Monday, September 1, 2014

MY FATHER IS TERAH


My father’s name is Terah and I was born in the city of Ur, a very big city.  Many travel from Ur on the river and cattle carts and donkey caravans as far away as Egypt.  Date palms grow around the city and canals bring water for crops of barley, lentils, onions, and garlic.  I was lucky enough to even learn to read and write a little from a local priest.  I studied arithmetic, accounting, and Sumerian literature.  I also learned about all of the gods of the city, tribes and people around Ur.  All of these gods were confusing to me, but I learned from the priest about them and remembered his words.  The priest spent quite a bit of time telling me about Sin, the moon god.  Sin, also referred to as En Zu, is considered the ‘chief of the gods’ and the ‘creator of all things.’  His wife is Ningal and she bore him Shamash and Ishtar, gods of the Sun and Venus.  My childhood imagination could see En Zu riding across the sky on a winged bull.

 

 Early in my life Terah moved our entire family to Haran, a city that also had a temple to the God En Zu.  Of course Sarah, my wife, came with us.  Also, Terah’s grandson, Lot, came.  There were many others also, family members, friends, and workers.  It was a long and dusty trip.   We took all of our sheep, goats, and donkeys.  The donkeys helped us carry our belongings.  Sometimes the women and children would ride on the donkeys.  However, the trip was not much different than the life that we had living around Ur.  We were always moving from place to place so that our sheep could graze and have water.

 

One of my earliest memories around Haran is about looking into the sky and seeing the moon.  The air is cool and it is dark.  Looking up into the sky, the stars fill the night.  They are shining bright and seem so close that I could reach up and grab one.  The feeling of awe and wonder pour over me, lift me up, and all of the stars speak to me.  They ask me, “Who are you to ask?”  But I have to ask anyway.  From where do you come?  Why are you there?  What are you?  I ask all of these questions of the stars, and they ask the same questions back to me.  All of the questions make sense to me, but some say I should not ask. However, this night is not about reason.  The stars are speaking and I am flying across the heavens.  Just like En Zu riding the winged bull.   Flying on the overwhelming feeling of awe, peculiarity, hope…….feelings that have no words……flying without wings. As I flew without wings, I was outside of myself.  When I land, the stars keep asking, but give no answers.  It is I that must give the answer, maybe an answer of faith.  I am not flying anymore.  However, I have to make my answer work here and in all the places beyond where I have been found. 

 

My father, Terah, died while we lived in Haran.  It was a great loss.  The one to whom I looked for guidance was gone.  I now had to seek guidance from a strength within myself that included all the memories of my father, my past, stories of the moon God.  I felt like I was outside of myself, looking at my life.  Without my father, what was I to do?  In the midst of this loss, I knew, in spite of everything, I needed to act for the sake of my life and my family.  I needed courage to act.

 

I decided that I needed to leave Haran with all of my family.  At night, the moon spoke to me.  I would think about my father and all that he gave to me, but realized that even he could not give to me the land and the skies, the stars and the moon, the sun and the clouds.  I could hear a great voice, a father, a god, maybe even the God calling me on to a new adventure.

 

But to take that first step toward something that I did not know was hard.  Could I ever be sure that my plan was right.  Most of the time life for me is ordinary and this ordinary life seems to hold me in place.  Why venture out?  Why risk a new thing?  Yet, I still seem to hear --- yet it was not really a hearing --- an extraordinary call to a new place.  But finally I could feel that it was not this extraordinary hearing alone that called me to a journey.  It was also the ordinary experiences of life that were calling also.  The birth of a child, the smile of my wife, the wonder of the land and the skies were leading my in the process of life.  I simply needed to trust, to have faith for the first and the next step.  With my father gone, I now had to be father.  In the steps of faith, I became the father of many who also live a life of trust.

Experiencing Life:  A Personal, Ecumenical, Christian Perspective  By John R King, Jr.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

HOPING TO SEE JESUS EVEN IF HE IS NOT NAKED


Review of “THE NAKED JESUS:  A JOURNEY OUT OF CHRISTIANTIY INTO CHRIST”

 

I found this book to be honest, conversational, questioning , and easy to read.  As one who considers himself to be a Christian, I liked the following themes that I found in the book:  equality, inclusion, love, a complete and fulfilled life through Christ.

 

The author does a good job of describing the shortcomings of the institutional church; but, I was not totally convinced about “the naked Jesus”.  Can one ever really see “the naked Jesus”?  Years ago, I read a book entitled “Which Jesus?”.  It described the many different ways that Jesus has been understood throughout history.  In “The Naked Jesus:  A Journey Out of Christianity into Christ”, the author describes his way of seeing Jesus as “the naked Jesus”.   If the reader sees Jesus differently, maybe the reader is not wrong even if he sees him differently than this author.

 

I liked the many questions posed in this book.  I would recommend that every reader of the book try to answer those questions for themselves rather than only considering the possible answers offered in this book.

 

I heartily recommend those who want to take Jesus seriously to read this book as part of their understanding of Jesus.  However, more than understanding, I hope for every person an experience of the ongoing journey of life as whole, complete, transformative.  I hope for an experience of love.

 

(Disclosure:  The author of “The Naked Jesus:  A Journey Out of Christianity Into Christ” provided a free copy in pdf format for me to read in exchange for reviewing this book)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Faith with New Words


I trust in God, our Caregiver, the primal ground,

creativity in heaven and earth and all.

 

And in Jesus, the Christ,              

our Leader and Teacher,

anointed by the awareness of God,

born of Mary, low, but greater than any ruler,

 

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

crucified, dead and buried,

 

gone from life in the shadows of memory,

on the third day raised from the dead,

raised into our hearts, our lives;

he is now our radicalized trust in God, our Caregiver;

from there he comes, always,

to judge us all.

 

I trust in Guidance by the consciousness of God,

the global gathering,

open participation with all,

 

a generous path to a complete life,

resurrection of the dead

and continuing abundant life.

 

Amen

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Does Anyone Need to Go to Church?


Why Some Do Not Need to Go To Church

1.     The church is not a place to which we go.

Many Christians will agree with this idea.  The church is made up of Christians everywhere.  Christians are the church.   All of the buildings in which they gather do not constitute the church.  However, as many keep on agreeing, they also keep on saying that they “go” to church.  Many of those who do not need to go to church anymore need a better way to describe what the church is doing when it gathers in a building and participates in a particular organization.  I know.  It is simply easier to say that “we are going to church”.  But we really are not “going to church”.

2.     Some of the reasons that Christians have gathered over the history of Christianity, are no longer completely valid.

-          In the earliest years, Christians gathered to share their remembrances of Christ with each other.  No one alive today has any historical remembrances of Christ.

-          In the earliest years, as those who had a personal, historical experience of Christ began to die, Christians gathered to preserve their testimony regarding their encounter with Jesus.  Obviously, this task is complete.

-          Christians gathered to have the scriptural writings read to them because they could not read for themselves.  They could not read for themselves because of a lack of reading ability and the lack of inexpensive, quick, easy, and readily available, printed reading material.  Today we have the scriptures translated, printed, and recorded in many different formats.  Gathering is not necessary to have access to the scriptures.

-          Christian gatherings served a social purpose – a good thing.  However, many now have their social needs met by gathering for work, gathering for meals in restaurants, for public performances, sporting events, bars, education, etc.  Maybe what some Christians need is more time in a quiet place, out of the public eye, alone with the creativity of God leading their thoughts, alone with their prayers.  Maybe we have overloaded with our gatherings.

-          Christian gatherings were a source for learning.  In Western Europe, learning was preserved by the church and was an important source of education through the early middles ages.  Many great universities in the United States were started by Christians.  Personally, I consider education as part of the cause of God.   However, today, many forms of the church are viewed as being against education or as a proponent of a narrow, pinched version of education.  Even in the realm of theology, the church seems to be a poor source of education and many times seems to be at war against its most creative theologians.

3.     Individual gatherings may not be the priority that we have made it out to be.  Read the Gospels.  The concept of the Kingdom of God is much more prominent that the concept of the church.  Today some call the Kingdom of God the “rule of God”, “the leadership of God”, or “the cause of God.”    Maybe Christians, instead of going to church, should be the church where ever they go.  Maybe Christians should do church.  Act for God’s Cause!  In every aspect of life, act for the common good.

4.      Many will agree with some or all of these ideas, but still say Christians should gather as individual, specific, visible expressions of church.  There is no problem with that.  However, as long as such gatherings remain celebrations of the narcissism of small differences, hour long excuses for small talk, gossip, and fake bread with cheap wine, wasted money on buildings that are empty most of the week, groups with leaders compromised by the pay they need to live, and organizations dominated by self-important bullies who assume power based upon their wealth and contributions, more and more people will discover that they no longer need to go to church.  Calling such gatherings as communion seems scandalous.

5.     From a larger, global, off-earth, ecumenical perspective, the one church is made up of every Christian gathered on the land and under the vault of the starry skies. Where else would a Christian expect God to rule but in their lives, the very living Church.  But it seems that God’s Cause has expanded beyond what is named "church" and thus God’s Cause transcends the church, guiding the freedom of thought in universities, cooperating and enhancing the creative healing of human bodies and minds by doctors and in hospitals, inspiring our political self-determination by the right of vote by all, to name just a few examples. So the church is of less import than many Christians would imagine. God's leadership in every human life is the goal and its creative manifestation is transforming human life and continues as humans make the best choices for the common benefit of all. May we focus on God’s Cause in our lives lest our hearts and minds are diverted in such a way that we make choices that lead to the consequence of a truly apocalyptic result, ending our lives and the earth.  Why would one want to “go” to church when she can “be” and “do” church?

6.     We do not have to separate our activities between what cultivates Christianity and what does not. God is in all; and, in everything we do, we can try to make a reflection of a Christian perspective. When we work for an employer or rent an apartment to a new tenant, every act we try to decide on the basis of common interest, these acts are our worship to God. When we take a step in a new venture in faith, God finds us in the journey. In ecstatic experiences, God finds us. When we see the beauty of nature, God finds us. We do not have to read portions of a Biblical writing or a few verses. We can read an entire book at a time. When we read Mark, God finds us.  Meals, conversations, organizing trades to create a new home, corporate meetings, donations to those in need, celebrations, teaching, driving safely, advice to a friend, helping someone we do not know in the grocery store are all our devotions and examples of church, but more importantly, examples of God’s Cause in action.  Universities, hospitals, governments, grocery stores, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and more are community organizations that help one connect and participate in community, those gatherings are our communion. Whenever and wherever we act for the common interest, even in the face of anger or malice, God finds us. He always finds us even when we do not “go” to church..

Sunday, June 16, 2013

FATHER'S DAY

Part of the reason we celebrate Father's Day is because of the care they give to children in the context of what we call family. Today, if you are a Father, we celebrate you. But there are families with single moms, people without children, adoptive fathers, non-biological fathers, missing fathers, two fathers, two mothers and more. We are all human and our children, all human children are part of our legacy and are the next step in the long human path. On this Father's Day, I celebrate Father and also all those who care for children, care given by taxes for education, care given by a concerned hand on the fevered brow of a child, and every kind of care in between. We are all part of the human family. Let us all care for our human children. We are family!  May God, our Caregiver, bless you!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

REVELATION: SEEING A VOICE


I recently noticed a FB status that referenced the first part of the blblical writing of Revelation, traditionally placed as the last writing in the Christian New Testament.  This writing appears to have been controversial since its beginning.  If not the last, it was among the last of the New Testament writings accepted as canonical by the church.  Some did not want Revelation to be included in Christian scripture.  This writing continues to be controversial.  The imagery and symbolism is bizarre and outside of most human experience.  The writing presents itself as a description of visual and auditory ecstatic experience.

                I can say that I have never had an ecstatic experience anything like what is described in Revelation, although many people report having dreams, myself included.  Some of my dreams have been scary and bizarre; but, I have never been motivated to write down any of my dreams.  I suspect that, if I did, none of my descriptions would be as extensive and detailed as Revelation nor so important or famous.  Even though the study of humans reveals that humans dream, it seems that most of us do not remember most of our dreams.  Although, it seems as I get older and sleep more lightly, I seem to remember more of my dreams.  However, I think Revelation was not exactly like a dream.  Many would interpret it as a result of an ecstatic experience.  If indeed the writing is in some way prompted by ecstasy, I doubt that all of the long, complicated, and detailed imagery was part of the ecstatic experience.  But, it may very well be a writing inspired by a state of ecstasy.  The content provided by a particular literary genre, early Christian culture, persecution, and judgment against a political power both oppressive and claiming more authority and ultimacy than anyone person, organization, or system deserves.

                I am a very rational person, so the idea of ecstasy is hard for me.  Yet, I think I can speak of it a little since I can claim at least two ecstatic experiences in my 58 years.  Other parts of the Christian scriptures and other religious literature report ecstatic experiences.  It seems that many of these experiences are described in terms of an experience of God.  In our secular age some would reduce these experiences to chemical interactions within the human brain.  Many of my Christian friends would not like for me to state that I am quite alright with that interpretation.  But I suspect that the completely materialistic among us humans would also object to me stating that these strictly chemical interactions are still an experience of God.  I view God as in all and for all.  God does not exist, but, in some way, God is existence.  Probably said much better by a famous theologian, God is Being-itself.

                For me, an ecstatic experience-- in times of separation, isolation, experiences of exile, persecution, loss, anguish, despair—can engender hope, assurance, empowerment, and discernment that enables human life to continue.  Ecstasy seems to me to be beyond words.  All of my words above are the result of a rational mind trying to explain an experience of religious ecstasy---an experience of God.  None of the words will do but they still need to be stated.

                For the writer of Revelation, his ineffable experience of God, centered in the Christian tradition, in the context of a real life experience of persecution and exile started with a description of a vision of Christ:

 

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.  The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

 

The experience provided the writer with hope, assurance, empowerment, and discernment for human life, a completing, growing , transforming life – an adaptive, human experience that advantaged the writer and all the readers up to the present whose reading of the words prompted the experience anew, for the Christian, an experience of God in Christ.  Relax, let go, do not be afraid of your own ecstasy. God might find you.

 

               

               

Sunday, February 17, 2013

RELIGION REVISITED

Religion: an inner experience so meaningful it motivates one to action, action that influences others so much that the new awareness and actions become an orientation for transforming life towards a greater humanization. It is an interactive whole of inner awareness, action, and influence, all combined which orients human life. Inner awareness alone can become just narcissism, action alone can become legalism, and influence on others alone can become political expediency.....none of which by themselves has the same power to transform life or make us more human.