There are things we do every day.
And the things we do every day are typically things essential to our survival.
Not our well-being, just our being.
We eat every day.
Many don’t. Too many don’t. But we do.
We drink every day.
Many don’t. Too many don’t. But we do.
So obvious we rarely even think about it. Every day.
We also, everyday, rely on having adequate shelter.
Again many don’t. Too many. But we do.
May take some of these things a little less for granted
in days following an earthquake and a hurricane! May not.
Or may not for long.
We sleep. Every day, we sleep.
The things we do every day are things essential to our survival.
Not our well-being, just our being.
We tend not to think about them unless we’re not doing them—every day,
then that’s all we think about.
Y’all familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of need?
Some sixty years ago or so, psychologist Abraham Maslow
suggested that the basic needs of food, drink and shelter (the daily needs)
are among our fundamental needs
that have to be met before any other needs even matter.
It’s once they are met (those fundamental needs),
and only after they are met, day in and day out,
that we can then move on to other needs—
our need for a sense of safety and security, for example—
to relational needs: the sense of love and belonging,
to the development of individual potential
only then arriving at the top of the pyramid Maslow called self-actualization
where he located morality and creativity and compassion.
Now Maslow certainly has his detractors—his doubters,
but he also had a point.
We do not think about our daily needs unless they’re not met—every day,
at which point they are pretty much all we think about.
And there is certainly all too much evidence that morality and compassion
suffer in comparison to other needs and desires
more apparently and more immediately self-serving.
Now there are some disturbing implications to such an observation
for us as a people of faith.
Is our faith something we only have—can only have—if conditions are optimal?
And is that not just (depending on your perspective)
a faith-dismissing cynicism or purported realism about the human condition,
but also a recognition within our faith—within our Scriptures?
Do we, in fact, pray, give us this day our daily bread
because without daily bread, living bread makes absolutely no sense?
So do we not have a story to share with integrity
until there is justice?
Or is ours a story justified by the commitment of those who tell the story
to the basic needs of all people?
Those are actually two different questions.
You hear the difference?
Probably have been more fair to not change the wording so much:
1. Do we not have a story to share with integrity until there is justice?
2. Do we not have a story to share with integrity unless we’re working for justice?
Either way, we don’t have a story separate from justice—
well, we do … I guess … a lot of them, actually,
but we don’t have the story of God.
There are some ruins found on a hill in southeast Turkey
the ruins of Goebekli Tepe (which in Turkish means “potbelly hill”)
west of the plain of Harran, not far from where Abram grew up—
grew up and then left—responding to the call of God—
right there on the northernmost tip of the Fertile Crescent
where genetic mapping indicates the first wheat was grown,
where the care, cultivation and breeding of animals first began.
Now these are old ruins … I mean old ruins.
We’re talking 7,000 years older than the pyramids!
And when we start talking about ruins that old,
then we’re talking about—these ruins—predating human settlements.
They predate the existence of pottery.
They predate any evidence of domesticated animals or even agriculture.
and—and it’s fairly clear that the ruins of Goebekli Tepe
are the ruins of an ancient religious complex—a temple complex.
There are some fascinating implications to such an observation.
And Klaus Schmidt, the German archeologist who first made the find—
Klaus Schmidt’s theory is that “it was the urge to worship
that brought [human]kind together in the very first urban conglomerations….”
Not survival instinct … worship instinct—
responding to the call of God.
“This theory reverses a standard chronology of human origins ….
In the old model, shepherds and farmers appeared first,
and then created pottery, villages, cities, specialized labor, kings, writing, art, and—somewhere on the way to the airplane—organized religion.”
“Religion now appears so early in civilized life—earlier than civilized life,
if Schmidt is correct—that some think it may be less a product of culture
than a cause of it ….” Religion not as the flower of civilization, but the seed.
“The temple begat the city.”
Imagine, the first house we now have evidence of humans building
was a house of worship.
We do so much of our thinking linearly—sequentially—consequentially.
We think we know the starting point and we just take off from there.
Human beings came together to ensure their survival—
not their well-being, just their being.
They made advances in agriculture and animal husbandry to provide for themselves.
Once they felt themselves safe—secure,
once they had an abundance of food and time,
then they cultivated the arts, explored their creativity,
risked compassion, and developed morality.
Makes sense as a linear progression from a given starting point.
But when the starting point turns to be somewhere completely else …?
There’s always the obvious.
and that’s where we tend to start.
In which case survival and self-interest are obviously hard to argue with.
But so much of what we profess as those following in the way of God
is the more subtle, the less obvious, the surprising and the indirect.
How often does a story about one of Jesus’ encounters with people—
one of Jesus’ conversations with people—
one of Jesus’ stories—
boil down to a potentially transformative moment of wonder-filled (or angry) realization,
“Oh, wait a minute, he has a completely different starting point than we do!”
So we rethink—have to rethink.
It’s back to the drawing board.
If worship is the starting point …
if love and compassion are the starting point …
if God calls us from the very beginning into a life of worship—
into a living of loving,
then the immediacy of physical need in its very measurable obviousness
dangerously obscures more subtle fundamental need
too easily overlooked or dismissed.
The priority of “being” too easily obscures the more fundamental priority of “being well.”
Obviously, we need food (drink, rest, shelter),
but less obviously, we need a spiritual nourishment.
Our daily needs—our basic, fundamental needs
are more than just a matter of breathing and eating and drinking—
more than what’s essential to being—
including what’s essential to well-being—being well.
Now (obviously), we can get by—we can survive—
without meeting such needs.
But is that what we want? To get by?
Is that the measure of our being?
I got by?
Let me suggest, instead,
that we reclaim the necessity—the dailiness of more subtle fundamental needs.
Maybe we can use the more obvious to speak of the less so.
There is, in fact, a rich history in spirituality of claiming very physical needs
and using them to speak to less obvious, less concrete spiritual needs.
So we take what we know we need to survive, each day,
those very basic physical needs—the obvious ones,
but we take them out of that basic physical realm
and place them into the context of our faith—
our spiritual needs.
They become the terms that allow insight into our deepest needs
to be who we believe we were created to be.
So everyday, breathe in. Breathe out.
Everyday, take some time to be aware of this necessary process.
Focus on your breathing in, your breathing out.
Life in, not life out.
Breathe what we need in, breathe what we don’t need out.
Breathe in God. Breathe out not God.
Feast on God. Taste and see that God is good.
Drink in God. Living water.
Remind yourself, every day, of the wondrous, subtle story
that begins in the perfect integrity of love
and ends in love and is never anything but love.
Exhort one another everyday, as long as it is called today—
if you hear the voice of God,
breathe it in—
feast on it—
drink it down—
live it out.
Today, this day, set before you, life and death.