Twenty-eight Years Later… April 24, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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jon with lightningIn my calendar of life, 1986 was a year that arrived, determined to leave its mark and remembrance.

I was in my sixth year of being a paternal care-giver to my twelve-year-old son, who had been struck by a car in the summer of 1980, leaving him in a persistent vegetative state.

  • State–no change.
  • Vegetative–present but uncertain response.
  • Persistent–no end in sight.

I also discovered that my wife was pregnant with our fourth child. It dawned on me that in short months I would be traveling on the road around the country speaking and sharing my heart with an entourage of a sixteen-year-old, a ten-year-old, a disabled child, a recuperating wife and new-born baby.

Honestly, I just chose not to deal with it.

It was in the month of June that Joshua, my “special” child, suddenly contracted pneumonia and died.

My new baby was born two months earlier than expected, in a hospital in Peoria, Illinois, and shortly after that, a promise given to us to use a house for the holiday season was removed one hour before we arrived to occupy and be a celebrating family.

We were stunned by it all.

We ended up in Lexington, Missouri, in motel rooms, feverishly attempting to generate yuletide cheer.

But 1986 was not yet satisfied with all its provided turmoil. On Christmas Day, my wife slipped and broke her ankle, side-lining her for two months, while I took the two older fellows back on the good ole’ gospel trail.

Tonight I return to Lexington, Missouri, for the first time in twenty-eight years.

I have good news for these delightful human travelers: I can tell them of a certainty that we, as people, can not only survive, but prosper in our trials.

It’s not that there’s a silver lining to every cloud or a new dawning after the blackest night.

It’s just that sometimes, each one of us needs to know what we have inside of us–or we assume we are empty.

The trial of your faith worketh patience. And patience intends on doing a perfect work–showing us that struggle is the only thing we all share in common.

I am of a belief that this realization should be a valuable contribution … to my Missouri friends.

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Creedless … August 6, 2012

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I have never been very enthusiastic about reciting things in unison. I will participate from time to time, but it always kind of reminds me of the scene in the movie, The Omen, when the followers of the anti-Christ mime his words back to him through what sounds like a really spooky echo chamber.

But a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in a church where they were reciting the Apostle’s Creed. “I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten son, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried …”

At this point I stopped speaking with the rest of the sheep. It just seemed strange to me that in this particular discourse, we leap from Jesus being born straight to suffering under Pontius Pilate.  Wasn’t there a life in there somewhere? Weren’t there thirty-three years of dynamic existence, with the establishment of the Kingdom of God, healing the sick, raising the dead, teaching us to love our enemies? Where is that in the creed? Is the high point of the life of Jesus of Nazareth best expressed in explaining to all future generations that he died? What if we taught history that way?

“George Washington was born in Virginia and many years later he contracted pneumonia, was treated with leeches, was weakened and passed away.”

“Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky in a log cabin and through the passage of time was shot in the head during a theater performance.”

“Adolf Hitler was born in Germany and one day was found dead in a bunker in Berlin.”

Not only would we have a dearth of material to offer for our history classes, but our children would have no comprehension of the struggle, discovery and journeys of these figures who peppered our landscape with both greatness and evil deeds. The National Education Association would be up in arms.

It makes me wonder why the ministers and congregations are not equally as distressed when Jesus is presented only as a redemptive pin cushion to buffer the punishment for our sins.

No wonder our young humans are choosing to walk away from the religious system in favor of Sunday morning outings at the park with the family. Why go to church? If someone is dead, as a courtesy you put flowers on their grave once a year–which is why people show up for Easter. It’s only polite, you know.

Let me dispel some myths:

First of all, concerning this creed–Jesus did not suffer under Pontius Pilate. When Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, he absolved Governor Pilate of all responsibility, and laid the cause and blame for the atrocity of the death of Jesus at the feet of that day’s present Jewish religious leaders. If you will pardon my phrasing, I know it’s not kosher to blame the Jews for judging Jesus Christ. They had a bad day. Of a truth, they represented us all, who probably would have been equally as intolerant of someone insisting on tolerance. But it was their watch and they were asleep at the wheel.

Next: Jesus came to earth to show us the Father. For those of you who have been taught that he came to earth to die for our sins, you might want to take another pass at reading his own representation of his mission–because hours before they put nails in his hands, he announced, in the Garden of Gethsemane, to his Father through prayer that he had completed his work.

So what is the cross? It is the greatest act of sacrificial bravery in the history of mankind. It is the final proclamation of love from someone who knew that it was unacceptable to take away the free will-choice of those who wished to kill him. It was an action meant for treachery, which God, as always, brought around to our good.

So the act should be revered and respected for bringing about the salvation which we so frantically attempted to avoid, but it should never be put in predominance over the life, work, heart and mind of Jesus.

Perhaps I mis-titled this article. I called it “Creedless.” I’m not “creedless.” I believe everything in the Apostle’s Creed. It’s just that there is so much more I hold dear, and it is these assertions that make my Christian life meaningful–not the bloody, untimely death of my dearest friend.

Of course, all of this is going to play out. Every one of us will die and find out once and for all what is truly going on beyond our beatless heart. Here are the two possibilities: we will either meet God, our Creator, who certainly can’t be a God of love and also contend that we are so foul that He needed to grab His nearby son to expunge our blackened spot with his miracle blood. No, if there is a God up there, He is, as the Good Book says, Someone who desires mercy instead of sacrifice. So spending all of our time commemorating the death of his son ranges in quality from futile to annoying. As God said to Peter, James and John at the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my beloved son. Hear ye him.”

There you go. It is just very difficult to hear the words from someone who has been relegated to being a prop for propitiation.

On the other hand, if we pass on and discover that there is nothing beyond the great pale, just paler circumstances, to have spent our lives rallying around the tomb of an executed savior will certainly seem useless when available to us was the spirit and message of a man who wanted to teach people to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

So you see, I have chosen what I consider to be a better path. If there is a heaven, God will have love and mercy as He promised. If there is no eternity, if you don’t mind, I will use the example of the life of Jesus, take that love and mercy, wrap it up and deliver it to the world around me.

 

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