“emerging” Christianity

“We are on a quest for a new kind of Christianity‚ÄĒa 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‚Äôt 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.

smiley-face-2

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.