Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’


Jesus said, come as a child. Not being childish, but with all the wonder, honesty and curiosity of a child. What does this mean for our journey today?

Watch here.


No photo description available.Trinity Sunday. Pride Sunday. Father’s Day. Season of Pentecost. All when embraced and lived out are about belonging. Sadly, this is not the state of the Christianities today. Or even our world. As many will argue while Christendom dies (the Christianity of power, control and indoctrination since Constantine Converted 325 CE) and is dead, and the false God it created on both extremes of Religous Right (yes there is one on the left just no catchy name for it). It is interesting while contemplating this week’s lectionary Gospel reading, I would come to read two books stumbled upon with the Calgary Public Library that would flesh out thoughts, those being John Fea’s Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump and Grant Skelton & Ryan Casey Waller’s The Passion Generation: The Seemingly Reckless, Definitely Disruptive, But far from hopeless Millenials as my heart would read this passage from the Gospel of John:

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He [a]will take of Mine and declare it to you.

-Gospel of John 16:12-15 (New King James Version)

Declarations. Truth. For the unfamiliar, the Gospel of John was written by an older chap that walked with Jesus of Nazareth, was discipled by him. Tradition also stipulates from his pen and/or his community also came the writings in the Christian Testament 1,2,3 John and the book of Revelations. The Johannine Community as it was known was focused on discipleship and sacrament. It was a place of radical belonging, that lasted the longest in the early church without formalized authority structures. The sacrament it was most focused on was service, for it is the Gospel, that when the Last Supper is re-told focuses on Jesus’ serving his disciples through foot washing.

It always confused me why in 20th century evangelism this was the gospel given out. It is highly philosophical, and to a Greek audience. It can be hard to understand in a Vacuum, even though it touches on some of the most esoteric of Jesus’ teachings through his discourse with Nicodemus in the third chapter. It is a gospel that needs to happen in conversation, much like rabbinical learning where scriptures should only be discussed when three are present so that it can be seen from many different perspectives. This is the discussion we have lost. It is what Fea’s history text of the Evangelical push to Trump’s presidency even though he does not pass the “moral leadership test”. Why? Simple, it is decades of fear mongering, feel of loss of power, losing the political space, and reasserting it. Cherry picking certain inflammatory issues of the day to build on one’s fear of loss, just has been happening in America since civil rights, and before that with World War II, anti-antisemitism, the list can go on and on.

It is a vein that has been tapped in Canada as we see the entrenchment of ideology. In Alberta’s last election it was full on site. Anger. Hatred. Pettiness. From both leading parties, but such fear that the other will win, folks not wanting to actually look at the alternatives, or look at that as their ideology has cast as enemy without the lens on to see if what is being put forward is better. Yes, sadly, the radical mind entrenchment has taken the ability of discourse and discernment out of the extremes, and where once Social Conservatism aided in bringing forward social programs to aid the public good, it is not a venture of private enterprise to punish the working and poverty classes.

Let that settle in when you feel the church has lost its space in society.

It has.

It was on our watch.

We let it happen due to selling out our soul to the capitalist model–the Empire Model.

Not the Gospel model.

Which leads these words of revelation to steering back, it is something I have learned over the years investing in people. Whether in life recovery, students, youth, young adults, young families, families, seniors, those in dementia wards…giving time of your life to others creates space for relationship, learning, and growth from both of you. It is what Jesus is speaking of in these words of John. We will be discipled through the generations. There is a space for healthy elders, there is a space to learn from the youngest. It is reciprocal and multiplying relationships. Yes, small groups are important, yes programs like Messy Church, Sunday School and Sunday Worship (insert any church program here) are important…if they connect the generations and allow for discipleship.

IMG_5360.PNGThat is what Skelton and Waller’s book was talking about in reaching Millenials. It is about being present with, and doing life with.

Bridging the gap of the generations. Now through the work he lays out a gospel shown method of discipleship of bringing the discipled in to the disciples life. This works well. I think it also intersects and interconnects with what community should naturally be doing.

It is about including, and teaching, shepherding. It is about aiding one in discerning where their gifts guide them, and how they are meant to be a minister (that whole priesthood of all believers catch phrase).

It creates something different though than the norm of power and indoctrination that that the church has enjoyed since the end of World War II where social and economic pressures forced membership/attendance at some Christian church. It shifts it to actual authentic life.

Authentic life.

Living into the life/love of the Holy Spirit.

Listening. Discerning. Questioning. Growing. Investing in one another.

It is looking at the young and the old, as not nuisances or burdens, but as family.

What changes if we authentically see each other as family, not enemy?

What changes if we spend time doing life together?

Growing together?

For honestly, it is the answers to the last two questions as to why I miss having the Rainbow Chapel in my living room.


It is interesting to take a different perspective to ancient stories and writings. Those who have read my fiction now I have dabbled in the concepts of Ancient Alien Theology and the idea of alien possession or hiding in human form. It is a concept that is not foreign to many religions and spiritualities. That is the concept of ghosts, demons and other supernatural beings, I myself have been involved in a few clearings of places and at least four remembered exorcisms. It is intriguing to reflect upon this, and wonder what if… what if these forces were not extra-natural, but extra-terrestrial?

It is what happens as we move into the fifth discourse of Hebrews in the superiority of Jesus of Nazareth. The writer challenges the notion that the High Priest of the temple systems is the most powerful, and most holy (Hebrews 5:1-4) as appointed by others. A line of succession if the Torah is to be followed through the line of Aaron or the Tribes of Levites, and to be in the presence of the Elohim, there is ritual of protections taken. Just take a read through the texts around priestly attire and you have to wonder what these ancient materials were designed to protect against, the metals used, perhaps it was not a Glory of God, but a protection from cosmic radiation? The idea of tying a rope to pull a protected body out if they dropped dead as a means to protect the others from what killed.

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;

as he says also in another place,

“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”

In the days of his flesh, Jesus[a] offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

-Epistle of Hebrews 5:5-10 (English Standard Version)

A super high priest selected by the Elohim, not bound by the customs of protection and rites of priestly duties. Is it because he was half-Elohim? That is a half-breed, half human/half-alien (a Mr. Spock of the ancient world?). Drawing close to show this, the writer brings us back to the blessing of Abram by the Highest earthly priest, Melchizedek, who was the King of Salem (Hebrews 7), and how did he bless? Wine and bread. Sound familiar? The blessing for Abram to come into full relationship with the Elohim was through wine and bread, the full new community of equality being brought about on Earth, an attempt of transfiguration by the Elohim is through a Halfling that uses bread and wine to remember.

Remember what?

 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

-Epistle of Hebrews 5:11-14 (English Standard Version)

Remember that you have been on this journey awhile. It is not meant to continue at the level of pablum and breast milk like an unweaned babe, rather you are to move onto solid foods. Connect with the tough questions, the roots. Remember what the story is. Move forward in a way that challenges the norm, that shakes the foundations of oppression. Challenge what the usual is.

Be not ususal (Hebrews 6). Live the journey that is strange, can be hard, but in the end do what is right, just. Seek justice. Seek equity and equality. Love freely. Spread hope. Embrace joy. Know peace. Deep dive into faith.

Become one with the new high priest, of the new covenant. Know that you are loved, you are unique and you are special.

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent[a] that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ[b] has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

For he finds fault with them when he says:[c]

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”

-Epistle of Hebrews 8:1-12 (English Standard Version)

A Gospel is a political declaration; in the Commonwealth nation such as Canada think of it as a speech from the Throne that opens our Parliament or Legislature, laying out the course ahead for the nation. Jesus of Nazareth’s followers had a gospel that was completely contrary to the Roman Emperor’s, in fact it was an act of treason to share and speak it.

Now, the writer was pointing to the promise of a new Covenant of equality between Most High and the people. Covenant is a bond, promise, indenturing if you will between two parties. The Most High is pledging a new way in the life span development of the genetic experiment if you will. No longer an authoritarian parent was attempting to beat submission, or through parlour tricks winning approval. Rather, one of equity, justice and equality bonded in the transcendent love that Jesus of Nazareth’s birth, life, teachings, death, and return as a hologram guide (if we follow Ancient Alien Theology on this one- think the Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager).

No longer a parent-child relationship that exists into late adolescence, but a more maturing of lifespan development where the parent becomes mentor-friend to the adult child in a health loving family unit.

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

-Epistle of Hebrews 8:13 (English Standard Version)

What is the new Covenant you are hearing in your heart?

 

 

 

 

 


Guest Post/Sermon by Benny Leung

The passage that I choose for today’s sermon contains two distinct narratives – the first spans from verses 7-12 while the second spans from verses 13-19.

We know from the earlier chapters that Jesus had begun ministry and saw great success.  At the same time, he also attracted much unwanted attention from the religious political leaders; this led to tension which amounted to conflicts that led to his crucifixion.  Of course, the religious leaders’ worries concerning Jesus were understandable.  After all, Jesus did challenge the prevailing rigid social and religious status quo (i.e. washing of hands, the Sabbath, etc).  More importantly, Jesus’ ministry offered the masses that the religious institution could not offer – healing of illnesses and casting out of demons.

Many of us are familiar with the biblical account of why John the Baptist was killed by Herod.  According to the Gospel writers, John agitated Herodias by challenging her marriage with Herod as illegitimate.  Her anger towards John eventually amounted to a plot that led to his death.  In addition to the biblical account, Josephus had also recorded the account of John’s death in The Jewish Antiquities.  The historical account showed that John’s ministry gained momentum and had thousands of Jewish followers.  Knowing this, Herod feared he was losing control over the people and saw John as a threat to his position.  As a result, Herod proactive sought for opportunities to remove John in order to secure his position before the Roman Empire.

In light of this historical account, Mark 3:7-8 tells us that people came from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Tyre and Sidon to see Jesus.  With the exception of Judea and Jerusalem, all the other cities are quite multicultural in a sense that there were gentiles living among the Jews.  In other words, while John’s ministry was limited in the wilderness and to the Jews, Jesus’ ministry spanned a much larger spectrum in terms of geography as well as culture and nationality; this made Jesus even more of a threat than John.  Thus, Jesus’ withdraw to the lake is likely a conscious response on his part in order to not jeopardize his ministry by the unwanted fame that he was gaining.  Jesus knew very well that the objective of his ministry is to preach the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and not gain popularity.

Verses 9-10 adds further flavor to Jesus’ withdraw.

9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him.

10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.

The boat that Jesus had his disciples readied was not a pulpit for the purpose of teaching but a means to avoid people from crowding him.  That is, the boat was there to separate Jesus from the crowd.  We can’t help but to ask the question of why the Messiah distanced himself from the people whom he is called to save?  What was the crowd there for?  Clearly, the people did not gather to listen to Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven.  Instead the crowd was there to seek physical healing because they had heard about the great things that Jesus did.  Interestingly, this set of verses did not mention healing of any sort; perhaps Jesus purposely refrained himself from healing the masses in order to emphasize the true purpose of his ministry.  Jesus came to preach about the Kingdom of Heaven, everything else is secondary.

Finally, verses 11 to 12 talk about Jesus’ authority over the impure spirits.  The fact that the impure spirits fell down before Jesus and proclaimed him as the Son of God would indicate the spirit knew about Jesus’ identity.  Interestingly, Jesus ordered the spirit to not tell anyone about him.  Why did Jesus do that?  Clearly, it is not the so-called messianic secret but Mark’s effort to prompt his readers to ask: who shall or is permissible to reveal the identity of Jesus?  In the context of the Gospel of Mark, it is God the Father and the passion of Jesus that are permissible to reveal the true identity of Jesus.  For example:

The voice that came from heaven in 1:11

The foretelling of the passion in 9:9, 10:38-39

The transfiguration in 9:7

The impure spirits were prohibited from revealing the true identity of Jesus because they are incapable of revealing the Son of God in the context of the Kingdom of Heaven.

What follows is a narrative of the commissioning of the disciples.  Beginning with verses 13-15

 13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.

14 He appointed twelve*that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach

15 and to have authority to drive out demons.

we see a sharp contrast from what we had read about the crowd in the previous narrative.  Here Jesus only called those whom he wanted to the mountainside – there was no crowd and the setting had gone from the lake to the mountains.  Mountains are considered sacred places or places of spiritual encounters in the Jewish context.  In the OT, Noah’s Ark landed on the Mountains of Ararat, Moses received the law in the mountains and Elijah heard the voice of God in Mount Horeb, etc.  Similarly, the disciples were about to have their spiritual encounter as Jesus established the team of twelve, giving them the capacity preach and authority to cast out demons.

The purpose of building the group of twelve was to extend the longevity of Jesus’ identity on earth through discipleship (i.e. being with Him) and ministry by giving the disciples authority (i.e. enabling them to preach and cast out demons).  Jesus appointed twelve individuals out of his many followers to establish a tight knit community to represent Him and expand his ministry.  The Twelve has an important symbolic meaning in the messianic context – if the Messiah is to come and deliver his people from exile, he must (re)establish the twelve tribes of Israel.  Further to the symbolic meaning, the emphasis of the Twelve rather than an individual would suggest the importance of the community over individual.

The text proceeds to presenting the names of the Twelve ending with Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.  The clear tension between Jesus calling those whom he wanted and the fact that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus cannot be overlooked.  We ought to ask why did Jesus call someone who would ultimately betray him?  Did the Son of God fail to know what was to come?  For now, let’s toss aside the debate on predestination or the argument of whether Judas was saved.  Instead of challenging Jesus’ competency as a hiring manager, we need to remember an indisputable fact – none of the disciples really knew or understood the identity of Jesus (at least in the context of the Gospel of Mark); it just happened that Judas was an example that stood out like a sore thumb.  For example, James and John, through their mother, was eying for a high position in the Kingdom of Heaven.  In another instance, the disciples argued amongst themselves on who is the greatest.  Of course, we mustn’t forget Peter denial of the Lord.  Finally, the scattering of the disciples after the crucifixion.  All these examples serve as a reminder that none of the disciples really knew the identity of Jesus and the purpose of his coming.  Yet, Jesus saw another reality: The Kingdom of Heaven would be manifested through these stubborn and unworthy losers.

As distant as these stories may seem, the lessons from these stories are ever timely.  The present-day Christian is often under the scrutiny of deadlines – whether at work, family matters or ministry.  Even if we are able to escape the scrutiny of deadlines, we often subject ourselves to various metrics at work and/or ministry.  In the context of church, we measure our success on worship attendance, number of baptism, Sunday school attendance, church giving and so forth.  Over time, we end up worshiping these metrics instead of worshiping God, and we end up losing ourselves in the kingdom of heaven.

It takes integrity and courage to walk away from momentum or temptation of success.  Jesus withdrew to the lake to distance himself from the needy crowd; all those who came to Jesus had a legitimate need – they were either ill or demon possessed.  Yet Jesus knew very clearly that He did not come to satisfy the need of the masses.  The purpose of his ministry was to tell people about the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.  The healing and the casting away of demons were means to declare the coming of the Kingdom.  In fact, Jesus exerted considerable effort to help people understand the reasoning and purpose behind his miracles.  Throughout the Gospel of Mark, we often see Jesus telling the healed and the liberated to not broadcast the miracles that they had just experienced.  What Jesus was trying to direct people’s attention away from the miracles but indulge them in the mystery of the miracle.

The business of evangelism is often a failure to the detriment in this regard.  I am not going argue whether the healings by charismatic televangelist are legitimate, although I am pretty sure they are not.   What I want to ask today is whether these healing help the healed see the coming of the Kingdom?  Closer to home, I know of folks who are hard-core advocates for evangelism.  Far too often, they are subject to the emotional euphoria from masses responding to an alter call.  In extreme cases, they fall into the trap of the messianic complex where they think they are the Messiah instead of Jesus.

Make no mistake, Jesus mandated his followers to make disciples of all nations; we are called to evangelize.  However, we must ask ourselves what kind of gospel we are sharing today?  Are we advertising a ticket to heaven or are we telling people about the Evangelion – that is, turning away from the old ways, taking up the cross to follow Jesus.  If it is the former, then we are not sharing the right things.  And if that is the case, it is a good idea to do what Jesus did; put everything on hold and take a step back to re-examine what the Gospel is.  The good news of Jesus Christ is about confession, repentance, reconciliation and transformation – it is about taking up your own cross and follow Jesus.

If withdrawing from the crowd takes integrity and courage, then indulging yourself in the community of faith is an act of valor.  After all, opening up yourself and subjecting yourself to vulnerability may not necessarily bring about outcomes that are desirable to our earthly understanding.  I have been involved in a conflict over the past few months of which the details I cannot disclose.  I had personally reached to the instigators to point out the issues, but I was ignored and brushed off.  The issues persisted, and I was discouraged to a point where I made a decision to sever myself from the church.  However, a good brother pointed the folly to such a decision and challenged me to seek a resolution on the matter instead.  Of course, leaving the church is the easiest solution because seeking a resolution means making myself vulnerable to the misunderstanding of blowing up a small matter or taking down the church because of my personal vendetta.  Yet, seeking a resolution also opens an opportunity for the instigators repent and, through it, the church would be able to live out the Kingdom values that we so cherish.

The fellowship of believers, the church, is one of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.  Love is not the only experience from doing life together; there is also pain and suffering.  Yes, the church is place of love, a place of liberation, a place of openness, a place of inclusion.  Yet the church can also be place where people are wronged, a place of bondage, a place of mistrust, a place of segregation.  God, through the life of Jesus the Nazarene, indulged himself in this mystery.  Because the Son of Man had lived through it, his followers must also indulge themselves in this mystery.  And through this pilgrimage, His followers will own this kingdom mystery, through which they will experience His grace and mercy.

 


Progressive spirituality/Christianities within their current context I find tedious.  There is no scholarship building upon what has come before, rather it is a re-treading of old battles already fought. Why is this? I blame the regressive state of Western Culture. The loss of the ability to critically think, coupled with the conglomeration of media and the commodification of the human experience has led us down a rabbit hole. There is also the drowning with knowledge overload, and opinion as fact that has removed the ability to discourse, and discover wisdom.

It is a sad state on my journey as I look upon those writers that have shaped them, death, illness and retirement has stripped away those that have crafted cornerstones we should be building upon. The voice of progress, universal love and inclusion, liberation and social gospel is shrinking. Thinkers such as Marcus Borg, Desmond Tutu, Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day, Agnes MacPhail, Pierre Trudeau, Padre Pio, Leonardo Boff, meta-physicians; Dalai Lama, Pope Francis I, transcendentalists, Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII, Multiple saints & mystics, Mother Teresa, Nikos Kazantzakis, Stuart A. Schlegel, John Dominic Crossan, Matthew Fox, Martin Luther King Jr., Tommy Douglas, J.S. Woodsworth and the list goes on and on. The voices of and for the marginalized have been relegated back to the beginning of a cycle still debating that which human rights and suffragettes should have dealt with.

Yet “Progressive Spirituality” much like “Conservative Theology” got subsumed by “Prosperity Gospels” and “Salvation/Sanctification” (look at a Joel Osteen for the epitome of the lost track of universal love for the progressives). This is why during my time of medical sabbatical I was excited to find out post-stroke Bishop Spong had written a new book, but saddened as I read his preamble to it that this was definitively his last. It is his call for reformation, for the work already done and grow upon it.

He touches on the different times the Christ experience has been mislaid. The Fourth century experience we had codified as “Christendom” which would be as unrecognizable for the original community as it is to us in this day. He also touches on the Reformation, which aside from the land and power grab of the princes/royals to break the state hold of the Vatican. It was possible as well do a shattering transformation of cultural understanding as the plagues had shown that even the “Holy” lost a 1/3. The peasant class was open.

We are in a time like this. Even if traditionalists keep fighting against it. Holding to outdated understandings. Science has revealed much on creation, maybe not the why, but the how. We are in a world where we are taking control over our own destinies. Where we can accept equal marriage, we can accept medicine, accept being able to transplant organs, understand different ways of experiencing life. We can see through new eyes, yet we bring the old eyes leaving our understanding of the intrinsic piece that makes us whole left out in the old patriarchal imperial cycle. And yes, progressive thinkers who are emerging today instead of referencing what came before and building, are trudging up the same mountain again.

This is where Unbelievable (2018) rises. It is still American-centric, but Spong roots his 12 Thesis firmly in what has come before, and lays out a path forward. A new starting point for dialogue and discourse, being able to let go of what is no longer working or that which is harming.

So as we seek to understand the love triangle of My Neighbour, I leave you with excerpts for this work to see if it is something you wish to purchase for your journey, or to explore within your community:

John Shelby Spong (2018) Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today (HarperOne).

“what we must do is find the meaning to which the word “God” points.” P. 31

“Is the denial of theism the same as atheism? Is there no other alternative?” p. 38-39

“That is the universal human experience that our ancestors once called “Original Sin”. The experience was real; the interpretation was false. We are not “fallen sinners”; rather, we are incomplete human beings. Our old theology is dead. The door begins to open on a new way to tell the old, old story.” P. 89

“Every Jew would know that to refer to a grown man in Jewish society as “the son of a woman” was to suggest that his paternity was unknown. … we might infer a covert reference to her being pregnant outside of marriage, for there was no estate more lowly in in first-century Judaism that that of an expectant mother with no male protector.” P.112

Atonement theology, especially in its most bizarre “substitutionary” form, presents us with a God who is barbaric, a Jesus who is victim and it turns human beings into little more than guilt-filled creatures. P.153

Bulletins during Lent in many churches look as if they might have been purchased in a local sadomasochism shop. They feature whips and nails, and if they elicit any emotion at all, it is guilt. P.162-163.

In Jewish worship, however, the lamb was a symbol, not of a sacrifice that an angry God required, but of a human yearning to achieve the fullness of human potential. P. 165

The Easter experience in the new Testament, contrary to what we have traditionally been taught over the year, is not about bodies walking out of graves. It is far more profound than that. It is about God being seen in human life. By “God” I do not mean a supernatural, invasive God, who violates the laws of nature in order to enter time and space. I mean a transcendent dimension of life into which all can enter, an experience in which life is expanded, love is unlimited and being is enhanced. P. 188

The ascension story is both powerful and real, but it is not, and was never intended to be, literally true. P.196

Before prayer can be made real, our understanding of God, coupled with our understanding of how the world works, must be newly defined. P. 249.

I have no use for life after death as a tool or method of behaviour control. P.258

We are called by this new faith into radial connectedness. P. 270

When I contemplate the meaning of Jesus I come back again and again to his image as the ultimate boundary-breaker, in whom what it means to be human is constantly being expanded. P.278


Mendicant. It is Latin, and as such appears to hold airs of awe-ness. Yet when the word is translated it means open hand or to be more abrupt how it was used back in the 13th century for Francis of Assisi and his circle of friends—pan handler, beggar. That which we attempt to continually criminalize today. Those that seek a share of blessings of others, and then continue to spread out from there.

For Franciscans Mendicant is a call to remember where the blessings and possessions flow from. The Source of the Holy Mystery that will continue to provide, given that the flow is continued within the blessings to continually move out and not store up.

The teaching of the Exodus Story as the people wandered, Quail and Manna was sent each day to be gathered, on the 6th day, there was more so an extra portion could be gathered. When there was attempt to horde, it rotted.

In Acts 5:1-10 the physician Luke recounts this tale of the early church:

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

A desire to remind the community the source of blessings, the choice to openly share, the need not to lie or horde. The choice to live out of the love of the Holy Mystery within. If you would like a bonus spiritual practice, take this story and write it from the perspective of Ananias or Sapphira, what is revealed about your own journey?

These thoughts bring us into meditating upon the Aquarian gospel 111:

Jesus teaches. A man requests him to compel his brother to deal justly. Jesus reveals the divine law, the power of truth and the universality of possessions. Relates the parable of the rich man and his abundant harvest.

1. And Jesus taught the multitudes; and while he spoke a man stood forth and said,
2. Rabboni, hear my plea: My father died and left a large estate; my brother seized it all, and now refuses me my share.
3. I pray that you will bid him do the right, and give what is mine.
4. And Jesus said, I am not come to be a judge in such affairs; I am no henchman of the court.
5. God sent me not to force a man to do the right.
6. In every man there is a sense of right; but many men regard it not.
7. The fumes that rise from selfishness have formed a crust about their sense of right that veils their inner light, so that they cannot comprehend nor recognise the rights of other men.
8. This veil you cannot tear away by force of arms, and there is naught that can dissolve this crust but knowledge and love of God.
9. While men are in the mire, the skies seem far away; when men are on the mountain top, the skies are near, and they can almost touch the stars.
10. Then Jesus turned and to the twelve he said, Behold the many in the mire of carnal life!
11. The leaven of truth will change the miry clay to solid rock, and men can walk and find the path that leads up to the mountain top.
12. You cannot haste; but you can scatter forth this leaven with a generous hand.
13. When men have learned the truth that bears upon its face the law of right, then they will haste to every man his dues.
14. Then to the people Jesus said, Take heed, and covet not. The wealth of men does not consist in what they seem to have–in lands, in silver and in gold.
15. These things are only borrowed wealth. No man can corner up the gifts of God.
16. The things of nature are the things of God, and what is God’s belongs to every man alike.
17. The wealth of soul lies in the purity of life, and in the wisdom that descends from heaven.
18. Behold, a rich man’s ground brought forth abundantly; his barns were far too small to hold his grain, and to himself he said,
19. What shall I do? I must not give my grain away; I must not let it go to waste; and then he said,
20. This will I do; I will tear down these little barns and built up larger ones; there I will store away my grain and I will say,
21. My soul take now your ease; you have enough for many years; eat, drink and fill yourself and be content.
22. But God looked down and saw the man; he saw his selfish heart and said,
23. You foolish man, this night your soul will quit its house of flesh; then who will have your garnered wealth?
24. You men of Galilee, lay not up treasures in the vaults of earth; accumulated wealth will blight your soul.
25. God does not give men wealth to hoard away in secret vaults. Men are but stewards of God’s wealth, and they must use it for the common good.
26. To every steward who is true to self, to other men, to every thing that is, the Lord will say, Well done.

Get comfortable, and prepare to enter the story. Slow your breathing down. Feel the chair you are in melt away. Feel the room fall away. Move back into the time of the ancestors. In the gathered market place, you have travelled from a small centre to hear the travelling labourer turned teacher. The words you have heard of this man speaking have shaken up the wealthy in your town, and scare the religious leaders.

 

  1. As you hear Brother Jesus for the first time, let the words truly sink in. When were you lost in the mire? When were you like the farmer trying to horde away all the crops and letting them rot instead of trusting provision. What emotions does it bring up? What memory really sticks out? Sit with the memory and what happened within it? What is revealed of your heart in these moments in your journey?
  2. As you hear Brother Jesus for the second time, let the words truly sink in. When has the clay slipped away to allow you to ascend the mountain top? What memories come up in the moment when you know you were in sync with the Holy Mystery, a true mendicant? Stay with the feelings. What opens within your soul?
  3. As the words tumble from Brother Jesus’ lips a third time Let the heart of the Holy Mystery become one with yours. Where are you being called to wealth and wisdom within your vocational life? Sit with this call and let it resonate within you. Are you ready to take the first step?

Slowly bring your breathing back to normal. Feel the dust vanish. The noises of the market place vanish. You travel forward in time, feel the room reshape around you. Your chair again. When you are ready open your eyes.

The call is as simple as when Jesus offered Peter the keys to the kingdom. He stands in your heart, all is connected. The Cosmic Christ offering you the keys to the kingdom. Are you ready:

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e]loosed in heaven.”

-Matthew 16:17-19

To answer are you ready for your call, re-read the passage above from Matthew, only replace Simon, Son of Jonah, with your first name and who your parents are, replace Peter with your name. Now re-read it 3 times, pausing each time to let the words and sentiment truly set in.

Our Brother Jesus has laid out a path of unity and oneness for the family of humanity, it is simply bound together in L-O-V-E. The Cosmic Christ holds the key to unlock Universal love for you.

Are you open to stepping out of materialism, and into the Holy Mystery?


It is Passover; it is Pagan Fertility festivals; it is Eastertide…yup it is the time of year when the cold winter ends, the harsh gray is illuminated with new light, the darkness recedes, the snow melts, and new life springs forth.

Anyone who has spent any time in the life recovery movement, or the re-housing movements knows that new life is springing forth daily. It is like a caterpillar emerging from the cocoon as a butterfly. But it is not a simple process to have a new life.

Any change brings grieving over the loss of the old, and the rediscovery of who one is within the new reality, whether minor and short or major and a pilgrimage of the new. Much like the caterpillar digesting itself within the cocoon to truly become goop and reformed into the beautiful butterfly.

This is the season of transformation and change. The season of leaving behind the old that has held you back.
The season of release and renewal.

This is the time of year when our whole beings are focused on new beginnings, new life…it is a time when we can easily choose to release the old and start a fresh.

As the frost of winter melts away.

The grayness of night is illuminated by the light of dawn.

A time, as the ancient Johannine community wrote in their Gospel of the Cosmic Christ, the light shone into the darkness and left it confused (dispersed).

Are we going to recognize the light shining within us to allow the darkness to be shed like an old snake skin for our new radiant souls?

 


Corcovado jesus

Corcovado jesus (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

To Live a life of simplicity, prayer, and compassion centered on learning what this Gospel teaching of the Cosmic Christ lived out means:

36 “Teacher,” he asked, “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and the most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 40 The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments.”


Introduction

            The Christian Testament, colloquially known as The New Testament can become an enigma for some. There are many contemporary historians, academics, and theologians wrestle with the origins of the collection of 26 writings within this testament. There is a varied understanding of Gospel (from memoir to literal history to political statement to liberation movement to name but a few); epistle (letter, teaching, prophecy) and apocalyptic language. There is debate over whom and why wrote these texts, and why they ended up within the context of the canon when one reflects on the vast amount of texts the early church fathers had to choose from.

Whether one read’s Ehrman, Spong, Borg, Graham, Brueggerman, The Popes, McKnight, Stott, Brown, Crossan, Packer, or Bruce (or a litany of other academics) what becomes evident is needing a foundation to start from. It is this foundation that one finds within the rather proto-orthodox and/or basic fundamental underpinnings of the origins of the 26 writings within the Christian Testament. For the new student/believer, the New Testament of the Holy Bible (coupled with the Old Testament or more correctly the Hebrew Bible).

While one prepares for ministry, it is important to not only gain an understanding of these foundational texts, but also to stay current with the historical development of introduction as science. This short paper will touch on a summary of Louis Berkhof’s Introduction to the New Testament (1915); an interpretation of important pieces of the driving thesis’ of Berkhof’s work and speculation as to why it is framed as it is, finally there will be a conclusion where the writer will bring together the summary and interpretation into the Twenty-First century for how it holds up.

Summary

            Historically the early Twentieth Century in North America was when the Fundamentals movement commenced. It was not as one would view fundamentalists today rather it was many denominations coming together and deciding what the core foundation of faith needed to be to work together on building God’s kingdom here on earth (otherwise noted as the Social Gospel movement). It is out of these early days that one can see Berkhof’s Introduction to the New Testament emerging in 1915.

The writing bears the grandiosity within the faith of the time, it carries the assumption that even a first year student would have a passing understanding of Greek as these words are peppered throughout. There is also the idea of fundamental to it, because Berkhof stipulates that it is not a critical text (which could be divisive at the time), rather it was a chronology of the transmission of the works (p.2).

The text itself is expertly written, even with its higher academic underpinnings the work is readable and clearly puts forward the thesis by relying on what some may say is a lost science today in the world of expertise. Berkhof is taking a generalist viewpoint of the historicity and composition of the 26 texts of the Testament. This historical development is borrowed from the discipline of the early church fathers forward (Berkhof, p. 4) that is a discipline of introduction in which some say the goal is the validity of what truly is the word of God does a disservice to the whole Bible as the inspired Word of God (Ibid p. 4). Berkhof is clear in stating up front that this is not a quest for the historical Jesus or the understanding of debate over validity of the texts, both of these arguments are non-sequitor for Berkhof who is laying out the simplicity of the answers to questions of authorship, composition, history, purpose and how they came into the canon (Ibid, p.4).

While the text is definitely a product of its times, it still holds water when one cracks the proverbial spine and begins the journey of discovery through to fully understand why we still have, rely upon, study and question these 26 texts to build our faith (both individually and communally).

Interpretation

            It is difficult to separate the summary from the interpretation, as noted with it being a text almost 100 years old fresh eyes do need to read it through the lens of the time. As a writer of the time Berkhof relies on reading the Hebrew Bible into the Christian Testament (and one can speculate the reverse as well). But with an understanding of church history one knows the time period and the ideal of fundamentals bridging the divide between liberal and conservative Christianities however by bridging the gap Berkhof did take the less academic path in critical thought with his work.

What is appreciated for a student of theology and critical thought within the Christian Testament is that Berkhof clearly does not intend the reader to approach the Gospels as literal history or direct dictations from God (as a Muslim would approach the Qu’ran) rather he is clear that the Gospels are memoirs (p.20).  The writers are four memoirists of one story (p.14) and taken together one can get a fuller picture of whom the living Christ is and how he was then as well.

As Berkhof continues his text by text introductory journey through the Christian Testament he shows a partiality to the emerging Charismatic movement with his reliance upon the inspiration by and through the Holy Spirit working within the diversity of the writers and their experiences (p.25). Reflective on his usage of reading the Christian Testament into the Hebrew Bible by making the claim that the Holy Spirit was active outside of the church before Christ and within the church after Christ’s (p.26) ascension and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost upon the believers. The challenge is does one think this is true? Or is it a clearer statement to illuminate that the Holy Spirit was the life breathed into humanity on the Sixth Day so it was more that the Spirit was named and let known at the point of Christ’s ascension? Again however the debate over the Spirit would have been a divisive issue that would not have been wise in the time period he was bringing this together.

Once the bedrock of inspiration was laid the work continues through the text by text review. Berkhof relies heavily on the early church fathers to verify his orthodoxy. Is this a reputable way to build a modern view of God? Partly yes, but it also lends oneself to not understand that God’s revelation is not static and that understanding changes over time. A reader just needs to look at Berkhof’s understanding of the Acts of the Apostles that is pointed out the text lays out the establishment of the early church and their primary organization (p.62). This organization as was revealed throughout the epistles was an organic change over time and not static. The Holy Spirit was at work shaping the believers and their understanding with their contexts. It was these earliest writings of the Christian Testament by Paul that shaped the use of the epistle as a form of conferring divine truth upon the early church (Berkhof, p. 68). Yet even with this statement Berkhof leans towards a static understanding of church life.

Within the reflective work of reading the testaments into each other, Berkhof postulates a mirroring of each area that is quite beneficial to understand the true Judaic roots of the early church and how the early church fathers shaped the Canon to mirror the familiar (Berkhof, p. 70):

Hebrew Bible Christian Testament
Pentateuch Gospels
History Acts
Wisdom Literature Epistles
Prophets (Major/Minor) Revelation

 

The first three are from Berkhof, but to complete the theory one needs to reflect on the purpose of the prophets from the Hebrew Bible. The purpose was to redirect the Children of God back onto God’s path, encourage, and warn of the storms to be weathered to come, but also what will happen out the other side. Which when one takes a read through Revelation through the socio-historic-cultural lens is the same reflection for the seven churches of Asia Minor.

Berkhof also illuminates early what Raymond Brown would confirm in the later 20th century, that the epistles of John show the organic transformation of the early church. First John and the Gospel of John are companion documents that one could actually see the epistle being a commentary. Yet to continue the illumination when one enters Second and Third John all of a sudden this community founded on egalitarianism, charity and equality now has a structure much like the rest of the apostolic church that Paul, James and Peter were functioning within.

The simplistic ideal for a new believer is that the early church was the homogenous utopia, yet as Berkhof expertly pointed out earlier into his work when discussing the writers, they were joined into community through the Holy Spirit yet they were diverse. It was this diversity that created a plethora of understandings and ways to live the faith out even within the earliest days of the movement.  The emergence of the unified church as one note the writings of the epistles becoming more uniform within their discussion of church organization lends itself to the idea of introduction to the development of the Testament.

It is unique though that Hebrews would be placed within the epistles, when it truly reflects itself more as a catechism. This may not have been the language that Berkhof used for it, but the work is an enigma that lays out a strong theological understanding for the faith. It is an enigmatic text because of not understanding who the author truly is. Some lend to Paul, others to perhaps one of the women of Jesus’ community, but all we know for sure is that the identity of this writer is lost to antiquity.

What this introduction has shown though is that one can easily get caught up in the non-essentials of the debate; authorship while knowing is nice it is not the thrust of the work. For it is within the text itself that the divine truth is communicated through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to bring unity in God through the diversity of creation.

It is within this diversity and almost 2000 year history of those that walk with the living Christ that brings us into this reading of an introduction to the Christian Testament. Almost 2000 years on the church is as diverse if not more diverse than it was back in the early days. So why enter into this study?

Conclusion

            Why should one invest the time to read never mind understand or process a work that is almost 100 years old? That is an important question in a world that is go-go-go. Yet we also live in a world where the Holy Bible has never been more widely available, translated into various languages, as well as different versions of those translations with the idea being that each believer should be able to find a text that resonates with them.

That is the theory, yet with the rise of social and mass media the ability for one to process the information coming into one’s sphere of orbit has left generations being probably the most biblically illiterate since pre-Reformation. Which then brings us back to the question that opened this section, why bother? Simply put to give one a foundation of understanding.  Whether or not a reader agrees with the theories postulated, or the reliance upon the early church fathers to prove efficacy what is important is like in the historical time the book was written, a simple fundamental understanding of the transmission of the 26 texts that created the Christian Testament.

This simplicity of understanding could lend itself to becoming a point of healing, as almost 100 years ago there was a divide between the liberal and conservative Christianities that over the 97 years since its publication this divide that was being bridged by the fundamentals has exploded into a full on gulf with lava.

This is shown most clearly within the Anglican Communion that is straining at the seams based around Northern-Southern Hemisphere (or 1/3 to 2/3) world divisions around theological underpinnings of the 66 texts in the Protestant Holy Bible.  Yet it is also a division created because within the midst of debate to the point of schism what is lost is the historical understanding of transmission.

The debate has moved from collegial to scholastic within this divide internationally and within local congregations because it is about proving one side right and one side wrong. There is no willingness to understand the work of the Holy Spirit within the diversity of the church that lived out the calling of The Christ.

That is the key point as to why one should spend time with this historic introduction book. In the midst of chaos, argument, schism and destruction of the Body of Christ (as communicated through the epistles) one is reminded that it is not about the minor facts we debate that tears us about or where we claim baptism. What is it truly about? Christ.

Throughout Berkhof’s Introduction to the New Testament this is what resonates to the reader about not only the texts, but more importantly the living Body of Christ in the world today: the church. We are diverse, we are different, we claim different theories and ideas about who, what, where, when, why and how these texts came to us and the institution of the Christianities came to be. Yet that is not what matters at the heart, the true thesis of the matter is that the Holy Spirit dwells within the church (Berkhof, p. 26).

The Holy Spirit is still the one transmitting the texts to us in spite of our individuality for, like the early church it is our understanding of God, our life experience, and the Holy Spirit itself that comes together with us individually or corporately when we read the text and inspires the divine truth of the Holy Mystery.

This is how the texts were originally transmitted to us; this was the purpose that Berkhof laid out for his introduction. Yes, as an author he wrote splendidly about the authorship, composition, history, etc of each of the texts, but the driving underlying thesis that Berkhof focused on was simple: inspired and transmitted throughout the ages to the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Why read a textbook introduction about almost 2000 year old texts that is almost 100 years old? Simple, it reminds us of the basic truth of the Christianities. We are the Body of Christ thanks to the Holy Spirit descending upon us and into us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference

Berkhof, Louis. Introduction to the New Testament. Christian Classics Library: Grand      Rapids, MI: 1915.

 

 


Cosmic Christ

Cosmic Christ (Photo credit: eworm)

-ahem- I call bullshit.

This is one of those tried and truism that misses that mark with the institutional Christianities. How so? Simple, because with the buildings, with the offices, with the multi-billionaire dollar industry, with the virtue pledges, with the “these get into heaven, those go to hell” and the litany of rules laid on top of Christ‘s great commandments to Love God, Neighbour and self…well we have done more than fence the Torah, we have fenced in the gospel dug it 85 feet down, covered it over, laid sod, realized the sod wasn’t good enough, paved over top, built a huge monument to how much money our congregation could fundraise and declared the glory of… The Bible (and it better be translation X, y, or Z to be acceptable).

Does this sound like a relationship to you? Honestly contemplate the reality we have created within the church. It is not one of a relationship where the living Cosmic Christ is allowed to actually breathe and continue to blow the roof off what is acceptable to the powerbase, where the voiceless are given voice; the sick are cared for; the poor are beloved…what other fun lessons did Jesus teach?  He so shook the reality of the power elite of his time religious and political that they executed him.

Can we say that we have shook the foundations of our society to transform it in such a Christ way where all are included as equals?

So are we as Christians able to brag that we have this grand relationship over a religious rote of rules and hoop jumping compared to other world beliefs?

No. In fact I would say we have more hoops, rules, and ways that divide communities which is quite contrary to the Gospel of the living Cosmic Christ…

So we fail at the relationship, because we care more about the institution that perpetuates the religious power base that builds empires than the living breathing soul that is to be our Holy Mystery incarnate…

So before you throw out this trite idiom, pause and think…do I truly live this way… or do I live to ensure the perpetuation of institutions that Christ spoke out against?