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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Good News and Better News… April 3rd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3266)

Perhaps a good definition for foolishness is to pursue an answer which you already have acquired, hoping that this time you will get a different response.

It’s kind of like when religious people ask, “What would Jesus do?”

I guess the concept is that his desires and inclinations may be such a mystery that we need to go to fasting and prayer to attain them.

Actually, all the church would have to do is ask the question, “What did Jesus do?”

It’s not like his life is a secret. He didn’t withhold his preferences from us. And it’s not like he didn’t lay out a road map for both his personality and his heart–whether it was about politics, where Jesus made it clear that he had no preference–any Caesar was as good as any other Caesar. And in the realm of social matters, Jesus was clear about the existence of the natural order, but if that is altered by human free will, we are not to judge others who choose a different path.

Jesus certainly made it clear that women were equals, though his church today continues to forbid them place and purpose.

So I guess we continue to pose “what would Jesus do?” so that we can slam enough scriptures together, out of context, to make it look like Jesus would agree with us.

What Jesus liked was obvious: humility, endurance, personal responsibility, faith, compassion and honesty.

What Jesus did not like was equally as obvious: hypocrisy, pretense, superiority, laziness, prejudice and over-emphasis on family and culture.

We could make great strides in the church if we ceased pretending that we are bewildered about the mind of Christ. Shoot, the Apostle Paul told us that “we have the mind of Christ.”

So why not use it?

Here’s the good news: Jesus is an open book. (Four of them, in fact–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.)

The better news is that when you study his character, you find out that he offers the only path which leads to peaceful coexistence among human beings.

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 45) The Singing Castles … March 12th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3244)

Reverend Meningsbee

Answering the phone at the parsonage of a small town church was always an adventure. Usually on the other end was someone with a need who wanted the pastor of the church to do something about meeting it.

Tricky business.

When do you say yes, how can you say no? Many charlatans have made a living off of fleecing the sheep simply by making them feel guilty if they don’t assist.

When Meningsbee returned from the diner after the shocking encounter with Carla, he was in no mood to be a pastor, a consoler or a benefactor to anyone jangling him on the phone. The first four times it rang, he ignored it. But it kept ringing and ringing and ringing. Finally his sense of concern overtook his reclusiveness.

Answering it, he found himself talking to a gentleman named Matthew Castle. Matthew tried to explain his situation, but nothing was clear. So Meningsbee agreed to meet him at the church.

When the pastor arrived, there was a big, old-fashioned recreational vehicle sitting in the parking lot, with hand painted letters which read, “The Singing Castles.” A man got out of the vehicle, walking toward Meningsbee. Matthew was a tall, thin country man, with one of those overly seen Adam’s apples, slicked-back hair and some sort of leather jacket that looked like it was picked up on sale at the Goodwill store.

After shaking Meningsbee’s hand, he called out–and the rest of his family emerged from the vehicle.

First was his wife, Luka–as it turns out–an immigrant from Turkey. Then his two children, Marco, about sixteen years of age, and Joan, around fourteen. The children were friendly but bashful, and the wife maintained a subservient position.

Matthew explained that they were a traveling family who held revival meetings in churches. They were having some trouble with their motor home, needed to get repairs done, and he wondered if the pastor would like them to hold a revival while the vehicle was being tended to.

A quiet, rumbling chuckle erupted inside Meningsbee’s soul. He was trying to imagine his rather traditional congregation and how they would receive The Singing Castles.

While he deliberated, Matthew suggested that the family sing a song–a capella–right out there in the middle of the parking lot. He gave them all a pitch and they launched into a rather rousing rendition of “When We All Get to Heaven.”

Meningsbee listened patiently, thinking to himself that it really wasn’t that bad. The young girl especially had a pleasant voice, and the mother sang some good harmony, though it was colored with accent. Daddy sang bass and Marco sang tenor.

They were getting ready to go into a second verse when Meningsbee interrupted. “Listen, our church would not hold a revival, but I see no reason why you folks can’t come on Sunday morning and sing for us, and we’ll collect an offering. And meanwhile, until you get your vehicle going, if you want to park it here in the lot and plug into our electricity, help yourself. That is the way it works, right?”

Matthew grabbed his hand, shook it firmly and then gave him a huge hug. In the brief encounter, Meningsbee was pretty sure he smelled both tobacco and alcohol. It didn’t matter. Acts of charity don’t require that those who benefit measure up to a particular standard.

As it turned out, the Castles ended up being an industrious sort. They launched out onto the grounds, cleaned everything up, and straightened up the basement of the church, which had needed a good “caring to” for a long time.

And on Sunday, they sang. And they sang. And they sang some more.

Their musical sound had country overtones, but included an accordion. The congregation seemed to love them. They especially laughed uproariously when the father introduced the family and pointed out that they were very Biblical. They “were the Castles, but they were also Matthew, Marco, Luca and Joan.” (To make the joke even more corny, each one of them spoke their own name at the right moment, in sequence.)

When it came time to take up an offering, the little Garsonville church came up with five hundred dollars. Also, one of the congregation members noticed that the motor home had a couple of sags and twitches, and agreed to fix them for free.

The Castles didn’t bring a new theological revelation. Matter of fact, their theology was rather out-dated and old-fashioned. They weren’t the best singers you’d ever hear in your life, and certainly would be snubbed on every coast. Their grammar lacked punctuation and their manners were rustic. Their clothing was old and desperately in need of some stitching and retouching.

But their hearts were pure. Whatever caused them to drive around the country and share their music was certainly not greed, nor was it selfishness. It was some deep-rooted belief that the best way they could be together, stay together and remain happy was to sing the Gospel and drive from place to place in their magical chariot.

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