was the price right?

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.

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Why was Jesus crucified?  Depends on whom you believe, doesn’t it?  The Christian scholars of theology and religion who believe in the fall of Adam and Eve from God’s grace, who believe our progenitors were expelled from the garden for their sin, who thereby believe that all mankind is saddled with a sinful nature will explain that the violent, ignoble, bloody death of his “only begotten son” was a necessary payment to God to attain God’s forgiveness.

Really?  I know I am questioning one of the foundational tenets of modern Christianity, but can we believe that?  Prior to the 11th century Christians did acknowledge that payment (ransom) was due, but it was not due to God, rather it needed to be paid to the devil.  Then Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033-1109) wrote a paper WHY DID GOD BECOME HUMAN.  In this writing he asserted that yes “a price needed to be paid to restore God’s honor, and it needed to be paid to God the Father.” (1)

With the popularity of this one piece of literature during the 11th century, God was confirmed by the Church not only as a vengeful, condemning, agitator of fire and brimstone, but now a Father who had demanded his only begotten Son’s life.  Instead of a loving and compassionate Father, the Christian world embraced a bloodied, broken body on a cross as the price due for communion with their God.

Think about it.  The death of Jesus of Nazareth was a historical event.  Jesus’ ministry is documented by a multitude of writings by his followers and at least one unbiased historian, Josephus.  Jesus was an insurrectionist who dismayed the powers of the Roman Empire and he made himself a thorn in the side of the established Jewish hierarchy.  Both wanted him gone.

It is up to each of us to decide what we will believe in our faith walks.  But, what about forgiveness?  What does forgiving or being forgiven mean to me, to you?  When was the last time you handed your neighbor a $20 bill and then asked him to forgive you for mowing down his prized petunias?  You may have repaid him for replacement of his flowers, but the money did not buy his forgiveness.  Can forgiveness have a price if it’s an act extended and received by one man/woman to another freely from a mindset of love and compassion?  Would a loving Father demand payment for his forgiveness through crucifixion of his only begotten Son?

We must be concerned that possibly what is accepted as inerrant theology has somehow strayed off course by way of human fallibility.  I refuse to abandon my faith tradition because sometimes what I am told to believe doesn’t make sense to me.  If I am led to read the scriptures of our Christianity as examples of sober-living and paths to spiritual recovery, then I must ask questions.  I must question the scholars and theologians who have established inerrancy and certitude as hallmarks of their interpretations.  My adventure into the mysteries of eternity and God cannot be a trek which ends with definitive answers; rather it has to be a discovery process which only poses more questions.

(1) CAC.ORG

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betrayal

 

the last supper da Vinci

They followed him, believed him, ministered with him, sacrificed for him, learned from him, loved him, and then –  betrayed him.  

The world refers to the above painting as the LAST SUPPER.  The original mural painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the late 15th century is housed by the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy.  It represents the final meal taken by Jesus with his disciples before his trial and crucifixion as told in the Gospel of John. (1) (2)

Up until the end Jesus served his disciples.  The book of John tells us that before the meal, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and then approaching Simon Peter, Peter said:

“Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I am doing, but someday you will.  No,” Peter protested, “you will never wash my feet.”  Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

The narrative continues in verses 14 and 15:

“And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.  I have given you an example to follow.”

In ancient times the trails were dusty.  It was a matter of ceremonial etiquette to present to the visitor to one’s household  a bowl of water for washing the feet. In a well-to-do household a servant would have been assigned the duty.   Jesus took this one step further and became the servant whose chore (or privilege) it was to wash the feet of his guests.  His entire ministry is summed up in THE LAST SUPPER – serving a spiritually soiled and hungry humanity.

Judas Iscariot is known infamously as the disciple who betrayed Jesus with a kiss in the garden of Gethsemane for a handful of silver coins.  The death of his master and teacher earned Judas a mere handful of silver.  For us today, the task is to recognize and correct the many times we also betray Jesus, the one we name as Lord.  Our doubts are a betrayal, our addictions are a betrayal, our unspiritual thoughts, our lustful behavior, our profanity, our cheating, our lies, our violence, our greed, our prejudice, our gossip – all are acts of betraying the One who blesses us every hour of every day 24/7.  He has washed your feet then shared his bread and wine.  He put himself on a cross because he loved us enough to suffer crucifixion and die ignobly so that we could receive through the Gospels blessings from a loving, compassionate, just God, the same God whom he called Father.

Greater men than you and I have been traitors.  Simon Peter, the Rock, the Father of the Roman Catholic Church, when leaning into Jesus at the supper asked to go with Jesus to his destiny:

Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”  Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”  Peter asked, “Lord why can’t I follow you now?  I will lay down my life for you.”  Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me?  Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (3)

Is it just my imagination, or do I hear a multitude of roosters crowing?

(1) THE LAST SUPPER

(2) JOHN 13:1-30

(3) JOHN 13:36-38

 

repent! and be saved?

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.
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Today, the thought ‘repent and be saved’ for some reason entered my brain and stayed there for a few moments.  Whoa!  Did I have a really good time last night that this morning I don’t remember?  Many years ago that would have been a legitimate concern when I staggered home and to bed in a black out too drunk to remember how I got home.  But today I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke weed.  Yes, I still screw up and do unspiritual things, but now I have a memory to remind me that amends and corrections need to be made.

When I sat down to my blog, I googled “repent and be saved.”  The first entry was this:

Before anyone can be saved, they need to come to the realization that they’re sinners and believe that Jesus died and rose again so their sins could be forgiven.  That is what the phrase “repent and be saved” means.  Therefore, when we’ve asked Jesus to be our savior, the repenting has been done.

Ohhhh, I would love to pick this apart, but I’ll focus on the word repent.  What does that conjure up in your mind?  Yeah, me too.  I am totally unworthy of living on this earth because I am an immoral piece of human flesh who is absolutely devoid of any redeeming qualities which would satisfy the white-haired, fire-breathing, judgmental old man sitting in heaven with lightning bolts in hand ready to zap me for being a human failure.  If I don’t repent I’ll never be a part of the heaven crowd.

The implication of the word repent is moralistic.  It is used far too often by preachers and religionists intent on controlling a gullible audience being primed to swallow their particular brand of theology.  Some of the church-goers in my past drank like I did, lied like I did, cheated like I did, repented and got themselves saved and felt assured of a place beside Jesus in heaven.  They continued on with a life of drunkenness, lies, and cheating.  Didn’t change a thing about themselves, but they claimed they were saved by the blood of Jesus.  Yeah, OK.  I’ve got some swamp land down here in Florida that’s going to be prime beach front real estate in a few years.  Interested?

We know that the scriptures which comprise our New Testament were translated from ancient writings composed during the first 2 centuries following the walk of Jesus, the Christ, on this earth.  They were written in Greek.  In subsequent translations of the original manuscripts, the Greek word metanoia was translated as repent. The word repent lent a more powerful, moralistic connotation for a budding Roman Catholic church intent on religious and political control.

If you have a Concordance, look it up.  The Greek metanoia also means “to change.”  For me this was a game-changer.  I am no longer being judged; rather, I am being challenged.  I am being urged to change my mind about life, about Jesus, about God, about me.  And it is not a once and done deal.  This will be an ongoing, everyday process growing into the example presented to me – Jesus, the Christ.  Paul is attributed the book of Romans.  In it he writes in chapter 12, verse 2:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Remember what Jesus said to the woman accused of adultery facing stoning at the hands of the scribes and Pharisees?  In their eyes she had committed a grave sin and deserved death by stoning.  In Jesus’ mind she had done wrong just as every man standing there had also erred.  They were made to realize that none were perfect.  One by one the accusing scribes and Pharisees left until there were only Jesus and the woman.  He did not condemn her nor throw moral judgement on her.  He simply told her to go and not make the same mistakes again.  He told her to change her life.

Mark 1:15 quotes Jesus as saying:

The time has come.  The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news.

Change your thinking and believe the good news.

ROMANS 12:2 

JOHN 8:4-11

MARK 1:15

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let’s try Christianity

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.

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“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”  Gilbert K. Chesterton

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“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  Mohandas Gandhi

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What is there to dislike about Christianity? Why would Gandhi publicly say that?  He obviously saw something in the practice of Christians which does not emulate the “Christ”; otherwise, he would like Christians.  Perhaps Gandhi was having a bad Hindu day when he framed that famous quote.

Or perhaps Gandhi saw the truth of a religion which had become arrogant, self-serving and dominionized since the days when the man from Nazareth said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  Undoubtedly, Gandhi was aware of Christian missionary zeal which enslaved indigenous people and slaughtered thousands in the name of God.  He would have read about the Christian Crusades from 1095 through 1258 which decimated Muslim and Jewish populations.  And surely he, an advocate of non-violence, knew about the violent nature of America’s Christian leaders interacting with other world governments.

Gandhi understood our Christian culture better than we do.  Oh, we profess to be seeking the peace of God and goodwill toward men, but our behavior betrays who we are.  We cheated Native Americans out of their lands, stole Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War and then abandoned our territory to poverty, and murdered or otherwise deposed international leaders with whom we disagreed.  We continue to harbor racist attitudes toward members of minority groups, we demean the LGBT+ community, and we trivialize the importance of immigration.  We fear the growth of Islam, the advance of brown and black citizens, the decline of aged, white, Christian America.  We harbor outdated ideals of nationalism and isolation.  That’s why we, Christian Americans, are hated and distrusted.  That is probably why Gandhi liked our Christ but not us.

But it could be different.  Jesus, that man from Nazareth who taught the Way to his disciples, is still teaching today.  Just read the words, follow the examples, understand the parables and learn what it means to be a Christian.  Then follow.  Remember the verse about wolves in sheep’s clothing?  That’s what Christianity has become.  We have become a brood of vipers speaking from both sides of the mouth and miserably missing the message of Jesus, the Christ.

Those of you who disagree with my assessment, please don’t wax eloquent about your concern for my soul.  I would sooner see your concerns directed to the homeless, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the orphans and widows, the millions displaced by war, the children ravaged by human slavery, the thousands standing on our southern border hoping for a better life.  I would rather hear your prayers for black and brown brothers and sisters, gays and lesbians, transgenders, Muslims, the poor suffering discrimination, battered women and children; yes, pray for them rather than for my salvation.

Today I am a disturbed Jesus follower.  I would be the one standing aside Jesus overturning the tables of the money-changers in the temple.  I would be with him challenging the Pharisees over their obtuse obedience to man-made laws.  Jesus is our Christ.  He is both human and divine teaching us how to conduct lives of humanness and divinity.  He is our example showing us how to love unconditionally.  Jesus never instructed us to worship him – he only told us to follow him.

I am the way, the truth, the life.  John 14:6cropped-candle.png

CHRISTMASTIDE – Dec 25-Jan 5

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 overflows.

“For unto us a child is born, a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Emmanuel – God with us!  The words of Isaiah foretelling a messiah were written many centuries before the New Testament, as we know it, was compiled from writings by the early followers of Jesus of Nazareth.  But, the message could not be any clearer because the world was not that much different back then from the world we have today.  Violence, oppression, intolerance, and poverty ruled the everyday lives of the commoners of the Jewish people.  And they, especially the acclaimed prophets, looked to a time when peace and justice would prevail.

Put aside the busyness of the season, forget about the rush to get a holiday dinner together for family, don’t worry about all those gifts that will be returned tomorrow.  Celebrate with gusto this day because it is a phenomenal event for the world.  Along with the sumptuous meals and joyous festivities, remember on this day the blessings of a gracious, loving God who dwells within each of us.  We can name that God whatever our tradition or conscience dictates, wherever the Spirit within leads, because on this day we have been freed from spiritual oppression and spiritual poverty through Emmanuel.  God with us. 

“For if the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed.”  John 8:36

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HEROES – 2018

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest beckoning me.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.

baseball game

Who are your heroes?  Sports celebrities, maybe?  World politicians, social justice advocates, personal friends, maybe a parent?  Why do you think of them as heroes?  Intelligence, money, fame, accomplishments, ethics?  Whatever your criteria may be, your choices are absolutely valid because these are your heroes, not your mother’s, your pastor’s, your teacher’s or those of your spouse.  You measure them according to your code of conduct, your conscience.  You see in them the person you strive to be, the legacy you would like to leave as a member of humanity.

In the world of sports celebrities, Derek Jeter of pro baseball, Tim Tebow of college football’s Heisman fame, and Colin Kaepernick of pro football top my list.  The one common thread with the three, in my mind, is their surrender to a purposeful life superseding their athletic gifts.

Jeter exhibited a wholesomeness of character which presented to his fans a lifestyle worthy of emulating.  Derek did not use PEDs, he did not carouse, he did not create chaos in the sports world. Unlike numerous peers who succumbed to the glitz and glitter of fan adoration, he maintained with innocence and wholesomeness his poster child presence as a man of integrity and ethics.

Tim Tebow was quarterback for the Florida Gators winning the Heisman in 2007 and leading his team to BCS National championship games in 2006 and 2008 seasons.  My most memorable thought of Tim is the 2009 BCS Championship game during which he wore in eye black John 3:16.  Over the next 24 hours that verse generated 90 million Google searches.  In 2010 the NCAA banned messages in eye black.  His visibility as a Christian believer created controversy on the playing field and among the sports pundits.  That high-profile walk in faith probably closed many doors of opportunity in the sports world.  He has been instrumental in numerous philanthropic endeavors.

“Loving others is not an option.  As followers of Jesus, we don’t get to love certain people and not others.”  Tim Tebow

Colin Kaepernick is most notable as the professional quarterback who took a knee during the playing of the national anthem.  In subsequent games, fellow team mates and players across the realm of pro football joined him in protesting a country and an Administration which was not paying attention to the increasing incidence of police brutality against blacks.  The POTUS referred publicly to Colin as an s.o.b. who needed to be run out of pro football.  Sports fans will argue till hell freezes over about the legitimacy of Kaepernick’s protests, but one cannot argue his dedication to his belief in social justice for all Americans.  As with Tebow, this highly gifted athlete has put principles above wealth and fame thus seeing his sports career nosedive.  He is the founder of the Colin Kaepernick Foundation to fight oppression and he hosts the Know Your Rights Camp for youth to get educated on how to interact with law enforcement.

My ultimate hero is Jesus of Nazareth.  Not the God-man as created by church fathers in the 4th century, but rather, the human being who loved his fellow-man so much that he was willing to suffer crucifixion as the penalty for his crime of offending the Jewish powers and inciting the Roman conquerors.  Jesus protested the social injustice, aided the oppressed and poor, lived his life according to ethical principles.  I think Jesus is smiling when he sees Derek, Tim and Colin.

Merely my humble opinion of course because I believe life is like a baseball game.  Got to keep on slugging away for what I believe is right – just like my heroes.

 

 

 

crucified

 

 

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larrypaulbrown

Krishna was there,
Yahweh and Buddha watched from above.
They saw and wept;
“the Way”, the great “I AM”, a Savior
hung on a cross.

Man of peace,
messenger of love,
hope for the hopeless,
life for the dead in spirit
nailed to a tree.

Heavens roared in pain,
angels ceased singing,
holy ones prostrated in grief,
skies thundered,
sun, moon and stars hid in horror.

Their Son, their beloved,
shamed and ravaged,
naked and dying,
nails through feet and hands,
mocked and reviled.

“No,” they bellowed,
“this shall not be the end.
Our Prince of Peace will prevail.
He will be Lord of lords
and King of kings. Forever.”

The Way – the truth and life continued,
peace, love, tolerance, justice
revealed through other lives.
Mohammed, Francis of Assisi,
Gandhi, Martin Luther King,

……….you and I.
All of God’s children united
with the spirit of the Way
living in truth and peace,
eternally joined with the Holy Ones.

His Way will not be crushed,
His truth will not be crushed,
His life will not be crushed,
and we shall live forever and ever.
Amen

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” [Isaiah 53:3]