Reverend Meningsbee (Part 40) And With All Your Getting … February 5th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

Sluggish.

A solemn surrender to sadness.

After many weeks of a revival of human emotion, appreciation and pursuit of the general welfare, the Garsonville community gradually settled back into its traditional format of pending suspicion and growing apprehension.

It was actually rather sudden–a transition that occurred over a two-week period. One moment people were smiling, greeting each other warmly and taking an extra second or two while shaking hands. And the next thing you knew, they were creating distance, staking claim to their turf.

Meningsbee noticed it immediately. When he turned to face the congregation, they had stopped grinning. Now they were peering–that fussy, Midwestern squint, poised to offer disapproval.

He felt alone.

This reversion to blandness, which was so clear to him, seemed satisfactory to the rest of the gang, which had obviously decided that the resurrection in their spirits had merely been a Ferris Wheel ride of intrigue. Now it was time to return home from the circus, to do the chores and milk the cows.

Meningsbee thought to himself that over the years, many preachers from this community had faced this quandary–a burst of enthusiasm followed by creeping and crawling backwards, to a profile of preoccupation.

Those ministers may have decided to ignore the digression and accept the inevitable. Not Richard Meningsbee.

So on the ninth Sunday after the beginning of the town’s jubilation, he stood before the congregation and spoke.

“Rich. Young. Ruler.

“That’s how the Good Book describes him. Not a bad combo, do you think? I don’t believe there’s a person here who would object to being richer, younger or even ruling something.

“It also lets us know that this fella was intrigued by all things spiritual. His journey had taken him through the rigors of religion–following commandments, listening to sermons and abstaining from lying and adultery.

“Then he hears about a young man from Nazareth who has an earth-shaking rendition of God-talk. So the rich, young ruler–being rich, young and a ruler–goes out to see Jesus to ask a question. ‘What must I do to get to heaven?’

“From his perspective, that’s all that remained. He was set up for life with all the wine, women and song the commandments would allow. But he was curious how he could maintain that status in the afterlife.

“So when the boy was dissatisfied with Jesus’ response, Jesus gave him a truthful answer. You all remember that, don’t you? The truth? It used to float by every once in a while. Jesus told him, ‘If you want to go to heaven, go out, sell everything you’ve got and give it to the poor.’

“Was Jesus declaring some sort of war on poverty? Of course not. There were poor people when Jesus showed up and they were still there when he left. Jesus was declaring a war on selfishness. In other words, if you’re rich, you’re young, you’re a ruler and you’re following all the commandments and going to church like you should–and you’re still dissatisfied, the problem just may not be linked to your Bible study and prayer. It could be that you know you’re full of crap, but you just don’t like the idea of being full of crap.

“After all, Jesus only asked him to temporarily donate his wealth. He was young and he was a ruler, which certainly granted him the means to get funky and rich again. But to do so, he would have to admit that money was not the source of his power. The Good Book says he walked away sadly.

“Now, I’m lookin’ out this morning at sad people. Oh, you all would argue with me and insist you’re just fine. You would inform me that the boost of joy and gratitude our community experienced over the past couple of months was a shower of blessing, and now we’re just back to the heat of the day.

“You might even shake your heads and say, ‘Reverend Meningsbee, you just don’t understand us Nebraskan folk.’ But I’ll tell you–there are only three roads you can take.

“You can pretend there’s no heaven and just do whatever the hell you want to. You can pretend that heaven and hell is all there is, and make your reservation at the cooler place. Or you can believe that heaven and hell begin now. How we treat each other. How we approach our work. How we accept other people’s children. And whether or not we think God is smilin’ or frownin’.

“I will not pastor a church that thinks our journey is all about ‘making the pearly gates’ or ‘avoiding a devil’s hell.’ Yes, I will tell you plainly, if you don’t give a damn, then be damned with ya’. We’re gonna keep the revival alive instead of finding our hole and crawling in it.

“If you were that young chap, would you leave sadly? I guess the question is, will you leave sadly today?”

As Meningsbee finished, he jogged down the middle aisle, passing through the narthex, out the door, into the parking lot, jumped in his car, started it and left.

He didn’t want to hear opinions–and he didn’t want to be tempted to soften his words as the bruised filed by him on their way to mediocrity.

He would wait and see how the message of the day would survive the week.

 

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Jesonian: S.I.N. (Single Issue Nerds) … January 11, 2015

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Judas thought it was all about poor people. We’re not certain that he really cared about the poor–just that he thought it was a confirmation of being religious.

The Pharisees thought we proved our worth to God by performing traditional worship services. They did a lot of straining and ended up with more gnats than camels.

The disciples of John the Baptist believed that people appear more righteous when they fast–especially if you can go without food and look miserable while doing it.

The Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife–either heaven or hell. In other words, it all happens here or nothing happens.

In each one of these cases you are dealing with “Single Issue Nerds”–they believe that the way one does things is more important than the motivation–the faithfulness to a practice more powerful than a conclusion.

Dare I say, they all became the enemy, or at least the adversary, of Jesus of Nazareth? His contention about true religion was that “the kingdom of God is within you.” In other words:

  • If you’re not happy, your faith is failing.
  • If you don’t have peace of mind, your beliefs are weakened.
  • And if you’re not pursuing a life of good cheer and acceptance of others, you might as well be without any kind of spirituality because you’re really just mimicking the heathens.

I see it everywhere I go–“Single Issue Nerds.” They have grabbed some bauble from the Bible and made it their beating bongo. They are obsessed with their discovery, convinced that those who do not pursue their particular issue lack enlightenment and possibly totally misunderstand the will of God.

Let us never forget that Jesus did not have a single issue. It didn’t matter who he talked to, what nationality they were, or even if the people around them thought they were hopeless sinners. He always looked for three things:

1. Are you ready for a change? People who are not willing to change will spend all their time trying to change you.

2. Can you humble yourself? Are you willing to deny your sensation of wholeness, to admit your lack?

3. Can you extend the same mercy to others? Grace is soon dissipated by the absence of mercy. For as Jesus said, “The measure I measure out to others will be measured back to me.”

You may think you have a great social gospel or that your liturgy is significantly deep and meaningful, or maybe that your fundamentalism will squeak you through the doors of heaven when others are rejected.

I suppose you might consider yourself to be progressive–where you only use the Gospel to explain your own mission statement.

But you will find that in your hour of need, your faith has to be able to set you free–because if you’re not free, you can’t free anyone else.

And if you’re in bondage, no matter how good your intentions, you will soon bind up all the world around you.

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When Living Stops and Breathing Continues … November 11, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Aerosol oxygen mask on patient“I just don’t know what to do!”

Be careful.

This statement is not a question. When you hear people speak it aloud, do not assume they are looking for counsel.

Rather, it is a proclamation–a surrender.

Too many individuals have given up on the idea of happiness as being childish and immature, and have settled in to try to achieve contented breathing. They have become so involved with forgiving others, their calling or being overwhelmed with responsibility that they have ceased to pursue the idea of being happy.

Matter of fact, in our art and literature we often decry such an emotion. We like to take people who act happy and portray them as inexperienced and unaware.

But I’m curious–if happiness is not the goal of our earth journey, then why do we think we would be comfortable with it in the afterlife? Wouldn’t we find it unusual? Perhaps redundant? Or would we continue, in eternity, to consider happiness to be “unrealistic” and keep waiting for the sky to fall on us?

If you don’t start believing in happiness now, you will never be allowed to have happiness forever.

So what can you do when the process of forgiving other people and yourself, or pursuing your job and calling with its responsibilities, has sapped all the maple out of your syrup?

Every day of your life, make sure of three things:

1. I am involved in my own choices.

Never sacrifice your ability to decide to either God or man. We gain power, intelligence and creativity when we allow ourselves the privilege of stopping, considering, concluding and moving out on an idea born of our own spirit.

2. I feel joy, which brings strength.

I will take a moment every single day to make sure that I allow joy to be a part of my experience. What is joy? It’s the knowledge that God has everything under control. And what is that control? Nothing can separate us from His love–therefore there is nothing which is truly terminal.

3. I am moving toward what is proving itself to be fruitful.

When I lived in Tennessee we had a tree in our front yard that was proclaimed by the former owners to be a pear tree. Here’s the problem: it never produced pears. I caught myself one day telling a visitor that it was a pear tree. Then I paused, took a deep breath, and said, “Honestly, I don’t know WHAT kind of tree it is. But one thing for certain–it’s NOT a pear tree.”

If your tree isn’t making pears, don’t think that next year will be any better. Pursue what is fruitful, even if it is not immediately to your preference. In the long run you will enjoy success much more than tradition.

  • We must continue to forgive.
  • We should pursue our calling.
  • And taking responsibility for our life is essential for maturity.

But when these three things rob us of joy, turning us into mere “breathing organisms,” we need to restore our choices, regain our strength and pursue our fruit.

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