Good News and Better News… October 30th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3476)

I have participated in thousands and thousands of …

Now, what shall I call them? For if I refer to these as “performances, shows or gigs,” religious people will give me the holy frown of disapproval because I have trivialized the spiritual significance.

But by the same token, referring to my efforts as ministry, worship leading or any other divine terminology makes me reek of pretension.

Of course, worst of all is the safe, but vanilla describer, “presentation.”

I run into the same problem when I try to decide whether to say a robust “Praise God” or a timid “thanks be to God.”

Do I go for the full dunk in baptism, or settle for some other plunk?

Should communion be unleavened bread, or a golden loaf?

Wine or Welch’s grape juice (which many denominations insist was Jesus’ preference)?

And I think the most intimidating crossroads of all is settling whether our Christian faith is ground in social commentary or revivalism.

That’s why the tambourine is pictured today. A tambourine can scare a Lutheran or a Methodist to death–almost as much as a printed bulletin with liturgy makes a Baptist tremble.

It just doesn’t seem to occur to us that defining the word “ministry” requires taking a long gaze into the lifestyle and actions of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus was both contemplative and flamboyant.

He had the strange notion that the profile for what he did in blessing others was contingent on what they needed, and not confined to the Book of Common Prayer.

So to one person, he said, “Be healed.”

He touched lepers.

He spit on someone else.

He stuck his fingers in another person’s ears.

And he shouted to raise the dead.

He would have upset a lot of people.

Jesus didn’t worship miracles; he didn’t minister miracles–he performed miracles.

He showcased the Gospel in stories, told with colorful description and high-flung gestures.

The church has lost Jesus because it has focused on either social gospel or revivalism.

Jesus was the Son of God, who came to teach us how to get along with each other–with a tambourine in his hand.

So the good news is that we need both social commentary and revivalism.

The better news is, when we actually mingle the two, we suddenly become more relevant.

 

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Good News and Better News… April 10th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3273)

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: It’s Just Church … May 10th, 2015

 

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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church without walls

Each of us has a social lifestyle, a business profile and a religious inclination.

The difficulty we face is when we fragment these into three different campaigns.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency to look on the church as the scratching of our religious itch.

We tend to get our social lifestyle and business profile from the world around us. So two-thirds of the makeup of the average Christian is forged in the world instead of the philosophy of Jesus.

To further complicate matters, the religious system seems completely incapable of sharing Jesus’ ideas on social lifestyle and business profile. Instead, the church focuses on salvation and heaven.

Therefore, the interest we have at any given moment in salvation and heaven becomes our intensity and intrigue about God.

Obviously, we are more intent on expressing our social and business profiles, so eventually our religious inclination yawns, climbs into bed and takes a nap.

So ministers scratch their heads, trying to figure out why people are leaving the church.

It’s because it’s difficult and almost psychologically impairing to constantly think about the crucifixion of Christ and streets of gold. What kind of person would you end up being? Some sort of fruitcake, heavy on the nuts.

So the more honest-minded humans, who don’t want to be hypocritical, abandon the church and try to find satisfaction for their religious yearnings in everything from Oprah Winfrey, to self-help books, to, ironically, even atheism. (At least atheism gives you something definitive to believe against.)

So what is the Jesonian?

It is the knowledge that Jesus gave us a social lifestyle, and even though there are many tenets to it, it is best summed up with the wonderful phrase: “To he whom much is given, much is expected.”

Jesus gave us a business profile: “Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Stop making excuses and keep evolving toward excellence.

And certainly Jesus gave us the spirited lifestyle goal of “loving our neighbor as ourself.”

While the Church of Christ may be concerned about baptism by immersion, and the Pentecostals may tout the significance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the Jesonian is concerned about immersing ourselves in the lifestyle of Jesus.

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Untotaled: Stepping 27 (June 15th, 1966) Piano Boy … August 16, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2324)

(Transcript)

The Shelby Valley United Methodist Church tracked me down and invited our little quartet to come “two Sundays coming” to sing at their church during the morning service.

I almost swallowed my heart, which had leapt into my mouth. Without me knowing, we had become famous.

I was so thrilled that I ran and told my friends and were all jumping up and down over the prospect of becoming a “travelin’ band.”

Now, the Shelby Valley church was a tiny, white clapboard construction just south of town, sitting on the corner of Shelby Valley Road, thus giving it both its charm and name.

Our quartet was accompanied by a lovely young girl named Paula, who was always being hit on by the hormonally drugged young men singing next to her. She liked it. We liked it too because she never picked a favorite, but flirted with all of us.

Now, her father, Elder Kenneth from our church, found out about our performance opportunity. He became enraged because he wasn’t about to let his daughter go elsewhere on a Sunday morning, especially not to a United Methodist Church, where they ignorantly ignored immersion.

He raised such a fuss that I was brought before the pastor and elders of the church to explain the situation. Even though I waxed a bit eloquent with enthusiasm and received approval from the governing body, Kenneth still refused to let his daughter play piano for us, feeling that he had triumphed by removing the music from our singing.

Actually, all he succeeded in doing was pissing off this big, fat white boy.

I grabbed a young friend of mine from our church, the brother of one of our singers. We usually ignored him because he had the foolishness of being a year and a half younger than us. I said I was going to teach him to play piano. His name was Andy–and he was thrilled by the notion of becoming an ivory tickler, even though he had never taken a single lesson.

I, on the other hand, was the veteran of three years of both Shaum and Thompson book training, and so was thoroughly qualified to become his instructor.

We asked the Shelby Church if we could make it six weeks in advance instead of two, and I took that time to work with Andy. And would you believe that by the time we stepped in front of that congregation of “sprinklers” (their preferred baptism method) we had learned six songs with Andy, and he played them perfectly?  (Unfortunately, they asked for an encore, and we had to opt for a capella, which actually made us look quite diversified.)

Andy continued playing piano, within months becoming better than me, and when he graduated from school, played professionally for a while before settling into Illinois, to delight the Illini State with his talent.

What I learned from this experience is that the only way to defeat stupidity, ignorance and bigotry is by coming up with better ideas and proving to them that you really don’t need their help.

Unfortunately, Paula just cried.

 

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The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

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