By Pastor Chris
This week the Narrative Lectionary leads us through the story of creation and the fall of humanity as found in Genesis 2-3. This is a story we are each supposed to find ourselves in. It describes the problem found at the root of humanity's woes. Buddhism calls it "dukkha", roughly translated as "reaching".
God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden to care for it. They were told they could eat any plant or fruit, except for the fruit from one tree. One day Adam and Eve walked by the forbidden tree and a serpent struck up a conversation with Eve. She was fooled by the serpent's wordplay, and Adam stood there passively as she caved to the temptation of the forbidden. Adam joined in the feast, and when they realized what they had done they hid in shame.
Adam and Eve had everything with only one restriction, and yet that is the very thing they found themselves drawn to. Is this not the human condition? If you have curly hair you want straight hair. If you have wealth you want power. If you have power you want friends. If you have love you want money. If you have food you want drink. If you have leisure you want purpose. If you have any of these things you want just a little more of them. We are always reaching. Always striving. Always pushing for something more. Humanity has maintained the posture of reaching into that tree ever since. It is the root of our suffering, and the Buddha recognized it and called it "dukkha".
Once you realize that this "reaching", this ancient posture of plucking a fruit from a tree, is at the root of your pain, what do you do with it? Some of us simply live with it, accept it as a part of our humanity and wait for our new heavenly bodies to be free of it. Some, try to cast out all desire, living a life of asceticism. As a member of a monastic community, I admit that this is often our default, though I have been blessed by receiving a monastic tradition that embraces the good in this world more than most. I propose that if it was a posture of reaching into that tree that got us here, it may well be a posture that will get us out.
Studies have found that it is not always our posture that reflects our mental state, but sometimes, our posture will dictate our mental state. This is why some self help gurus encourage you to stand in "power positions" to change your state of mind. The scriptures teach us many postures of praise, thanksgiving, and submission, but we often write them off as old outdated formalities of our faith. When was the last time you prayed on your knees? Praised with your arms raised up? Laid prone, face down on the floor in submission? Bowed before approaching the communion table? Maybe it's worth giving these postures a try. One time can't make up for a lifetime of the reaching posture, but maybe, over time, God can use these postures to change us.
Lord, help us to stop reaching. Help us to find satisfaction in you instead of all the things and people we try to fill our God shaped emptiness with. Amen.
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