2 men named Jesus?

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The days are many when I question the foundational principles learned in youth, when I retire to bed at night more uncertain than certain, when I, like a child, want to hide under the bed covers to escape from the world.

Those stories I read as a young boy – the miracles, the healings, the parables, the inspiration and hope, the guidance and correction, the ancient shared wisdom – I remember all that.

I think of numerous personal crises endured and conquered, unmentionable forays into darkness, the return from the far land, a prodigal son reunited with his inheritance, testimony of a life resurrected, forgiveness extended – I think of all that.

And yet, tonight, the term Christian confuses me.  Don’t all Christians honor and revere the same Jesus?  Or is it possible there were two homeless vagabonds roaming the lands of 1st century Israel?  Both named Jesus?  Both from Nazareth?

Is there another version of ancient writings telling of a hateful and vengeful Jesus?  Have I somehow not read the Gospel of Exclusion, the one that tells white Americans they are better than the other children of God?

And all the verses that I know by heart, maybe I should not believe that “Love thy neighbor as thyself”  is truth straight from our Lord.  Or maybe “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” was intended only for white folks, not brown and black skins.

Some of you tell me that white Christians are God’s chosen people, that only those who congregate in certain churches will get to heaven, that it is okay to persecute others who follow a different path or those who name their God differently.

Is it really okay?  Some of you say that caging children is acceptable under Christian principle, that denying those seeking safety, security and hope is biblical, that the man and woman who happen to be brown-skinned are not part of your Kingdom.

Others say that destroying our earth’s ecosystem in the name of profit will be justified in the end times because Jesus will rebuild our earth, that those who know the true God will be saved from annihilation.

Are we reading the same scriptures or do you have a different version?  Did the other Jesus speak privately to you and not to me?  Tell me what verse gives you the right to judge and condemn men who are not exactly like you?  I must know.

My Jesus heals the sick, how about yours?  My Jesus mends the broken, how about yours?  My Jesus feeds the poor and hungry, shelters the homeless, welcomes the refugee, how about yours?

“For many will come in my name….and lead many astray.”  Matthew 24:5

“Watch out for false prophets.  They will come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Matthew 7:15

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PRIDE – celebrating our differences

When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.  Barack Obama

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Have you ever watched the movie BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN?  The mountain settings are spectacular, the music is soulful and the actors do a terrific portrayal of two men discovering the truth of their lives while living in a culture which refuses to accept that love comes in a multitude of flavors.  The emotion is raw, the love is tender, the difficulties accepting alternative sexuality are real.  Check it out if you have not seen this award winning flick, but allow me to fast forward to the nugget of truth.  Ennis (Heath Ledger) could not accept the deepest love he had ever experienced – physical, emotional and soulful – until that love (Jake Gyllenhaal) was taken from him by the hatred and prejudice of men who lived their lives in an extremely narrow concept of masculinity and manhood.  Ennis realized in the final heart-breaking scenes what he had lost, but it was too late.

Standing shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand with diversity and inclusiveness is an act of love which could save our world.  It means that I must extend an open mind to the differences of others just as I would want them to accept me with my distinguishing differences.  That is probably the greatest challenge a brother/sister of color, an American Muslim, or a member of the LGBTQ+ community will face in life’s journey.  It becomes too easy, having been a target of prejudice and derision, to  complete the circle of  hatred and intolerance, but we have to be better than that.

This excerpt below which I chose is graphic and profane, but so is life.

 

Why are you surprised?

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The Good News of the Gospels is usually relegated to back page stories in this newspaper called life.  Every new day brings increasingly savage and violent news of mankind’s failure to understand our purpose during our visit to this life.  Perhaps people are unaware of the necessary path we must take to ensure our species is existent a few millennia from now.  Deadly armaments and unbridled displays of man’s inhumanity to man foretell a fiery demise.  Is there any hope?

Days like yesterday and today leave me questioning.  The salient media story has been about one man intent on killing as many other men and women as possible with his accumulated stash of weaponry and ammo.  Disgruntled about political differences and incited by racial hatred this one person had a desire to destroy the world.  Can you fathom a crazed mind that intent on having his will let loose on mankind?  I cannot.

Several books of our Scriptures prophesied the “end times.”  Some of us believe the writers could indeed foresee the future of man as related in their writings.  Some of us who are less inclined to agree with prophesy call today’s world circumstances a coincidence.  I certainly don’t know the answers.

However, I do believe those ancient men of scripture knew instinctively the nature of man.  They knew and experienced the violence and hatred inherent in humanity since the beginnings of time.  We do not descend from peaceful stock.  Our genes do not comprehend the words love and compassion and tolerance.  Our primal tribal nature teaches us to kill that which is different from us.  We have millions of years of DNA driving us to be killing machines.  So, why should we be surprised when one man sets out to destroy as much as possible of God’s creation?

Understanding the aggressive, violent nature of mankind does not excuse the task set before me which is to evolve to the highest levels of peaceful coexistence with all races, creeds, nationalities and lifestyles possible within my broken, human condition.  I can never do this perfectly, but I can make progress.  How about you?  Together, maybe we can modify those genes and change our world.

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scapegoats dujour

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

devilFlip Wilson, in his wildly popular variety show from 1970-1974, introduced the character “Geraldine” to his audience.  Geraldine will remain forever remembered for her line, “The devil made me do it.”

The devil made me do it.  The horned and tailed trouble-maker has been a scapegoat for millions of people over many centuries.  That hell-raiser has had numerous names in various civilizations, but the purpose is the same – give humanity an entity to blame for its faults.  Rather than assume responsibility for the acts we commit against others, that fellow sitting on our left shoulder whispering in our ears becomes the universal scapegoat.

Tribalism is founded on scapegoating.  Whether my tribe is a government, a race, a creed, a social order, a caste system, or a religion, when it agrees on a common foe as the enemy to be feared or despised, discrimination and intolerance are born.  But it all starts with me nurturing the fear and distrust which has been indoctrinated into my tribal mindset.  I need a thorough “brainwashing.”

How does that happen?  My personal answer, although not yet perfected, is to replace those “Geraldine” moments with faith and trust.  Replace the scapegoating with inner transformation which uncovers my faults, my defects, and my hatred in need of correction.  Stop blaming the devil.  I need to grow up into the human being I was designed to be.

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.  But, when I grew up I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11

 

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Today – Pittsburgh

 

LOVE

What is love?  Is it that warm, fuzzy feeling that is felt when in the presence of special friends, family, a spouse?  Maybe.  But, what if love is not an emotion?  What if love is an action shared with the world encompassing all of creation including humanity and the earth itself?  Compassion, tolerance, understanding, non-violence, stewardship – perhaps this is the love that will save our earth and its inhabitants.  Perhaps this the love which the author of 1 Corinthians was setting before us as a challenge?  Let’s try it.

Today, the day after the horrific mass shooting in Pittsburgh in which eleven of my brothers and sisters were murdered, it is extremely difficult to practice what I know the Lord of my life wants me to do – love.  Today, I am rebellious.  No, I will not love those who hate enough to kill.  No, I will not forgive those who hate enough to be unforgivable.  No, I won’t.

Then Jesus says, “But, you must because that is the beginning of healing.”

So, I will experience what humans experience.  I will allow the anger, the disappointment, the horror, the disgust, the sorrow, and the denial.  I will allow this and move on to the necessary work of forgiving.  And trust me, this is work.  It is soul work which is not inherent in our human condition.  I too want to lash out at those who are hateful.  I want to beat them to the ground and scream, “What is wrong with you?”

But  that would be giving them the victory.  That would be denying the instructions of the One who lords my life.  I would become an instrument of hate rather than love.

“God make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”

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“If you want peace, work for justice.”  POPE PAUL VI

 

AMERICA, IT’S TIME TO END THE SILENCE

As we enter yet another period of American soul desolation with racial divisiveness and immigration policy leading our moral free fall into the abyss of social turpitude, we must remember our violent past and the transgressions of that past.  Those acts of oppression against the least of these, our brothers and sisters, cannot be buried.  They must surface to America’s consciousness, be reconciled, and corrected.  Only then can we say as a nation that we are great among the nations of the earth.  O God, have mercy on us and deliver us to our destined role as home of the brave and land of the free.

Justice: Week 1 Summary

https://museumandmemorial.eji.org/

….and my neighbor is ?

Refer to the good Samaritan parable from the book of Luke 10:25-37namaste rainbow

“25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He (Jesus) said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?                                

2And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he (Jesus) said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.

Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”

King James Version (KJV)Public Domain

“Go, and do thou likewise.”

From the first time I heard this story in Sunday School and VBS about the good Samaritan, I have been intrigued by the characters and the roles they played in Jesus’ lesson on Christian behavior.  In it Jesus defines the meaning of “neighbor”.  Obviously it is not limited to what we in contemporary society would consider a neighbor, i.e., the couple next door or the man down the street.

In Biblical Jewish culture, the Samaritans were a race to be ostracized and avoided at all costs.  At the well, the Samaritan woman drawing water was shocked and probably miffed that a Jewish teacher (Jesus) would ask her to draw water for him. John 4:7-26 In all probability, the Samaritans hated the Jews just as much as the Jews despised them.

So when Jesus uses a Samaritan traveler as the pivotal character in his parable, those hearing his message were undoubtedly shocked.  And when Jesus takes this heresy further to cast a favorable light upon the Samaritan, we should not be surprised that the ruling hierarchy of Pharisees desired to be rid of him and his teachings.  Their hatred and intolerance was justified by centuries-old racism supported by an archaic system of religious righteousness.

Jesus reckons with this racism by first stating that a priest and then a Levite came upon the traveler (we are not told anything about his background) and kept to the side of the road in order to avoid contact with him.  Perhaps they feared for their own safety should the robbers still be nearby.  Or perhaps they did not want to contaminate themselves by touching a corpse.  The priest and the Levite, although holy men of the Jewish faith, lacked the compassion to lend assistance to the dying traveler.  The Samaritan, however, even though a despised citizen of a neighboring country, felt compassion for the wounded man and gave immediate assistance to the point of ensuring his safe passage to care and recovery at a nearby inn.

“And who is my neighbor,” asked the lawyer of Jesus in the scripture, verse 29?

Jesus tells his story and then the lawyer in verse 37 answers his own question, “He that shewed mercy.”

Which character of this parable do I play?  Am I the priest or Levite, men unwilling to be involved in saving another’s life?  Am I the good Samaritan who cares enough to risk his own life for that of a stranger?  Or perhaps I am the traveler, wounded and left to die on the highway of life, saved only by the grace of a compassionate savior.

Who is my neighbor?  Certainly John next door, my tax accountant at the mall, the restaurant owner at my favorite Italian place, even the Muslim couple who smile to me whenever they walk by my house.  I consider my pastor my neighbor, my car salesman, my insurance agent, and my local sheriff.

OK.  What about the strident atheist at school, the repugnant Republican congressman, the white supremacist in Georgia, the drug dealer in the city, and the redneck who flies a Confederate flag on his pickup truck?  Are they my neighbors?

Jesus was not categorizing anyone when instructing us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Jesus does not see anything but a person’s heart and the innate love and compassion within that heart.  Jesus wants us to do the same.

Who, then, is my neighbor?  The Nazi who would kill a gay man?  The racist who would lynch a black man?  The Jew who would harm a Palestinian?

If I were to come upon an injured man on the highway and that man was Trump, would I stop to assist or pass by on the other side of the road?  Yeah, it gets really funky now, doesn’t it?

I am supposed to love my neighbor.  Love is not always a warm, fuzzy feeling that tingles all over.  It is also a willingness to be actively compassionate toward every creature of God’s creation.

“Go, and do thou likewise.”  I know that if I just carry the willingness, God will honor my efforts.smiley 3

 

conflicted

We know the Way of Jesus: the Truth and Life; we know the Path of the Buddha.  Reality dwells in a space within our bodily temples protected from the clamor of the world.  It does not participate in the illusions of the world.  It merely observes the noise and allows us to function quietly in fullness of spirit.   When challenged by the incessant demands of the noise, our inner self needs only withdraw to the place we know as truth, the place where we will find solace.

And what is that truth?   It is knowing that this life is impermanent; it is knowing that this life is suffering; it is knowing that our suffering is a result of the work of the ego; it is knowing that we can ascend to a place of non-suffering through dying to that ego.  When we can become self-less we can become free.  That is the journey, the Quest.

For a few, enlightenment occurs, but for me, it is a continuing trek through the disappointment, the disillusionment, the sadness, the intolerance, the hatred which defines today’s society.  I’m still a work in progress.  Thankfully, I also know that it is my choice to participate in a conflicted way within the world’s reality or to merely observe and conduct my life according to my conscience.  I will speak as a brother to all humanity, I will think as one who is merely a grain of sand in the sea of humanity, I will uphold the rights of all my brothers and sisters to a life of equality and justice.  The truth which I perceive tells me there is no separation of mankind for we are all one within the greatness, the magnificence, the brilliance of the universal One.

The state of being conflicted is counterproductive to the journey.  Or is it?  When we stand in for a victim of oppression and hatred, when we speak out for those who are being persecuted, when we uphold the laws of our country as prescribed by the Constitution by counter-demonstrating, are we not also subscribing to that which we know to be Truth?

Although I seek quiet and solitude, I cannot be voiceless and uninvolved.  Even when I cannot successfully search my memory banks for sound bytes, video clips, and quotes which support my convictions regarding today’s political turmoil, I have an intelligence and awareness which continues to discern right from wrong.  For that I am grateful else my state of confliction would be without value or purpose.

I wonder if Gandhi was conflicted, or Martin Luther King, Jr., or Jesus, or the Buddha.  Maybe it’s OK.  You think?

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