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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Who Needs Bread and Wine When We Got Jesus?

It is said that a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality. It is also said that a sacrament effects what it symbolizes; that is it actually makes something happen.

The Jewish Bible is full of sacramental signs and events, for example, the Passover meal and lamb’s blood.

God commands Moses to have the people celebrate a sacred meal. The details are strictly spelled out. Before the meal, some blood from the lamb is to be spread upon the lintel of the doorpost. This is a sign. When God sees that sign, He says He will pass over the Jewish households and spare their firstborn. It is to be a perpetual ordinance.

Did the lamb blood actually save the first born of the Hebrews that night? Yes. It was symbolic and real at the same time.

Does eating the covenant meal incorporate one into God’s people? Yes, but so did circumcision; however, those who refuse to comply with the expectations of this covenant meal are “cut off” (Ex 12:19). So the meal is sign, symbol and reality of communion with God!

Jesus reinterprets that same Paschal meal, the focus is now on Him (the lamb on a cross whose blood spares us). It is His body, the bread, and His blood, the wine, which we eat and drink. This meal connects us, figuratively and literally, to His sacrifice. It ritually and actually unites Him to us and we to Him.

BUT, the relationship of ritual and liturgy to real life is difficult to understand: Does a marriage ceremony really add anything to two people’s decision to cohabitate? If you love and trust God does pouring water on your head make that any more, or any less, true?                 And if you feel close to Jesus in your prayer? If you feel like He lives in your heart? If you hear Him speak to you in His Word? Well, is eating a piece of bread and sipping some wine really necessary?

Many of us have had a profound sense of encounter at this altar rail. We have heard Him say “Take and eat, Take and drink” and obedient to the command we have come forward. But it is also true that profound encounters take place elsewhere. Lots of Christians would say a church service as the last place to find God.

So why did Jesus do it? Why did Jesus tell us to baptize people? Why did He tell us to anoint the sick? Why did He tell the church leaders to forgive and unbind sins? And why did He say “My Body and My Blood” at a meal which was already meaningful? Why, in other words, couldn’t Jesus be satisfied with our minds, our heart, our faith and the invisible realities of salvation?

In the end, though I do not understand ‘the why’ I do believe “the that”; Jesus said to do it and He said what He meant.

To eat the bread and drink the cup is to share in the life of Christ. To share in His life is to become, like Him, a servant. The meal makes real the life of Christ in us. Baptism and Eucharist, like faith, REALLY save us and truly incorporate us into the life of Christ.

As I once shared, it makes little sense to argue about what is most important part of breathing, inhaling or exhaling. Perhaps the invisible and the visible are both needed in this world because this world is constructed of the visible and invisible. Perhaps faith and sacraments are provided to us by God because GOD Himself sees a value in both. If other Christians deny or denigrate that reality, who am I to judge? But as your priest I must tell you that the twin realities of faith and sacraments are revealed in Scripture as created by God to bring us to everlasting life. Faith and sacraments have long been embraced by the church as the legitimate and God ordained means to find fullness of life.

Rituals and sacraments do not stand alone as magic. There is a demand for faith, and beyond faith, for faithfulness and obedience. To trust Jesus is also to follow Him. To have faith in His blood and His cross is also to offer Him my own body and soul to Him; and to pick up my cross to follow.

I think rituals do serve a function. I think that they mediate the reality. I think spiritual communion with Jesus requires the physical communion which we celebrate here this night and each Sunday. And I think it worth our while to treat His presence, through faith, with reverence and gratitude; and to leave this place afterward and live a life worthy of the One who dwells within us.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wailing Destruction

This is Holy Week, so liturgically we are focused on the last days of Jesus.The Jewish Bible book, Lamentations, is often used this time of year. It was written in the time of Jeremiah, just after the Babylonian invasion which put an end to Judah. The parallel between Judah in Jesus day and in Jeremiah's times are pretty amazing. The fall of the city (in Jesus' day it was 'the end' of Israel until our own time) was devastating, in part because it was not only the capital city but in a sense it was God's city (His name was in the Temple). During Holy Week the liturgy of Morning Prayer includes daily readings from Lamentations. Lamentations is the wailing voice of the city of Jerusalem after the first fall. In reading it today I was drawn to underline the verbs describing God's actions. God has: humiliated, thrown down, not remembered, destroyed,broken down, brought down, cut down, withdrawn, killed, destroyed... well you get the drift. It is devastating language, made all the more ferocious by the huge number of verbs, coming in such close proximity. Twice it says the Lord is like an enemy. Broken down and destroyed appear numerous times each.

In our Gospel today, Jesus told the parable of a landowner who made a vineyard. He details the step by step process of the owner creating the vineyard and then recounts the numerous times a slave was sent to get the owner's share. Some they abused, others they killed. Most commentators think Jesus is making an allegorical reference to Israel's abuse of the prophets. The "son" who is sent, a self-reference to Jesus, is killed "in order to get the inheritance for ourselves." The tragic conclusion, he will give the vineyard to someone else, has long been understood to refer to the church/Gentiles. Jesus' judgment on the Temple and city come to pass. In Josephus' history we read the stomach turning account of how bad things got. Suffice to say that while Roman legions encircle the city, within the walls a civil war of unimaginable brutality and violence raged in the Temple environs. The words of Lamentation are as applicable there as in their original setting.

Jesus' death should be understood in a context of God's wrath. The generation after Jesus, Rome actually did what the Babylonians had done in Jeremiah's day. The intersection of geo-politics and theology is hard to understand. We prefer causality to be simple and straightforward. Yet some how God is at work in a world where people make decisions. The exact mechanism for how the two interact is a mystery. We tend to see events as singularities, whereas the connection of past, present and future (from God's view) are more tightly wound than we seem to be aware.

In our own age, the church in the West and western civilization seem to be experiencing their own moment of crisis. Wrath, whatever else it means, seems to be both active and passive. Human choices produce their own consequences. Even so, God is also at work (and because He loves so much He gets angry at our refusal to live right--whatever anger means when one is speaking about the eternal God!) and that work is justice.  Much of it is pretty bleak. And Holy Week is bleak, very bleak. It is a story of betrayal and cruelty, injustice and savagery. It is also about fidelity and courage. It is a small light in an encompassing darkness. The life of Jesus makes His death all the more understandable. Here is the end result of love and goodness in our world. Jesus stands in the gap, taking on Himself the sins of us all. Yet Holy week ends in darkened silence. Too many Easter egg hunts and family celebrations come early; interrupting the time for deeper reflection and he chance to prayerfully enter into Thursday night and Friday. The cross is too awful. We cannot fathom it and do not want to try.

It all ends badly. A silent tomb and the sobbing survivors, their dreams, like Jerusalem, destroyed and pulled down. God 'feels' like an enemy--untrustworthy and cruel. So we wail... Holy week is dark and it ends in darkness. The seventh day of the old creation echoes the first Saturday in Genesis: silence. rest.

But on Sunday the new creation begins. Death is not the last word, after all. Another Word is spoken. A word of life and hope. We do well to celebrate with faith and joy. We also do well to keep an eye on things this week. The prophet's warning must be heeded. There is resurrection, but there is also wrath.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Where are you?

Palm Sunday
It happened several times when I was young. It is a normal occurrence for families. Parents are herding the kids; but focus on their shopping mission. The kids, distracted by ‘some of their favorite things’ briefly pause to investigate this or that. A few seconds becomes a minute or two and the child looks up to realize the parents are gone.
There is a moment of sheer terror as you wonder, "Where are my parents?". There is a feeling you get, like fire, in the stomach. The breathing becomes gasps. “Where did they go? Where are they?” You want to scream out at the top of your lungs “Momma! Daddy! Where are you?”
The reality of being “lost” always precedes the experience of feeling lost. The distractions of life sometimes keep us preoccupied, but eventually that moment comes when we look up, survey the situation, and come to the blood curdling realization; I am alone.
For human beings, that summarizes our situation. It is that situation that Jesus fully embraced when He became fully human. It is that situation, being lost, which He accepted as our Savior.
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Jesus, the one who was always close to the Father, takes the bitter medicine for us. Feeling lost and alone and abandoned is the sinner’s condition. It is the worst part of the death on the cross.
As a frequent observer of the pain of others, I know how many of us feel, from time to time, that God has abandoned us. “Where is God?” we ask. “Where is God?”
Yet the truth is that in a myriad of ways it is we who have wandered off. God has said, “come with me” and we pause to investigate all the “shiny things” which are not God, and are often not even good.
As a parent, I have learned that there is a terror more horrifying than being a lost child..... Being the parent. It does not happen often, but sometimes you find yourself seeking after the child that has wandered off. At first you look, a bit nervously, but under control. Then, as the search lengthens and widens you begin to think the unthinkable. That same fire in the stomach rages and your throat constricts and you wonder if you will pass out. Praying to God you become more and more agitated. Your imagination is filled with countless stories of other parents whose search came up empty.
If Jesus’ cry to the Father is heart wrenching, we do well to remember the reason why Jesus is on that cross in the first place….
A man, a woman, a garden, a tree. A set up expectations. A sneaky snake and a willful, fully chosen disobedience. Suddenly the man and woman hear the footsteps of God and hide.
Then, the first question in the Bible. It is uttered by God (a God not looking at all All Powerful, All Mighty, All Knowing...).
“Where are you?”
Whatever else the story of Eden is, it is the story of the human race. It is our story, you and I. We have wandered off and now stay hidden from God. And God, the loving Father, His divine stomach on fire with worry and concern, furtively runs around the garden screaming, “Where are you?”

If Jesus’ question can be paraphrased, “Father where are you?” then in a sense it captures our cries (we for Whom He became man and died). It is the question children ask when they wander off, blaming the parent. And until you grow up you never understand the look in their eyes when they find you. (that same look in the eyes of our Father in Heaven)
And in some mystical, mysterious way, that is what the cross of Jesus is about. The lost getting found. Folks like you and me.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Measurement Dilemma

(computer issues and more than a few pastoral care emergencies.... I discovered two drafts which I did not publish. My apologies for the bumpy nature of recent postings. This is the finale of the series which I previously said had ended...)

Using physical exercise as a model for understanding spiritual exercises can be a useful tool. After all, we can match up some of the virtues required: persistence, focus, commitment, self sacrifice. However, the relationship is analogical and all analogies have strengths and weaknesses.

In exercise it is easier to measure progress. I can look at the scale and see that my weight has changed, I can measure my waist and see if my stomach is flatter.  I can also measure output. I can measure the exertion level and my physical response (pulse). I can see if I am stronger or faster. There are also criteria to measure against. I think the hardest question to answer is what is expected? How long should it take to run a mile? How much should I be able to lift? There are scales based on age and sex which let you know.

In the spiritual life it is less easy to measure. The soul is immaterial and hard to eye ball. We cannot easily determine if we love God and others more each day. It is hard to grade a prayer life or scale a meditation. If people get discouraged and quit physical exercise easily, perhaps it is fair to say that far more never even engage in spiritual exercise at all.

Many of us overstate what we do. "I don't need to go to the gym," I have been told over and over. The reasons vary: I don't want to get too big and muscular (frequently stated by women; as if most women are genetically loaded to look like Arnold Schwartzenegger after a weight months of lifting). Another one, "I walk around constatnly, I probably go twenty miles a day!" (Fitbit, a tracking device which records your daily steps may end up telling you it is closer to 2,000 than the 10,000 recommended each day)

So I hear people say, "well I pray all day" or "I already know all that stuff." Or I feel very close to God so we must be fine. Perhaps the most common, "I know I need to do more, I am just too busy, or not sure how to start; or I am too lazy" (some people are honest). The "eye ball test" so to speak of the state of one's soul...

So hear is the dilemma. Without measures we can think we "pray all day" but it is important to have actual times dedicated to praying. Not unlike "walking all day" needs a base of thirty minutes of focused exertion. And our spiritual life needs to incorporate multiple dimensions. If all you do is run then you will be good at running, but you will not be very strong. And the demands of daily life require more than the ability to run ten or twelve miles. So prayer time, being quiet with God, needs to be supplemented (Christian prejudice here) with Bible reading. The best way to hear God is through His word. The best way to hear the word is reading it (slowly and repeatedly). For "heavy lifting" we do well to add the Scriptural approach of the Ancient Church (spiritual reading to supplement the literal) to our Bible footnotes. Or cross check word references (Blueletter Bible is a great tool) to see how often it appears and what it means in different contexts. Or study the ancient world and read the Bible in its context (instead of assuming it was written for ours and addresses our needs and concerns!) For additional growth in endurance and strength incorporate fasting. There are health benefits to fasting both physically and spiritually. In addition, handing over time to dedicate it to serving others, handing over money to support others, and using our special skills to benefit others are all spiritual exercises (stewardship) which are directly connected to our growth in faith and love.

Once again, to reiterate what I posted yesterday, the purpose is to give one's self to God. So keeping track cannot become an end in itself. We are not counting rosaries or psalms prayed to meet some self promoting level of spirituality. On the other hand, to not have some concrete measure of what we are doing (call them goals) means that we are floating around, at the whim of every impulse or outside influence.

For me, I have a committed workout regime which allows for strength and endurance. My body has been transformed in the last year. I am not required to take the pills the doctor said I would need. I am stronger and my body composition has gone from 'fat' to 'lean.' In my spiritual life, I have long followed a similar practice. I dedicate thirty minutes to prayer and meditate on the daily readings. I try to use rosaries for repetitive prayer (usually thanks and praise, or an invocation of Jesus). The steady rhythm is not unlike walking for three or four miles. It is not exertion, but it gets me in a zone or awareness. Whatever else it accomplishes, it means for that period of time I am giving self to the Lord.

In fact, I suggest taking a walk and doing the repetitive prayer model daily. To start the day with a prayer walk benefits body and soul. Then pick up the Bible and read, study, meditate and respond with your life. Include periodic fasting and acts of generosity. Have a goal for a "good day" and then relax and enjoy life.

My prayer is that you are inspired to do thirty minutes of moderate exercise a day and supplement it with strength training three times a week. I also hope that as you focus on bringing your body to a higher level of health and vitality you are not neglecting your soul. Prayer, study, service/work makes a soul healthy and strong.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What Goes Around

[WE continue to have computer issues at work so my Sunday posting never got posted.]

 In the last few weeks I have written about other things than the daily readings and during that time we have read through the Joseph cycle and entered into the Book of Exodus. I wanted to go back to Genesis [chapter 27 onward] and reflect some on general themes.

One of my constant themes in teaching the Scriptures is that God has inspired a text written by humans. As such, books written about events 1500BC are probably best understood in the context of ancient Israel. The actual time in which the events were recorded was probably long after he actual time that the narratives were compiled (after the exile). What the words "Divine Revelation" (word of God) means, I think, is that God has communicated Himself to us in and through the text. However, I am not sure that it means that His primary concern is to get historical details correct (facts which are true), rather it is to convey the meaning for the 'church' (God's people) in each age (Truth). In light of that, probably, God did not communicate to Ancient Israel in a way that was foreign to them (i.e. like being concerned with the Modern idea of history, which is modern). What this story meant to people after the loss of all that God promised can be known by analogy. Our job is to hear His voice, afresh, in our context.

One of the troubling aspects to the Jacob story is the way Jacob connives his way to 'steal' the blessing and birthright of his older brother Esau (reddish//Edom--see similarity to adam). The patriarchal insights into the relations of the two nations (King David conquered and subjugated Edom) is a background context, the significance of which would be more obvious to the ancient Jews than to us. One assumes typology was overtly and covertly at work. However, our concern with morality (a good concern) raises the issue: Why does God's chosen one act in such a manner? Why doesn't God tell him to straighten up?

My understanding of Torah is that the Law (described by a variety of terms) spells out the expectations. The narratives illustrate the "lived reality" of a covenant people. This is why the practice of polygamy by the Patriarchs cannot be used as an argument against man-woman marriage today. The practices of the people in the Jewish Bible rarely conformed to the expectations of God. The Law provides the expectations (later supplemented by the Prophets and ultimately, in these last days, by Jesus).

Jacob gets the blessings, but then he flees. Esau remains behind and apparently thrives. Jacob, on the other hand, finds himself fooled by his father-in-law (switching daughters at the marriage) and under duress as his father-in-law constantly changes the deals he makes with Jacob. The story makes clear that God's blessing saves Jacob from disaster (couple with a practice, based on ancient assumptions, that what the sheep look at during mating actually impacts the coat design of the offspring). The trickster is now the victim, over and over. Meanwhile, Esau, without the blessing of Isaac, seems to have ended up just fine!

Fast forwarding some chapters to Joseph, we see the old man, Jacob, heart broken at the loss of his son. The other boys, jealous of Joseph, send him into slavery while telling the father that his blood stained coat is all that they found. Jacob suffers the loss deeply. One is tempted to say that the sadness weighs on him more greatly than any of the blessings he has. There is no clear statement in the Book that Jacob is being punished for his sins. However, the Joseph story does provide some narrative insights. When the brothers of Joseph come to Egypt in the plague, and Joseph puts them through the 'tests' we overhear them saying that it is all because of what they had done to the brother. In fact, that is true. Joseph was doing this for that reason. Yet, the text also implies that in the midst of human decisions, a divine hand is present to guide (redeem?) the process. It also reveals the context: belief that what we do comes back around again.

This is not karma. However, it is the Biblical theory of "fruits," you reap what you sow. One take away from Genesis and the Jacob cycle is that we need to read the whole story before jumping to conclusions about what God is doing. Jacob's guile does not allow him to escape the difficulties of life. In fact, it seems to have produced a backlash which cripples him, literally (wrestling match with God/angel/man) and figuratively (sorrow and pain). I think this is the revelation from God. O yes, coupled with God's promise to be with His people and achieve his goals--in spite of our sin and mischief!

Narrative theology invites reflection and insights in ways straight law and rules cannot. The ancient stories still ring true today. They provide us insight into the God we worship. And it is most helpful to avoid reading them as if they were written for us in our language and with our assumptions.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Schools of Thought

This is my final post on the series of reflections concerning the use of physical exercise as a model for the spiritual life. The analogy works well in some areas and not so well in others, which is exactly what analogies do (they all "limp" as the saying goes).

One area where they definitely resonate is that both have a large range of opinions about what is "best."  Over the years the desire for surety has been crushed by the reality of "expert analysis." You know, "the definitive study of this or that", "the conclusions based on hard science and not opinions"; those indisputable facts which have been overturned by further studies and hard science. So, for example, eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast: is it hope of a healthy day or recipe for disaster? According to the periodic fasting contingent, missing breakfast makes me sharper and clearer (because my body is hungry) while others say it will lead to weight gain, lethargic energy levels and diminish me in body and mind. [I have made my choice, each one choose as you think best]

One of the great debates in weight training has to do with volume. It is agreed that low numbers of very heavy weights make you stronger and high repetitions at lighter weights provides for endurance. It also seems to be agreed upon by everyone that what you do is what you will get better at. But the question of most us (the people who will never appear on stage as awesome body builders or on playing fields as elite athletes) is what is the best way to get strong, healthy and look good?

For the last year I have encountered one school of thought after another. Sometimes they agree. Sometimes they just emphasize different aspects. But, sometimes they flat out contradict each other. Some even forbid the very exercises that another makes the foundation of the entire program.

Obviously, there are schools which do endless research on bodies and study the impact of exercise. Yet, 'science' has yet to provide the unequivocal answer to some basic questions. And I am reading lots of exercise blogs and websites!

So what of the Spiritual Life? My friend, Ol Dave (a frequent contributor of valuable insights) swears by the Ignatian approach. Well he should. Ignatius has long been recognized as one of the premier teachers of the way of spiritual growth. I have recently shared our parish's (deeper) embrace of St. Benedict's Rule for monastics. With some need for shifts here and there, it makes a wonderful model for parish life and a great approach to personal spirituality (with its emphasis on regular prayer and the use of Scripture, especially the psalms) and the concomitant immersion in a faith community. John of the Cross is a recognized Master of the Soul and his work on the journey of prayer (called the Dark Night of the Senses, the Dark Night of the Spirit and the Dark Night of the Soul) are of infinite value, especially to mystics and serious pray-ers. Some advocate a passionless, intellectual focused approach (Truth reigns here!) while others advocate a more affective, romantic piety (Love! Love! Love!). The American Protestant may be drawn to "getting saved" (a cathartic experience) and prayer is centered on praying for the lost. A more Catholic approach may be the struggle to holiness and a focus not just on prayers but works and sacraments. The "prophetic" spirit of the Liberal Christian resembles a social justice advocate, though the motivation is God's teaching in the Bible and the example of Jesus. Pentecostals seek the gift of tongues and an intimacy with the Holy Spirit. The value of Nature was shaped by Celtic and Franciscan approaches with their recognition of God's immanence. Some spiritualities are the fruit of an individualist emphasis, others embrace the communal. Some seek personal insight into the Bible, while others emphasize obedience to the church's voice throughout the ages and the guiding principles found in Holy Tradition. Some simply advocate the constant repetition of the Jesus Prayer. Some advise say nothing at all, embracing the prayer of silence and the via negativa and its awareness of God's transcendence.

I am trying to paint these options to the Spiritual life in neutral terms. I have my own set of preferences. I also have criteria to judge which is the more and which is the less authentic. However, what I have learned during my struggles to lose weight and get healthier is that the "experts" often admit that what works for one may not work for another. It turns out that we are all different. Yes, our differences do not make us singularly unique (we can be grouped), but we do well to discover which "shoes fit" in our approach to exercise, whether it is physical or spiritual.

Whatever we choose, know this. Our prayer life and spiritual disciplines must provide enough challenge that we grow. We must do it long enough and often enough to make a difference. We are best to embrace one school or another and learn its ways, and reach some level of competence with the practices before we try another. It is just a bad idea to train dead lifts at maximum effort one week, and then do nothing but run the next week, and then do dozens of arm curls with low weights the next week and continually change without time to grow in anything. Likewise, learning to pray the psalms daily takes months (and years) to grow into. Once we are grounded in a spirituality, then one can branch out to embrace the wisdom of other approaches. We also know that simply running every day, or lifting as heavy as possible will not produce the best results. Consistency also needs change for stimulation and growth. But the decision to do something is most useful when choices to act follow. So get on it. Commit to doing it every day for long enough to make a difference. And add a bit each day, just a little bit, because over time it adds up.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Looking Good Man!

 (we have had computer problems at work so I could not post recently)

One purpose of weight training is body building. There is no such thing as a weak body builder, but it is also the case that biggest muscles do not equate exactly to greatest strength. There are ways to stimulate muscle growth. It is also the case that some people get stronger and stronger but do not pack on the size. Everyone has been in the gym and seen the skinny guy who is lifting more weight than the muscular guy.

The goal of body building is to look good. There is nothing wrong with that, most of us would prefer to look good. However, in the spiritual life "looking good" is a problem. On Ash Wednesday we always read the Gospel message from Matthew 6, "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them..." Jesus conclusion, if you do then you have already got your reward. The reward is the praise of others who think highly of you because of your spiritual practices (he identifies prayer, fasting and almsgiving). In a body building contest one parades before the judges who measure your body against criteria (like symmetry, size, shape). If your body looks better than the other one, it does not matter if they are in better shape, stronger or faster. It does not look for objective measures of strength.

In real life this can produce problems. The use of drugs and some practices can abuse the body.  On occassion, it may produce serious harm, even death. In the spiritual life the same thing happens, only here the negative and deadly consequences are more frequent. "He isn't as strong as he looks" may be an ego bruiser, but he isn't as holy as he looks is a soul destroyer. So it is key to our growth and development that our soul-building is based on objective criteria and not an "eye test" for others.

However, doing any type of "exercise" can lead one to an outcome focus. If I am seeking a personal record for lifting the most weight I ever lifted, or running the fastest time for a 10K, I can be consumed. Once again, if the goal of my work out is setting records, paradoxically, I may do long term injury in the pursuit of those goals. There is a range of of exercise which provides optimum health, then there is a point where there are diminishing returns. The benefits are outweighed by wear and tear when the purpose is on competition rather than health. Once again, this is a choice a person makes, but the world is littered with 'crippled up' former athletes who were 'specimens' at twenty-five and 'medical cases' at fifty. In the same way, engaging in spiritual practices as a competition (trying to be "more holy" than someone else) can produce its own toxic consequences. If the goal of the spiritual life is union with God (and it is) then whatever takes our focus off God and onto ourselves (like trying to set records) will always end up being a barrier to our relationship, even if we look good or set records in the process.

So a valuable lesson for the soul from the body is the danger of choosing the wrong goal! Hope this helps in your journey. All spiritual disciplines are focused on God and our relationship with the Trinity!