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March 2019

Obituary

Obituary

For the season of Lent, my pastor has been leading a study on the Apostles’ Creed. He gave us “homework,” write an obituary for Jesus. My imagination ran amok with the creative possibilities. The end result is what follows . . .

Jesus bar Joseph, 33, died Friday afternoon after being severely beaten, scourged, and crucified for his so-called blasphemous claims of Messiahship. In testimony before Caiaphas, Herod, and Pontius Pilate, Jesus testified that he was, in fact, the Son of God.

Jesus, also known as the King of the Jews, according to prosecutorial signage hung above his thorn-crowned head, was born to Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem sometime before 4 B.C. His exact birth date is unknown. Evidence suggests a summer or fall birth due to a very bright star.  This “star” depended upon planetary alignment, according to Magi from the east that supposedly followed it to Jesus’ birthplace in a stable. There was no room in the local inns because of a census being conducted at the time.  However, shepherds keeping watch over their flocks nearby, offer an alternative spring birth date.

Questions abounded about his paternity as it was asserted his conception was immaculate and his mother a virgin. These claims have not been adequately substantiated.

Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Nazareth in Galilee, where he was raised as a devout Jew.

Preceded in death by his father and close cousin, John the baptizer, and never married, he is survived by his mother, siblings and a ragtag band of disciples (fishermen, tax collectors and others including a few women). They followed Jesus for three years in the hopes he was the Christ, the Savior, and the King that would overthrow the Roman Government.

At the age of 30, he gave up his father’s trade of stone masonry and carpentry to go into full-time ministry, having stated early on he had to be about his father’s business. While Mary is said to have treasured this in her heart, other family members and friends were puzzled by this quizzical statement.

The lakeside village of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee seems to have been his home base where he spent the last three years of his life ministering to the least, the last, the lost and the lonely. He preached and taught in homes, synagogues, open fields and the temple in Jerusalem using parables about God and God’s will for their lives. His best-known teachings came to be known in time as the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule.

A deeply compassionate man, he healed all who came to him with illnesses, and never hesitated to touch lepers or use whatever means necessary for these so-called miracles. Because his teachings seemed to contradict Jewish law, due to large crowds that followed him and the fact that many of the miracles occurred on the Sabbath, Jesus often found himself at “odds and on a collision course with the religious authorities.”

Additionally, he was known to have exorcised demons, most notably from Mary of Magdela. Other supernatural powers reported were: turning water to wine at a wedding in Cana; calming storms at sea; walking on water; feeding over 5,000 people with a single loaf of bread and few fish on one occasion and over 4,000 on another; and raising the dead. Lazarus of Bethany claims he was one of those dead and resurrected. He and his sisters—Mary and Martha—can be contacted for further testimony to the validity of this particular event.

Three days have passed, with no services held and no flowers or donations given. His followers are insisting he has risen from the dead—as Jesus once said he would, citing the tall tale of Jonah and the Whale.

Roman guards are stating his body was stolen in the middle of the night by his disciples. Yet the unanswered question of how the moving of a huge boulder was not seen or heard is troubling. The matter is further complicated and truthfulness doubted because the first eyewitnesses were women who came to anoint his body with oils and spices.

However, his disciples are adamant, as Simon, also known as Peter, and John, the “beloved disciple,” ran to the tomb and found it empty.  The napkin said to have been wrapped about the head of Jesus, was found folded and lying separately from the other grave cloths.  The significance of this gesture can only be deciphered through the knowledge and understanding of Hebrew meal time traditions.

The body has not yet been recovered and there are assertions the guards were paid for their testimony.

Certainly, a controversial figure, his life begs the question: who was this Jesus—Son of God or delusional huckster? You decide.

Some would call this decision a “leap of faith.”

I call it trust.

Word

Word

Why do people seem to get so hung up on the men who wrote the books of the Bible?

Why is it easier for some to believe that the Koran “the Islamic sacred book, believed to be the word of God as dictated to Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel” is the word of God and the Bible less so?

What about A Course in Miracles transcribed by Helen Schucman?

“‘This is a course in miracles.’ That was my introduction to the Voice. It made no sound, but seemed to be giving me a kind of rapid, inner dictation, which I took down in a shorthand notebook.”

Why does this “Voice” appear to have more legitimacy than the prophets and apostles of the Bible, because she’s a woman? Why does it seem more permissible to believe other holy writings are God’s word, but not the Bible?

I’m not questioning the validity, trustworthiness or authority of any of these or other sacred texts, or God’s ability to speak through them. I just want to know . . .

. . . why does the Bible appear to get such a bum rap?

Maybe these other spiritual works have their critics as well . . . maybe the Bible doesn’t get as much unfair treatment as I believe . . . the misinterpretation of the Bible has certainly caused much misery and heartache over the centuries, and continues to do so.

In defense of itself as the Word of God, the Bible says:

Then Adonai gave me (Moses) the two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God; and on them was written every word Adonai had said to you . . . Deuteronomy 9:10 . . . and he is to read in it every day, as long as he lives; so that he will learn to fear Adonai his God and keep all the words of this Torah . . . Deuteronomy 17:19 . . . See, the Word of God is alive! It is at work and is sharper than any double-edged sword — it cuts right through to where soul meets spirit and joints meet marrow, and it is quick to judge the inner reflections and attitudes of the heart . . . Hebrews 4:12 . . . All scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living . . . 2 Timothy 3:16.

The men who compiled the Bible and the men who wrote it may have had less than honorable motives. Considering the time frame in which it was written, the authors probably didn’t have much in common. However, through all the verses, chapters, and books, one theme seems to unite these scribes—God’s desire above all else to be in harmony with Herself, through that which He created, in, with and for Love.

“God-breathed” . . . theopneustos in Greek . . . “inspired by God, due to the inspiration of God; relates directly to God’s Spirit (pneuma) or breath; breathed out by God.” This, I believe, is the key to the writing and reading of the Bible—the power and revelation of the Holy Spirit—God’s breath.

The real question, then, is not “why does the Bible appear to get such a bum rap?” The real question is, through which conditioned belief are you reading the Bible?

To read it outside of Her Breath—patriarchal supremacy, Christian fundamentalism, black/white power, feminism, whatever label with which you may most identify—is to take the Word out of context and use it to abuse others who may not share your particular identity.

“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord. We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord. And we pray that all unity may one day be restored . . . and together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land . . . And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride . . . And all praise to the Spirit, Who makes us one.” Peter Scholtes

Despite their differences and regardless of their reasons, intentions, awareness (or lack thereof)

. . . God was writing.

Creed

Creed

During the season of Lent, our pastor is doing a study on the Apostles’ Creed. This past week we discussed the middle section which also happens to be the longest portion . . .

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day, he rose again, he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Half of the creed is devoted to one of, if not the most, controversial figures in history; not only in our time, but in his own as well.

Just prior to his transfiguration, he questions his disciples, “Who are people saying I am?” They answer, “Some say you are Yochanan (John) the Immerser, others say Eliyahu (Elijah), and still others, one of the prophets.” Mark 8: 27-28

As our study was drawing to a close, we discussed different parts of the central portion of the Creed. The most thought-provoking claim or perhaps mysterious or implausible (depending on your perspective) was his conception and birth.

Some may say, “what difference does it make if Jesus was conceived like the rest of us?”

Even before pondering His beginnings, I’ve never had an issue with his conception and birth because this is God—the Creator that brought everything into existence; who is outside of time, space, and matter . . . yet paradoxically moving and working within all three—what could be too difficult or impossible for Him?

However, for me, another revelation began with Eve.

When contrasting Eve and Mary, a few simple insights came to light. After Eve came to be, she and Adam “knew” each other and shortly thereafter she was intimate with the adversary, (serpent, Satan, or devil, if you prefer) and “birthed” sin into the world. Mary, on the other hand, had “known” no man, was intimate with the Holy Spirit and birthed sinless redemption into the world. Sinfulness or alienation cannot save, or redeem, sinfulness; it would be like saying two wrongs make a right.

In essence the immaculate conception and virgin birth point to God knowing Herself, entering the world through Herself as Himself to justify all that is Himself.

Clearly there are deeper and more expansive themes to be explored; such as being conceived and born in this manner. Jesus never saw himself separate from God—something with which we often struggle. And this notion of separateness beginning in the garden with Adam and Eve embracing temptation, and identifying with power and control in and of themselves.

You may not agree with any of this; it may seem far-fetched or unimaginable . . .

. . . that’s okay.

I’m not sure what I hope to accomplish, if anything, by presenting these thoughts. God knows I miss the mark more often than not when it comes to living this life, but my heart longs to Love and my Light longs to shine.

What I do know is that when life gets tough and answers are not forthcoming, like Peter, I say “Lord, to whom would I go? You have the word of eternal life. I have trusted, and I know that you are the Holy One of God.”

. . . the rest, as they say, is His-story.

Home

Home

Today at the food-bank five out of the seven clients that we served were homeless.

This isn’t the voluntary hippie-on-the-road homeless or the Great-Depression-riding-the-rails-looking-for-a-job homeless. These folks have no other options—whatever the reason that brought them to this point in their lives.

With literally nothing but the clothes on their backs and maybe a backpack or small bag of “supplies,” they come in seeking one of the basic necessities of life—food.

One woman had just gotten out of the hospital and all she asked for was some juice and “cleansing food.” Another requested “just some fruit.” Two were “camping” and one was a diabetic requiring protein. We usually give them a one-day supply because they have no way to store or cook it, and since they are “walkers” carrying large amounts of anything is an additional hardship.

These kinds of orders are the most challenging to fill yet the most rewarding!

Challenging because of the many unknowns—can opener, means of cooking, utensils, water supply? You know—all those things that many of us take for granted—just walk into your kitchen, open all the cabinets and drawers and look at all the appliances, dishes, utensils, pots/pans and modern conveniences . . . then imagine not having any of it—much less the home itself.

Rewarding because they are generally the most truly grateful people I have ever met—not only grateful, but kind, humble, compassionate and grit-filled. They serve to remind me repeatedly of one truth none of us can avoid—we came into this world with nothing and will leave with nothing.

Can there be no greater purpose in life, then, to love and serve one another?

Could this be what Jesus meant when he said,

“Do not store up for yourselves wealth here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and burglars break in and steal.  Instead, store up for yourselves wealth in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and burglars do not break in or steal.  For where your wealth is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:19-21

A new Facebook friend shared on her timeline “We are all just walking each other home,” a truth that seems to be arising out of and through the meeting up of teachings like Buddhism and Christianity.

How deeply profound . . . walking each other home . . . and while we’re at it “maybe we can hold each other’s hand.” S.C.

Experience

Experience

“…I had an experience, I can’t prove it, I can’t even explain it. But everything that I know as a human being, everything I am, tells me that it was real. I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever. A vision of the universe that tells us undeniably how tiny and insignificant and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not, that none of us are alone. I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe and humility, and the hope but…that continues to be my wish.”  Dr. Eleanor Arroway, “Contact” 1997