Jesonian… April 15th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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A Saturday many, many years ago, the beaten, bruised and bloodied body of Jesus of Nazareth lay still in the darkness of a borrowed tomb, as his spirit communed with the angels and his mind reasoned over the unfoldings of a truly abundant life.

We are not privy to those thoughts.

Matter of fact, all we know of the life of Jesus comes from four major biographers who borrowed pieces from one another, and each, in his own way, had an agenda to offer insights to please his readers.

There is no autobiography.

So we aren’t sure of the emotion in the words attributed to him. Therefore theologians decipher and agnostics disembowel the remnants of the script left to us of this magnificent life.

Yet every once in a while, we get a deeper glimpse. Such is the case in Matthew the 23rd Chapter, Verse 37-38:

“Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Thou that killest the prophets and stone them which are sent unto you. How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”

The great debate over the centuries has been whether Jesus was Jewish or whether he came, in a certain sense, to abolish Judaism in favor of the New Covenant.

If you study the writings of Martin Luther, you might begin to believe that the Great Reformer was anti-Semetic. Yet in many evangelical churches, there seems to be a return to Jewish traditions, including them with their Christian rituals.

What did Jesus feel about the Jews?

What was the heart of the matter?

First and foremost, you must understand, for Jesus to include Gentiles and Samaritans in his movement immediately made him an outcast from the Jewish religious community.

Matter of fact, the Jewish Council that condemned him to death granted him none of the courtesy that was normally extended to brethren.

The reality that Jesus did not believe that the Jews were special because they were the “children of Abraham,” but rather put forth the opinion that God “could take stones” and make offspring of Abe, certainly did not put him in favor with those of the Zionist profile.

Yet John tells us that he “came to his own and his own received him not.”

When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, he did use the phrase “we Jews.” It is the only time he did, but he certainly had a kindness and favorability for those who lived in Judea and Galilee.

But Jesus was a man of vision–the Gospel would never reach China or the Native Americans if it were left in the hands of the Jews. The Jewish people had already aggravated the Romans to the point that the annihilation and dispersion of their kindred was inevitable, if not imminent. The Gospel would only survive in the hands of the Greeks and the Romans, who would take it to the rest of the world.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that when the early church was trying to force Gentile converts to comply with Jewish practices, the former Pharisee condemned them and called them “Judaizers” for limiting the scope and power of the message.

In the two verses recited above, Jesus announces the fate of Judaism.

It is in a coma.

It is left desolate and abandoned.

It is awaiting a day when it can be awakened and all the promises given by the prophets can be fulfilled.

But for a season, it was set aside in favor of salvation and “loving your neighbor” being shared with the entire world.

Basically, if you want to sum up Jesus’ feelings on Judaism, it’s very simple: Jesus loves them.

He just does not believe they’re “chosen people.”

There are no chosen people–just people who choose well.

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G-Poppers … December 2nd, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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G-Pop was wondering what it would have been like if Facebook had been around for the birth of Jesus.

What would have grabbed the attention of the average Facebook reader in Judea?

Let’s look at the classic elements of the story:

  • Rejoice
  • Glad tidings of great joy
  • A Savior is born
  • Prince of Peace
  • Listen to the angels
  • Can you see the star?

These would more than likely have been deemed boring, averaging seven likes, zero comments and no reposts.

Even if someone had inserted the statement, “a baby was born in a manger,” the single repeating comment would have been, “Come on, Joseph. Get a job.”

Facebook demands drama.

Facebook seeks attention.

Facebook feeds off frenzy.

Facebook is selfish.

No, for the Christmas story to have worked on Facebook, one would need to hand-select the elements, and twist them a bit to make them of interest to the market:

“Pregnant teen and her boyfriend snub traditional marriage”

“Bonnie-and-Clyde-style crazy kids hold shepherds hostage in stable”

“Foreigners, astrologers, wanted for questioning by authorities for smuggling in unknown drugs”

“Lights in the sky! Could it be aliens?”

“And here is a picture of my ‘fur son,’ Jehoshaphat, the cat, as he rubs up against a little immigrant boy in the barn. Isn’t he cute? I mean the cat.”

G-Pop contends that we have become a society of “I’s” who include a few “we’s” if they agree with “us.”

To get likes, shares and comments, the entry has to be insipid enough to have universal appeal to those who find most of the universe unappealing.

But there will be a persistent few who insist on planting the notion of salvation, joy, humanity, brotherly love and peace on Earth.

And who knows?

Maybe in two thousand years, if that is done, they might call us Wise Men.

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Ask Jonathots … July 16th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I love my church and my pastor, but every four years my preacher tells us who to vote for. I really don’t like this. Should I speak to him about this? Write an anonymous note? What is the best way to handle this? I don’t want to leave the church because of this one issue.

Well it really comes down to this point: does a minister of the Gospel have a responsibility to steer his congregation concerning a political decision?

It is not a question of whether he has the right. If a preacher insists he has a calling from God, then he can’t use the Constitution of the United States as proof of his legal authority to voice his opinion in the pulpit in political matters. If you’re going to claim a higher purpose, then you must live by the dictates of that higher calling, not merely the civil rights afforded to you by your government.

So it comes down to the question of how did the Good Shepherd handle the issue of political favoritism? And of course, when I say Good Shepherd, I am speaking of Jesus.

  • Jesus had a congregation.
  • Jesus had a flock.
  • Jesus had a following.

Unquestionably, they were swayed by his opinions.

Judea in the 1st Century A.D. was politically charged. It was Jews against Samaritans, Samaritans against Gentiles, Gentiles divided over their allegiance to Rome, and Rome basically swallowing up most of the air with its imperialism and desire to conquer.

There was tremendous pressure on Jesus to pick a side. For instance:

He was invited to the palace of Herod to discuss his work. He declined.

The woman at the well suggested that he should show a bit more favoritism to the Samaritans to balance things out. He didn’t.

And of course, the Jewish hierarchy wanted him to speak out against Rome. And his classic phrasing of “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” still remains as a guideline for those who preach the Gospel.

They even wanted Jesus to express sympathy for Jewish folk who had been killed by Pontius Pilate while merely worshipping in the synagogue. Although it would have been easy for him to do so, he remained neutral.

Since he taught that “the Kingdom of God is within us,” how we are governed doesn’t make nearly as much difference as the decision we make on how to live our personal lives. Your pastor has absolutely no right to color the vote of his sheep. But confronting him on such an issue is not only disrespectful, but would certainly be unproductive.

If your church does not use Jesus as the primary example, then your pastor will probably fall back on Old Testament nationalism to condone his choices.

At that point, you have to make a decision.

Do you want to be part of New Testament church that follows Jesus, or a church which haphazardly mingles Jesus and Moses together with equal authority and power?

I see nothing wrong with posing the question to your pastor, “Do you think Jesus would campaign for a candidate, and if you do think so, what story from his life do you use to confirm that?”

Even the Apostle Paul told us to pray for those who are in authority over us–not campaign against them.

The church will become a much more powerful unit for spiritual and social change when it pushes for separation from the state.

 

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Jesonian: What do you know about him? … October 12, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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He was called a bastard because his mother got pregnant before she was married.

He was born in poverty in a stable reeking with animal manure.

Even when his family tried to establish a life in the little town of Bethlehem, they were visited by astrologers from the East who brought gifts, but also brought down calamity on their lives because they accidentally passed on information to a jealous king who put out a contract of death on the little boy’s life. So they were forced to go into exile, into the land of Egypt, where they were strangers, and for about six years tried to subsist and carve out a life, as additional brothers and sisters were added.

His father, a man who believed in guiding his life by dreams, returned them to Judea, only to find out there was still danger, so they settled back into the community where the original gossip about his conception had brought them such pain.

He struggled to learn how to become a carpenter, even though deep in his heart, there was a strong calling toward other missions and goals.

He was made fun of by many of the local children because his customs seemed foreign, his demeanor was simple and he had not learned the letters of the Jewish law in their time-table.

He spent years in a small-town life without ever taking a wife of his own.

When he embraced the aching wishes of his heart and began to share a message of love and hope, which included not only Jew but Gentile, the local townsfolk pushed him to the edge of a cliff and threatened to murder him.

He escaped to a nearby fishing village, where he began to teach and discovered there was often healing, and miracles which followed when the people brought their faith to the situation.

His brothers and sisters thought he was crazy and came to retrieve him, so he was forced to alienate himself from them. He would not see them again for two years.

Even though his message did nothing to hinder the well-being of the Roman Empire, all the factions of the religion of his countrymen turned against him as one, plotting his demise.

Yet he persisted.

The advancements he presented in his teachings are still a stumbling block to many fundamentalists today:

  • Women are as good as men.
  • “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is foolish.
  • It is what we do to the least of our fellow-humans that matters most.
  • There is neither Jew nor Greek.
  • We are not to judge.
  • There are people who are born to be eunuchs and born by the will of God to be a certain way.

Eventually he was betrayed by one of his closest friends, accused on trumped-up charges and killed for a crime of sedition, which was the furthest thing from his doctrine–for he believed it was important to render unto Caesar the things that were Caesar’s and unto God the things that were God’s.

He was abandoned by his friends and tucked away quickly in a borrowed tomb so that the surrounding faithful could honor the traditions of their religiosity.

It was in that tiny enclosure that he was finally able to manifest the true essence of his power, by being allowed to rise from the dead.

But after nearly two thousand years, a name that was reviled, persecuted, rejected and cast aside from his brethren is now the central figure in the history of the world.

Because when war has finished tallying all of its victims, there will always be a need for the voice of peace. And the voice of peace was found in his throat and resounded through his message.

Do you know him?

How much do you know about him?

Because the more you know, the lighter your load.

 

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Reservations… December 16, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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angel light“Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord…”

These were the words uttered by the Virgin Mary of Nazareth upon hearing that she was to be the human incubator of the Messiah. Of course, she had no idea what the project entailed, nor exactly how God works with people to perform greatness.

  • Jesus was an idea.
  • God loves ideas.

The problem with our comprehension of the Divine is that we believe the “idea person” should jump in and do all the work. It doesn’t happen that way.

Actually, if you study the story carefully and put it into the context of Mary’s lifespan, it is a tale of unfulfillment, punctuated by obedience and highlighted by very brief moments of encouragement.

For after all, getting pregnant in a small town when you’re not married is not pleasant whatsoever–especially among people who consider stoning. Being a teenage girl going through morning sickness, swollen legs and a growing belly leaves little time for reflections on angels and promises.

And then to discover that your family is about to be taxed and you will have to leave town during your third trimester to journey over a hundred miles away–only to have your water break right outside the town of your destination, while your husband is unable to find any kind of lodging without situating you next to an animal–well, it certainly takes the glimmer off the original statement of acceptance and willingness.

But it didn’t stop there.

She was chased out of Israel, lived for at least five years in a foreign land, returned home to renewed gossip from non-forgiving-nor-forgetting townsfolk, and settled into what seemed to be a quiet life with a normal family, with no signs of her “miracle son” being particularly special, except for the one time when he was twelve years old and disobeyed her by hanging out in the temple.

When he was grown, she watched his erratic behavior as he lived among wild beasts and fasted, preached against religious intolerance and was rejected by his home town and nearly killed.

Shortly after that, his execution was completed on a hill–hung between two thieves and thrown into a tomb, where to her amazement, he was resurrected. But even at the point of her death, his movement and words had not traveled much beyond the borders of Judea. Hardly confirmation for a world-wide savior.

All of this was initiated by an angel’s proclamation and the only further confirmation she received to give strength to the original promise was an occasional dream, which she had to choose to believe was significant.

The Christmas story is a beautiful insight into the mind of God. It reminds us that everything which is eventually deemed heavenly is brought to pass … through earthly sacrifice.

 

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Chris(t)-Cross … August 8, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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crossA manger would have been nice … since he was born to be the Prince of Peace.

A Pyramid would have been in order … exiled in Egypt as a young boy during his FIRST rejection by the religious and political systems of Judea.

Water would certainly have been apropos …  baptism changed his life from being a carpenter to an itinerant messenger.

Even wine would have been a fascinating symbol  … his first miracle in Cana of Galilee was to turn water into wine.

How about loaves of bread and fishes? … an encounter he had with his disciples, when he asked them to bring what they had and then he reciprocated.

I just thought of another one.

A stone … he saved an adulterous woman by using one as an example of judging others and also allowed the Angel of the Lord to roll one away during his resurrection.

Yes, anything about the resurrection would have been absolutely lovely.

But the general consensus was to choose the cross.

I suppose it’s because salvation was garnered through the ordeal and we mortals selfishly focused on that particular image. The day of the cross was certainly not one of Jesus’ better days, but there is an impact to it that cannot be denied. It is so powerful that Jesus informs us that we each have to take up our own cross and bear it daily.

So I see the significance.

To Jesus the cross was not a sign of victory, but rather, of responsibility–a job he did because it was the next thing that needed to be done and he decided not to run away from it.

I travel tonight to the Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Petoskey, Michigan. I don’t know anything about them. I don’t know whether they’ll show up, and have no assurety that they’ll like me or even listen. I don’t say this to be negative. I share it with you because it is the cross of my responsibility.

In tribute to my friend, I will not run away from it.

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Unwise… December 23, 2012

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They followed a star. Folks thought that was crazy.

Folks be wrong.

They left their homes. The real estate community frowned.

Realtors were erred.

They went to a foreign land. The Chamber of Commerce was concerned.

The Chamber was short-sighted.

They were individuals who looked up to the heavens, believing that something better than what they had might just be hatching.

They were right.

How could they have possibly known? Knowing is over-rated. Believing and having the tenacity to follow your faith while simultaneously learning from your experience is the only path that really brings fulfillment.

Yet even though they were wise men, they did do one thing very unwise. Upon arriving in Judea, they decided to check in with the local king–Herod–to see if he knew anything about this magnificent vision in the heavens which was proclaiming the birth of a new king. I’m sure they weren’t ignorant–just naive. It’s really the only mistake they made.

And those people who believe in God today, who trust politicians to pursue noble causes, make the identical boo-boo. Politicians suck–and when they stop sucking, they get more money to make sure they can continue to suck. They struggle for power, with no idea of how they are going to use that energy to benefit mankind.

Even though the wise men try to later correct their error by avoiding Herod upon their exit from Bethlehem, they set in motion the wrath of a jealous political despot, who ends up killing children, saddening men and women, and temporarily exiling the hope of the world. It is important for us to learn from their misstep. So here is the greatest formula for finding the Spirit of Christmas: Follow the star. Ignore the king.

There you go. Take this wonderful season to find your faith–what you really believe is important–and then be wise. Don’t try to market your ideas to the kings of commerce, government and religion. They will just take the purity of your intentions and use it for disastrous conclusions.

So how can we follow the star? How can we keep our eyes lifted up to discover the light in dark circumstances? I will give you two philosophies to follow which will always lead you back to Baby Jesus. If you successfully stay away from the kings–that mainly being religion and politics–you will keep these nasty forces from slaughtering off the innocent souls of human beings. Here are the two principles:

  1. NoOne is better than anyone else.
  2. Don’t complain.

You put those two together as a lifestyle, and you will find yourself not only empowered with greater hope, but of deep value to those around you because you will abandon your agenda to be superior while simultaneously eliminating your annoying sensation to be cantankerous. What do religion and politics love? They love to make some people better than other people, while inciting their constituencies to complain about the condition of the world. The end result is disgruntled people who are looking for reasons to fight with others.

The wise men followed the star but tried to involve the king. It didn’t work. Neither can you propose to work in a religious system that is non-responsive to human need and a political one that is oblivious to truth, justice and the American way, and ever achieve anything wise.

Keep a good attitude, believe deep in your heart that no one is better than anyone else, do your best to stop complaining, and you will find yourself kneeling at the cradle of the Messiah.

Now, there’s a Christmas message:

Follow the star. Ignore the king.

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