Cracked 5 … May 16th, 2017

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Other Names Considered for Jesus (and also the ones who proposed the “handle”)

 

A. Temple Tumbler–presented by the sarcastic Pharisees after Jesus “turned the tables” on them.

 

B. Winey Boy–a quickly devised name by some very drunken souls in Cana who suddenly found themselves slurping a burgundy made out of water

 

C. Jim Bay Luben–a proposal by the Southern Galilean Baptists, who were hoping it might promote Jesus to be more like his cousin, John

 

D. Carpo the Carpenter–a business-package idea by the Nazareth Chamber of Commerce

 

E. Bastard–a never-dying rumor by old, disgruntled Nazarenes who were “month-counters” for Mother Mary.

 

 

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Jesonian… May 6th, 2017

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He’s “Joseph’s son.”

“The carpenter’s kid.”

These were the comments from the people of Nazareth when Jesus dared to express his individuality.

He had already established some obvious success. He had partaken of the baptism of his cousin, John, been in the wilderness seeking guidance, garnered some followers and had made quite a splash changing water to wine in Cana.

Rumors of his escapades had already come to his hometown. So when he arrived at the synagogue and was given the scroll to read, and he spouted the words of the prophet Isaiah about the Gospel being preached to the poor, and then told them that “this day the prophecy was being fulfilled,” they became infuriated.

They attacked him. What was the weapon? They chose to lump him in with his family. “You’re just a local boy.”

That brings me to a thought.

One of the more crippling proclamations being uttered in our time, when referring to our offspring, is to say, “They will always be my children.”

No, they won’t.

There comes a time when they need to be themselves.

They need to take responsibility for their lives and their kids, knowing when they grow up they will need to let them go as well.

Family sucks–it sucks the life out of each and every one of us, trying to make us dependent on a tiny nucleus of identity. Sometimes we stop growing, but more often than not we end up mimicking the actions of our parents instead of creating the fresh soil for an awakening in generosity and mercy.

Jesus was rejected in his hometown because he dared to be something different from just “Joseph’s son.”

The Nazarenes became infuriated when he explained that he would be unable to do much to help them “because of their unbelief.”

It caused them to rise as a mob and push him to the edge of a cliff, with the intention of shoving him to his death. You see, they went from being a small town church gathering to an enraged, out of control gang, ready to commit murder.

All because Jesus refused to follow the rules of family.

What would have happened if Jesus had stayed in Nazareth, been the carpenter’s son and complied with the local menu of activities?

We would be lost.

Yet it is possible to love your family, honor your mother and father and still quickly and intentionally separate yourself from them, find your direction and pursue your calling.

I would hope that my sons would find comfort in their upbringing, but never, ever consider themselves to just be my sons.

America is drunk on the elixir of family. We use it as an excuse for all sorts of indifference to the world around us.

Fortunately for us, Jesus of Nazareth was not really Jesus of Nazareth.

 

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Jesonian… April 22nd, 2017

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Cousin John was creating quite a stir.

He had found himself a wide spot on the Jordan River at Bethabara and was dunking people to cleanse them from their sins. News of the words and deeds of the flamboyant relative/prophet had reached Nazareth, and members of the community were split on their opinions of the events–based upon whether they had any family ties with the locust eater.

There was a lot of conversation in the home of Joseph the Carpenter, since Brother John was a part of the bloodline. Papa had died a year earlier, leaving the household to the care of his eldest son, Jesus. That oldest boy, though loyal, faithful and true, had never found great solace in carpentry, and with the death of his father, had become disillusioned with the daily chores.

After Joseph’s death, he had slipped away for a few days into the wilderness to think, and upon returning was greeted with the reports of his cousin’s outreach.

Some jealousy tried to slip in–for Jesus also felt a great calling to share a message with mankind. Knowing that John had already begun such an endeavor created a spiritual itch in him which he desperately needed to scratch.

In these fleeting moments of jealousy he was tempted to join the critics of his cousin. But ashamed of those inclinations, he decided to instead go to Bethabara and observe for himself.

It was a first step to sanity.

If something good is going on in the world, go hear it, understand it and support it.

So without announcement, he arrived at the encampment of the Baptist. He spent two weeks doing nothing but listening to his cousin, watching the events unfold and noting how John handled the contrary natures of the scribes and Pharisees.

He heard the Voice.

He dodged a huge clump of jealousy and instead developed a deep sense of admiration.

After hearing the Voice, it came time to make a choice.

Was he just going to be a watcher? Was he going to go back to Nazareth and try to be the dead carpenter’s son?

John talked about the Kingdom of God being at hand and the need to repent. Jesus stayed up one night thinking about his own repentance. For after all, there is nothing more sinful than believing you are sinless. He saw his errors. He saw where his discontentment with carpentry often came across to his family as if he had a feeling of superiority.

He knew he was tempted like everyone. He was touched with the same sicknesses that each and every human being experiences.

He wanted John’s baptism. He needed John’s baptism. It was the righteous thing to do–because if there was to be a mission, the first step to usher in the possibility was to make a choice.

Jesus made a choice.

He stood in line, waited his turn and stepped down into the Jordan River with his cousin to be cleansed.

To his surprise, the Prophet prophesied. The burly preacher called him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Jesus had only met John a handful of times. There was no private coalition. So he took John’s words into his heart as he immersed himself in the experience of the Jordan River baptism.

He rose from the water, walked to the shoreline and realized it was time for him to begin his own work. What was the best way to do that?

How could he change the noise in the world around him?

He smiled and took off across the countryside, bellowing, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

He borrowed the message of his cousin.

It had been a successful slogan–it was a great place to start.

At that fateful day at the baptism of Jesus, no one would ever have guessed that the Nazarene’s work would spread across the entire planet and that John would historically be viewed as a forerunner.

It was all made possible because Jesus had the sensitivity and wisdom to hear the voice and then make a choice before he went out to change the noise.

 

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Jesonian: S.I.N. (Single Issue Nerds) … January 11, 2015

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Judas thought it was all about poor people. We’re not certain that he really cared about the poor–just that he thought it was a confirmation of being religious.

The Pharisees thought we proved our worth to God by performing traditional worship services. They did a lot of straining and ended up with more gnats than camels.

The disciples of John the Baptist believed that people appear more righteous when they fast–especially if you can go without food and look miserable while doing it.

The Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife–either heaven or hell. In other words, it all happens here or nothing happens.

In each one of these cases you are dealing with “Single Issue Nerds”–they believe that the way one does things is more important than the motivation–the faithfulness to a practice more powerful than a conclusion.

Dare I say, they all became the enemy, or at least the adversary, of Jesus of Nazareth? His contention about true religion was that “the kingdom of God is within you.” In other words:

  • If you’re not happy, your faith is failing.
  • If you don’t have peace of mind, your beliefs are weakened.
  • And if you’re not pursuing a life of good cheer and acceptance of others, you might as well be without any kind of spirituality because you’re really just mimicking the heathens.

I see it everywhere I go–“Single Issue Nerds.” They have grabbed some bauble from the Bible and made it their beating bongo. They are obsessed with their discovery, convinced that those who do not pursue their particular issue lack enlightenment and possibly totally misunderstand the will of God.

Let us never forget that Jesus did not have a single issue. It didn’t matter who he talked to, what nationality they were, or even if the people around them thought they were hopeless sinners. He always looked for three things:

1. Are you ready for a change? People who are not willing to change will spend all their time trying to change you.

2. Can you humble yourself? Are you willing to deny your sensation of wholeness, to admit your lack?

3. Can you extend the same mercy to others? Grace is soon dissipated by the absence of mercy. For as Jesus said, “The measure I measure out to others will be measured back to me.”

You may think you have a great social gospel or that your liturgy is significantly deep and meaningful, or maybe that your fundamentalism will squeak you through the doors of heaven when others are rejected.

I suppose you might consider yourself to be progressive–where you only use the Gospel to explain your own mission statement.

But you will find that in your hour of need, your faith has to be able to set you free–because if you’re not free, you can’t free anyone else.

And if you’re in bondage, no matter how good your intentions, you will soon bind up all the world around you.

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The Book of Us … March 18, 2012

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“The word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.”

It is part of a verse from the Gospel of John, describing the mission, purpose and life of Jesus. But I must tell you, as dynamic as Jesus’ life was and as valuable as it is for us to study it and appreciate his deeds and desires, it has been a long time since he was human.

We often hear the phrase, “birds of a feather flock together”–usually used as a pretense for keeping the races separate. But if you apply it to the fact that human beings crave human contact, then I think we might be onto something. Candidly–Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Moses or any human being who used to walk on this planet, gain credibility when we are transported into their time and visualize them as living beings who had contemporary problems requiring practical solutions. Even though we sometimes object, people need people, and require “people stories” about “people solutions,” handled in a “people way.”

It is the weakness of religion that it requires of its adherents that they pursue God without finding that divinity in themselves or the lives of those around them. Incarnateto place something in the flesh to give it proof of existence.

I guess you can feel free to study the life of Joshua or the deeds of Elijah or the predilections of John the Baptist one more time if you are so inclined, but human beings are much more likely to be moved by the stories of those who are still living and breathing than they are by the tales of those who have already passed on to their reward. How can we make spirituality emotional enough that we actually think about it and when we do contemplate its workings, apply some facets of that experience to our everyday lives?

Rather than offering another series on the end of the world, the tabernacle of Moses or a deep, introspective look at prayer, the church would do better to publish The Book of Us. Every six months, merely put together a small booklet of stories from people in the congregation who have discovered that the word is still living. Simple. Easy to understand. Vulnerable. Human.

The stories should be three-act vignettes.

  •  Act I–this is who I am.
  • Act II–this is how I screwed up.
  • Act III–this is how God helped me find a way out of my mess.

This type of story reaches humanity. It is when the Bible becomes of use to the congregant–on those rare occasions when we actually allow Jesus or one of those fellows or gals who walk the pages, to emerge from the holy of holies to display their spots and blemishes, but also to proclaim the victory they received through their faith in God. But don’t you think it would be so much easier if the person who told the story was still alive to confirm it–an ongoing example of transformation?

It wouldn’t be hard to do. Why do all the heroes of belief have to be in the Bible? Why can’t they be our next-door neighbor, who like us, has frailties, but also like us, can be uplifted through love and understanding? If we do not find ways to make truth incarnate–in other words, evident in flesh and blood–all the greatest concepts of true Godliness and righteousness could be lost to the ages.

Yes, if every church in America would put out a small booklet every six months called The Book of Us, with a handful of wonderful stories telling the immediate evidence of God’s presence, then people would have a reason to believe that the mercy of the Almighty is not merely extended to the prophets.

Each one of us profits from the experience.

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Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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