peace on earth

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” —Martin Luther King, Jr

In my Lutheran worship service, after the prayers, “the peace of the Lord” is extended by the pastor.  The congregants then take several minutes to greet each other with hugs, aCANDLE hand clasp and a repetition of “God’s peace.”  It symbolizes the attitude we are encouraged to assume in greeting the world with a universal message of  love and compassion.

During the Christmas season the words “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” will take center stage in celebratory endeavors.  It is a sentiment which our enlightenment envisions for all of humanity regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof.  It is a dream shared by John Lennon, IMAGINE, Martin Luther King, Jr., millions of pacifists worldwide, and me. Sadly, peace seems to be, in the Christmas season of 2017, the last item on the agenda of the world’s politicians, strident religious leaders, and governments.  Just as a popular song by Lennon in the 1960s anti-war movement laments, “why can’t we give peace a chance”  GIVE PEACE A CHANCE , we also wonder what is so tough about peace?

Indeed, why not give peace a chance?  What is Larry doing today to give peace a chance?  Hmmm, that’s where it starts, does it not?  I can’t change the world, but I can surely, with divine help, change me; if each of the world’s 2 billion plus inhabitants could assume a commitment to peaceful co-existence, we might have a chance.  Yes, I know, it’s a pipe dream, but, the process has to start somewhere with someone.  Let it begin with me.  As the Buddhist would ask, “How is your good heart today?”  As Jesus would say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  I have within my being the solution to the worldwide pandemic called heart dis-ease.  Lord, bring it on, let the cure begin with me.christmas emoji 3

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men”  Luke 2:14 KJV

 

 

 

Jesus & Buddha

I have this recurring thought of a meeting and conversation between Jesus and Buddha, both of whom are verifiable historical figures, in which, after offering solutions to the world’s suffering, Jesus bows to Buddha and says, “The Lord be with you.”  Buddha replies, “Namaste, I bow to the divine in you.”

Wow! How different would our world be today if the major religions could take it upon themselves to honor and respect each other’s faith walk? Not only could we honor and respect, but we could also embrace each other as co-inheritors of the grace and mercy ofrainbow-solidarity our respective Lords.  All of us are children of God who have received different messengers throughout history to teach the truth of one universal entity which we, as Christians, choose to name God.

That, in essence, is the teaching of Jesus which I believe exhorts me to live life inclusively and compassionately.  Man’s created theology is secondary to this nugget of truth revealed by the author of Mark.

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

A few scholars of religion have tried to connect the two, Jesus and Buddha, through historical access.  Jesus, in his lifetime, could have easily heard the teachings of Buddha from merchants and Buddhist priests who undoubtedly travelled the trade routes between Israel and the Far East.  It’s an interesting theory which would add a dimension of mystery to the story of Jesus; however, it is not a necessary component to verifying the validity of our messenger.

Marcus Borg in his book “Jesus and Buddha: the Parallel Sayings” attributes the similarity in sayings to the probability that both mystics were inspired by an indwelling Spirit of holiness which enabled them to recognize the unitive presence of a Oneness, a universal energy which transcended human understanding and religious distinctions.  Following is an excerpt from that book:

Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). The Buddha says, “Consider others as yourself” (Dhammapada 10.1).

Jesus says, “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also” (Luke 6:29). Buddha says, “If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or CANDLEwith a knife, you should abandon any desires [to hurt him] and utter no evil words” (Majjhima Nikaya 21.6).

Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:45).  Buddha says, “If you do not tend one another, then who is there to tend you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick” (Vinaya, Mahavagga 8.26.3).

The Jewish Kabbalah, Muslim Sufism and the teachings of Tao also reveal this Oneness, the unitive energy of God within.  Contemporary Christianity seems to have become exceedingly concerned with establishing its Jesus story as the only truth to the point that it has lost the Jesus teachings which reveal lessons of detachment, non-violence, simplicity, and anxiety. CAC.ORG

Namaste.

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“emerging” Christianity

“We are on a quest for a new kind of Christianity—a faith liberated from the institutional and dogmatic straightjackets we inherited, a way of life that integrates the personal and the social dimensions of spirituality, a practice that integrates centered contemplation and dynamic action. In our quest, we must remember how easy it is to self-sabotage; we must remember that how we get there will determine where we will be.”  Brian McLaren quoted from cac.org

rainbow-solidarityI can’t help but love the phrasing, “a faith liberated from the institutional and dogmatic straightjackets we inherited.”  That is exactly where many of us have been led by our traditional faith endeavors.  Even within my liberal Lutheranism the dogma and theology can become binding chains of thou shalt and thou shalt not.  I have been given a very basic set of values in the Ten Commandments which facilitate a sane and peaceful social structure and then an unmistakable rule by which to live:

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27

What more do I need?  Everything else within my faith tradition is gravy on the meat.  I don’t need to have gravy but it makes for a more fulfilling meal.  The weekly church service, the hymns, the scripture readings, the communion, the Advent services, the Christmas Eve candlelight celebration, the fellowship, they all are gravy atop the meat of Christianity which I can now define as devotion to a lifestyle emphasized by the story of Jesus.  He and his disciples called that manner of living the Way; I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. These are words written by the author of John 14:6.  Within those parameters of love, compassion and service to mankind I  have a path to successful and victorious living.

The concept of “emerging” Christianity is an exciting development.  Many of us must first learn how to rise above the pain, anger, and frustration which our old institutions of religion have caused in us.  The fire and brimstone from the pulpit serve no purpose in our new way of living.  When we join hearts with Jesus, we abandon the meanness and bitterness of our old beliefs and habits.

Idealism needs to be controlled.  There is no perfect religion, church, or congregation in this lifetime.  I will continue to stumble and bumble along my faith walk because I continue to harbor character defects, but, in the realm of emerging Christianity, I am accepted as I am and I am covered by the grace of a loving and compassionate God.  I no longer fear the wrath of a vengeful God or eternity in the pits of a lonely hell on earth.

Within this radical practice of the Way, I accept personal responsibility for my actions and behavior.  I control no other brother/sister nor religious institution and I give up the need to judge/condemn their actions and behavior.  I accept that they are also giving life the best shot they can within the  guidelines of their beliefs.  If my church affiliation does not emphasize a ministry to the homeless, then I should do so personally.  If my church does not openly accept ministry to the LGBT community, then I should.  If my church does not embrace a multi-racial ministry, then I should.  I have been freed from dogmatic and doctrinal restraints and it is my responsibility to extend that freedom to others suffering under religious oppression.

Again from the words of Brian McLaren:

“Finally, we need to start small and celebrate small gains. One of the curses of late modernity was the belief that unless something was big and well-publicized, it didn’t count. . . . [Jesus] spoke of tiny mustard seeds, of a little yeast in a lot of dough, of a little flock, of the greatness of smallness, of a secret good deed and a simple cup of cold water given to one in need.”

I want to be a little mustard seed, a cup of cold water to the thirsty.  How about you?

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”CANDLE

 

a Quaker shares

Sadly, many of those who disparage the Christian walk have never taken the time to research or embrace the truth of the Christian way of living as emphasized by the character of Jesus in New Testament scriptures and other mystics throughout history.  Instead, media blips of a dying faith, a ritual life of religious intolerance, and a hypocrisy CANDLEsimilar to that which Jesus encountered in Jewish culture are displayed on screens worldwide as the universal nature of the “evil” Christianity destined to betray humanity.

Father Richard Rohr in his daily meditation at cac.org quotes the Quaker pastor, Philip Gulley, in presenting to us the true nature of the Christian mindset:

Quaker pastor Philip Gulley superbly summarizes how we must rebuild spirituality from the bottom up in his book, IF THE CHURCH WERE CHRISTIAN.  Here I take the liberty of using my own words to restate his message, which offers a rather excellent description of Emerging Christianity:

  1. Jesus is a model for living more than an object of worship.
  2. Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.
  3. The work of reconciliation should be valued over making judgments.
  4. Gracious behavior is more important than right belief.
  5. Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.
  6. Encouraging the personal search is more important than group uniformity.
  7. Meeting actual needs is more important than maintaining institutions.
  8. Peacemaking is more important than power.
  9. We should care more about love and less about sex.
  10. Life in this world is more important than the afterlife (eternity is God’s work anyway).

If this makes sense to you, you are already inside of Emerging Christianity.

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The 10 points listed above clearly indicate that the prevailing world view of our faith, especially that of the strident anti-religionist, is based on misinformation and error.  Jesus is more than a mythical character whom some Christians remember and worship at Christmas.  The story of his life is an example to be lived by us in our lives today.  It is the greatest story ever told.  Namaste.

Jesus freak?

CANDLE

Yeah, amongst many other terms, this one has been leveled at me by a world that is turned off by the rhetoric of  self-proclaimed religious experts who preach from financial, personal, and political agendas.  For me, being called a ‘Jesus freak’ is confirmation that I am finally doing something right.  It is not taken as it was intended, a term of derision.  No, ‘Jesus freak’ is a badge of commitment.  I’m not here to cast judgement, yea or nay, on anyone.  The fruits of our works shall reveal our hearts.

Several years ago WWJD was an often used acronym, “What Would Jesus Do?”  In order to understand the significance of WWJD one needs to become familiar with the character of Jesus of Nazareth as presented by the writers of New Testament scriptures.  I am not involving myself in the arguments some believers will throw at the previous statement.  Whether I believe that the divinity of Jesus, the Christ, as presented by the Roman Church fathers of the 3rd and 4th centuries is the truth or I believe that the man who lived as a vagabond and beggar with a troop of like-minded men and was crucified for his insurrection against the Romans, I must accept that this Jesus of Nazareth was a remarkable character and his teachings were eternal tenets of wisdom given in a dialog which the common man could understand when viewed in a spiritual realm.  He is accorded the words,  “I am the Way: the truth and the light.”

Whether I believe that Jesus was saying he was the only way to a heavenly God, or I internalize the teachings of Jesus into my personal code of conduct, the Way does lead to the truth and it is light, a personal kingdom of the Lord which dwells within.

But, I have to know those teachings.  I have to process the words given in scriptures with my own powers of discernment, not the interpretations sent forth from the pulpits and  theological doctrine.  Ultimately I cannot trust the “isms” until those tenets strike truth within me.  If this is not one of life’s lessons why would a Creator install in me the qualities of reason and logic?  I cannot deny the wondrous works of the human crafter by negating any part of that crafter’s creation.  I am made a miracle of genetic engineering;  I come complete with a conscience; I am made to appreciate the world’s beauty; I am made with an intelligence which surpasses that of any other earthly species;  I am made in the crafter’s image.

Those assessments of me are confirmed by the teachings of Jesus.  Whenever I conceive a thought, contemplate an action, speak a word, or move onward, the utmost consideration should be “WWJD?”

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roy moore versus truth

“I will continue to resist, and revolt against the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and Islamophobic leaders the Deporables and the Evangelicals support. They think they are doing the “will of God” when in fact they are playing God by their deeds, words and actions. These old white people will get the response from their Creator soon enough. Hopefully their time on earth has prepared them for the heat and humidity.” ENDS AND BEGINNINGS

JUDGE ROY MOORE

Please read the above link.

My heart grows weary in face of the accumulating evidence that America is regressing to the dark years of the 1950s before the advance of the civil rights movements.  Is it possible that Judge Moore truly represents the voice of Alabama?  Does this issue a dire forecast of where America is heading?

My friend at ENDS AND BEGINNINGS in today’s fine commentary illustrates the concern we should have with this potential Senator representing Alabama.

Some of Moore’s more memorable quotes;

  1. “Homosexual behavior is crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it.”
  2. “We have child abuse, we have sodomy, we have murder, we have rape, we have all kind of immoral things happening because we have forgotten God.”
  3. “False religions like Islam who teach that you must worship this way are completely opposite with what our First Amendment stands for.”
  4. “We have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It’s going to be God.”

Unfortunately, people who have not been reared in a genuine Christian home see this unholy assault on the moral compass of most thinking Americans as indicative of Christianity.  The faith has suffered immensely at the hands of fundamentalist evangelicals who spout their fears and hatred supported by a translation of our Holy Scriptures which they claim is literal, inerrant and infallible.  Many devout followers have been ostracized for questioning this interpretation.  Those who have been fortunate enough to escape this brainwashing usually walk away from any and all organized religions.

However, I continue to honor the teachings of the Christianity I knew as a young man.  It was a way of life based on compassion, tolerance, inclusiveness, and equality for all of God’s creation.  Yes, that came from the Christianity I knew.  Not all who profess the faith follow the path which Judge Moore advocates.  Although I no longer assume the label, I will always defend the pacifism and egalitarianism of the Christian faith which reared me.  It is the Way which Jesus of Nazareth defines in his Biblical character.  It is the Truth and the Life.

Firebrands like Roy Moore are doing a great disservice to the vast majority of believers who absolutely do not walk his path nor advocate his intolerance.  I often refer to the words attributed to Jesus and it matters not whether those words are authentically his for they are nonetheless verses of great wisdom.  The book of Matthew in chapter 10 speaks of the persecution believers shall suffer for speaking the truth of Jesus.

That truth, the brotherly love and compassion which is defined in the story of Jesus,  is not flowing from the mouth of Roy Moore and others like him.  Rather, it is gushing from those who live their lives in peace and inclusiveness shining a light on the darkened world of fundamentalism.  It is the enlightened faces in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism who endure persecution as described in Matthew 10 for daring to love unconditionally.  Truth does not emanate from the dark corners of racism, bigotry, homophobia, and sexism.  It never has and never will.

namaste rainbow

Dhammapada 1: the twin

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Even if the thoughtless can recite many of the scriptures,
if they do not act accordingly,
they are not living the holy life,
but are like a cowherd counting the cows of others.

Even if the faithful can recite
only a few of the scriptures,
if they act accordingly,
having given up passion, hate, and folly,
being possessed of true knowledge and serenity of mind,
craving nothing in this world or the next,
they are living the holy life.

Doesn’t get any simpler than that, does it?  I believe in American culture we would say, “Talk the talk and then walk the walk.”  It’s all about the journey which we walk and not the scriptures we have read.  Some of my friends are well versed in Christian scriptures and they do indeed live by the principles.  Surely they will be blessed.

But, we increasingly witness the preachers of the “talk” who haven’t a clue nor a desire to live the “path” of the Buddha nor the “way” of Jesus of Nazareth.  Their talk is big while their performance is dismal.

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD.  Jeremiah 23:1

To my friends in recovery programs, this is not religious stuff; this is the essence of the program we have learned around the tables at our meetings.  Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson did not pull their life-saving principles out of thin air.  No, they took the wisdom established centuries earlier and transitioned it to fit contemporary society.

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