Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 32) Episode 4… December 4th, 2016

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Reverend Meningsbee

When Episode 4 of “Gar-SIN-ville” aired on USBN, the entire town sunk into a puddle of melancholy.

The citizens had hoped to be recognized, heard, appreciated and valued, but instead were diminished by carefully edited interviews into creatures of weakness, frailty and in some cases, iniquity.

For instance, it was aired that the Swanson church, while pursuing “the perfect soul mate,” had members who slid into illicit affairs, deep confusion and even domestic violence.

Sammy Collins and his little congregation were characterized as bigots who were actively attempting to prevent the settling of Mexicans into the community.

Perhaps saddest of all was that the Bachman family was brought to tears on camera, discussing the suicide of their son, as Mr. Bachman was captured pleading, “I wish I did believe in God–so I could hate him.”

The community had chosen to be candid and forthcoming, hoping their stories would be welcomed with understanding. But the clever editing of the USBN staff made the town appear to be the most hypocritical community since Salem, Massachusetts burned imaginary witches.

In response, the Holiday Inn Express canceled the contract on Swanson’s church, refusing to let them meet there. The few folks who were coming to Sammy Collins’ house for church were too embarrassed to be seen parking in the driveway. And the Bachmans were bombarded with criticism and evangelistic rhetoric, warning them of a devil’s hell.

To complicate matters, Meningsbee received another visit from USBN. This time they sent their chief counsel, Hector Geminez, to the church office with a threat–veiled as an opportunity.

“We have noticed in all of our dealings in the town that your church could certainly use a kitchen and a pantry, which could be mobilized into a food service for those who are less fortunate in the community,” Hector shared, posing concern.

“We’ve thought of it,” said Meningsbee.

“Well, thoughts don’t feed many people, now, do they?”

Meningsbee paused and then challenged. “What is it you want, sir?”

“Please call me Hector.”

Meningsbee nodded.

Geminez continued. “I have been authorized by USBN to inform you that we have a donation of $25,000 for your church to put together such a kitchen and pantry to aid the community.”

“And why would you do that?” asked Meningsbee.

Hector sat for a long moment, eyeing the reverend. “Listen, pastor. We are both men of the world, even though yours is a bit cloistered. So let me not mislead you. The Garsonville series is doing so well in the ratings that we’re thinking about changing it into a weekly series. Since we have so much footage, we could easily cover a season.”

Meningsbee must have appeared startled, because Hector inserted, “Now, I know this is…ah…displeasing to you, so it was our hope that if you and your church could find a purpose by helping others through this kitchen arrangement, you might be willing to give your backing to such an endeavor.”

“Why do you need my backing?” asked Meningsbee. “The people in this town don’t necessarily like me that well. Why do you think my support will carry any weight?”

Hector suddenly stood to his feet, accentuating the drama. “Oh, but you’re wrong, good Reverend. They may not like you but they respect you.They believe you have insight. We’ve had several people unwilling to cooperate just simply because you placed a fear in their hearts that our intentions are not pure.”

“Well, they aren’t pure,” said Meningsbee.

Hector squinted his eyes. “They are pure in the sense that they represent the truth of the information that’s been provided to us. The public has a right to know what goes on in communities like Garsonville.”

“No, they don’t,” said Meningsbee. “None of us have the damn right to stick our noses in anybody else’s business. And by the way, you can quote me on that, Hector.”

“Well, they told me you might not be cooperative,” Hector said, easing himself back down in the chair. “So I wanted to let you know that we have data about some of your personal dealings–or shall we say, problems?–that might be intriguing to the people of the town.”

Meningsbee smiled. So it was USBN that had stolen his computer, to copy his browser.

He paused, wanting to make sure that his reaction came from a quiet place in his soul instead of the fury of his rage. He waited so long that Hector decided to continue.

“Now, we’re not threatening you. And we really don’t want to use what we have. God knows we all have a private life, right, Richard? What we want to do is make this arrangement to everybody’s mutual benefit. You get a food pantry to help the poor and we get a season of highly rated television programs that enlighten the American public.”

“So you feel you’re enlightening the American public,” barked Meningsbee.

“Well, it does say in the Good Book that the truth will make you free,” cited Hector.

“My dear friend, you have no idea what that verse means. Truth is a beautiful thing when it is revealed by the person with the secret. But truth is a nasty monster when it’s disclosed by strangers, leaving the exposed person condemned.”

Hector stood again and walked to the door, turning as he put his hand on the knob. “Listen, I didn’t come here to have a theological discussion. I’m an attorney. I deal with legal ramifications. We don’t need your blessing to do anything. We don’t need your permission to expose you. We were just providing a courtesy–to you, your congregation and the community–which might create a general welfare for all parties involved.”

He concluded, “I know you’ve heard the phrase seventy-two hours. In case you don’t know, that means three days. If I don’t hear from you in three days, I think you can assume that your predilections will be included in the format of Episode 5. You can have a kitchen–or be dealt a heaping helping of humiliation. It’s up to you. Nice meeting you, by the way.”

Hector Geminez turned the knob, opened the door, walked through and disappeared.

Meningsbee felt like chasing him down and giving him a good piece of his mind, but thought better of it.

He realized that he would probably need all of his brain to figure out what to do next.

 

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Ask Jonathots … March 31st, 2016

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My fiance was raised as a Catholic and I grew up Presbyterian. We plan to compromise after we’re married by going either to a Lutheran or Episcopal. But I don’t really like the solution. Neither one of us think the denomination makes any difference, but it did get me thinking. What do you think about this dilemma–especially since we want children?

I have always been of the contention that what you believe is much more important than where, when or even how you believe.

I think the problem with a compromise in spirituality is the notion that all outlets for the Christian message actually offer the heart, soul and mind of Jesus of Nazareth. They really don’t.

In the pursuit of finding the climate that suits a congregation, a church often has to place the more intense convictions of the faith on the back burner. It’s not a malicious act, but it is a purposeful one.

So I think it’s possible to visit every denomination for one Sunday or a couple of Sabbaths, introduce your own belief system into their atmosphere, and have an absolutely delightful time. But after a while, they will desire that you acquiesce to their cultural preferences instead of sharing your more basic beliefs.

So I think the decision of whether you go to an Episcopalian, Lutheran, Catholic or Presbyterian because you think they all believe in the same God is errant. What you want is to go to a church that understands the important values you treasure and leave there with a soul-satisfying experience.

I think many people think of going to church like they got a DUI and now have to do community service. They find it to be a duty, responsibility and now a sentence–to atone for a sinful nature.

I, for one, do not believe that such attendance to a religious service does us much good unless we actually find a way to become emotionally involved.

So my suggestion? The two of you should sit and write down the five things you agree upon, spiritually and emotionally, and then find a church of any denomination that agrees with most of them and grants you the conducive surroundings.

The sooner we understand that church is not about the delivery system of the worship service, but rather, the message and how it impacts our lives and touches our hearts, the better off we will be–and the less likely we will be to leave the institution because we find that Sunday morning family time is much more fulfilling.

 

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G-44: Blogging… October 3, 2014

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Paul writing

Paul was a blogger.

Although it’s commonly accepted that he authored books, what he really penned were entries which he posted to various individuals and congregations, expressing his mood in the moment.

So sometimes we have:

  • happy Paul
  • sad Paul
  • angry Paul
  • theological Paul
  • philosophical Paul
  • bruised Paul
  • attacking Paul
  • judgmental Paul
  • merciful Paul
  • Pharisee Paul
  • and Gentile Paul

Nothing much is achieved in reading the New Testament without understanding this concept. For if you isolate off one of Paul’s posts and attempt to characterize his entire message by its content, you will soon be frustrated by another entry, which seems to be contradictory.

Before you become critical of this grab-bag styling, you might want to consider the audience Paul was trying to reach. First, he worked around the erroneous premise of trying to be “all things to all men so that he might save some.” Here’s the problem with the idea: the Jews seek for a sign, the Greeks want wisdom, the Romans crave power and the Barbarians yearn for an identity. It’s difficult to believe that any singular paragraph, clump of verses or accumulation of chapters could appease all of these sensitivities.

So by the time the first century came to an end, and all of the original folks who ate and lived with Jesus were dying off, the message was suffering from a “clarification crisis.”

Some people favored Paul, some Peter, some Apollos, and others, some no-name who didn’t make the Biblical cut.

Simultaneously, the Romans were gradually getting tired of killing Christians and because of the failings of their Empire, were looking for a fresh motivation. So as time marched on, the Romans embraced this “Mesopotamia Message” as their own, and of course, in the process, swallowed it up with their bureaucracy.

The Romans, being authoritarians, felt that the weakness of the Pauline preaching was that it allowed too much freedom for the individual, without the structure of a governing body filled with superiors.

So this new Roman church was structured exactly the same as Rome itself–with an Emperor, a Senate, tribunals and even, to a certain degree, legions of soldiers.

The ironic result was that a God who came to study man was ignored in favor of men who decided to study God.

Meanwhile, the Barbarians discovered a potent identity. They could defeat Rome and rule the world, such as it was.

So a message which was intended to place the Kingdom of God within the heart of each believer was now placed within the whim of a potentate.

Alas, my friends … leave it to human beings to make things worse when they organize. 

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Populie: You’ve Got to Play the Game … August 20, 2014

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monoplyThere is a popular assertion by the masses that “life is a game.” It is usually accompanied by the rallying cry–which is also a lie–that “you’ve got to play the game.”

Thus a populie.

Now, religion, politics and entertainment don’t always have to agree on a premise for it to gain popularity. Sometimes they disagree, which generates great tension, and therefore, press coverage.

So religion loves to believe that the world is kind of a bad place and the poor sheep must be careful not to be consumed by the evil lurking in every direction, thus giving their congregations the benefit of both being morally superior while also potentially victims.

Entertainment loves to bounce between promoting the game and criticizing the game of life, placing itself into the position of being the arbiter.

And of course, politicians love to portray their opponents as gamesmen, and themselves as “the straight arrows of truth.”

Oh, forgive me. I failed to mention what the game is. Here it is in a nutshell:

  1. Get mine
  2. Get it fast
  3. Get going.

We are convinced that life is much more exciting when we acquire what we need–perhaps to the detriment of others. It turns us into a vicious, nasty, grouchy, backbiting lot, always paranoid about the intentions of the folks around us, and never quite satisfied when we do achieve our goals because we’re afraid they’ll be stolen from us by those who want to “get theirs, get it fast and get going.”

So once you believe in this game you never have a moment of rest, because you are either involved in the pursuit or else cladding yourself in armor, to protect your valuables.

You can imagine–I disagree.

I will refrain from calling my idea a game. Rather, it is a lifestyle. It is as follows:

  1. Get mine.
  2. Get yours
  3. Get moving

There’s nothing wrong with me pursuing mine first, as long as I am willing to give the same passion, doorway and opportunity to you, to acquire yours. As a result, I make an ally instead of an enemy. I’m acquiring a comrade instead of competition.

So perhaps when we go on our next adventure we can do it together. We can get it for both of us, and get moving much more effectively.

The cynical American would insist that I’m opening my life up, to be decimated by the greedy. But I would point out that the greedy individuals in life don’t need me to open up in order to eliminate me.

I would rather make the choice.

As long as you believe that the game is about garnering your portion and being gleeful that someone else failed, you are just waiting for a bigger bus to come along and strike you down.

I don’t believe in the game.

I will not play the game.

I will get mine, and through that process have the confidence to help you get yours, so we can get moving … together.

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Populie 2: Everybody’s a Winner … February 5, 2014

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award for participationWhen popular opinion yearns to promote an idea pleasing to the masses, that generates “warm and fuzzy feelings, ” then politics, religion and entertainment get behind the notion, propelling it forward, even if it’s necessary to create a lie or two in order to maintain the enthusiasm.

Thus, Populie.

And one of the most interesting presentations of this phenomenon is the abiding, insistent and seemingly heavenly energized commandment that “everybody’s a winner.”

  • Politics loves it because it makes the electorate feel content in itself.
  • Religion embraces it because everything can be drenched in the grace of God, and congregations don’t have to be challenged to excellence.
  • Entertainment imbues its plots with the precept because it allows them to always have the delightful Hollywood ending.

I call it “emotional marijuana.”

Put up the smoke screen of equality based upon “just what we’re doing and nothing more,” in order for everybody to munch Fritos while watching reruns of Star Trek.

But let me take you on a brief journey. May we call it a Tale of Two Stories? They are found in the Good Book. Listed twice, some people think they are the same parable being perceived by different authors. But I don’t think so.

The first rendition is a revelation about a king who goes off to a far country and leaves money behind for his servants. Each one receives–well, let us say $1,000. He gives them no instructions; merely entrusts his finance to their good care. But upon returning, they discover that he had thoroughly anticipated that they would take the funds, invest it wisely and bring back dividend.

The second story is similar–but this traveling monarch selects to give $5000 to one fellow, $2000 to another and $1000 to the remaining servant, based upon their abilities.

So here’s what I derive from these two delightful tellings:

Everyone is born with life. No one is better than anyone else.

Then culture comes along–circumstances, abuse, blessing, passion, discipline, parenting, neglect, and all other factors involved in the process of human beings growing to adulthood. It is in this phase that we develop both our abilities and our predilections.

So the truth of the matter is, if we don’t teach people to be adequately competitive, energetically involved, avidly pursuing betterment, they will make the same error as the folks in these parables from the Good Book, who hide their lives and talents due to fear of failure.

So we have a two-step process which needs to be promoted if we want to improve the planet:

  1. We need to admit that No One is better than anyone else. By birth, our Creator made us equal by giving us life.
  2. Then we must understand that without inserting a voracious desire to be successful and to use that benefit to enrich our own lives as well as the lives of others, we stall people–not only in their finance, but in their emotional, mental and spiritual ascension to the best that earthly life can offer.

The Populie is, “Everybody’s a winner–even when they lose.”

The truth is, “Everybody’s a loser if they don’t at least attempt to win.”

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Mount Vernon … September 21, 2013

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Mount VernonI suppose, to the average person, the mention of Mount Vernon might conjure a hazy memory of an American history class, where the name was mentioned as the location of the home of General George Washington. Even though I, too, have that realization, to me, it was a community twenty-three miles north of my boyhood home town.

As I rolled in to Mount Vernon today, I was astounded at how much living, doing and feeling I had birthed in that space:

When I was twelve years old, we had a Bible League contest in the town, with teams from all over the Central Ohio area gathered to push buttons and light up bulbs, answering questions about Holy Scripture. We had studied every jot and tittle, and split the information apart like atoms to compete with one another for points, prizes or just the privilege of partaking of some overly sweet church punch and dried-out cake. All in all, it was a great way to consider the musings of ancient patriarchs without dozing off in the process.

Mount Vernon was also one of the first places that I promoted my own gospel sing, consisting of my group along with some others, in the Memorial Auditorium. I actually saw people arrive in cars, park them and gather to hear us all squawk and wail.

Just outside of town, in the early seventies, I got the chance to perform for the first time with a fellow named Andre Crouch, who had a group called the Disciples at the Bible College, in front of a good-sized crowd of local folks who certainly didn’t come out to see us, but tolerated what was supposed to be our fifteen-minute fronting of the main event. As I discovered that night, and also from working with Andre Crouch in the future, he was never on time, so our mini-concert turned into a forty-five-minute show, which was certainly a problem, especially considering that fact that we only knew six songs.

Mount Vernon was also the location where in my early years, when I was destitute financially, some of the local quartets gave me a dribble of money to arrange music for them, to try to make them sound a little better in front of the small congregations they were able to schedule to hear their efforts.

And last but not least, my third son, Jerrod Micah, was born in Mount Vernon–about two minutes after I walked in the door of the hospital, rushing to get there to see his arrival. (My wife never seemed to have much trouble with labor. I guess some women would insist she never went through it–more like calisthenics.)

I was nearly in awe of all the memories that just splashed in my face as I drove down the main street of the metropolis. And to think, blessed man that I am, now in my sixth decade, I get to go to Mulberry Street United Methodist Church and make another memory, tomorrow morning and night, adding a new page to my dusty catalogue of memorabilia.

Life is wonderful if you don’t get fussy.

And if you do get fussy, life is still willing to be wonderful … if you just don’t give up on a good idea.

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