Jesonian … May 19th, 2018

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With all the focus being placed on Jerusalem, dubbed “the Holy City,” I thought it might be fascinating to take a look at what Jesus felt about this newly-proclaimed capital of Israel.

For instance, his mother and father visited there before his birth, ended up stranded in the suburbs in a little town called Bethlehem, where there was no room for them in the Inn, and there they birthed their first-born in a barn.

When Jesus was twelve he visited the city, asking lots of questions which produced no answers. The fussy religionists basically told him to “go back home, little boy.”

Although he didn’t make many trips to Jerusalem itself, he frequently encountered a stony-headed group of followers of the Law of Moses who were more concerned about his eating habits than his message.

One day, while visiting the Temple with his disciples and realizing that they were enamored by all the gold and architecture, he explained to them that very soon “there would not be one stone left on another.”

Jesus was very upset about how Annas had turned the Temple into an unrighteous trading center, cheating the visiting pilgrims out of their money on goods and exchanges. He took a whip, beat the money changers and drove them out of the Temple.

When he raised Lazarus from the dead, not far from Jerusalem, spies and assassins were hired to plot the death of the resurrected man because it was bringing much notoriety to this upstart Galilean movement.

Eventually the religious leaders found a fellow-Judeean named Judas to betray Jesus. They put Jesus on trial, lied to Pontius Pilate about him, pretended that they were disinterested in having a “King of the Jews” because they were satisfied with Caesar, screaming for the Nazarene to be nailed to a cross.

On his way to his death, women who were weeping for him were rebuked by Jesus, who stated, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me. Weep for your children and yourselves.”

I believe at this point he might have flashed back in his mind to several days earlier, when he looked over the city of Jerusalem, and with tears, lamented, “How often I would have gathered you under my wings, like a hen does its chicks, but you would have none of it. Your house is left to you desolate.”

If you’re curious about the definition of “desolate,” it is “a place deserted of people, with a dismal emptiness.”

Even after they killed him–murdered him on the cross–the Jerusalem leadership was still afraid that the disciples might steal his body, so they placed guards in front of his tomb.

When he rose from the dead and ascended to the Father, Jerusalem continued to persecute the disciples and early church members, killing and scattering them into the world.

So there weren’t many Christians left in 70 A.D., when Jesus’ prophesy about the destruction of Jerusalem came to fruition, with the Roman Legions destroying the Temple and the town.

As you can see, Jesus had no love affair with Jerusalem.

He angered the Jewish people because he told them that he existed “before Abraham,” and that “God had the ability to take stones and make children of Abraham.”

So it is a good idea for us to check out the Jesonian view of Jerusalem instead of joining the pandering that is done in this country under the auspice of “Judeo-Christian.”

I will tell you, certainly Jesus was not anti-Semitic. He loved the whole world.

But I also must tell you, he certainly was not pro-Israel.

 

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Jesonian … January 20th, 2018

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A growling grouchiness tends to fester my soul every time I sit down in front of some sort of clerk who wants to ask me questions so that he or she can “punch me into their system.”

I have a natural inclination to turn and run full speed out of the room, thus “unplugging.”

Systems don’t work.

Now, I know over-generalized conclusions such as this one are frowned on by people who want to remain congenial and open to all parties, but once any organization or movement acquires a mortgage, as far as humanity is concerned, they usually become no damn good.

Rules are established, guidelines are formulated, temperaments are discussed and limitations established.

I don’t care if the system is taking care of the poor, preaching the Gospel or electing candidates to office–just the presence of the instinct to follow an “inner office memo” filled with stipulations stifles creativity and smother passion.

Nicodemus came to see Jesus by night-Step 1 of any system.

Play it safe.

Nicodemus did not know whether his friends would approve of him interacting with the rogue Galilean, so he “came by night.” I’m sure he thought he was smart. I’m sure he believed he was more open-minded than his buddies, who wouldn’t come at all, even if it was pitch black.

He begins his dialogue with Jesus by trying to coerce a mutual sense of equality from the Nazarene–Step 2 of a system. “We know you’re a teacher sent by God.”

(Just like us…)

Every system wants to make everything the same for everybody, because if it isn’t, it’s just not fair–and if you acquiesce to one person, then everyone wants the same consideration.

I am not a conceited man, but my mission is not the same as the pastor of some United Methodist church in Wisconsin. I am not better than him–but I have been given more. And the scriptures tell me that because I’ve been given more, more is expected of me.

Jesus doesn’t mince any words with Nicodemus. He doesn’t give in to the equality theory, but tells Nicodemus that he “must be born again.” The cleverness of the statement–the parallel of spiritual rebirth to original birth are ignored by this scripture peruser.

He does what people always do to someone who apparently wants to rock the boat–he mocks the simplicity. He makes fun of Jesus suggesting that an old man could go back into his mother’s womb. He might even have chuckled at his own reference. He is convinced that in a world of black and white, it is necessary to strictly honor the available colorations.

Jesus explains to him that it’s an uncomplicated concept and challenges Nicodemus to walk more in his intelligence instead of marching in beat with the purists. Jesus says, “If I tell you of Earthly things and you don’t understand, how could I ever tell you of heavenly things?”

Then, as always, the system is offended, and begins to denigrate the concepts which lead to the conclusion of personal responsibility.

It is so much easier to be religious if you believe God is in control, has a plan for your life, is moving angels and demons back and forth and has already won the battle. It becomes a bit more intricate when you realize the Kingdom of God is within you.

Nicodemus departs, unimpressed. Matter of fact, later on the scriptures refer to “some of the Jewish leaders” who privately had sympathy for Jesus and his Kingdom movement, but were afraid to speak up.

Nicodemus found himself trapped. When the Council decided to have a meeting to put Jesus on trial, and Nicodemus objects to them indicting the Master without hearing him, they dismiss Nicodemus. They ask if “he, too, is a Galilean.”

He says nothing more. He is silenced.

You will never make strides in your spiritual life or truly understand the humanity of Jesus and the mission he had to save souls as long as you hide behind vespers and prayers.

Jesonian is a lifestyle.

And Jesus spent his life being the champion of the human race. To do so, he had to dodge many systems and ignore those who were locked up in the mindset of the moment instead of grasping the born-again heart of those who were fully aware that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.”

 

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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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Catchy (Sitting 8) Cleanly Rich … July 30th, 2017

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Paul didn’t waste any time.

Before blankets could be spread, cushions situated and all snacks and drinks divvied among the three, he had already begun to drone out his story. It could have been a very interesting tale, but Paul seemed unimpressed with his own reputation.

He had married three years after college–only the fourth lass he had ever seen naked. They had two children who apparently were soldiering on to do their best with the process of growing up to join the ranks of those in file. Paul did not have many hobbies–actually, Paul had no hobbies that he shared. But as he sipped on a bit of diet root beer, he popped off a question.

“Don’t you think there are better ways to spend two hundred and fifty million dollars than propagating the myths of Bedouins who seem to have nothing better to do than kill one another in the name of their mythical gods?”

Matthew chose not to answer. After all, it wasn’t a question. It was a statement of disbelief. Somewhere along the line, Paul Padwick had consumed a sour communion wafer and was still wincing from the experience. Realizing that he was the killjoy of the little airport soiree, Paul rolled over on his Cornhusker cushion and went soundly to sleep.

That left Jo-Jay and God-guy–otherwise known as Joanna and Matthew. The two of them had briefly been a number back in college–a three-week period when neither of them was sexually ravaging or being ravaged–so they cast a glance each other’s way. They made it all the way to the bedroom and even to breakfast the morning after, but then, without any treaty, discussion or negotiation, the accidental collision was never spoken of again by either party.

So Matthew was curious about what would initiate their chatting and was relieved to discover that Joanna had planned all the dialogue, with most of the lines written for herself. She launched into her story.

Two years after college, she met a young fellow who showed great promise–except when it came to keeping promises to her. He had been a rather quiet student in college, but once he got married and realized there were many vaginas in the world, like Columbus of old, he launched his ship to discover new worlds.

Jo-Jay put up with it for a while and then asked for a divorce. She was a little disheartened that he immediately agreed. Because of his unfaithful status, she was granted alimony.

So she tripped along and cavorted for a couple of years, even considering trying to transform herself into a lesbian–but found the experience rather distasteful.

Four years ago she met The Duke. Duke was not his nickname, but rather, his title. He was a Duke of Something-or-other that she could not remember–but it came with much bearing and money. He was thirty-two years her senior. She said that she didn’t really marry her father, but rather, his father.

But he was gentle. He was kind. Generous to a fault, if such a thing is possible. And just about the time Jo-Jay’s hormones were beginning to itch for a scratch outside the mansion, he just up and died, leaving all of his earthly goods to a very earthly Joanna Lawrence. She was actually very surprised at how much she missed him.

She decided to play a game with herself. Every time she withdrew a stack of one-hundred dollar bills from the bank, she pretended it was his face instead of Benjamin Franklin’s.

“So you’re filthy rich,” said Matthew with a tinge of sarcasm.

Jo-Jay smiled. “Actually, I’m clean rich. The difference is, when you’re clean rich, you enjoy the money but you’re constantly trying to do penance by giving much of it away, to apologize for being financially over-nourished.”

All the time that Jo-Jay was sharing, it appeared that she was becoming more intoxicated (though she was gulping nothing more than club soda and orange juice). She was an exciting person. She had the quality of a young girl–the kind of little miss you know isn’t very attractive right now, but someday would be a hellcat.

Finally, Jo-Jay wound down. Or at least, Matthew assumed she did–because he passed out on his cushion in exhaustion.

The next afternoon, the Lincoln airport was opened. Matthew looked for Paul, who apparently had already departed.

So he reached over to hug Jo-Jay and asked, “Where are you off to?”

“San Francisco,” she replied.

Matthew crinkled his brow. “Well, that’s where I’m going.”

Jo-Jay jumped up and down like a little girl and said, “I know, I know. I bought the seat next to you.”

“Don’t you have somewhere to go?” asked Matthew.

“Now I do,” said Jo-Jay. “You see, one of the things about my Duke is that he had a fascination about the Galilean.”

“Galilean?” asked Matthew.

“Jesus,” replied Jo-Jay. “He never called him Jesus. He referred to him as the Galilean because most of his life was spent near the Sea of Galilee. The Duke believed that this Galilean had the solution to mankind’s problems because he refused to let us escape the philosophical juggernaut statement, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Matthew peered at her. “So you’re coming with me to. . .?”

“To. . .” Jo-Jay paused also. “To see where it goes.”

Matthew gave her a quick hug, then pulled back, admiring her like she was a kid sister. “So here’s to wherever the hell it goes.”

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Jesonian… May 20th, 2017

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“A certain lawyer.”

This is how the King James Version of the Good Book describes a chap who comes to hear Jesus teach. We do not know his real name, but we are made aware of his agenda.

So was he “a certain lawyer” because he was identical to the other lawyers around him, or was he referred to as “a certain lawyer” because he had a legal mind–already made up and sure of itself?

As the story unfolds, we find that actually he’s a bit of both. He’s on a mission. His job is to take his intellect, his knowledge of Mosaic law and his wit, and trip up the bumpkin would-be prophet from Nazareth.

He crafts a plan. It’s the classic trap. He asks Jesus “how to gain eternal life.” He figures this will cause the over-wrought preacher to launch into a series of crazed statements which are easily contradicted by existing spiritual philosophy. Imagine how astounded he is when Jesus defers to him.

“What does the law say? How do you read it?”

The lawyer was not expecting this response, but seeing the crowd of people, he thought it would be unwise to be absent a reply. He grabs a safe answer. (That’s what “certain people” do. Even “certain lawyers.” They grab safe answers.)

He said, “You should love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself.”

To which Jesus replied, “Fantastic! Go do that.”

The certain lawyer is embarrassed. He has been out-maneuvered by a former carpenter. He has been managed. He has been handled. He gained no additional information, and made the audience think he was completely in tune with the teachings of Jesus.

So he does something truly dastardly–he tries to justify himself. Every lasting malady happens when we come across a reality and explain why we’re already doing something else.

The certain lawyer (who is losing certainty by the moment) asks, “Who is my neighbor?”

In other words, there must be some restriction. Jesus is not talking about Gentiles, is he? He’s not referring to nasty whores and thieves?

“I need you to clarify. And in the clarification, it is my hope that you will foul up, so I can go back to those who hired me, and have a good laugh concerning me bettering the Galilean.”

Jesus doesn’t miss a beat.

He tells a story about a man who fell into a situation where he was robbed and beaten. He immediately establishes that those who “the certain lawyer” respected–a priest and a Levite–passed by and did not help the bleeding fellow. Instead, he offers a hero. He introduces a Samaritan–which by the way, to that “certain lawyer” was even worse than a Gentile–who comes to the aid of the gentleman, binds his wounds, takes him to an inn and then leaves real money behind to make sure he’s cared for until he recuperates.

Jesus directs the story. In politics, they refer to it as “controlling the narrative.”

A lawyer who thought he was so smart was side-stepped; trapped by question from Jesus which could only evoke one logical response. Upon finishing the narrative, Jesus asks the certain lawyer, “Who was neighbor to the damaged man?”

The lawyer was surrounded by people, and the answer was so obvious that any hem-hawing or parsing of words would make him look foolish, not thoughtful. So he splurted out:

“The neighbor was the one who showed mercy to the wounded man.”

And even though the “certain lawyer” had hoped that the end of his dialogue with Jesus would leave the Master speechless and him dominating, instead Jesus turns and as he walked away, says, “Go and do thou likewise.”

There must have been a chuckle throughout the crowd.

The humiliated, foiled, aggravated and convicted lawyer left to go lick his wounds.

Over the next few weeks, he devises his own story–a retort he should have given to Jesus. Why do I feel that? Because the Gospel writer never told us his name.

The “certain lawyer” didn’t matter. He was a prop–a vehicle to share wisdom.

A story for the ages: The Good Samaritan.

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Jesonian: Galilean… March 22, 2015

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Iz and Pal

His critics called him “a Galilean.”

The word means very little to us. But in the time of Jesus, it communicated volumes.

Once your enemies could establish you as “a Galilean,” any number of other insults were available and could be unleashed in your direction without fear of contradiction.

Galileans were people who lived in Palestine, separate from the greater favor of God, with those who dwelt in Jerusalem.

They were outsiders.

They were lesser.

They were cursed by birth, to be relegated to a second-place position in all aspects of life.

After all, the Pharisees made it clear that “no prophet could come from Galilee,” and since Galilee was devoid of prophets, Galilee had to submit to other, more spiritual regions for its faith and hope.

Yes, once the cynics were able to call Jesus a Galilean, soon popping from their lips was the word “ignorant.”

  • He didn’t know his letters.
  • He didn’t know how to properly clean a cup before drinking.
  • Coming from Galilee, it was well-known that he was a sinner.
  • And if he was able to free people of their oppression, it was only because he was in cahoots with the devil himself.
  • Following the reputation of all Galileans, he was “a drunkard, a glutton and a friend of the outcast.”

Shouldered upon him was the burden of generations of bigotry, which still exists to this day as the Jews and Palestinians struggle for a piece of land that is really not much bigger than the state of New Jersey.

We probably find this practice of relegating certain virtues or vices to a particular region to be beneath our intellectual standard.

Yet if someone tells us they’re from the state of Texas, we envision cowboy hats, guns, bigotry, cow-roping, rodeos and backward politics.

A Californian is burdened with the notion that he’s from the Left Coast, is a hippie, smokes marijuana in church (if he ever goes there) and advocates free love.

Florida is for old people, and New York is for crime and gangsters.

We’re often very proud of the fact that we do not follow much of the superstition of those “Biblical fellows” we read about from so many centuries ago.

But because a group of bigoted, religious people were able to oppress Jesus of Nazareth by calling him a Galilean and assigning him all the foibles attributed to such a creature, rather than them being illuminated by the light of the world, they chose to snuff it out.

Even today we have a religious system which is intent on proving that Jesus was Jewish, when the Jewish people were convinced he was Palestinian.

Amazing, don’t you think?

He was right:

“Foxes have holes, but the Son of Man truly does have no place to lay his head.”

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Iffing Way (Part 7) Nic at Night … December 1, 2014

 

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If bigger

What if a voice of sanity had risen up at various stages in the story of human history, to offer a challenging view when craziness was about to win the day?

If …

He was summoned, forcibly invited.

He felt like a schoolboy under the control of the master, with no will of his own. But he knew what it was about.

The head chair on a committee where he sat had a vendetta. Now, the distinguished leader would choose to call it something else. Perhaps “a needful intrusion.” “A holy mission.” Or even, “a matter of course.”

He knew better.

He wasn’t sure if it was jealousy on the part of the chair person, ignorance, or even something as simple as an ongoing tiff with his wife which had left him grumpy.

It wasn’t the first time there had been a summons. No, many times the subject had been discussed and debated, but finally tabled, with everyone leaving in a huff, unfulfilled.

But this time was different. Apparently the boss now felt he had the votes to pull off his will.

It was all so bizarre.

In the midst of a decline of popularity of the national faith, a young man from Nazareth had arrived on the scene and re-energized the populace. Now, an intelligent conclave of distinguished fellows might have seen this as an opportunity to bring in fresh blood and move people to spiritual awareness. But this particular gathering of theologians and pseudo-politicians lacked vision.

He was preplexed. What was even more confusing to him was that he had made a journey by night to visit this young man who was stirring up the religious system. He clearly remembered two words from their discourse:

“Born again.”

The carpenter-turned-preacher had told him that he needed to be “reborn” to be in step with what was going on. He was offended. So because he considered himself to be a dynamic debater, he tried to make the young Galilean feel stupid or awkward by challenging the meaning of the term. Facts are, he knew what this young Jesus meant by “born again.”

Everything around him reeked of old–ancient ideas and meaningless practices.

Yet that night, he’d found himself walking away–trying to include the message of the Nazarene instead of being born again into it.

But this was different.

He knew that Caiaphas was in charge of the board, and was seeking to levy punishment against this innocent unaware.

What was he going to do?

He prided himself on the fact that he was smarter than Caiaphas because the officious leader was so headstrong that he frequently left himself wide open for counter-point.

Yet he had grown weary of argument and become known as a sympathizer, which was now rendering him ineffective among his peers. After all, it was not only improper, but illegal to be a follower of Jesus.

Arriving at the meeting, it quickly became obvious that Caiaphas had a death warrant for Jesus.

What was he going to do? Should he remain silent, and still curry the favor of his fellows? Or was it time to be born again and use the wisdom and style that he had developed over years of practice, to help save the life of the freshest idea to come around in decades?

It was nighttime again. But this time he would not walk away and pretend he didn’t understand.

He made a case against Caiaphas–quietly, reverently, but also with a conniving purpose. In no time at all, the stubborn Pharisee was speaking double-talk and the committee dismissed itself to go back to their homes, unresolved.

Jesus was saved for another night.

Jesus would be able to continue to teach.

And Nicodemus would be able to hold his head high and just maybe start the process in his life…of being born again.

 

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