Wela tahlan l’nesyuna Ela patzan min bisha
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
Do not let the surface things of this life take us away from our purpose,
But keep us present to help needed now.
OK. I’ll have to be honest here. The traditional English Lord’s Prayer used to make me angry at this point. Most of us grew up in the Church just rattling off the prayer, and not really thinking about what we were saying. But if we would think about it at all, we would see that the Church through the traditional English Lord’s Prayer, has been giving people the message that God is the kind of Being that tempts us with evil. Maybe to see how we’ll handle it, and if we will pass the test? I don’t know.
Nothing could be further from the truth!
Wela tahlan could be translated “don’t let us enter”, or “don’t let us be seduced by the appearance of.”
nesyuna, as Dr. Klotz points out in “Prayers of the Cosmos”, “could be translated as ‘temptation’, in the Aramaic sense of something that leads us to inner agitation, diverting us from the purpose of our lives.”
Which begs the question: Why would a Being of pure, eternal, unconditional Love have any need to do such an unloving or destructive thing? Why would such a Being of pure Love have any interest in working against it’s own purposes? Why, for God’s sake, would I ever have to try and talk such a Being of Love into not doing any of these horrible things?
The contemporary English version of the Lord’s Prayer changed it to “save us from the time of trial”. This is at least moving in the right direction.
Actually, the Aramaic notion of losing ourselves in appearance, refers to both physical and spiritual materialism:
Physical materialism – we know what this is about. A losing of ourselves in consuming, buying more and more stuff to find the joy and purpose that’s already within us. Free of charge.
Now, to be clear, there is much in this world that can and should be enjoyed. Like you, many things and experiences here on earth have given me great joy. That’s what they’re here for. But ultimately, none of that quite scratches the itch within. You don’t need me or anyone to tell you that for the thousandth time. We intuitively know that, so we then go on a spiritual search. To find what it is we’re looking for. And that can easily lead us to losing ourselves in what is called…
Spiritual materialism – what is that? Spiritual materialism is motivated solely by the question, What can God do for me? I want peace, love, joy, contentment, money, my way, purpose, get my individual soul ‘saved’ so I can get into heaven, whatever it is. How can God deliver those things for me? is the question of the one lost in spiritual materialism.
We all can so easily get sucked down this rabbit hole. And I so easily can be one of them! It seems like it’s OK and pious. After all, it’s God we’re looking to here! It’s so “spiritual.”
So much of Christian preaching and message is all about what God can do for you. With the ego being what it is, and with living in a consumer culture, this sells and attracts new people. It makes for a successful marketing strategy for churches and helps to meet the budget.
Looking back on all the sermons I preached, I always knew when I had people’s attention (or not). I knew that whenever I went to “what God can do for you”, I would “have them” as they say. I was giving the people what they at least thought they needed, and what they wanted me to be talking about. People liked me and the message. “Good sermon Pastor Tim.” Ah yes, the ego is very persuasive.
But whenever I talked about Jesus’ teachings on no longer making your small self the center of your life, I could tell many were wondering off. There was this wall that was being put up between the people and the message. I could just see our universal human ego kicking in and saying, “you need something? You need to double down all the more on what God can do for you.”
Now, the palpable reaction I felt and saw was not because they were awful people. For 35 years I had the gift of speaking to wonderful, loving people. And I certainly wasn’t any “better” than they were. I was often tempted to go with them down this rabbit hole of “what God can do for me.”
No, I believe what’s really going on here is a matter of forgetfulness. We’ve forgotten who and what we really are (Love). What’s happening is “a matter of losing ourselves in appearances”, as Dr. Klotz puts it. If it appears I’m lacking something, I should look to what appears will give it to me. Seems logical.
It may appear that car, house, job, those clothes, that dream job, or that trip will make us happy. So we’ll buy the car, the house, the job, those clothes, get that dream job, and take that trip. Again, nothing wrong with any of those things. Enjoy them! Go ahead, “knock yourself out”, as they say. But when we “come to”, we’ll realize that anything outside of our soul and our soul’s inherent connection with the One, only goes so far. None of it truly scratches the itch within.
So here’s a universal spiritual Truth. We will never find what we are looking for, (happiness, love, purpose, joy, etc) if we seek it only for ourselves. It is in the seeking of it for others, that helps us remember it for ourselves.
My dear friend, Tony, lived this Truth. Tony has been very active in AA for 40+ years. He was my “go to guy” at the last church I served, when I needed someone to help a family deal with alcoholism. Tony would contact me after meeting with the family and say the same thing to me. “Thanks for helping me not drink today.” As they say in AA, “you’ve got to give it away to keep it.” Tony was present to help needed now beyond himself. And in the process he got what he most needed: continued sobriety.
Jesus taught ”Seek first the Kingdom, and all the things you worry about will come to you.” (Matthew 6:33) And Jesus went to this truth right away in this prayer he’s teaching us.
Thank you Tony for all you taught me!
What scratches our inner itch? What is our universal, true Purpose? In a word, Love. Jesus described it as “loving God, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40). What we seek is found in the letting go of our small, separate, needy, fearful self, and losing ourselves in God. Not trying to take from God, but giving ourselves away to God in the form of help needed now.
And in the letting go, the losing of ourselves in God and in our neighbor (which is really the same thing), we find ourselves. We find our True Self that already is and has what we’re looking for. God has already put it there. Our being present to help needed now, naturally raises it up within us.
And if we know we already have what we’re looking for, we naturally stop looking. We stop losing ourselves in appearances. And if we are free enough to stop looking for ourselves, our attention naturally goes beyond ourselves. We are no longer lost in our spiritual self absorption. Our spiritual quest for ourselves. We are free to be present in the moment. Able to see where help is needed right in front of us.
It is here I want to remind us all, that loving God for God’s own sake, is a beautiful, beautiful thing! Sit with that for awhile…….
You are Love,
Pastor Tim Tengblad
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