Jesonian–Troubling (Part 10)… September 2nd, 2017

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Troubling.

In the Gospel of John, the 9th Chapter, the disciples of Jesus get into a rather frumpy, cheesy, theological mood and approach Jesus with a question.

They had come upon a gentleman who was blind from birth, and they officiously asked the Master whether this happened to him due to his own sin, or the sin of his parents?

Keep in mind–these are the same fellows who had seen water turned into wine, five thousand folks fed with five loaves and two fishes, demons cast out and the dead raised. Yet when it comes to discussing the nature, tenderness, mind-set and intellect of God, they revert back to their small-village, Sunday School mentality.

They made two errors:

First, they contended that God punishes people for their sins. Nothing could be further from the truth. And Jesus made it clear–good things happen to good people and bad people, and bad things happen to everyone equally. (Otherwise, there would be great impetus to be good instead of bad, just to garner the material blessing.)

The second mistake was that they believed that people were “born a certain way.” Obviously, this notion permeates our society as well. We are convinced people are born athletes, born musicians, born leaders, born dexterous…shall I go on? We take comfort in the assertion because it gives us all an excuse for not taking the abilities we see in ourselves and multiplying them to make our lives more abundant.

These two completely errant ideas were put forth by these Galileans two thousand years ago–ideas which are still an intricate part of the doctrinal DNA of the average Christian.

  • “Don’t sin or God will punish you.”
  • And “you are destined to be something by birth.”

I think it is important to note Jesus’ response. He completely dismisses both possibilities. He makes it clear that God doesn’t punish people for their sins–and especially not for the sins of their parents. And he also says that destiny is a myth because free will is extolled throughout the Universe as the “go-to plan.”

You can’t have both free will and destiny. They do not co-habitate. Even though you may have a certain genetic makeup, it does not overtake you and turn you into something you do not choose to be.

It is also why the Bible makes it clear that part of the salvation experience is to be “born again”–becoming a new creature in Christ.

Jesus said that God was not punishing anyone, and that the man was not born blind. He said that blindness was in his life so that God could be made manifest through him in a unique way.

There’s nothing wrong with taking what seems to be a weakness and turning it into a strength so that God might receive glory. This blind man is not complaining; he is not joining into the theological discussion about his plight. Matter of fact, he’s not even begging to be healed.

He has found a place in his place to make a place for every place he goes.

That’s our job.

I was dealt a certain hand and so were you. Now, through the blessing of free will, I have the ability to turn those circumstances to the positive instead of internalizing them to complain about my pain.

It is troubling that we still have a church that believes if bad things happen to people, the people must be bad–and that we live in a society which insists we were all “born” with a certain destiny.

God gave us free will. We can deny it and wait for Him to plan our lives, only to discover that He doesn’t do that, and our time on Earth has slipped away.

Or we can take a look at what we have–an inventory, if you will–and see what great things we can accomplish–simply by stepping forward instead of backward.

 

 

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Jesonian… May 13th, 2017

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 Their minds and hearts drift back so readily to Galilee–to friends, family, loved ones and labors of love.

For the traveling is exhausting and drains the passion of purpose. Going from town to town, the folks they encounter are able to treat them as strangers, leaping to establish tribal superiority and regional domination. So there’s always a little bit of loneliness creeping into the corners of swelling doubt.

It threatens to extinguish the desire to speak peace to the perishing.

Each night they gather by the fire at the end of the day. Yes, devoted. But devoid of energetic will, not wanting to be too close to me.

After all, I am the teacher.

I am the messenger.

I am the reason, beckoning them from their safe memories of normalcy.

So in deference to their need for privacy, I excuse myself from the common fellowship. They require an opportunity to reminisce together, question their calling without condemnation, and whisper wishes across the embers.

I have a place I go.

After all, I have my own memories of childhood.

I, too, have a family that misunderstands my meaning. In that private space, I speak to God. He’s a good listener. Honestly, He doesn’t often contribute or elaborate, but in His own way, He helps me to clear my thoughts.

By the time I return, my brethren are asleep. I try to do so myself. Morning will soon be here.

Another day of wandering.

Another chance to fail.

And oh, yes–another opportunity to see the world born again.

 

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Jesonian… April 29th, 2017

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I’ve done enough.

Had enough, given enough, loved enough, lived enough.

Prayed, worked, cried…

ENOUGH

Laughed enough, cared enough and decided enough.

Tepid.

The temperature of America.

Ninety-eight point sick of buying, crying, lying, sighing, trying, vying…but in no hurry for dying.

Somewhere along the line, lukewarm has been presented as a virtuous temperance. Matter of fact, in our religious communities–especially Christian churches–the concept of pursuing, believing, striving and reaching has been discounted in favor of “immeasurable grace” that seems to cover a multitude of misunderstanding.

Yet the GPS of the Gospel is definitely set for the second mile.

Jesus had a disdain and dislike for anyone who was trying to glide through life without offering full commitment. From the manger in Bethlehem, where shepherds were beckoned from their work and wise men were required to travel hundreds of miles to follow a star, to the Book of Revelation, where Jesus tells one of the new churches that they were so noncommittal that they made him vomit, we see a Savior who wants us to be involved in saving ourselves.

It is the woman who touched the hem of his garment who was healed.

Another lady crawled across the floor so that she could stand upright and walk.

The blind man screamed at the top of his lungs for healing, even though the crowd thought he should shut up.

A centurian broke all protocol to ask a Jewish teacher to heal his servant, while admitting he was not worthy to have the Master come to his home.

It was the thief on the cross, who expressed faith in a “fellow criminal” hanging by his side, who achieved Paradise.

We are lying to people when we tell them that simply showing up will get them “up for the show.” The mere presence of praise songs in a church service does not promote worship–unless the people’s hearts are ablaze with gratitude.

Clever teaching of the Gospel with insightful stories falls flat unless it is heard by human beings who are looking for reasons to be energized.

The Pharisees hated Jesus because he was passionate. He ate, he drank, he fellowshipped, he interacted with all cultures, while never condemning anyone unless they condemned others or sat idly by, waiting for life to get better.

Don’t ever forget his words to the Jewish elder, Nicodemus: “You must be born again.”

And don’t ever think that you can tiptoe up to Jesus with a tepid, American attitude, feeling you’ve already done your part–and ever get his attention.

 

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Good News and Better News… April 10th, 2017

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I grew up in a church which contended, believed and insisted that baptism was only to be performed through immersion. No “sprinklin’ on the head” for our parishioners. It had to be a full, “ear-washin’, born-again, dunkin’ hullabaloo.”

Our church also believed that communion needed to be served every Sunday, not every once in a while, leaving a congregation spiritually malnourished due to the fact that they had not sufficiently partaken of the wafer and juice.

There were also other fragments of doctrine which were enforced by numerous sermons, as the minister often mocked other ways of thinking, which he deemed heresy.

Even nowadays, every single church on every corner has some pet portion of the Good Book they feel supersedes all others, and sets them apart as the “true Chosen of God” instead of the errant rabble.

Although the mainline denominations, such as the Methodists, will smile at you and promote their flexibility, they still would never think about saying “hallelujah,” clapping their hands, or allowing for the possibility of the miracle of healing in the middle of a service. I guess we need Pentecostals for that.

Every single fragment of a once-noble, unified body of Christ is positive that they are the heartbeat of the Gospel.

Over the years it has become very simple to me–I don’t give a tinker’s damn what people believe. I watch how they act.

Some of the most intolerant, inflexible and mean-spirited people that I’ve worked with over the years seem to possess the most intense Bible knowledge. And other folks, who the righteous would consider to be damnable sinners, have taken the time to wash the shirt on their back before they gave it to me.

Of course, there are all sorts of Christians out there who will tell you that I’m promoting a Gospel of works rather than grace. Actually, all I’m saying is that I can’t thoroughly confirm that grace is at work unless the recipient is gracious.

I’m not so sure people are forgiven if they can’t forgive.

And I definitely don’t see them possessing the Spirit of God when they’re prejudiced against other people.

If you want to find out if a man, woman or child is a Christian, take one morning of your life and work on a project with him or her. Then go back and look at what the fruit of the Spirit is. Because if memory serves me, it is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

When I see those virtues at work, I begin to believe in what people say they believe that they truly do believe.

When I run across grouchy, short-tempered, fussy, back-biting, gossiping and aggravated individuals, I think they are disconnected from their beliefs, even though they seem to be very proficient at quoting scripture.

Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me how you act. And if that has too much “works” in it for you, then go cuddle up to your dead faith.

The good news is that Jesus said “by their fruits you shall know them.”

The better news is that a Gospel that can be acted out is much easier to imitate than trying to mouth holy words.

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Jesonian… January 21st, 2017

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They tried.

They really, really tried.

Once folks discovered that Jesus of Nazareth was interested in love, mercy, peace and God, they attempted to make connection with him by being religious.

They couldn’t understand an itinerant minister who was so against organized theology that he hid out in the hills in the middle of the week, fellowshipping with folks, only descending to the synagogue on Saturday, to find more brothers and sisters.

Yet they tried.

First came Nicodemus, a Pharisee. He began his dialogue with Jesus by saying, “We know you are a teacher from God because you do such amazing works.”

He was a victim of church talk. He didn’t know how to chat like “real people.” He was hoping that he and Jesus could compliment one another and ruminate over the unknown questions of the universe, departing satisfied that they were both educated men.

Jesus ignored his religion and told Nicodemus that he needed to be “born again.”

It pissed the old cleric off.

On another occasion, Jesus was sitting at a well in Samaria when a woman with a history of multiple husbands, now living with a man, came to draw water. When, through conversation, she realized that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, she began a religious argument–whether the Jews or the Samaritans were right. Here she was, a totally secular woman with no real understanding of the essence of God. But once she decided she was dealing with a religious adversary, she waxed ecclesiastical.

Jesus ignored her.

He told her to go get her husband.

He told her he had living water.

He told her that where we worship is not important–it’s how we worship that rings our bells.

And we must not forget the rich young ruler, who was so confident in his financial status that he felt the only thing he lacked was assurance that he had procured eternal life. He felt certain that Jesus was the person to ask about the afterlife.

“What must I do to inherit heaven?”

After a few minutes of back and forth, Jesus told him to go out, sell everything he had and give it to the poor. This was not the answer the pious young ruler wanted. So he left, sad.

Any further study of Jesus’ interactions with religious people of his day will give you a comprehensive awareness that all of them–all of the encounters–to some degree were failures.

Because the things that religious people need to do they don’t want to do:

  • Like Nicodemus, they do not want to personalize their salvation to be individually born again.
  • Like the woman at the well, they want to worship but not discover the “Spirit and the truth” of their praise.
  • And like the rich young ruler, they would rather memorize passages than generously give from their substance.

Whenever you bring religion to Jesus, he will challenge it–even attack it.

So do yourself a favor.

Skip the step.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 26) A Psalm of David … and Jack – October 23rd, 2016

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Reverend Meningsbee

David was one of the young host who invaded the Garsonville Church, sitting near the front altar on a vigil for a lost friend.

After that eventful Sunday, he and two other members of the high school started to attend.

He was what nicer Nebraskans refered to as a “soft boy.” He seemed to favor activities with less dirt and muscle. Now, the more aggressive Nebraskans, many attending his school. called him a queer–a fag.

David didn’t argue–just adopted many of the mannerisms and catch phrases of the gay community, not necessarily because he was born with that sensibility, but because he was only fifteen years old and welcomed any identity.

David immediately found a place for himself in the body of believers. He made it his mission to ensure that every Sunday morning, the holy foyer was filled with art–paintings, as it were–some masterful knockoffs and others done by the third grade class from the Wintermute Elementary School.

His displays played to mixed reviews among the congregation. Some of the pew-sitters felt it was inappropriate, and others actually joined in and brought some of their own made-up drawings.

David was faithful.

David was searching.

David was a sponge looking for a wet spot.

Jack was an adorable alcoholic. That’s what his family called him. He was one of those drinkers that got happier the more the liquor moved toward his liver.

And move it did–so much so that during one binge of whiskey and gin, he was rushed to the hospital with alcohol poisoning, and after many tests they discovered he was in the midst of liver failure and in need of a transplant.

This seemed to scare the hell out of Jack, leaving a hole ready for Jesus, so Meningsbee was called to come and witness to the once happy-go-lucky town drunk.

Meningsbee didn’t say much of anything; actually, Jack did the talking. And like many sinners who are eventually saved by grace, hearing his own story out loud, for perhaps the first time, sent him into a fit of weeping and a season of repenting.

Jack was born again in Room 315 of the Garsonville Community Hospital, with tubes poking out of almost every orifice on his body.

Jack never got strong enough to attend church. He was given the good news that there was a liver available for him, and before he knew it, was on the operating table, praying for a fresh start.

These two souls of God, David and Jack, collided one night in the same hospital at the same time, in similar conditions.

David arrived because he had been invited to a party, and in a moment of weakness, trying to make friends, overdosed on a cocktail of drugs which had been tossed into a punchbowl and dissolved, for the consumption of teenage fools.

His heart stopped three times on the way to the hospital and he was now on life support.

Jack’s operation was successful, but he fell victim to a serious and potentially lethal infection, which had him back on the table, doctors desperately trying to save his life.

Meningsbee sat in the waiting room on a hard, yellow, plastic chair, purchased during the Eisenhower Administration.

Both families, empty of words, had taken their leave and gone to the chapel to pray.

Meningsbee was alone with his thoughts. It was always on such occasions that he wondered if there really was a supernatural order directing a plan.

Was God really in the room with His angels, watching over the frail forms of David and Jack?

Had the Angel of Death arrived along with the Angel of Mercy, to take them home?

Or was it all just some sort of collage of grace, medical technology and just pure dumb luck determining the outcome?

Meningsbee found contentment that there was no answer. Just as an ant never discovers what is beyond its own hill, human beings likewise have much freedom but little insight.

The hours passed. It was touch and go.

At first they thought David still had good brain function and feared that Jack had lost too much blood to survive the repair.

The night wound on.

Five minutes after all the prayer warriors discovered that Jack had pulled through and was going to barely make it, they were told by the doctors that David had been assessed as brain-dead.

Two families stood side-by-side, digesting different news.

Jack’s family was careful not to express too much elation and relief, knowing that David’s mother and father were on the verge of collapse. Lacking words, fatigued by prayer, hampered by doubt and in the human state of confusion, they simply turned to one another and embraced.

David’s mom and dad made the agonizing decision to pull the plug and let him go home. He lived for ten minutes.

Reverend Meningsbee had one last prayer.

He hoped David would be granted a great space in the foyer of heaven…to display his art.

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Jesonian: Reasonable (Part 14) Living … March 6th, 2016

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She had found her place.

She was satisfied.

She had substance and purpose.

Then, all at once, life, which had promised only good, interrupted with pain.

She was bleeding–not excessively. Just continually. Everything that was once pure became tainted by the introduction of this new evil.

Her sense of solvency was challenged. Now her money had only one purpose:

“Heal me. Stop the bleeding. Give me back my life as I knew it.”

A change was necessary. She went from having a life to needing to live.

For to live is finding a way to continue your life when it threatens to depart.

  • She sought cures.
  • She studied.
  • She examined.
  • She trolled for possibilities.

Expensive.

For twelve years, she struggled to find a treatment while simultaneously growing weaker as her affliction drained away the essence of her will and her finance.

Life had turned on her. Unfortunately, her passion and efforts to live also failed.

She remained sick as the doctors got rich.

She found herself languishing in poor health.

Her instinct to live left her bankrupt and teetering on death.

What now?

What do you do when life turns sour, and efforts to live are foiled?

There is one choice that remains: move towards living.

Go where there is still the energy of loving and pursuing. Escape away to any living possibility.

Because living is endurance. It is deciding to add joy to the process so as not to grow weary in such well-doing. She decides to leave nothing untried.

She hears about a “giver of life.” The rumors are mixed. Some deem this miracle man to be a savior, while others insist he is the son of hell.

But living is not a guarantee–rather, a desire to continue in hope.

So she makes a plan.

Planning makes her feel better–it helps her to realize that she still has some control.

She will touch the hem of this healer’s garment, with the anticipation that mere proximity to his virtue will grant her a cleansing from all sickness.

Her idea is childlike.

Her organization, tenuous.

But her faith, willingness and joy–persistent.

She pulls her plan off–and amazingly, it works.

She is whole.

She is free to go back to life, or to return to her city to live. But it seems ridiculous to merely pass time when living is available.

So she curls up in prayer, thanks God for His intervention, and allows herself … to be born again.

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