What is the Truth that Sets Us Free?

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There is a truth that will set us free. Is it a belief system? or Is it inner wisdom?

John 8:31-38         31 Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teaching. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They responded, “We are Abraham’s children; we’ve never been anyone’s slaves. How can you say that we will be set free?” 34 Jesus answered, “I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 A slave isn’t a permanent member of the household, but a son is. 36 Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you really will be free. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s children, yet you want to kill me because you don’t welcome my teaching. 38 I’m telling you what I’ve seen when I am with the Father, but you are doing what you’ve heard from your father.” (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
[Image: “Creative Commons Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world” by Celestine Chua is licensed under CC BY 2.0]


John 8:31-38 on ‘Participative Knowing’


Yeshua* says to us who follow, “If you continue to connect with my inner self, my true being, you will become the only truth that can set you free.” We answer, “We have never been enslaved; we are already free.” Yeshua* answers us, “If you haven’t integrated the inner God-process into the very fiber of your being, if you aren’t on intimate speaking terms with the divine insistence that you can only apprehend as an unheard inner voice, then you have been enslaved and don’t have communion with the Divine, Spirit, Mystery, in the name of God. Perhaps. If you have learned and lived what I have lived and learned, then you will be free. Anything less undoes me (and you). Just as I have closely followed the voice of God within me; so should you follow what you hear God calling you to be and do.

Richard Rohr wrote, “Once you move to the level of participative knowing, you experience the union between us all, and you know that union is more real than the differences. This really is the heart of the matter.”  ‘Participative knowing’ sums up the meaning and intent of John 8:31-38.

Blasphemy and Forgiveness

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Life is a process of trial and error. As such, forgiveness is readily accessible. Denial of your inner self, however,  can’t be forgiven.

Luke 12:10          10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. (CEB)

Matthew 12:31-32          31 Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (CEB)

[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
[Image: “Creative Commons (untitled)” by  debaird™ is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Luke 12:10 & Matthew 12:31-32
Regarding Blasphemy & Forgiveness

Yeshua* is clear, wherever repentance (change of heart, change of mind) is possible forgiveness is available. You can even criticize the Human Being (Yeshua* or the God-process within yourself) because the messianic-dynamic is a trial and error process of discerning and living into one’s calling in the name of God. Perhaps. What is beyond compassion and forgiveness, however, is pursuing your own personal bias and opinions over against the movement of God’s call within. To do so is to deny the movement of the Spirit — that is to reject the inner transformation of your being, to renounce your willingness to go where the inner Spirit of God might lead. Such refusal is blasphemy. No repentance, no forgiveness!

Miracle Worker or Catalyst?

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The reports of Yeshua’s encountering healing during his ministry is ofter seen as the working of miracles. More in keeping with his own self-understanding, Yeshua was a catalyst for the power of God that is accessible within each of us.

Mark 7:24-37
24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
[Image: “Creative Commons The Healing Hands” by  Joseph Novak is licensed under CC BY 2.0]


Musings on Mark 7:24-37

Yeshua went to Phoenicia for a break. He tried to remain incognito, but to no avail — he was recognized by Syrophoenician woman with a sick daughter. The woman begged Yeshua to heal her daughter. Yeshua tried to put her off by suggesting that his ministry was to Israel. Any distractions would be inappropriate. She argued back that the situation demanded that he help — a woman with no one to care for her and a child in need (a poor and marginalized family without resources). Immediately Yeshua was aware that there was something life-affirming in the intentions of the woman. He sent her back to her home, to find that her daughter was well. A miracle? or the presence of a supranatural dynamic between Jesus, the woman, and the child? Traditionally the church wants to side with “miracle.” I choose to see Yeshua as a catalyst for releasing the healing power already within us — in this case, within the woman and the child. More particularly, that healing power is evinced in the interaction between the healing power within and the presence of Yeshua. Thus begins the gentile mission of the church.

Follower of Yeshua (a follow-up)

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[Image: “Creative Commons Wholly Devoted” by  samstratton is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

What does it mean to follow Yeshua?
– to believe that he is the Messiah, long awaited in Israel?
– to confess him as Lord & Savior?
– to worship him?
– to try to emulate him?to keep asking “What Would Jesus Do?”
– to give your life to him?

Not for me?

Yeshua lived and taught a Way?
– a Way that privileged the poor and disadvantaged?
– a Way that challenged the Powers that Be (political, social, religious)
– a Way that favors combatting domination with creative non-violence
– a Way that confronts evil with love
– a Way that locates the God-process and the messianic dynamic within
– a Way that makes me responsible for my relationship to the divine (mystery, spirit, God)
– a Way that makes us responsible for the creation which pzrovidesthe context for our living

So, here I am
in awe of the manner of life demonstrated by Yeshua
– a life imbued with divinity
– a life of integrated wholeness
– a life lived for others
– a life that the church could not comprehend

Here I am
– committed to follow Yeshua and yet
-comfortable in my manner of life

-insisted upon by an unheard inner voice in the name of God (perhaps) and yet
-still searching for what my response to that call will be

-living in a country torn asunder by political and religious fervor and misinformation – and – one of the privileged (white male) and yet
– unsure how I can make a positive contribution to the social fabric

“I do have faith, but not enough. Help me have more!”
Mark 9:24 (GNT)

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.
Romans 8:15-17 (MSG)

So, What’s next, Papa?

Committed to Christ or Follower of Yeshua.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 3.05.09 PMTo what / whom are we committed? What difference does it make?

John 8:32-32

31 Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teaching.32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
[Image: “Creative Commons Wholly Devoted” by  samstratton is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Reflections on Religious / Faithful Commitment

Last Sunday in church we were challenged to be committed to Christ. That language, which seems anachronistic, creates a dissonance in me. It seems quite different from following in the Way of Yeshua. Actually both terms were used, as if they were interchangeable. I beg to differ with that conclusion.

To commit to Christ is to claim obedience to the church’s myth of the divine savior that blankets the myth that seems more original with Yeshua himself — that is the very human Yeshua who serves as a catalyst for re-locating accessibility for divinity, salvation, eternal life, resurrection within each person. The effect of Yeshua’s claiming the title “the Human Being” (the son of the man), was to locate messianism within the individual psyche, as opposed to a Messiah which is located outside of individuals. Commitment to Christ (Messiah) means that I expect the work of salvation to be done for me by the Messiah; messianism, on the other hand, means that we are called to “work out your own salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work within you.” (Philippians 2:12-13, NRSV).

I wonder if some of the lethargy in the church — diminishing numbers, diminishing mission engagement, diminishing pursuit of social justice — is a result of dislocating religious rootedness outside of the individual. The clamor for eternal life (understood as physical living in a heavenly realm after death) seems to trump the push for social justice. Group think (a belief-based religion) wins out over the hard work of personal transformation (growing toward wholeness based on integrating one’s shadow and engaging the collective unconscious). Civil religion (integrating patriotism and violence with personal religious sentiments) seems to outmaneuver mystical engagement with one’s deep inner core of divinity.

So, will I commit to Christ? No, instead I will commit to following in the Way of Yeshua. Many of my cohorts at church will think I am just ‘splitting hairs’ and playing with words. In truth, I am making what I think is the more radical choice. This choice leaves me with full responsibility for my actions, my salvation, and for God’s active presence in the world. Unless I act (unless you act; unless we act) God remains inactive in the world. Committing to follow in the Way of Yeshua is committing to be immersed in God (mystery, divinity, spirit) and taking responsibility for being one who acts in the world in the name God, that is as God’s hands and feet.

Growing Outside the Garden

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 10.41.43 AMGenesis 3:23a

 23 the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden  (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
[Images: by author]

How appropriate…a meditation garden
outside the front door of the retreat center
on the grounds of the monastery
of the Sisters of St. Bemedict

The garden was designed and constructed
as a gift to the Sisters
and it also serves as
a gift for retreatants.

Lush green leafy plants
each having its own space
not being crowded or crowding others
and a cluster of Salvia ‘Caradonna’
purple meadow sage
as beautiful, serene and peaceful
as you would expect a meditation garden to be

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 10.39.50 AMThe surprise was finding a single, small orange flower outside the garden
growing in the gravel beside the short retaining wall that supports the garden.

Was it from a stray seed from the garden
a remnant of that which had been there before, the residue from a bird dropping or …?

Whatever the reason it was there in all its glory like the lilies of the field ;
it too would neither toil, nor spin;
it too would be a testament to the vitality of life
to the insistence and the persistence
of an unheard inner calling

The indefatigable persistence
of that single orange flower…
to BE, in all its glory,
outside the meditation garden
has become a challenge, a metaphor,
an insistence, a calling
to me.

I don’t fit the norm of  the meditation garden
the church (the institutional church)…
I am a remnant of that which had been planted previously
in the meditation garden…
I am evidence of some bad/good preparation —
prepared to understand the basic theological concepts
and also for thinking new thoughts;
to perpetuate the institution
and also for challenging old assertions;
to exegete the scriptures
and also to listen for the authentic teachings of Yeshua;
to live a ‘Christian’ life
and also for the insurrection that is the Way;
to accommodate this world
and also for pre-saging the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice.

It is a formidable challenge to maintain the “and also”
when the meditation garden is disinterested ,
indifferent, apathetic, adamantly opposed…
when the “Body of Christ”is too comfortable
with emulating the “world”
to follow the Way of Yeshua,
burdened, crippled by lamenting that its
power and prestige have been thwarted by a secular society

Taking root outside the meditation garden
is  a mournful lament,
an anguished, tearful cry…
and a life-bearing protest,
a migration toward integrity,
an insistent calling.

“Here I stand, in God,
I can do no other!”

Unpacking and Re-Packing Theological Luggage

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How much baggage do you carry on your faith journey? Is that baggage filled with the clothes you will need to attire yourself along the way?

Genesis 12:1        

1 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you.”

[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
[Image: “Creative Commons The Only Journey” by  Celestine Chua is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Musings generated by Genesis 12:1

Faithing* begins with an invitation to leave all that is familiar, to embark on a journey to an unknown destination. As with any journey, what luggage you choose and how you pack it will determine much about your journey.

Much of the history of Christianity has been about packing for a journey of belief, rather than a faithing* journey. In fact, if you choose a journey of belief, your bags have already been packed for you. The packing manifest is called ‘orthodox (traditional) theology.’ For belief journeys, the theology baggage is filled to the full, bursting at the seams. All that is required is that you carry the luggage with you. Those who have traveled with other luggage are called heretics, apostate. Those who have chosen to travel light (no luggage) are called agnostics or atheists and are considered an abomination.

Unfortunately, the orthodox (traditional) luggage that many people are carrying isn’t providing them with the attire they need to meet and greet the world as it is today. As a result, great numbers of people have dissociated themselves from the church leaving their baggage at the unclaimed luggage terminal. For others — that is, younger generations, there is no inclination to carry traditional luggage. Instead, they pack a knapsack full of ‘spirituality.’

During my seminary training, I was taught that exegesis of scripture was good and eisegesis was bad. Exegesis means the interpretation of the text based on its original intent; eisegesis, reading your own interpretation into the text. In order to be ordained, I had to show that my exegesis of a text (and my general beliefs about matters related to Christianity) fit within the theological luggage of the church. Somewhat out of step with my contemporaries, I have come to understand that I must do both exegesis and eisegesis. To understand the original intent of scripture has set me on a journey with Yeshua*. What did he actually teach? How did he understand his mission and his relationship with God? How was his life in keeping with his teachings?

The advent of quantum physics has changed the way we understand “truth.” It was previously thought that truth was absolute and unchangeable. Quantum mechanics has taught us that the observer is not irrelevant to that which is observed — that is, observing a system changes the system. Religious truth is like that — the “truth” is dependent upon the observer and the context that is being observed. So, there is no longer “Truth;” just “truths.” Ultimately, this means that truth is relational, not propositional or factual.

Throughout much of its theological history, the church has approached scripture and faith through the lens of objective Truth. But it has done its own reading “into the text” — a layer of interpretation that is often at odds with Yeshua’s* own self-understanding and teachings. Yeshua* claimed the appellation the Human One (Wisdom’s Child) — translations of “the son of the man.” The church has read Yeshua* as divine savior, “the Son of God.” Traditionally, the theological task has been to interpret the faith through the lens of scripture (sola scripture, sola fide). This is the church as guardian. A number of contemporary theologians (e.g., Catherine Keller) understand theology as a constructive, rather than interpretative, task. Constructive theology focuses more on current existential questions and seeks to build contemporary frameworks within which those questions can be answered.

The church’s theology is in the position of being both a guide to the Good News that frees us from any dominating system (even when the domination comes from the church itself) and a guardian which protects those who herald the Good News. When theology strays too far in one direction or the other, the Good News of Yeshua is stifled. It is time for the church to guide its members into new patterns of freedom in thinking.

My faithing journey has required me to set aside the packing manifest of traditional theology and look to alternate packing manuals provided by some who, in my estimation, have succeeded at both understanding the original intent of scripture (filtered through Yeshua’s* self-understanding) and repacking those understandings in some contemporary luggage. Some of those influences have been Marcus Borg (Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time), Bishop Spong (former Christians have dropped out “as a direct response to the small minds saying unbelievable things”), John Dominic Crossan (importance of resisting “Empire”), John Caputo (“God doesn’t exist; God insists”), Peter Rollins (Insurrection), Elizabeth Boyden Howes (faithful to Yeshua, filtered through Carl Jung), and Walter Wink (The Human Being).

So, I am called to be an exe/eise-gete — that is, one who is faithful to the text filtered through a faithful dialogue with a contemporary worldview. Sometimes that means that our contemporary worldview trumps the actual sentiments of scripture — for example, the current understanding of the formation of the universe trumps Genesis 1 & 2 as a way of understanding creation; the expansiveness of a 13.8 billion year-old universe and the insignificance of the planet earth (or our solar system) trumps the Christian exceptionalism and the idea of a theistic God who is “up there.”

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In short, the faithing journey means regularly un-packing and re-packing my theological luggage — new questions, new ways of looking at old answers. Sometimes, it even means traveling light, without much baggage. All this to the consternation of those Caputo calls “the long robes” — that is, the ones who understand themselves as the guardians of the Tradition.

[Image: “Creative Commons .truth.is.relative.” by Dee Ashley is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

The Unheard Inner Calling

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 11.00.57 PM1 Peter 2:2-9    Instead, like a newborn baby, desire the pure milk of the word. Nourished by it, you will grow into salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good. Now you are coming to him as to a living stone. Even though this stone was rejected by humans, from God’s perspective it is chosen, valuable. You yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual temple. You are being made into a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.Thus it is written in scripture, Look! I am laying a cornerstone in Zion, chosen, valuable. The person who believes in him will never be shamed. So God honors you who believe. For those who refuse to believe, though, the stone the builders tossed aside has become the capstone. This is a stone that makes people stumble and a rock that makes them fall. Because they refuse to believe in the word, they stumble. Indeed, this is the end to which they were appointed. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light. (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
[Image: “Creative Comons I accept full responsibility” by geralt under CC0 Public Domain]

1 Peter 2:2-9 

Pay attention to those little internal nudges (the whisperings, if you will, of Jiminy Cricket) and you may eventually be willing to heed the insistences that we identify with the name of God. Perhaps. Follow where those nudges, those insistences, those callings lead and you will have found that which we call salvation. When you attend to that unheard inner calling, and shape your response in accord with the life and teachings of Yeshua, you will be laying a solid foundation for building a life that is a pleasing gift in the name of God. Perhaps. Elsewhere it is said that you have received blessings so that your life may be a blessing for others. Not everyone will choose to hear and heed those inner insistences that come in the name of God. Perhaps. My choice is to cultivate the inner life so that I might feel the nudges, attend to the insistences, hear the calling. Then, having experienced that unheard inner calling, to cultivate my outer life in agreement with where it leads me in God’s name. Perhaps. To do so is like stepping out of the shadows into the light. It is certainly spooky out here in the clear light of day; and yet, for me, it is the only way that I can travel through life with integrity. Sound audacious? It certainly is.

On NOT Overcoming Evil with Evil!

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 10.18.10 PMGenesis 18:22-33          22 The men turned away and walked toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing in front of the Lord. 23 Abraham approached and said, “Will you really sweep away the innocent with the guilty? 24 What if there are fifty innocent people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not save the place for the sake of the fifty innocent people in it? 25 It’s not like you to do this, killing the innocent with the guilty as if there were no difference. It’s not like you! Will the judge of all the earth not act justly?” 26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty innocent people in the city of  Sodom, I will save it because of them.”   …   32 Abraham said, “Don’t be angry with me, my Lord, but let me speak just once more. What if there are ten?” And the Lord said, “I will not destroy it because of those ten.” 33 When the Lord finished speaking with Abraham, he left; but Abraham stayed there in that place. (CEB)

[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
[Image: “Creative Commons Good and Evil” by  Alex Eylar is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Playing with Genesis 18:22-33

Let’s imagine that Abraham was trying to figure out what was being insisted upon him in the name of God. Perhaps. Since Abraham had been to the equivalent of an Ira Progoff ‘journaling meditation workshop, he decided to journal a conversation between himself and God-within.

Abraham: How fiercely concerned are you with wickedness? Would you destroy a wicked city if there were 50 righteous in it? What counts more, your opposition to evil or your favor for the just?
God: 50 just citizens trumps the residual evil of the city.
Abraham: What if only 45?
God: Same result.
Abraham: 40?
GOD: Same, again.
Abraham: What about 30?
God: Same.
Abraham: 20?
God: Same.
Abraham: Let’s put it all on the line. What if only 10?
God: Want to make a guess?
Abraham: I would guess that righteousness begets forgiveness which outdoes evil every time.
God: I think he’s got it!

What’s the truth revealed here? It is not power that bests wickedness, nor do you overcome evil with more evil. Instead, evil wilts in the presence of justice and compassion which demonstrate the weak force of forgiveness. Make sense? Probably not… and that is why we have so much trouble forgiving when we feel we are wronged.

The Antidote to Judgment


Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 10.12.38 PMGoing along with the crowd often seems the easy option. Choosing to go in another directions takes good judgment and some measure of courage!


29 When the crowds grew, Jesus said, “This generation is an evil generation. It looks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except Jonah’s sign. 30 Just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Human One will be a sign to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from a distant land to hear Solomon’s wisdom. And look, someone greater than Solomon is here.32 The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they changed their hearts and lives in response to Jonah’s preaching—and one greater than Jonah is here. (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
[Image: “Creative Commons Quotation: Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that…” by  Ken Whytock is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Listening to Luke11:29-32

Because of the growing crowds, Yeshua* began to talk about the perversity of herd mentality that is awed by external signs but neglects inner growth. The only sign available is the sign of Jonah — that is, repentance, turning toward God (that inner process of moving toward personal wholeness). When judgment comes the only antidote is to attend to the Human Being within. Turning toward God is turning toward that truer self that God is calling you into and nudging you towards. The true sign is the presence of the Human Being* who calls to the Human Being* in you.