Catchy (Sitting 27) Loose Ends … December 17th, 2017

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Matthew felt like he was dragging his own corpse behind him across the Arctic Tundra, in search of a fire.

He was disgusted with himself. Wonderful, marvelous events were transpiring, but he felt abandoned. He had become such dead weight that Jubal and the band decided not to have him come along on the daily trips across the country.

He didn’t argue. He felt so damn out of place.

Everyone was so energized, so jubilant, so jazzed by the whole idea–but he sat around counting the hours until the drum stopped beating and he could get back on the plane and go home to a nice cappuccino.

Even Soos had become enamored with the revival–filled with the same spirit that inhabited Mr. Carlos.

So this morning, when Jubal took off on the plane without telling Matthew where he was going, discovering by watching “Good Morning, U.S.A.” that the troop had landed in Haiti and was performing an impromptu concert in front of thousands of citizens, while handing out bread and cheese, Matthew was not upset. He just sat back and shook his head. Everything was so screwed up.

The business he had begun with Randall and Landy–S.E.E.D.S.–was turning to weeds. Some of the clients were disgusted with the whole idea of “God-speak,” and the ones who weren’t were too wacky for his taste.

Last week he had lunch with Randall and Landy, who sat across from him munching on salads and sipping Chablis like two jilted lovers. He had no idea how to explain where he was coming from or what he was going to do. Matter of fact, his life was just a series of loose ends, untied from all reality.

Jo-Jay had been out of pocket for weeks, pursuing some conspiracy against Jubal.

Sister Rolinda got herself in trouble with the Catholics by referring to the Pope as a “chauvinist,” suggesting that his head was beginning to fit into his pointed hat.

Worst of all was Prophet Morgan, who was jittery and upset about being ignored, and had broken the pact of secrecy with the press, doing two interviews, which, according to backstage sources, paid him three thousand for one and two thousand for the other. So two weeks ago, Prophet had appeared on “Tell All” with Bart Champion, and three days earlier, he was on “Rasur’s Edge with Carlita Rasur.” Ms. Rasur was so capable at her craft that she got Prophet all worked up into tears, as he apologized over the air for his relatives, who had once owned slaves.

Morgan looked ridiculous on television–an anachronism–pompadour hairdo, gray gabardine suit with a large, wide tie. Both Bart and Carlita tried to get secrets out of him, but since Prophet knew very little, they were quite disappointed with the information about scrambled instead of fried eggs, and Jubal’s insane appetite for black licorice.

The whole world seemed crazy to Matthew.

Michael Hinston wouldn’t take his phone calls anymore. Matthew tried not to be offended, but the last time he telephoned, he could hear Michael in the background, whispering instructions to his secretary. “Tell him I’m not here!”

Matthew just didn’t fit in.

On one hand, there was the burgeoning awakening of a Jesus movement going on in his midst, while at the same time old friendships, dreams and goals were sliding away into a pit of meaninglessness.

Rising from his chair, he picked up his cell phone and called the airport. “I need a one-way ticket to Washington, D.C.”

Matthew had decided to try to find Jo-Jay, and maybe surprise and corral Michael. The last time he had seem either of them, they were in the nation’s capitol.

 

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Rabble and Rubble… March 31, 2013

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church inside biggerSome were killers. Others watched. The rest ran away in terror, except for a tiny handful, which stuck around to stow the mutilated corpse in a tomb.

I didn’t know what to do. I was no killer, didn’t have the stomach to watch, couldn’t run as fast as the cowards and wouldn’t wrap my mind around a “grave” conclusion for my best friend.

So I just walked.

Actually, I’ve been walking for twenty-four hours, now. Of course, I exaggerate, but it sure seems like an endless odyssey of meaningless meandering. I walk and I look.

I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for–I guess some sort of sign of shock, revulsion or horror over the atrocity just committed on that hill so far away. But truthfully, life seems to be going on. Nothing is canceled. No one discusses postponing local events to consider the murder of an innocent man. I even came across a wedding in progress, with the sound of jubilation and music. The Passover is in full swing. The Romans are in control and religion has dressed up for the day.

I feel like I’m about to go insane over the calmness that’s settled in on a world gone mad. Jesus loved the rabble. He embraced those souls the world deemed riff-raff. He met them in their hour of need, saved them, healed them and even raised them from the dead. Yet when he reached his critical moment–when he required the support of these who were benefitted by his mercy–they accepted the wisdom of a Council which they normally mocked, and they screamed in unison for a murderer and robber to be released to their fellowship. They chose the allure of darkness because it was closer to the coloration fo their own souls.

Mostly I’m disgusted with myself. Because the absence of knowing what to do is not the presence of an excuse for not doing anything. It may seem that way in the moment, but it is a lie.

I don’t know where to go. Some of my friends went fishing to take their minds off the dilemma. There are a few hiding out in an upper room–simulating prayer, but really shaking in their sandals over every rustling outside the door, wondering if it is the Romans coming to slice them into pieces.

I just can’t be with any of them. The rabble disgusts me because they denied their own best solution. And the rubble of a once-great “kingdom movement” is so insipid and vacant of ideas that I can’t tolerate sitting in their presence, commiserating.

I feel so alone that I’m taunted by the specter of suicide. Yet I won’t do that. That would require a certain amount of courage which I lack, and an insanity which I refuse entrance.

I walk on.

Has it really come down to the simplicity of the rabble and the rubble? My friend Jesus dedicated his life to protecting the lost and innocent, only to have them choose cowardice in his hour of need. Likewise, he spent hours and hours instructing people like me–his followers–but when he was confronted with evil, he only found frightened little Jewish boys and girls, who had learned much but acquired little.

Now hours have passed. I must have dozed off, although I would have sworn I was incapable of sleep. The Sabbath is over and the first fruits of the light of dawn are creeping into the velvety haze of darkness. It will soon be morning. What will I do?

Even though I used to enjoy the beginning of each day, now the sun mocks me because it shines its light on my indecision. Do I go and resume my life among the rabble–pretending that the little piece of misfortune that happened on Calvary was a thing of the past?

I can’t do that. Too many miracles. Too many blessings. Too many hugs. Too many roads. And too many reasons to remember.

I guess I will head to the tomb. In the long run, it is better to be with the rubble–the remains of a great idea–than with the rabble, lacking any inclination toward solution.

Sunday morning. I will go to the tomb.

After all … it is the last place I saw Jesus.

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The St. Peter Principle… June 25, 2012

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I do believe that Simon bar Jonah, a fisherman from Capernaum, who was renamed “Peter” by his friend, Jesus, would be quite shocked to discover that he was deemed to be a saint after his demise. Obviously, “grave” changes bring lasting impressions.

Whatever the circumstances of the bestowal of the title, I was delightfully refreshed to be at St. Peter United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, yesterday morning. Now, I happen to enjoy a congregation that is blended like a great fruit salad, with a few nuts thrown in for good measure. St. Peter did not disappoint. I watched closely as they struggled with the enigma of how to use spirituality to benefit human beings without ending up inhaling the stale sourness of religiosity. Quite a dilemma.

The pastor was an insightful fellow with a twinkle in his eye and a spring in his step, who is certainly ready for a new birth of energy and inspiration. The congregation is peppered with talent, creativity, generosity and human qualities which would make them very appealing to others of their kind.

So what’s the problem?

It’s really quite simple. It’s just difficult to try to create a revival of fresh ideas when you are insisting on maintaining traditions that have long since lost both their nerve and their verve. You can’t haul a corpse around and pretend that you’re anything but an undertaker. So we’ve got to get rid of the body of Christ that’s dead and stinky in order for the real flesh and blood of Jesus to come out and be alive to humanity.

So if those good, new friends at St. Peter will allow me to make a suggestion for their burgeoning awakening, let me just sum it up in three simple statements. As it turns out, these ideas i’m about to present could be classified as heading for each of the chapters of Matthew 5, 6 and 7–dubbed the Sermon on the Mount. Because when you take the trio of principles and join them together, they not only create a message sensitive to the human heart, but one that also stirs the innards of the Almighty.

1. Happiness is our goal. Jesus takes the whole beginning of the Sermon on the Mount to talk about happiness. If you’re willing to sacrifice happiness, you must be prepared to lose contact with mankind and end up with a mere dribble of souls who are determined to be miserable. So, St. Peter’s, we choose to believe that happiness is the natural state that God wants his children to possess. Because we know that Eden, had it been absent sin and rebellion, was full of ecstasy and joy.Happiness is our goal. We work towards happiness. We don’t merely invite people to church, but rather, encounter them outside the building, pray for them, work with them and counsel them until they see a miracle in their lives that makes them want to come in and add their giddiness to the bliss. If happiness isn’t your goal, why do you have a church? There are plenty of places to make people subdued, somber, miserable and to foster malcontents. So, St. Peter’s, tipping our hat to Jesus’ beatitudes, we establish our first principle for operation: happiness is our goal.

2. Moving over to that 6th chapter of St. Matthew, we come up with our second precept. “NoOne is better than anyone else.” Jesus makes it clear that we should stop stomping around, acting like we’re freakishly holy because we fast, pray and give alms, and instead, find a way to do it with joy. (There’s happiness again!) In so doing, we will remove the piety from loving God and replace it with the equality that we have with our fellow-men and women. You can’t have a church if you think you’re better than other people. In that case, what you have is a cult of personality. So the second step in our process is to realize that NoOne is better than anyone else. Even when we’re tempted to feel that we’ve established some new standard of excellent human behavior, we need to laugh at ourselves and realize there are footprints all around where we’re standing.

3. And the final insight I offer to my dear friends in Kansas City is a sound-byte-rendition of the 7th Chapter of Matthew. I feel it is an adequate, if not accurate, representation of Jesus’ thoughts. We don’t judge. We don’t even think about judging. We refuse to have opinions on things that involve dissecting the character of another human being. We giggle at folks who assume they have achieved some sort of supernatural authority to evaluate the deeds of others. We don’t judge. It isn’t that we could judge and we’re deciding not to–it’s that we finally admit that we suck at it, and rather than continuing to offend other people due to our short-sighted views, we have selected to not judge.

These three steps:

  • happiness is our goal
  • NoOne is better than anyone else, and
  • we don’t judge

create a holy environment which proclaims, “We are a church which wants to show you the Father, and then let people be people. If there’s a need for change in them, let the Spirit convict. We’ll keep our eyes on the road so we don’t ‘tail-gate’ our fellow travelers.”

Those three initiative right there will keep you busy with teaching, instruction and edification for years to come. Just finding new reasons to be happy can fill up a month of Sundays. Pointing out the value of “NoOne is better than anyone else” will grant you the material for a dozen series of sermons. And maintaining the starship of “We don’t judge” will launch you into a galaxy of new frontiers.

St. Peter UMC–I love you dearly. But as Jesus made clear–the letter kills but the spirit gives life. In other words, any religion you maintain in your format will eventually drag you down–until you allow yourself to be humans, prompted by the Spirit.

Thank you for granting me your ears, and I relish your prayers as I journey on–and I certainly would love to hear what part of my little scenario you might deem worthy of your consideration.

For I will tell you this: No district office or national headquarters of any denomination will criticize anything you do if you are growing, prospering and helping people.

   

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