Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ego and soul

Paul doesn't name Satan, but that is who he is talking about in the opening verses of the second chapter of Ephesians. "Following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient." (2:2)

The power of the air? It sounds ominous -- and it is. I am not sure what to call the power of the air -- although our tradition has many names: Satan, the devil, Beelzebub, the unclean spirit. And I am not sure what that power looks like -- be it the time-honored image of red creature with tail and horns, or some nefarious energy that floats about in the air. But I do know where that life-denying power lives.

It lives in my ego. That place in my psyche that wants advantage or affirmation (usually at the expense of someone else). That power that is averse to risk, and which will do almost anything to maintain order (usually at the expense of someone else).

That is the power of darkness. That power can lead us to trespass (2:1). But in this season we are asked -- as it is said from the Collect of the First Sunday of Advent, to put on the armor of light. To bathe in the Spirit. It is another power. The power of Christ -- given to us by grace. We don't have to buy it or prove ourselves worthy of it. All we need to do is accept it.

It is a power that lives in the soul, which is a place that lies beneath the ego. It is a deeper place -- of blessing and freedom and hope. It is Christ's gift -- and the rest of this chapter describes the gift and how we might go about the internal work of receiving it. And sharing it.


  1. Just a blessing from my first week's "reading, and the writer's praying for those to whom he writes.
    I was brought back in touch with thankfulness for those who had prayed for me in dark times of my life. I remembered a time of fear for the life of one of my children, and being surrounded by a group of seminarians at Drew. One said, You have to have hope. I said, "I don't think I have any left." Another said, "Then we will hope for you." It was an amazing gift. It has touched me again with the remembering of it, and led me to pray and hope for peoples and places of the world where there seems to be no hope.

  2. In last week's reading, I was touched by the writer's praying for those to whom he wrote. It recalled to me how important it has been that people have prayed for me in times when I had no hope. I remember at Drew some seminarians whose names I didn't even know telling me they would hope for me, when I had no hope left. Being reminded of this has made me want to pray for the people and places of the world where there seems to be no hope.

  3. Satan, I heard a preacher once say, is "whatever spoils the goodness of life." And an ancient hymn says that the energy and spirit we call the grace of God "spoils the spoiler of his prey." Thanks for naming part of the face of evil.

  4. It sounds like such a simple thing, doesn't it? To simply "accept" God's grace? It's all around us, but at times I think we are incredibly poor at getting out of our way in order to accept it. I suppose it is our ego~ some internal force saying no, not yet, or not me. But when we turn & embrace God's grace, in simple things like my son's laugh, my husband's hug... or the random kindness of a person giving up a parking spot at the mall-- WOW is it a wonderful feeling!!

  5. We very intentionally make a choice to wear the armor of Light. Yes, we accept and receive it through the grace of God but we must remember to wear and tend to our armor. The armor quickly identifies us to others who may be attracted to the armor and to those who may want to find a way to pierce through the armor. Accept the strength of the Light that comes with the armor and also the awareness that the darkness is always preying.

  6. I think in practical terms that whoever wrote this letter was trying to promote and preserve the interests of one religious community over those of another, probably Gnostic, community. This largely ignored feature of the pseudipigraphic letters would lead in time to a legitimization of exclusion as a fundamental support of church practice.

  7. Dear Reverend,

    Another great post.

    The emanation of the power floating in the air is an interesting sociological observation by Paul. He may be tuning in to what German Classical philosophy referred to as Zeitgeist and Weltanschauung.

    I understand one is the spirit of the age and the other is the consciousness of the age. The Zeitgeist or spirit of the age is the external political, social and cultural mores. The reified stuff floating about the air that is the result of and characterizes our actions.

    I understand Weltanschauung to be our collective understanding or worldview of a particular culture or society.

    Christians are often encouraged "to be in the world not of the world". It is particularly popular admonition with fundamentalists.

    That is a huge challenge particularly in an age when the private and public domains of our lives are less separate and the social demands of living require individuated pursuit of self interest. The call for Christian community and ecumenical acceptance for all God's children to live fearlessly into the oneness of the Holy Spirit is continuously undermined by the political, economic and culture Zietgiest of the age.

    Unfortunately the Weltanschauung of our age seeps with fear, suspicion, greed, aggression and unrestrained egoism.

    Paul is writing in an age at the height of the Roman Empire. Conquest, slavery, exploitation and bifurcated class of humanity set amidst the grandeur of urban civilization, opulence and learned culture are striking dislocations. As Isaiah asks that we live into a calling to heal and reconcile that breech.

    But the devil is in the details and the better angels of ourselves can only be found in the execution of a life well lived.

    peace and prayers for all the beloved,



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