Trutherans — October 21, 2011

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A small Lutheran church in rural North Carolina.

That was my place of visitation on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. People–pundits, politicians and pollsters–all love to categorize them into convenient clumps for conversation. It’s just not that easy. Southerners are not alway Southern, Northerners are not always Northern, and likewise for the West and East.

Here are three things I CAN tell you for sure–people are not nearly as complicated as you make them out to be. People are much more sophisticated than you might think at first. And people always show up with some damage. As long as you keep that in mind, you can actually be of assistance to your fellow-man instead of a deterrent to their growth.

As I told you, it was a Lutheran church–yet most of the folks I met had absolutely no connection to a rogue monk named Martin Luther, who pounded ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenburg Church in protest to the excesses and fallacious doctrines of the Mother Church. Matter of fact, some of the folks I met this week might even have a hard time understanding Luther’s mindset, way of life and approach to God and others. Yet the church bears his name. For instance, we still call it the United States of America, even though there are many people who would desire to tear us apart from sea to sea. What I encountered was not a congregation that was following the dictates of a reformer; what I found were Americans who grew up in a denomination they now continue to attend in hopes of pleasing a God they hope someday to meet.

The religious climate in our country is a great source of confusion to me. For after all, the average person has four major concerns: God, money, sex and family–not necessarily in that order, and the particular line-up for each person may very well clarify their focus.

The church talks about God, a little about family, but sex and money are normally taboo subjects unless an offering plate is being passed or someone’s teenager is discovered with an unwanted pregnancy.

Politics will surface the subject of God, completely avoid sex (unless it’s an “intern”-al situation), focus on money and use the subject of family to create commonality.

But no one seems to have the ability to tie it all together, bringing heaven to earth and connecting earth to heaven. If we were faithful to the teachings of Jesus, we would completely comprehend that this is the essence of human life, but unfortunately, those who want to go to heaven feel the need to be critical of earth. And those who want to get the best of earth are equally as condemning and mocking of heaven.

No one seems to get the notion that if there is a heaven, that means there is a God, which means God made heaven, but also holds fast that He created the earth.  Same guy. If you don’t like the idea of heaven, it certainly will taint your appreciation of earth and eventually turn you into a curmudgeon who growls at people instead of embracing them. If you happen to be greatly in favor of heaven, then you just might tend to develop a discontented attitude towards earth–and therefore earthlings–making you of little light to the earth around you, and certainly not a city on a hill for all to see.

My message to those delightful Lutherans was this: we really show that we believe in heaven by relishing, studying, absorbing and appreciating in great thankfulness–the earth.  We equally project our anticipation of what heaven will truly be by attempting to duplicate its glory in our earthly confines.

For instance, if I lived in a lovely house, went on a cruise ship, the boat sank and I ended up on a desert island, would it be better for me to sit around and pine in despair over my abandonment, or try to find the elements on that particular island of destination, attempting to duplicate the beauty of my original home and surroundings? Obviously, good mental health demands that I believe where I am is where I am going to be and therefore I decide to make it the best possible scenario within my power to create.

Unfortunately, we just don’t believe that. Some people believe the earth is miserable and someday we’ll go to a better place. Some people believe there is no better place and the earth is our final destination, so they end up making themselves feel miserable. The end result? Misery for both.

Here’s what I feel. I don’t think heaven is a better place. I think it is God’s rendition of what I’ve already begun on earth. Yes, I think that as a great Host, He is preparing a place for me that imitates in His lavishness what I have already created here with my limited resources.

So if we don’t love the earth, believe it’s the Lord’s and enjoy the fullness of it, we probably will try to procure heaven–but only once or twice a week when it crosses our minds. If we believe there is no heaven, we probably will attempt morality but give up in favor of our own choices and acquiesce to our greed.

I tried, this week, to turn Lutherans into Trutherans. I asked them to believe with me that Jesus was the bridge between earth and heaven. He was the son of man … and the son of God. And he came to give me the power to become the same.

So I never think about heaven without making a snapshot of that vision here on earth. And I try never to think about earth without believing in a heavenly Father who cares about everything here and now.

You know the beautiful thing? Those dynamic souls in rural North Carolina at that Lutheran church opened up their hearts and allowed the simplicity of this message to reside within them.  It was an amazing experience.

And so if Lutherans can become Trutherans, then … who knows?  Perhaps atheists could become “maybe-ists.”

***************

Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

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