ear and asks us to move out of the seat we have claimed as ours (the false me). This is a step that we tend to avoid, God often has to use a “megaphone”. One it is embarrassing and two – we have already spent a lot of time toiling in the sun to get where we are. But the humiliation is worth it. With the internal dialogue of the small self recognized for what it is we can rest in the silence of the lower seat, confident in the knowledge that the host has a special place reserved.

Perhaps the story of Elijah (1Kings 19:11) waiting in a cave is a good picture for the lower seat that recognizes the noise of low-level religion. God is not in the storm, but found in the sheer silence. I am not sure if one can always hear above the noise of ones own biases, but I really do think that at the very least our responses to issues as given in examples above can be responses rather than reactions….and that is a step in the right direction.

 

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