Spirituality, Liturgy and the Tao of Inner Peace
Today I start a post I have started a million times in my brain, but never put to paper, or as it were, to screen I guess. Part of me fears these radical statements will not be met with agreement, I suppose, part of me has just been lazy quite honestly. Make no mistake I 100% agree that what I am about to lay out, it is exactly where we as “Christians” need to go, in my humble opinion. As far as taking this long to put it down, I Just haven’t gotten around to it as the old folk say.
First, I ask that for these few moments, you put away all denominations, and all your man/woman made accoutrements of the faith. We have failed so miserably through out these some 3000 years of the faith. How you ask? Well we, in the name of faith, have killed, we have pillaged and raped, leveraged the powerful over the poor and ignorant to our needs, whatever they may be at the time to start with, and the while leaving the meanings that Jesus left us all but forgotten. We have so often have become the Pharisees and Sadducees we learn to hate in The Crucifixion stories. We are the high and mighty pointing fingers at those with “sin” and casting out the “not good enough,” we have been the judgmental and holier than thou. I like to repeat a phrase a good friend, and priest said to me once, “Cameron, people love Jesus, they just hate the church.” And with good reason! With actions like; “Hey have you sinned? “Afraid you might burn in Hell?” “Just pay us and we will take care of that for you!” or “Are you feeling blue need help? No problem! We can beat you down more!” “Struggle with addiction? No worries we will talk about you and shun you.” — God forbid you love someone of the same sex, or be born in a body you don’t understand! What about sin in a way that someone else sees as a “high” sin.!
So today I want to strip away all the theology and years of church rules, and regulations, what has been taught to you as right and wrong, and just see what Jesus did, a literal “What would Jesus do?”
In John 8:7 a woman has been condemned to death for committing adultery, she is deserving (per the law) of death, and they have come to rightfully, stone her. Jesus simply says “you without sin cast the first stone..” YET we here in the 21 Century, we are some stone throwing people! We are taking people out, maybe not their lives (although there is plenty of debate for that here as well) but certainly emotionally, morally, in the court of public opinion. We are quick to send a text, write an email, or blast a post to demoralize, or break down a brother or sister in the world. We tell how wrong or horrible someone else’s sins are while we are the “righteous” ones, well maybe it’s time we think about our own sins and lay our rocks down? If we were to follow Jesus…
Matt. 20:16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” In this “me” generation, capitalistic, hard work pays off world, this is the hardest to grasp. The parable begins with workers in a field, many work all day, at the end of the day the last workers who work but the last hour get the same pay as the ones that worked ALL day. They (they guys who worked all day) grumble, I mean who wouldn’t? Same with the prodigal son, one brother stays home doing all his chores, the other goes off blows his inheritance comes home broke, and yet the father kills the fated calf for a party and restores the lost son to importance, same as the one who stayed home all those years!! We all cry with the first born WTH?!! That’s not fair! That’s right, it’s not fair, Jesus didn’t come to be fair, and he certainly didn’t receive fair treatment, he came to show us something new — GRACE. Grace says — I know you showed up late, but you get paid for all day anyway. I know you are just a thief hanging on a cross next to the Son of God– but tonight you dine with me in Heaven. I know you have made some horrible mistakes along the way, I know you lost it all — but you are loved still unconditionally and get all the love and rewards as everyone else. AND that my brother’s and sisters is what we don’t get! WE have constructed all these denominations which rely on the idea of works, and stations, and class systems to God or to heaven and they are simply completely unfounded!!
Jesus spent his time with those that no one wanted to be with. LET that sink in again…tax collectors for example, who were hated in his time, hated… Who does this world hate?…You wanna be “Christ-like?” go eat dinner with them. THAT might mean you spend an evening with a person of a different color, or religion, or sexual orientation, or God forbid a different political party! Let me go a step further to explain this Grace, this unconditional love we were supposed to get from this man/God/prophet — if there is a heaven, and I hope there is, and if there is salvation by believing or being good, and grace affords that salvation then it can be bought many years before (laboring in the field all day) or at the last hour (like the labors that came late) THEN by that parable that was told, if Jeffrey Dahmer found God in his last moment of life then I will parade down the streets of gold and high five him as I go by!! Saying to him “way to go brother I’m glad you got it.” Yeah that’s right that’s– LET THAT SINK WAY IN…no levels, no star chart. just — GRACE. No I’m not in the tuxedo version of heaven and he’s in the overalls portion of heaven, as one Mormon explained the levels to me once. As I see the stories of the prodigal son, or the laborer in the field, or the thief beside Jesus the day he dies on the cross and Jesus says “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” HE does not say you will be at Level 1 or you might get in the gate he says YOU will be with ME (the SON OF GOD) in Paradise. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.
When we strip away the embellishments of better than, have more, work more, done more and get to the GRACE and LOVE of Jesus Christ — THEN we must accept the fact that to walk as JESUS is to live in a space where no matter what you deserve I will treat you as if you are the best. I will love you as you are.
Lastly, Jesus broke rules, yes! He was always breaking the established rules when it made sense for the people he loved. He healed on the Sabbath, he was caught eating with certain people, he taught about moving your ox out of the ditch on the Sabbath. We as “church” goers get way too wrapped up in codes and regulations while leaving the children of God in the cold. The phrase of torture used most often “Well the bible says!” How many times has that been the beginning to an attack on the heart of a human being? Well I love them, but the bible says… Half the time people don’t really even understand what the bible says, FOR one thing I hate to be the one to tell the English speaking world but JESUS did not write the bible nor was its original form the King James Version. It was originally written in HEBREW and GREEK a LONG – say it again for emphasis LONG time ago. SO unless you understand those two languages and then all the interpreting and translating it has gone through the time period in which is was copied down after years of oral tradition when talking about the old testament. Please.
So no rules just Jesus. SO to re-cap;
Number 1: WE have all sinned and fallen short so no one needs to point out, stone, or condemn another human being. Listen, most are making it the best they can and need love. To be like Jesus spend more time drawing in the sand minding your own business and stop making your business everyone else’s sin and worry about yourself.
Number 2: If you were hoping that there was some sort of gaming system with levels of goodness or rightness in the after life or here WRONG! You lost big on the trivia GRACE game where everything human is turned upside down. There is a huge paradigm flip that Jesus taught that almost no one has gotten for ….like 3000 years – this isn’t a game at Chuck e Cheese, we aren’t racking up coupons for a big stuffed mouse at the end. If you’re good in this life, then I believe, like my Jewish friends you made your Heaven right here! You although, are no “better” than anyone else on this earth and if someone else’s journey takes them a little longer to realize they are still beloved by God just as much and if there is a Heaven you are gonna have to share it along with the same pay.
Number 3: When rules and regulations that are man/woman made get in the way of Loving our Neighbors they need to go. Maybe at one time we understood something one way. As Paul says “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
So often we are so caught up in Women can’t preach or gays or that man was born a woman, they can’t take communion they aren’t _____. When and where in the New Testament did Jesus speak of exclusion? Where was the exclusive Jesus club? EVEN when JUDAS was to betray Jesus, and Jesus knew this, he still ate and drank with Judas at the last supper. So if Jesus Christ himself was able to have the last supper with his betrayer who are we to turn away guest to the table?
The greatest message to ever be told : HE is alive was delivered by women, God could have chosen anyone He chose Mary & Mary.
I don’t have time in this piece to explain all that has changed since the bible has been translated and written down but if you want to argue on the issue of homosexuality and you actually care what you say and not just “THE bible says…” read this Huffington Post – Best Case for the Bible Not Condemning Homosexuality
Let’s also look at this, if your words cause someone to pray until crying, go to enormous amounts of therapy and conversion camps and cut themselves and do all manor of harmfulness and then they KILL themselves! Are you okay with that? Because that’s the reality of those kinds of ideologies about homosexual and transgender people, that’s real talk about what happens when we say GOD didn’t make you like that you are garbage! So might it have been better to just let John Love Sam and talk about his God whom he also Loves and wants to preach about and we all go on our merry way. Jesus had a unique way of not missing the forest for the trees, not letting the laws and rules of the day out do his goals of love, taking care of his people, spreading compassion.
They say less and less young people or people in general find faith and church necessary anymore. In someways, I understand why…we have not been good. We have been judgmental, exclusive, and self-righteous, we have made people feel less-than, and not “holy” enough. We have killed and maimed in the name of God, when we should have been following a man who taught kindness over rules, love and compassion over classicism, and that we all have a place together; rich or poor, ignorant or wise, starting or finishing the journey, and that we could all use more GRACE.
So as we go into a new year I challenge you not to follow the precepts of your church, but to follow the path of a Jewish man, not much to look at they say – just a simple carpenter – who showed us LOVE and RADICAL GRACE. I will warn you it will be radical, because just like in his day it made them hang him on a cross, it will piss off the establishment of the church today. For example, when someone says to me well at least you know your boys are straight, I immediately say, “Why would that matter?? There’s nothing wrong with being Gay?, I love Gay people! God loves Gay people! I wish one of them was GAY!” As it is, they will marry some girl and probably always go to their wife’s house and never see me! LOL If someone says don’t give money to that homeless man he’s going to buy liquor, I say “I am commanded to give, that’s on them what they do with it, and but for some luck and family I am not there with him on the street.” When gossip comes by, do not be ashamed to stop it, when racism rises in your presence stop it, don’t let it be said! I stopped referring to anyone by skin color about 3 years ago…try it. When a crude joke is made about a trans individual ask when they knew they were the sex they are now? When they chose? Stand for the little girl or guy, love the everyday people, give up road rage, it’s just a poison anyway. Make your church doors REALLY open to everyone. Eat with the sinner, go home with the tax collectors stop for the hurting, like the Good Samaritan.
By the way, if the story of the good Samaritan was told today it would be the preacher on TV we all loved passed the white baptist beat up on the side of road, the Catholic priest pasted by, but the black transgender woman stopped, took care of him, payed for his meal and care and made sure Huntsville Hospital kept him for the week and paid for all the expenses! I will say to you as Jesus said “WHO was the good neighbor?” CHANGE your brain these people you see albeit the worst, the hated, and the outcast, in the “established” mind, are not. SO, go ahead and make the “righteous” very uncomfortable and then and ONLY then will we finally be on the right path to Loving ONE Another.
Merry Christmas my Friends let’s make that baby in a manger mean something this coming year.