let’s try Christianity

I had another post prepared to share, but a more pressing issue blipped onto my radar screen and I believe this post from a while back is appropriate for today’s religious dialog. 🙏

via let’s try Christianity

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“Imagine no heaven or hell….and no religion, too.  You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”  JOHN LENNON

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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

“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 14:6

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awesome

CANDLE

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.

Redeemer, counselor, comforter.
Lord of lords,
king of kings,
merciful and mighty.
Awesome.

Light in my darkness.
Refuge in my fear,
comfort in my pain,
everlasting and eternal.
Awesome.

Forgiver, father, confidante.
Ever present,
always within,
never failing.
Awesome.

Come, see, believe.
You belong,
you are loved,
you are also His.
Share my awesome God.

“Jesus said unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life……'”  John 14:6

In our recovery we follow the way set before us in the literature and the fellowship.  We are not alone and we are not perfect.  But, our Higher Power guides through all turmoil, fear, and temptation.  We only need to accept the mercy, grace, and forgiveness offered to us.  Have we found the truth and a new life in sobriety?

Came to believe that  a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  TWELVE & TWELVE, step 2

endurance

smiley-face-2Just 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.

 

I have great memories of the days not too long ago when my body allowed me to be a passionate jogger.  Most memorable was the Sunday that I was able to do a 5 mile run and then, with abundant energy and strength in reserve, a 15 mile hike through the countryside which I called home.  It was exhilarating to return to my house, enjoy a hot shower, and a hearty dinner.  I was a jogger for many years until the aging process caught up to me and sidelined my ambitious running routine to a vigorous walk.

The key element to a successful run was endurance.  I did not always have a desire to run 5 miles, I did not always feel that I could complete the challenge.  Sometimes it was simply putting one foot in front of the other, focusing on a roadside tree 100 yards ahead, and then upon arriving at that tree finding another goal 100 yards further ahead.  But, the carrot on the stick was that runner’s high which told me that my world was as close to perfect as it would ever be.  It was the reward for steadfast, sometimes painful, endurance.

That same ethic of endurance is what keeps me going as a Jesus freak.  The world around me which cascades across my viewing screens and in the newspaper does its utmost to take me out of the race, to bring to me knees and cry out, “Where is the justice, where are you God when so much oppression and violence is happening?  Don’t you see that I am hurting?”  And it is there on my knees that my questioning plea is answered.

“I am that I am.  I am love, compassion, justice, wisdom, and mercy.  I am the One worthy of trust,  deserving of reverence, entitled to worship.  I am your hope.  I am your trek’s destination.  I will always be your endurance through the world’s pain.”

My run through this lifetime will always encounter hazards, slowdowns, and detours.  It has been ordained to be that way because running for Jesus is not for wimps.  We were told nearly 2000 years ago that the world would ridicule, despise, and persecute us for our devotion.  Those who embrace the lies of this world fail to understand the simplicity of a message which was delivered to all mankind.

“I am the way, the truth and the life,” John 14:6, does not refer to a picture hanging on a church wall or a molded likeness of Christ hanging on a cross waiting for our adoration and worship.  No, it says that we have an example to follow, the Way, which will lead us to communion with God.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever….for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things….whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord.”  Psalms 107

Endurance – it’s a two way street.  God’s love for me endures forever.  My devotion needs to also be enduring.  It will never be as perfect but it can be steadfast.

CANDLE

 

 

 

“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

 

that divine spark

CANDLE

I love to read about things that inspire people to become a closer image of the spiritual person which God has intended for them.  When reading or listening to others who are sharing their journey, I try to look for the nugget of truth that is intended for me, that divine spark which they harbor inside of them and that inspiring thought which is meant for me.  There are no coincidences in this experience.  You, my fellow human, always have something to teach me.

“Namaste” roughly translated means, “I bow to the divine in you.”  Shared with another in a position of bowed head and folded hands, this one word says to you that I may not agree in philosophy and “isms”, but, I know that the same divine presence which motivates and inspires me is also within you.  It’s a wonderful way to overcome the inherent prejudice and bias which we all endure.  Possibly it is the only way we can avoid species annihilation at the hand of hatred and intolerance.

Buddhism, for me, is a rich sojourn through the thoughts of the character of the Buddha.  The image given to us is that of a weighty man, sitting in the lotus position, transfixed in meditation.  According to the tradition of Buddhism, love, self-less behavior, and compassion are the essentials for a peaceful coexistence with fellow-man and with the entirety of creation.  The practitioners of this philosophy don’t necessarily see it as a religion, but rather, as a way of living.  They name it “the Path”.

Jesus, who historically came to us about 500 years after the Buddha, also referred to this devotion to selflessness as “the Way”:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

This idea of self-less, compassionate co-existence is not a Christian discovery formulated by Jesus and his followers, nor is it an invention of the Buddha.  It has existed forever in the heart of mankind since the beginning of time.  Religion and the “isms” will never capture it or copyright it.  That divine spark which dwells within, which leads me to try harder, do better, suffer with my brothers and sisters, hope for enlightenment, and realize I need a Lord and Savior in my life is inherent in all of us.

Choosing to acknowledge and follow, to recognize a higher power is a choice.  Whether I soar with eagles or mire in the muck is a decision I must make each and every day.  Come, fly with me today, the skies are spacious and refreshing.  Truth is awaiting.

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the narrow gate

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  MATTHEW 7:13-14

Many theologians and religionists have attempted to kill the message of Jesus for motives of profit and power.  For the most part they have been successful.  By attributing our character defects to the realm of sin they have brought countless repentant followers to the confessional booths or the altar railing seeking a reprieve from a condemning God.  For some parishioners there is an implied monetary or physical penance.

Imagine the freedom we can achieve if we view Jesus, the man and the teacher, as he truly was.  He was not an ascetic punishing himself daily for being human.  He thoroughly enjoyed life.  He thrived upon being another human amongst a brotherhood of men and women struggling to survive under Roman and Judaic bureaucratic control.  He loved a good party.  But most importantly, he did not pass judgment based upon the defects inherent in all of mankind.  He urged a better way, a self-less way, a way which would lead to personal freedom coming from within.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  JOHN 14:6

Within the powers of reasoning and logic which are God-given, what if we translate this ambiguous verse as follows:

I am the way: I am the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through truth and life.

Religionists and theologians who base the exclusiveness of Christianity as the only “true faith” on John 14:6 obviously will shudder with horror and will refute this translation which would subsequently force them to question the literalism and inerrancy of their scriptures.  We all are faced with a personal choice to either accept the teachings and preachings of the church fathers as written in stone or to embrace the freedoms with which our Father endowed us to THINK.

Perhaps we need to visualize the “narrow gate” as a:

life of simple living, altruism, non-violence, and peacemaking.”   https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/

and not a moralistic, ego-based attitude of religious asceticism.