The Dummies Guide to Reality - Hooked By a Feeling


What is this "Hooked by a Feeling?" Dummies don't have feelings; that's why they're used in crash tests. But the reality is dummies like me do have feelings, and I am hooked by one.

So what? Feelings aren't reality. You can have the willies for no reason. You can be blue and not know why. A large part of parenting is getting your kid to understand that his feelings aren't to rule him, and that "I don't feel like it" is no real reason. Moms don't clean up vomit because it feels good; dads don't unclog toilets because they feel like it.

Feelings are passing, aren't they? We say, "I feel like Chinese today." "I feel like watching a movie, going to the park, going fishing, going to the mall today." That's not a lifelong commitment. You're not stating how you expect to feel for the rest of your life, but what you're feeling right then and there. Everyone knows "I feel like" statements indicate the transitory nature of feelings. So what is this "hooked by a feeling?"

But the way we state what we are feeling shows that we know they lead to acting. If you feel like ice cream, you're going to be getting ice cream. If you feel blue, you will probably do something to counter that feeling. What I am getting at is that the concept of "acting out" whereby a person does something because of an unconscious feeling is rare except maybe among toddlers. We know our feelings lead to acting and virtually all of the time we know what we're feeling and what action we're heading toward. And we're well aware what feeling has us hooked.

Hooked by a feeling? So what? This is what. Some feelings you will have to admit do indicate reality. A child's head feels very warm. That feeling of heat indicates fever. A feeling of sharp pain indicates either a sprain or a break. When you're body needs water, you usually feel thirsty. We pay attention to these types of feelings. We don't dismiss them as unreal or transitory. These types of feelings lead us to acting and if not, they can lead to harm.

The last 2 Commandments show us the reality of the feeling that has us hooked. These Commandments are often throwaways. Partly because of the word covet' which we don't hear much in everyday conversation, and partly because they have to do with the things of our neighbor: house, wife, servants, animals, and anything that belongs to him. We get caught up with the fact that our neighbor probably doesn't have servants or farm animals. But in our Large Catechism we confess that these Commandments are the most important for us people who actually go to church. They're not for the outwardly wicked at all (I, 300).

We can get misdirected here. The focal point of these Commandments is not the objects coveted. We know this because when the Commandments are given in Deut. 5 wife is mentioned in the 9th and house in the 10th. This shows the distinction between the Commandments is not based on the objects listed but based on that the 9th having just one thing being coveted and the 10 having all sorts of things (Small Catechism, Lohe, 71).

These Commandments teach us that when we cast about for what is really wrong with us, what at root our problem is, we a) not look outside of us, and b) not look inside of us the way psychology, science, and society does. That is God made some homosexual, some bi-sexual, some transsexual. This sort of thinking started with Alcoholic Anonymous, went to kleptomania, went back to the 5th so that we have rageaholics, went to the 6th with sex addicts, and picked up the 8th with pathological liars. This is nothing new. Melanchthon said in 1555 that we are to stick to the Scriptures "and not go rushing about, seeking sources for death and human weakness, in such things as the atoms of the Epicureans" (Locci 1555, 70).

The feeling that has us hooked is the real problem, and like fever, pain, hunger, and thirst, it indicates the presence of something else. These 2 Commandments expose that we are all born with an egotistic thirst for life, a greedy clinging to this earth. We naturally, sinfully so, refer everything to self. We have inherited this from Adam but we have accepted it in the core of existence. Luther called this "'the real main sin" (Peters, Ten Commandments, 313).

The reality is that from conception we're hooked on a feeling, and Paul calls that feeling, not the unfamiliar covet, but the O so very familiar lust.' But the reality is that neither sexual lust nor property lust is what is in view with these Commandments. No, pure simple lust is. Luther said the 9th is about "'hankering after something'" (Chemnitz, Locci, II, 677). What is forbidden with the 9th Commandment is the beginning desire which indicates we want something more, better, different than what God has given us (TDOT, IV, 452-461). Eve wanted to be like god, and Adam wanted to be with fallen Eve.

Apart from God revealing it to a person, no one thinks this is a problem. No one thinks that longing for something more, particularly just one more thing, is a sin let alone a damnable sin exposing that under our polite church-going exteriors there lies a beast, a monster that always wants more. Paul said he didn't even know this beast existed until he heard the Commandment, "Thou shalt not lust." And seeing that beast drives Paul to that anguished cry that in some ways is parallel to our Lord's orphaned one. Jesus cries out, "My God why have you forsaken Me?" Paul cries out, "O wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death?"
Yes, that's what we have bodies of death. Yet we think we're alive, but we can't help ourselves from always wanting something more to feel alive. That can be money, power, alcohol, sex, success, possessions. And since we're told that this is all perfectly normal, unless it becomes pathological at which time we are transferred to the domain of psychology, we never see that the single feeling for more that has us hooked exposes the Original Sin that is dragging us to hell steadily, patiently, maybe even kindly' but certainly.

The 10th is to slap us out of our spiritual leathery. It shows that the single feeling for more that has us hooked, has us addicted, if that root is not resisted it explodes into a lust for your neighbor's, wife, workers, pets, everything that belongs to your neighbor. And at this stage, the person is really helping the lust along (Ibid.). He is man dying of thirst but still eating salt. Lust enchants you with self while simultaneously disenchanting you with spouse, job, family, future. C. S Lewis said lust "disenchants the whole universe" (Lewis, That Hideous Strength, 268).

The only remedy for this feeling that has us hooked is death. Luther taught those who came to him for private confession to long for physical death and the breaking out of Divine wrath on Judgment Day because that would at last burn up the original sin, the lust that has eaten itself so deeply into our beings (Peters, 314). But what about today, now? Is there no life except one hooked by a feeling of lust? Is there no life unhooked? Paul said there was for immediately after his anguished cry of "O wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death?" He said, "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

In our Passion Reading Jesus is on the hook for our sins, all of them. Jesus answered for the lusts that flit so fast in and out of our heart that we don't notice them and for that empty, aching need for more that won't let us go. And He wants to be here. In our first Passion Reading Jesus said literally, "I have lusted to eat this Passover with your before I suffer." The beginning of the end started right there; Jesus lusted to redeem you, to free you, to unhook you from your lust.

And He stays with that plan right to the bitter end. See how many times He was taunted to come down from that cross, to save Himself, to prove that God really loved Him. He's in the desert all over again with Satan laughing with delight through the mouths of the people, the O.T. church leaders, and even a thief crucified with Him. But He won't come down from that cross. To redeem us from the lust that we cannot separate from either our bodies or souls, Jesus has to take a human body and soul all the way to death and farther than even that. He has to take it to hell, and to hell He goes during those 3 dread hours when He is forsaken by God. Left alone with human sin. Left alone with the 10,000 lusts we know and don't know every day.

Jesus takes a human body and soul all the way to hell and then to the grave to pay for every human body and soul that ever lived and lusted. But He didn't stay there. As true God, Death couldn't hold Him. As true God, the Devil couldn't hold Him once He paid for the sins, the lust, the feeling that had us hooked through the nose and was leading us away from God to hell. So having paid for it all, Jesus rose proclaiming that in His crucified body was victory, was rescue, was unhooking from that feeling we've been hooked by all our life.

His death did this as proven by the fact that at the moment of His death the curtain that separated the holy God from lust-filled men was torn in two, and the tombs that interred those who died of lust broke open and they were raised to life. Jesus rose from the dead proclaiming that His death did all this and gave us Baptism to join us to His death so that we might go where He went. Baptism takes our lust-filled old adam into the grave with Jesus and gives birth to a New Man that knows no lust but only holiness and righteousness.

The death and resurrection of Jesus unhooked you from this fallen world. Baptism, Absolution, and Communion hook you to the world without end. It's true; as long as you're in this world lust will have its hooks in you. But as long as you are in Christ through those 3 miracles it is only the old adam that is dragged away to death and devil. Jesus in those 3 miracles can do what we can't. He can distinguish between the lust-filled old adam putting him to death while giving dummies like us a resurrected, unhooked, new life. Amen

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Lent Midweek VI (20160316); 9th & 10th Commandments, Passion Reading 6