Jesonian … April 7th, 2018

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Every story is better told and more effective when the facts are allowed to line up in a reasonable order.

Such is true of the Gospel of Jesus.

Theologians spend so much time proclaiming him the Son of God that they lose the fragrance and uniqueness of the Son of Man. In an attempt to make the tale “super” they lose all of the “natural.”

The average person going to church is deluded by an array of facts which just don’t add up to a crucifixion.

One of those great misconceptions is that Jesus was extremely popular. There were certainly occasions when his crowd appeal spiked, but it always revolved around three stimuli:

A. Was he doing miracles?

B. Was he feeding people?

C. Did it look like he was the Jewish Messiah?

Whenever the populace became convinced through these three “signs and wonders” that God was going to save them from the Romans, they rallied around Jesus. Whenever it was obvious that he was intent on sharing a more universal message which included people that were not Jewish, they slipped away.

Let’s look at some facts:

1. Jesus was rejected by his home town, Nazareth, and never able to return again. Not only was he ignored, but threatened with death–dangled from the edge of a cliff.

2. Even though Jesus held a great revival in Samaria with the testimony from a woman at a well, when he returned to the city, he was forbidden to enter by the town fathers because they found out he also ministered to the Jews.

3. When he fed the 5,000 in Galilee, the hordes followed him for a while–until he told them this was not a food pantry, but rather, that his words and life were the message they were supposed to “eat.” They all departed–except for the twelve.

4. Over and over again, interest sparked with the Pharisees, but when Simon, one of their number, invited him to a special meal, the Pharisee snubbed Jesus and treated him like an outsider.

5. After the resurrection, it is recorded that over 500 people saw Jesus–witnesses of the miracle. But on the Day of Pentecost only 120 remained. Kind of a drastic drop-off.

I guess we feel the need to believe that Jesus was greatly appreciated by the people in his generation, and taken to be crucified only by a handful of powerful critics.

It’s just not true.

We are told that most of the time he dealt with twelve disciples–and he focused on three of them, to be the core leaders. We have some idea of the size of a normal following of Jesus when the scriptures let us know that he sent seventy out to share in his name.

If you are trying to give credence to the message of Jesus by pointing out how enthralled the Jewish community and the Roman oppressors were, then you will be sadly disappointed when you read the actual accounts of his mistreatment and the number of individuals who desperately tried to ignore him.

We’re even told that John the Baptist’s disciples did not believe in him.

Jesus had a model. It’s very simple: Develop a hot core of followers and let them radiate the message.

Nowadays we are so eager to build up numbers in the sanctuary that we fail to build up people. Jesus basically spent three-and-a-half years working on twelve human beings.

  • One of them betrayed him and killed himself.
  • Another denied him, and was prepared to leave the work.
  • Yet another one doubted that a resurrection was possible.

Do not despair–Jesus suffered the same slings and arrows of human apathy that you and I encounter every day. He just had a great system. So when he left the planet, there was a handful of people who knew what he taught, knew what he stood for and were prepared to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to give them the power and insight to take the Gospel to the whole world.

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Jesonian … March 24th, 2018

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There is much to be gained by studying the lifestyle of Jesus.

It’s not just the miracles or the Messiah “rap.” It’s mostly his message and his management style. Since he was human, he was completely capable of error–to such a degree that the Good Book tells us “he learned through what he suffered.”

We also can garner great insight from the mistakes Jesus made.

One of those was Judas.

We will never know why Jesus chose Judas. It wasn’t because the Iscariot was predestined to be the betrayer of Christ. If you believe that, you should go home, don your Medieval helmet and launch a Crusade to take back the Holy Lands.

Maybe Jesus saw something in the young Judean. It never came to fruition–but there still is much we can curry from studying the relationship. It is a tenuous friendship which came to a head ten days before the Resurrection–in Bethany just outside Jerusalem.

Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who had recently risen from the dead, held a party. I think having a brother who survived “grave circumstances” is well worth some nachos and punch. At the height of the affair, Mary decided to crack open a family heirloom–a flask of expensive burial perfume reserved for the family–which she chose to use to anoint the feet of Jesus. It was an extraordinary, tender moment between Mary of Bethany and Jesus of Nazareth.

The aroma filled the room–an intoxicating fragrance.

But Judas was pissed. He had probably been pissed a long time–and he decided he had found an Achilles heel in the Master’s footsteps–perhaps a way to make Jesus look stupid.

So he complained that Mary had used such an expensive gift for such a trivial purpose. To accentuate his point, he suggested it should have been sold and the money given to the poor.

Judas was convinced he had ground an axe to a sharp point to swing at Jesus’ reputation.

I don’t know why he hated Jesus when he loved him so much. Or maybe he loved him so much that he learned to hate him. I am not privy to the mental state of Judas from Kerioth.

But I do know that Judas thought he was right, and he believed that others were going to back him up. Instead, Jesus rebuked him. I suppose you could say that Jesus did it nicely. (Perhaps you could explain what a “nice” rebuke is.)

Jesus said Judas was out of line–that he had lost the meaning of the moment, and had put a price tag on intimacy.

But here is where Jesus made his mistake: he allowed Judas to leave the room without resolving the conflict. He gave too much credit to the Son of Simon. He figured Judas had heard enough teaching about forgiveness that there was no need to pursue it any further.

Jesus was sadly mistaken.

There is no such thing as a misunderstanding. It is always “your misunderstanding and how right I am.”

Unfortunately, all misunderstandings end in betrayal. If they are not confronted, talked out and healed, the unresolved conflict will eventually open the door to one party or another striking out.

Then we have the scenario of feeling pressure to say “I’m sorry.”

It usually comes forth like, “I’m sorry if I offended anyone.”

Another possibility is, “I’m sorry, and please forgive me.”

It’s amazing how that particular statement, which seems to be filled with humility, can suddenly turn back into anger if the wounded individual does not proffer forgiveness.

The truth is, there is only one response that is correct when ignorance, wilfulness, short-sightedness and nastiness spring from our being and attack another.

“I was wrong.”

Not “I was wrong but…”

Nor “I was wrong in this case, but in another situation it would be different…”

“I was wrong” takes the risk that there will be no forgiveness.

This is what Jesus needed to hear from Judas–even if it required Peter, James and John physically holding Judas in place. Keep in mind–peace-making can be a messy business.

But misunderstanding, “I am sorry if…” and “I am sorry, please…” do not bring about reconciliation.

They are ways for us to maintain our solitary purity while seeming to appear transformed.

You might ask, how do I know this? Because the Good Book tells us that Judas left the party in a snit and went out and plotted with the enemies of Jesus–to betray him.

This was an expensive mistake:

If you leave misunderstanding unhealed, the wound may pour forth blood.


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Good News and Better News… November 27th, 2017

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Upon arriving at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Palm City, Florida, we were greeted by Pastor Roy and John, who graciously agreed to carry in our equipment and assist us in any way possible. It is magnificent to run across human souls who welcome strangers–no matter how strange they may appear to be.

Pastor Roy is a congenial fellow who, like Matthew of old, was called from his trade to come and share the Gospel. Courteous, gentle, kind, inventive and helpful. During the time of our set-up, and also our whole visitation, this dear brother became and remained, our right arm.

I am humbled by such an active service.

I had one mission in Palm City–an attempt to escort beautiful children of God’s kingdom from fear to good cheer.

Fear grips us.

Good cheer greets us: Greets us with the awareness that all is well, God is with us and we have resource.

Being good Lutherans, they were naturally afraid of any show of spontaneous emotion. After all, we’re not positive that God isn’t a solemn and austere figure. (Of course, if He is, we’re in a world of trouble.)

Good cheer is what Jesus suggests we use to survive while he overcomes the world, which is full of tribulation.

I explained to these dear brothers and sisters that there’s a difference between clapping your hands and applause. Applause is often deemed an expression of appreciation or even praise for an artist. Clapping your hands is the most authentic evidence of the presence of joy.

So when we come into God’s house and we sit tight in our seats, afraid to move, waiting for the Eucharist, we miss the point of our gathering.

We should be there for three reasons: to strengthen one another, to care for one another and to confirm that the Gospel continues to be “good news.” All of our other traditions are delightful, but have little to do with what actually constitutes praise and worship.

So I told my new friends that I personally need no applause–but that God loves to hear them clap their hands.

So if you hear something good, see something good, feel tingly and warm in the Spirit or are overcome with joy: “Clap your hands, all ye people. Shout unto God with a voice of triumph.”

The good news is that when these Lutherans did so, the building reverberated with the power of love.

The better news is, if they will continue to release that Spirit through clapping their hands, many prayers for miracles will come their way.

 

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Good News and Better News … October 3rd, 2016

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good-news-frankenmuthUnderrated:

The cheese on a pizza.

Sliding on a pair of socks which just came out of the dryer.

A plate of nachos when you’re really, really hungry.

An evening of television without politics.

The Frankenmuth United Methodist Church.

Yes, to the outside observer, the congregation meeting in Frankenmuth seems to be a small, middle-America United Methodist Church. As a society, we’ve nearly given up on such institutions.

I totally disagree.

From the minute I stepped in the door and met Pastor Scott, with his warm, inviting, gentle ways, to when I walked out to climb in my van, I was awarded the opportunity to be in the presence of untapped miracles.

By no means am I trying to tell you that the emotional environment of the Frankenmuth United Methodist Church is suited to the taste of the common person. To him or her it would still reek of religion and provincial thinking.good-news-frankdnmuth-sign

But the potential is there to do great things for mankind. What is missing?

Joy.

Joy is the unity of confidence and gratitude: A confidence based on the fact that we feel valuable, and a gratitude because we know a bit about our own unworthiness.

  • Too much confidence appears to be arrogance.
  • Too much gratitude creates a timid soul.

How do we generate joy?

Joy is when our “face shows our place.”

In other words, it bubbles out. Peter, in the Epistle, declared it “a joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

The folks in Frankenmuth still believe that their “Father, which art in Heaven” is a hard-ass. It’s just difficult to look at Him as “Daddy” when you find His demands unrelenting.

It causes them to be cautious–more fearful than appreciative–and it makes them reluctant to invite others to church because they’re pretty sure their friends would be unimpressed.

The good news is, if the Frankenmuth United Methodist Church would allow for more emotion in their worship experience, they would begin to realize why they meet together.

The better news is: when they are more certain of the reasons for their gathering, others will want to gather around their reasons.

 

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Good News and Better News … May 2nd, 2016

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Konnoak Hills UMC Good News

Our clothes get dirty.

When this happens, we check our GPS and head off toward a local laundromat.

It is always an adventure–we certainly encounter some intriguing human beings.

Jan met a woman who was frail, lying on a bench, who told her that she had spent the night in a hospital ward, taking chemotherapy. She explained that she needed to eat something but was not really hungry.

Jan pressed the point and offered to buy her a meal. The lady described in detail a certain entrée just down the road at Bojangles that she might be able to choke down–mentioning that she would want the selection with extra hot sauce.

So Jan and I trekked to Bojangles to procure the treat.

Why? Did we do it because we thought the woman was in need of nourishment? Were we convinced that this little action of mercy was a way to convey love and affection to this frail child of God?

Absolutely not. We did it for us. For after all, to do anything else makes you feel like crap.

Let’s understand something–people who are lost are horrible.

That’s why they’re lost. They’re not “partly good and partly bad.” They aren’t following five of the Ten Commandments. They are often selfish, liars and wiling to do almost anything to get their way.

The truth is, you have a choice in life: you can work or you can con. If you don’t want to work, you’ll probably end up conning.

Anyway, back to the story: we brought the chicken, gave it to the lady and left her alone to enjoy her delicacy. A few minutes later she was gone. (I asked Jan to do a sketch of her just so we would have the memory. See below.)

We have to remember what the purpose is for hope, faith and love.

We’re not hoping the world becomes a better place, that our faith will produce miracles, or love will change the planet.

Hope, faith and love abide. That’s what the Good Book says. They abide because they really don’t solve problems–they just prevent us from becoming part of the mess.

Hope gives me the confidence to get up every morning thinking I can actually accomplish my mission.

Faith embraces me with the belief that I am not alone–what I do and say matters.

And love is my doorway to escape hate because hate sucks.

When I went to the church on Sunday morning–Konnoak Hills United Methodist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina–this was fresh on my mind.

Such beautiful people with wonderful stories, who are constantly being bombarded with the concept that the world is changing at a breakneck pace, so they’d better grab onto the caboose or be left at the station.

Hogwash.

Right now in our country, “crazy” thinks it is the boss. It’s time for us to rise up and share the good news:

  • Shouting is loud, not smart.
  • Popular is advertised, not quality.
  • Anger is mean, not strong.
  • Cynical is frustrated, not clever.
  • And atheism is the absence of hope, not evidence of intellect.

I gave my faith, hope and love to the folks yesterday morning at Konnoak Hills. That’s the good news.

The better news is that I hope they’re smart enough to realize that the lost we are trying to reach can never be virtuous enough to please us.

It’s up to us to bring the heart, soul and patience to the matter.

 

Good News Winston Salem

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Good News and Better News … September 14th, 2015

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Gooe news Reedsburg

Many years ago, I sensed a voice within me, encouraging me to go out and share my heart and abilities with the world. Some people would say it was the voice of God, while others would probably insist that it was just me, declaring my own bidding.

I don’t care.

I heeded the call, and that decision has taken me on an exotic adventure.

Yesterday morning, I was in Reedsburg, Wisconsin. Since your travel plans probably don’t have you going there in the near future, let me tell you that it is a quaint, Midwestern town and that my experience was delightful and insightful.

I found people who still possessed an inspirational ilk.

They believe in the belief of believing.

They still contend that belief stimulates the joy of true believing.

Let me tell you a little bit about them:

1. They don’t want to give up.

Even though they’re fully aware of the dangers of our society, they insist that there are still many ways of escaping the insanity, while still recognizing reality.

2. They hope there is a God.

They are not so arrogant as to stomp around the room, insisting they have been to Mt. Heaven and had dinner with the Divine. Their expression of confidence lies in a hope that a Heavenly Father is still working with human beings.

3. They want to do something.

It’s not so much that our generation is lazy, as that we are paralyzed with fear and mocked by those who are convinced that nothing can be done. “Give me something to do” is probably the best five-word phrase that can fall off the lips of any human being. That doesn’t mean we don’t trust God or believe in His grace–it’s just our simple way of thanking Him for sending mercy our way.

So even though I found these Reedsburg folks to be delightful and insightful to my life, I was very pleased to bring them even better news.

I told them:

A. God wants to be human

God has no desire for us to become more religious, more heavenly or even more angelic. He came to Earth in the form of Jesus to make it clear that He loves human beings and wants to see if we can learn how to do this better.

B. God knows we are all made of heart.

We had several breakthroughs yesterday–they were all emotional realizations, not scriptural translations. We are creatures who add to our faith by feeling, lest we become boring and discouraged.

C. If you share your life, miracles will follow.

Certainly some of the best parts of the service yesterday were when people opened their mouths and their life poured out. God doesn’t want us to be perfect, God wants us to be honest.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stop-off in Reedsburg. I hope they did, too. And I hope they remember … no amount of prayer to the heavens is equal to a simple conversation and confession to one another.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant…April 22, 2015

 

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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Pohymn April 22

Just Ten

I found myself with ten

While waiting for my friend

So instead of getting weary

And thinking something dreary

I conjure up the good

Where should meets would and could

To celebrate a blessed day

Which is beamed to me along the way

For I am the great partaker

When I deny my inner faker

And decide to be real

Risking the pain to feel

For joy is never far

Even sitting in my car

Discovering a reason to create

An excellence to emulate

It’s just too easy to give up

While you’re waiting to fill your cup

And conclude there is no more

Thus life is such a bore

So rejoice, O Soul of mine

While waiting for a sign

Wonders will never cease

And miracles always increase

When I show up believing

The doors open to receiving

So I will be on my way

But this ten made it a better day.

 

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