Ask Jonathots … May 19th, 2016

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I heard an Olympic official on a national television news show say, “People will always cheat. It’s human nature.” Do you think this is true?

“To err is human and to forgive is divine.”

This is the classic axiom.

Unfortunately, the proverb has a missing piece. Actually, it should state: “To err is human, but to repent is human also.”

There are two little devils that chase the human heart, trying to turn us into scoundrels.

Ignorance and arrogance.

We only become hapless when we try to combine these two and justify one with the other.

For instance, I may say something stupid, which is completely forgivable unless I try to convince you that it wasn’t stupid at all–you either misunderstood me or you’re not hip to my particular perception of life.

Ignorance is forgivable.

But when it links up with arrogance, not even divinity can salvage such a stubborn creature.

So my problem with the statement provided in your question is that as long as we view cheating as a normal side road taken by humans which needs to be avoided and confessed, we are fine. But when we begin to believe it’s part of our character–an arrogant segment of us that cannot be removed–we not only lose our redemption, but we lose any portion of us to redeem.

So what is the correct profile?

  • Ignorance happens.
  • Ignorance is exposed.
  • Ignorance is confessed.
  • Forgiveness is granted.
  • Knowledge expands.

This is the process that makes a solid human being.

But if we express ignorance, have it exposed and we defend it with our arrogance or insist that what we have done is “no worse than anyone else,” then forgiveness is impossible and knowledge is stalled.

Repentance is not a noble action, but rather, a necessary position that all humans take to make sure that we progress in wisdom and understanding instead of finding ourselves falling back on the failing positions of former times.

So in conclusion, I would say that ignorance happens, and as long as arrogance doesn’t show up, repentance can open the door to forgiveness, which allows knowledge to rule the day.

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Good News and Better News … March 14th, 2016

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Saint James Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Realizing that you may never include this sanctuary as a stop off in your pilgrimage of American churches, I will attempt to relate my experience of enjoying the fine folk I met there.

The pastor is John Locke, who has the noble name of a great English philosopher, the inspiration to such American forefathers as James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. (Thomas, by the way, used much of Locke’s language in penning the Declaration of Independence.)

That said, I will tell you that I enjoyed the present incarnation of John Locke of Fayetteville equally.

The congregation was inspiring, and therefore capable of being inspired. Although there were certainly individuals who were curious about my pedigree and what my theological background was, most of them just relaxed and allowed me the chance to share my talents and my heart.

They arrived having survived a week of bitter political struggles and angry candidates, generating a climate threatening mayhem. Let’s be honest–most of us feel rather insignificant when we are viewing the 24-hour news cycle and realize how meager our simple efforts may seem.

But that’s the purpose of the church. It is supposed to be a safe zone–a place where you come to escape social pressure, politics and even religion, and spend an hour or so finding reasons to still believe.

It is a sanctuary where we can proclaim:

1. We’re human.

And then we can ask God, “Is that what you expected?”

We’re not perfect, because in striving for such a position, we would look both prideful and foolish.

2. We’re more “child” than “angel.”

So heavenly Father, enchant us.

Any God we serve who expects us to become more than we are is a charlatan. We are God’s children, and therefore definitely require a certain amount of entertainment with our enlightenment.

3. We need a safe place to come.

The world is full of tribulation, and even though we understand that Jesus has overcome the world, we require a reason to be of good cheer.

It is up to the good folks at Saint James–from leadership all the way through nursery–to provide such an atmosphere.

If they do, they will become viable and powerful in the community, offering an option to the raging storms of those who follow the present wind-blowing.

If they insist on being religious and trap themselves in the drapings of their faith, they will not only be an anachronism to a former time, but will find themselves gnawing on each other out of frustration.

So there’s the good news.

We’re human, we are more like children and we need a safe zone.

But here is the better news: on top of all that, we have this quality–just a bit of sweet, creative divinity placed within us by the breath of God, hinting that we also can surprise you.

We are capable of being gentle and powerful.

So watch us.

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G-40: Practical … September 5, 2014

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hand of JesusCrucifixion should never be discussed casually.

Damn those who study it as a theological necessity or a part of any kind of holy plan.

For after all, the idea of capital punishment isn’t particularly “capital.”

I came to live as a human. Of course, somewhere along the line, that does entail death. I guess I was hoping this would occur as an old, old man, from a mild heart attack as I was sleeping in Rome, after finishing up a spectacular revival.

Just not to be.

If God has a plan, He must desert it because He has cast his lot with humans.

Golgotha–the place of the skull. A cranium without face or brain, for that matter.

My feelings are mixed, tossed to and fro, squeezed by reality, only prohibited from smothering me by the expansiveness of faith.

The trial they put me through came to an awkward impasse–the witnesses against me constantly contradicting each other. It became apparent that I might be cleared on a technicality–maybe exiled back to Galilee.

Yet you can’t go back, can you?

What is their concern?

They say they are worried because I call myself God.

Alexander did it.

Caesar, likewise.

It’s nothing new. Whenever men gain power, they like to claim some aspect of divinity.

But see, here’s the problem: if God really has visited mankind, then why do we need religion or priests anymore? Scared the bejesus out of them.

So I stepped in and simplified their plight.

I told them I was God. I told them that they would see me one day and know I was God.

They deemed this arrogant and blasphemous. The proclamation sealed my fate.

They are killing me.

I am a reluctant martyr, a disappointed teacher, a rejected friend and a lonely savior.

I must warn them that their deeds will reverberate back to them with future consequences.

“Your house is left to you desolate!”

How can I tell them that chosen people must be replaced by people who choose?

I know this–you can’t save the whole world if you’re trying to promote one race.

So I took a haggard breath, wincing in pain.

I am trying to die well.

It is all they have afforded me.

 

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