Posts Tagged ‘grace and truth’

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Murphy, the non-disciple, and his wife, Harpreet, have just settled in for the night–kids are in bed and sleeping. Ten feet away.

Harpreet (whispering): You’ve been talking a lot of Jesus who was executed recently.

Murhpy (whispering): Yeah, he’s back. Amazing. I think he’s God… (pause) I talked with him in Jerusalem last week. ‘Said, his way was THE WAY to live and know God.

Harpreet (louder, Murph puts a finger to her lips): God! (quieter) Sounds like India. We have gods by the bundle at home in Cambay. Which god do you think Jesus is?

Murph: Not a god–the god. How many of your family’s gods have risen from the dead and talked with you lately? Have you seen Buddha at the well this week? Jesus is the real deal.

Harpreet:  Hmm. Don’t all religions have the same end–nirvana, heaven, hope and peace with major helpings of health and prosperity? In India, we have–Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Krishna, Rama, Hanuman, and goddesses like Lakshmi, Durga, Kali and Saraswati–and that’s just getting started. We also have Buddha, who teaches noble truths and an eightfold path.

Murph: Yeah, Buddha had some good things to say about self-denial, but apart from a work-around on suffering, he left you with a wheel-of-life or oblivion. While some of his followers say he passed on nirvana to get people off the wheel–he didn’t do a Pentecost with wind and languages, right?  The other gods haven’t much to offer either.

Harpreet: Well, Jesus was different.

Murph: Jesus was, or is, different because he lived/lives as you’d imagine God would live if he were a human. He was awesomely god 24/7. You met him. I’ve been with his disciples for years.

Harpreet: Yes, such a caring man! He was the nicest person you ever brought into this house. The kids loved him.

Murph: See, you get it–you know him. For those who don’t, he not only lived truth and grace perfectly–he rose from the dead! He was too much for a grave to hold. He couldn’t not live–the Jews and the Romans couldn’t put him down. They got rid of him and he came back! Everybody in Jerusalem and Judea know this story. And it’s spreading. How embarrassing for the Temple dudes.

Harpreet: Well, that does put him in a class above all the other gods and religious leaders I’ve ever heard of. So, he can’t not live?

Murph: Yep. He can’t be stopped. Not only that, he told me that if I abided in him, I’d also be unstoppable. I believe him! No grave for me–I’ve hitched my cart to him and trust his word. Ultimately, I’ll be with him, wherever he is.

Harpreet: What about me? I, too, have met him. And after what you’ve said, I believe he’s God, too.

Murph: You repent and–his words, not mine–“Love God with all you have and love your neighbors as yourself.” Most of his group were baptized, some maybe twice, when they repented and put faith in God for forgiveness. John the Baptist baptized me before he was taken to prison and executed.

Harpreet: Well, I certainly repent of my sins and I know God’s forgiven me. Who’ll baptize me?

Murph: We’ll ask the disciples who should do it, but they’ll have trouble with you, not being a Jew and all. Barnabas might help us out. Right now it’s kind of a Jewish thing. Even so, they’ve heard all the different languages when the Holy Spirit descended. That ought to be a clue. They also saw how Jesus loved me even though I’m not a Jew or a disciple. Jesus told me to wait ’cause Peter was going to have a dream and us non-disicples were going to be allowed to join The Way.

Harpreet: I guess there are lots of gods and religions, but they all have different ends. Only Jesus gives me a personal relationship with God, his Father. My faith reveals truth and grace for application in my life. I never got that through faith in Hindu gods, Buddha or the sacred rocks and trees at home.

Murph (giving Harpreet a hug; she reciprocates): Our mutual faith increases our mutual love. Love you, honey. Have a good night’s sleep.

Tr8: Pick Jesus (see the Gospels).  Jesus offers unconditional love, unmerited forgiveness and comprehensive peace.

Homework: What do other religions offer? With whom do you wish to walk at the end of your journey? Moses, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Buddha, Maitreya, Caesar, Jesus, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Yoda?

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cybeleMurphy, the non-disciple, is on his way to the hardware store to get some drywall to fix a wall in his pub in Caesarea. He decided to drop by Starbucks on the way. After ordering a tall, French Roast he sits in one of the two comfy chairs near the window and reads his iScroll. Luther, a metalworker from Antioch, talks to the barista who, in turn, points toward Murphy.

Luther: Mind if I sit here?

Murph: Have a seat. D’ja see the headlines? The Persians beat the Indians in the World Cup semis in a shoot-out.

Luther: Yeah? I’m not from around here. Is that a big deal?

Murph: Well, sorta. My wife is from India.

Luther: Oh, I see. (Sits quietly for a second or two.) I came here looking for a guy–Jesus of Nazareth or Joseph or somebody. You know about him?

Murph: You’ve come to the right guy. I know him well. If I weren’t a gentile, I think I could’ve been a full time disciple of his–but he only chooses Jews. I’m Irish. But he treats me like one of the guys.

Luther: Then you’re just who I need to talk to. You know, we’ve heard a lot about him in Antioch. Though I’m sort of surprised about his disciples being all Jews.

Murph: Really? Well, there you go. What do you hear?

Luther: Well, I’ve heard Jesus is everybody’s brother. Kind and gentle. Doesn’t offend anyone. A holy man who accepts everyone and has practically no rules for his group. He’s compatible with all faiths–Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Stoics, Epicureans, Caesar–whatever. You know–he’s just spiritual. Not religious. He’s a gentle giant who could draw us all together…

Murph (holding up his hand): Whoa, campadre! I don’t know who you’ve talked to, but you’re not talking about Jesus.

Luther: But…

Murph: Jesus is more like a loving tornado. He puts everything on its head in the most paradoxical ways. He makes the Pharisees and Sadducees see blood–absolutely shreds hypocrites. He takes Jewish law to an absurd degree–he says, “Whatever is not from God is sin.” Don’t mistake his mercy and grace for agreement with all spiritual gurus–he’ll not have it. While he loves Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Druids or whomever, he preaches repentance and a relationship with God, his father.

Luther: “God, his father….”  That’s a bit much.

Murph: No. He says it right out: “I’m God’s son.” “I’m the Son of God.” “I’m the only way, no one comes to the Father except through me.”  “The Father and I are one.” “I only do what the Father says.” He even said that he won’t remain dead when he dies!

Luther (frowning): Well this is disturbing! He’s not compatible with all the other religions? He’s not tolerant? We have a goddess in Antioch, Cybele, our Mother Goddess–surely believing in her HAS to be okay.

Murph: I don’t know where you got your information, but you have it all wrong. The Cybele worshippers may want Jesus to join ’em, but he won’t have it. You don’t really know him if you think he’s all sunshine and happiness glad to sit in with all the other gods and teachers. He’s the epitome of grace and truth. He’s brutally honest, but his grace is all about unconditional love and forgiveness to anyone who will repent and follow him.

Luther: So, you’re not a disciple because you are not a Jew?

Murph: I’m not one of THE 12 disciples, but I  follow him anyway. He treats me as if I were.

Luther: So, this Jesus is not going to make you a real disciple and unite the world in love?

Murph: Don’t know. He said a pharisee from Tarsus, not far from you, would straighten things out for the gentiles and would work in Antioch. Can you imagine that?! A pharisee leading gentiles in Antioch?!

Luther: That’s intolerable. I’m really disappointed that Jesus isn’t who I want him to be.

Murph: Get over the disappointment. Come with me. I can’t wait for Jesus to meet you!

Tr8: Jesus is always preparing a way, but he’s no everything to everybody. He is God among us, but will not be limited by our scruples and imaginations.

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shadow manJesus is in the wilderness praying when he is approached by Protopants, one of Satan’s lieutenants (2nd class).
Protopants (triumphantly): We are so gonna mess up your church in the future.
Jesus (looking up): Yeah?
Protopants: Yep. A double whammy. The reformation, 1500s, and modernism, 1900s, will have these morons so distracted they’ll miss your message of love totally.
Jesus: You think?
Protopants: Absolutely. We’ve test marketed this in the Greek and Roman empires. And there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a perfect plan. Appeals to the innate vanity in humanity.
Jesus: ‘Vanity in humanity,’ sounds like a long-range plan.
Protopants (hands outstretched): Yeah, but listen, it’ll work. First, we’ll wait until the masses are soft, can read, and the Bible is easily available. Then we’ll have ’em read it and decide for THEMSELVES what it means. Every joker will think they’re the Holy Spirit and will make the Bible say whatever they want to hear.
Jesus (confidently): But my story, the Gospel, and my Spirit, will still be there for everyone.
Protopants (waving him off): Won’t make any difference. Remember Jeremiah, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’  The Reformation will split the church into a million pieces. Instead of talking about your grace, they will break fellowship over how you impart grace. We figure we can get rid of ALL the Sacraments. Imagine that! You think popes are problematic? EVERYONE will be a pope in his or her own eyes. And you know the really juicy part?
Jesus (rolling his eyes): What?
Protopants (sinisterly): They’ll all go their own way thinking it is YOUR will! Ha! They’ll scramble to jettison all the sacraments of the church, dream up conflicting confessions, and turn inward. They’ll have councils and tribunals and committees who won’t stop short of killing others over doctrine. Thanks to the vanity of humanity, the papacy and Peter’s Keys have evolved into a winner for us and now we’re going viral.
Jesus: You’ll increase the need and opportunities for love and grace, though.
Protopants (frowning): Ha! Oh, that’s just phase one. Then there’s modernism. Once the reformation gets everyone thinking they are popes and authorities on faith, we’re going to shift these popes over to rationalism. We’ll move faith from the heart and spirit to the mind. It’ll be a field day for proofs and explanations about how the miraculous and mystical were merely ignorance and lack of systematic theology.
Jesus (nodding knowingly): Yeah, that’s pretty clever. So, you’re going to divide believers and conquer them with the vanity of humanity.
Protopants: Yep. This plan can’t fail. Fallen people doing what fallen people do best — self-destruct. I’m thinking by 2100 Christians will be dispised and rejected because they’ve become so narrow minded and self-focused. The whole concept of Christian will become abhorrent. The fundamentalists will agree to nothing and the liberals will espouse everything.
Jesus: I’ve got a surprise for you.
Protopants (uneasily): What?
Jesus: The faithful will converge on me and the true church will be revealed in all it’s power of love and grace. You’ll make things so bad people will flock to love and grace. When you make the world dark, the light shines brighter and truth is revealed. Those who know me and keep my commandment will bring in a new era for the church.  When things are bad, we get better. The church will return to its roots. The heart of the very first church will return to transform the world by drawing others into a growing relationship with me through love.
Protopants (uneasily): Not possible.
Jesus (smiling) Wait and see. I know mine and they know me. I repeat, when things get bad, we get better. You’re still playing the same old game — ‘taste the apple, you’ll be smart as God.’ I’ve got this covered. I’m taking us all back to Eden and I’ll be with my own in the cool of the evening in the garden  someday and you and yours will be watching from the other side — plagued by regret and longing to be with me.

Jesus sits back and looks deeply into Protopant’s eyes. Protopants rubs his mouth and jaw and runs a hand through his hair.

Protopants (thoughtfully): Can I change sides?
Jesus (looking deeper into his eye and placing his hand over Protopant’s heart): We shall see.

Tr8: Converge with other believers in the love and grace of Jesus Christ. The next age is ours. These three, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. In the end, it won’t be about what we know, but about what we do.

Convergence Pledge

Jesus and his disciples are at the Temple in Jerusalem after his resurrection. Murphy, (the non-disciple) tags along. Soon-to-be deacons are having a bake sale for the Greek widows in one of the outer porticos. Jesus takes his disciples (and Murphy) into the Temple outside the Holy of Holies. Some priests are standing quietly looking at the curtain.

Murphy: Are we invisible? I don’t think the priests see us (waving his hand in front of a priest’s eyes).

Peter: No, they’re like the guards at Buckingham Palace. They can’t move or they get in trouble (he touches one priest’s nose and the priest swats at his hand as if it were a fly)

Andrew (tickling one’s ear): No! We are invisible!

The disciples begin to mess with the priests. Simon is about to give one a wedgie when Jesus stops him.

Jesus: Knock it off! (He points at a big strip of duct tape running from top to bottom of the curtain.) Check this out. Tearing this apart was the last thing I did before Easter. Watch this…

Jesus waves his hand like a magician at the curtain. The disciples are frozen.

They watch…

closely…closely…and…

nothing happens.

Jesus (watches and smiles): Gotcha! (He puts his hands down.) Now, watch.

The duct tape begins to slowly uncurl and fall from the curtain.

Bozar the Priest (jumping up, grabbing a stepladder out of the closet): Hot dog! There it goes again! Zebar get more tape!

Jesus (aside to the disciples): God’s altar. Keep it open. Peter, guys, when you get your churches going, I want you to remember two things.

Bozar holds the ladder while Zebar pulls a strip of duct tape, but the silver tape folds on itself and is useless. Zebar swears. Bozar pulls the hair on Zebar’s legs. Zebar swears again and kicks at Bozar.

Peter (watches and nods then turns to Jesus): What two things?

Jesus: It’s complicated. (The priests freeze.) Peter, you’re going to be a Catholic and Andrew you are going to be a Greek Orthodox and some of you other guys are going to be anabaptist, presbyterian, and what not. Just remember churches are for people with needs, not big holy off-limits altars, like this.

James: Will our churches be as big as the Temple?

Jesus: You wouldn’t believe! Here’s the two things: 1. No sacrifices, no death, no blood on the altar. 2. Everyone is allowed to come to the altar, and 3. The church is to be a sanctuary for anyone seeking refuge. You are to be a place of refuge for those in need.

Nathaniel (holding up his hand to Jesus): That’s three things, not two.

Jesus (pointing a finger at Nathaniel): Wanted to see if you were paying attention. The third one is prime. Wherever you guys worship and fellowship, make it a sanctuary for the rest of the world.

Bart: Sanctuary?

Jesus: It’s a place where one finds grace, love, safety and protection from the world. As the Father sends me, so I send you. Be a sanctuary for the oppressed.

Matthew: What if they’re sinners and are guilty?

Jesus: Sin oppresses. Keep an eye on the ideal, but be real — know the truth, but act in grace. Remember this: God will judge all. YOU are my disciples. Murph, you watch your sanctuality, too. I don’t want you kickin’ anyone out of church who is seeking refuge and forgiveness.

Thad: What about liars, thieves, murders, adulterers, cheaters, and Rastafarians?

Jesus: Love ’em.

John: What about greedy, proud, gluttonous, angry Germans?

James: What if a pharisee or scribe comes seeking refuge?

Jesus: Love ’em.

Murphy (the non-disciple): What about pigeons?

Jesus (shoves Murph’s head): Repeat after me: Repenters of sin, let ’em in.

Disciples: Repenters of sin, let ’em in.

Jesus: You trust me to judge and do what’s best for everyone. I’m trusting you to accept others as I accepted you. No exceptions. No is sin too big. Be love. Even if you meet in an auditorium or warehouse. You are my ambassadors. Reconcile to world to me.

Tr8: We are sanctuaries of unconditional refuge and love. Draw others into a growing relationship with Christ. Have faith, trust God.

John 20:21, 2 Corinthians 5:20

marriage-equalityAndrew, Peter, James and John are at Starbuck’s for bagels and coffee while Jesus is at the synagogue in Capernaum with Nathaniel and Simon.

Andrew: So, what’s the deal with Jesus and gays? Isn’t he against them?

James: He’s gotta be, right?  It’s unnatural, biologically futile, socially awkward and scripturally forbidden — Leviticus 18:22 — they’re on the stoning list.

John: Really? We’re all on the stoning list. I’ve never heard him say anything directly against gays, but he’s said a lot about the Law. Remember the Sermon on the Mount?

Peter (shaking his head): Whoa! Jesus pretty much closed all the exits — don’t think of people as fools, don’t look at women, turn the other cheek, walk a second mile — he nailed everyone on the mountain. Yep, we’re all on the stoning list.

Andrew: Yeah, but he didn’t mention gays.

James (shaking his index finger): And he didn’t mention incest or bestiality. Do you think he gave them the ‘all clear’ by not mentioning them?

John (holding up his hand): Hang on. If I asked Jesus, ‘Is gay marriage okay?’ you know what he’d say, ‘What do you think?’ ‘What does the Scripture say?’ ‘How does the Golden Rule apply?’

James: True. He’d walk you through it and end up asking, “What does love require of you?”

Peter: Yeah, I think Jesus sees sin everywhere…in a redeeming way. It’s weird. I know he knows all my faults — all of them — and he treats me with love and respect. He encourages me to be good and clean up my act, but overall he loves me ‘as is.’

Andrew: I agree. With him, whether something is wrong or not isn’t the question. He changes us through relationship. He makes me want to be like him. I become more and more truthful with myself when I’m with him.

James: Are you saying Jesus doesn’t care about whether someone is gay or not?

John: He’s saying it doesn’t really matter because if you hang around Jesus you’ll eventually face the truth within yourself. I used to do stuff, but I quit because of him and I can’t exactly explain why, I just knew it was better.

Peter: We’re back to truth and grace. Again. Remember: The Spirit reveals truth, we reveal grace. Truth revelation to others is the Spirit’s business. Jesus says our business is to love one another.

John: That pharisee, Jacob-bar-Pinhead, said Jesus and I were lovers. Jesus just shook his head and smiled. I was ready to break a commandment right there. Yet, immediately I knew the truth and that Jesus expected me to let it go, so I did as he did. After all, we’re a bunch of guys hanging out together–who’s surprised we get this stuff?

Andrew: Yeah. It is what it is. The truth about truth is whether you can be that way with Jesus in the room. Jesus has never said anything about Judas’ smoking, but everyone, including Judas, knows where he stands.

Peter: Personally, I think two genders in one body runs contrary to God’s best plan for a human, but we run contrary to God’s best plan all the time. That’s pretty much why Jesus keeps reminding us he loves us anyway.

Andrew: Seems to me, if a covenant marriage is good for believers, why would we want to withhold it from unbelievers? Shouldn’t we want good things for those who don’t know Jesus or us?

James: Hmmm. We see marriage as being under the jurisdiction of religion, not the government – a religious ceremony with spiritual significance. However, the average person sees it as a civil ceremony with legal implications. Whatever, it’s not our call.

Peter: Well, I know Jesus and nothing’s changed–we’re to love others as he loves us.

Jesus walks in with Nathaniel and Simon.

Jesus (smiling): Live according to the truth, act according to grace.

Tr8: What Jesus said.

First published August 2, 2012.