WORDS

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.

rainbow-solidarity

For all its inspiration, for all the lives it has changed, the Bible is undeniably problematic. Put in the hands of egocentric, unloving, or power-hungry people or those who have never learned how to read spiritually inspired literature, it is almost always a disaster. History has demonstrated this, century after century, so this is not an unwarranted, disrespectful, or biased conclusion. The burning of heretics, the Crusades, slavery, apartheid, homophobia, and the genocide and oppression of native peoples were all justified through the selective use of Scripture quotes. Richard Rohr – cac.org

From my daily reading habit, this from Fr. Richard Rohr jumped off the page this morning.  A wise old man shared with me many years ago his take on Bible-reading.  If what you read does not promote in your heart tolerance, love and compassion, then you are reading with blinders.  Go to your quiet place and talk with God about it.

My grandfather suffered miserably during his last years with lung cancer and COPD.  I have fond memories of him sitting in his chair by the front window, Bible open on his lap, looking out to the highway 100 feet away.

“What are you looking for?”  I would ask.

“The undertaker just drove by.  I was wondering if he was stopping here.”

At that time in my life I was a ‘wannabe’ atheist and dismissed his reading habit as foolishness.  Today, looking back, I can see that the verses and stories he cherished from the Bible were his strength in his end-of-life travail.  Grandpa was a kindly, gentle man who had not a shred of egotism or hatred in his soul.  Grandpa lived his life by, and drew his comfort from, the words of the ultimate Comforter.

Those words are powerful.  Taken in the wrong context readers have justified vicious attacks on differing creeds, races, and lifestyles.  In the hands of misguided, opportunist men of religion and politics, the love and compassion demanded by Scriptures have been translated into a doctrine of intolerance and oppression.  Prominent church leaders have recently declared that Jesus and his teachings applied only to those of the Christian persuasion, that Christians do not need to honor the legacy of Jesus, the Christ,  when interacting with those who are not “like us.”  The government and leaders of a nation, which they declare to be a “Christian nation”, do not need to apply principles of Christianity to its dealings with other people and other nations. WP interview – Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Matthew 25:33-46…”as you have done unto the least of these, my brothers” – NLT…leaves no room for interpretations supporting one’s errant theology or political persuasion.  It is perfectly clear what followers of Jesus must do to be acceptable to God.  Beware of the wolves dressing in sheep’s clothing quoting scriptures to support agendas of violence and oppression.  They have bastardized a verse which is absolutely explicit in its instruction.

cropped-candle.png

my North Star

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.

cropped-three-kings-day3.png

No, Christ is not his last name.  Probably most of you are smarter than I am, so don’t judge me too harshly when I tell you that for many years, having heard Jesus Christ mouthed so many times in church, I thought Christ to be a surname.  You can understand why I did not get A+ in Vacation Bible School.  And Sunday School was more along the lines of play time before entering the church sanctuary where I had to shut up and sit still for an insufferable hour beside my mother.

Then I heard (yes, I did listen sometimes) a visiting pastor say, “Jesus, the Christ.”

Jesus, THE CHRIST!  What is he saying?  I began to repeat his terminology because he was a big city minister with a Doctor of Divinity behind his name who, I determined, knew a lot more than our country bumpkin preacher and my irreverent uncle who always  said Jesus Christ.  Well, that theory fizzled with the city slicker preacher’s demise in a church finances scandal, but I stayed with Jesus, the Christ.

Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan, founder of CENTER FOR ACTION AND CONTEMPLATION, will be focusing during 2019 on “Old and New: An Evolving Faith.”  Interestingly for me, in today’s post, he states:

The teaching of Jesus is our central reference point. We all need a North Star to orient us toward meaning and purpose.  As a Christian and Franciscan, for me that is Jesus, who revealed the Eternal Christ.

He then defines Christ as:

“….the eternal, ongoing union of human and divine, present in and evolving all of Creation since the beginning of time….”

Man has always searched for the divine as evidenced by crude drawings on cave walls to elaborate theologies with a litany of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”.  Many searchers today look to the heavens for divine guidance.  Like I said in my beginning sentences, most of you are probably smarter than I am; therefore, where you look for divinity is your choice and your personal North Star.  If it “orients you toward meaning and purpose”  in life then seize your discovery and run with it.

Jesus – our North Star, our moral compass, revealing through his life and teachings the Christ, the human and divine union of God, man and all of Creation.

Jesus, the Christ!  How cool is that?

cropped-p10100031.jpg

 

 

 

BEGGAR & WANDERER

Is my faith walk measured by correctness and certainty? Or is it filled with intense need and desire?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:3

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5: 5

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Matthew 5: 6

None of the above verses from the wisdom of the ancient writings say anything about getting it right or being sure about my thoughts concerning God.  As a matter of fact they point to the need to be poor in spirit, to be meek, to hunger for righteousness. I do not have the answers to the mysteries nor will I ever in this lifetime, but there is a way to search for those answers and that searching is in itself the purpose of faith.

Knowing that I just don’t know is sometimes difficult.  It is not an inherent human trait to admit that the object of my searching is an undefinable, indescribable, unspeakable mystery which is the driving force in this earthly life.  Many men and women have taken a stab at descriptions and definitions, but in the end they fall short of certainty.

But, we do know what a God-driven life produces in our lives.  It is love.  Not the warm, fuzzy feelings associated with a friend, family member or spouse, but the gut-wrenching compassion for victims of violence, for the hungry and needy, for the financially stressed, for asylum seekers.   A God-driven life produces peace makers rather than war-mongers, stewards of the earth rather than exploiters, givers rather than takers.

We can know this as truth because the Spirit (conscience) within says this is right and this is love.

“All we have to do is receive God’s gaze and then return what we have received.  We simply complete the divine circuit, ‘love returning love’ as my father St. Francis put it.  This is our spiritual agenda for our whole life.” Richard Rohr

Can’t get any simpler than that.  Look at God’s gaze (the Spirit within – love) and then return it to God and every other creature on earth.  I am a spiritual beggar and wanderer filled with an intense need and desire.  This is all I need to know.35

the political believer, it’s in the works

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”orange tree

In his daily writing for July 8th Father Richard Rohr , a proponent of social justice, states that most of the negative feedback he receives advises him to not get too political.  He responds,

“Yet how can I read the Bible and stay out of politics? Again and again (approximately 2,000 times!) Scripture calls for justice for the poor. The Gospel is rather “socialist” in its emphasis on sharing resources and caring for those in need.”

Well said.  If I read in Scriptures about the life and works of Jesus, the Christ, if I profess this same Jesus as my Lord, if I receive Jesus within my heart and pattern my life according to His, then how can I not be political?  Jesus was the ultimate petitioner for the poor and needy.  He opposed the wealth of the greedy, the corruption of Judaism, and the oppression of Rome in his ministry to the downtrodden of Israel.  He did so knowing that his would not be a pleasant trip through an earthly life and that a violent death awaited him on the cross.  Yet, in human form he persisted because that is what humanity is supposed to do.  Feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick regardless of the consequences.

“The primary role of religion and spirituality is to reconnect, the very meaning of the Latin word “religio”. The Greek word “polis”—which led to the word politics—simply means city or public forum, where people come together. Why have religion and politics become so antagonistic when they have similar goals?”  Richard Rohr

America boasts its Christian roots.  History tells us that Christians were at the forefront of social movements to end slavery, support women’s rights, encourage laws providing civil rights, Mediare, Social Security, and Medicaid.  Most famously America has welcomed the downtrodden and oppressed from other nations regardless of creed or race.  We are a beacon of hope to the hopeless, a land of opportunity for everyone.

The Gospel is often called the Good News because it carries a message of not only redemption, but also hope for those who have no hope.  The refugee, the widow, the orphan, the persecuted, the outcasts of society are the target of Jesus’ ministry today just as back in 1st century Israel.  The oppressed are empowered by words which tell them that God loves them equally regardless of social status, wealth or faith profession.  Because of that Good News we know that all mankind dwells within the family of a mighty and just God.

14 My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? 15 Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. 16 What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? 17 In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity. JAMES 2:14-17 CEB

The above verse from the Book of James is well-known in recovery programs.  It reminds me that my success in defeating alcohol has been a miracle, a gift from the Higher Power of my understanding.  But, it is not free.  A continued and contented sobriety requires payments.  Service to others is written on my IOU to God.  “Faith without works is dead.”

“Today I am encouraged to see many of my Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist brothers and sisters actively engaged with the political realm, speaking truth to power, and holding our political leaders accountable. Being political is a basic civic, human, and spiritual duty!” Richard Rohr

CANDLE

copyright 3

 

 

 

 

fundamentalism

“Fundamentalism is a growing phenomenon, not only in Islam and other religions, but within Christianity as well. Fundamentalism refuses to listen to the deep levels of mythic, metaphorical, and mystical meaning. It is obsessed with literalism and exclusion. The egoic need for clarity and certitude leads fundamentalists to use CANDLEsacred writings in a mechanical, closed-ended, and quite authoritarian manner. The ego rarely asks real questions and mostly gives quick answers. This invariably leaves ego-driven, fundamentalist minds and groups utterly trapped in their own cultural moment in history. Thus they miss the Gospel’s liberating message along with the deepest challenges and consolations of Scripture.” cac.org Richard Rohr

Before any of my “fundamentalist” friends light the fires around my stake, allow me to explore this viewpoint.  Those who are able to enter the realm of God, whether it be in reading or worshipping, with a literalist, inerrant mindset and then approach the world in which they live with a peaceful and non-violent perspective….they  are not the folks who give fundamentalism a questionable reputation in world affairs.  Richard Rohr is probably addressing the ones who use their interpretations to bring havoc upon the rest of the world which does not agree with them.  Their concepts about God and spirituality allows an oppressive and violent theology which ends with an “either or” philosophy.  Either believe as I believe or spend your eternity in hell.  The hell referred to is often caused by those very same religionists whose egos have driven them to formulate a God subservient to their brand of righteousness and self-serving intentions.

Oh my, I can see the torch bearers coming now.  If your theology, which like mine is just another philosophy set forth by man, advocates acts of violence, exclusion, intolerance, and hatred, then perhaps that theology is not based on the One all of us in the Christian world name as Lord.  Jesus, the Christ, unequivocally directed in just one verse, Matthew 22:39, to love our neighbor as ourself.  Those few words are all this world needs to live in harmonious co-existence.  Practice verse 39 in all our affairs and we will know peace

34But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 35Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

I am just a common man, not scholarly and certainly not a Biblical expert.  But, when the crux of God’s directive for man is given to us in simple words by a savior who came to earth as a common messenger, there is no need to complicate the message with “thou shalts and thou shalt nots”.  Jesus said:

13Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 15And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.” Matthew 19:13-15

Children have a wonderful trust and innocence in the world around them.  They do not hate for hatred is learned.  They do not judge according to skin color for that also is learned.  They love unconditionally and faithfully using the inherent goodness they brought into the world at birth.  Oh, fellow children of God, how much we could learn from the little ones.  Picture1.pngFAMILY11

 

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.

namaste rainbow

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.

“do something”

“To repeat, if God operates as me, God operates as thee too, and the playing field is utterly leveled forever. Like Jesus, Francis, Clare, and many other humble mystics, we then rush down instead of up. In the act of letting go and choosing to become servants, community can at last be possible. The illusory state of privilege just gets in the way of neighboring and basic human friendship.” CAC.ORGCANDLE

Father Richard, in this daily meditation, begins by discussing his upbringing within the community of white privilege, the favoritism shown to whites, the status of higher education, numerous challenges which whites do not endure and which non-whites face on a daily basis.  It is truly a different world for those of us who walk the earth in this life as Caucasian.

When I realized and accepted within my heart the truth of “Namaste, I bow to the divine in you,” the Spirit within would no longer cover my inbred white privilege.  It refused to entertain all the excuses I held for my bias and prejudices.  It forced me to look upon my brothers and sisters whom God created in various shades and hues as beings loved just as much by the Creator as me.  I no longer had an excuse to trivialize the plight of people of color.  Our “white” world via politics and extremist religions has demeaned, ostracized, brutalized, and oppressed those children of God and it is my challenge as a white man to make restitution.

In order to do so, Father Richard exhorts me to take the route of ancient mystics who, rather than aspiring to rise toward a perceived heavenly God, focused  downward and joined the suffering and oppressed masses living on the edge of survival in an ungodly world.  That is where true obedience will be found, where salvation shall be experienced, and ultimately where the living Jesus dwells.

Most of my life has been spent anticipating the great white mansions in the far reaches of the Universe where God and Jesus sit side by side on their thrones waiting for me to arrive for my final judgement.  (Incidentally, both of them in my past have been “white boys”.)  I no longer wait for that occurrence because the truth as revealed to me, the GOD OF MY UNDERSTANDING, is right here, right now living in the hearts of all humanity regardless of race, religion, nationality or creed.  I must now choose on a daily basis whether to commune with God and his indwelling truth or return to a denial of that truth.  It’s very simple theology; it is awe-inspiring and breath-taking.

The path which I walk has been tortuous and twisted.  I have endured the full spectrum of faith experiences from belief in a God who was vindictive and vengeful, to a God who was aloof and unapproachable, to an errant acceptance of atheism, to the revealing grace experienced in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Even during my period of strident atheism, I came to realize that my denial of God’s existence only  fortified that his existence was real; otherwise, why would I expend so much energy denying him.  If God is dead, then I should probably take up knitting or crocheting doilies instead of rallying with the oppressed masses or with a suffering alcoholic in forging a better world.  If God is dead, then I would need to depend on the “goodness” of mankind to save us from physical and spiritual destruction.  I can’t do that because goodness is not inherent, it is derived from a Source.

Matthew West in a very powerful song questioned a God who would allow all the suffering endured by mankind, “God, why don’t you do something?”  The reply from his Lord was, “I did, I created you.”  I was created to do something, but it all happens through and by the grace and direction of a Higher Power.smiley 3