New Creation

Pillars of Creation
The Eagle Nebula (“Pillars of Creation”) Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) [words added]

2 Corinthians 5:17 17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

We have been inspired
                     motivated
                     
animated
                     
galvanized
     
by the life and teachings
     
by the compassion and grace
     
by the faithfulness and zeal
             
of Yeshua

His love of life
     
passion for God
     
pursuit of reconciliation
             
encourage and hearten us

He was willing to face death
     
so as not to compromise
            
how he lived and
            
what he taught.
His life, teachings, ministry, and death
     
inspire and embolden us
           
to live in a like manner
Big Bang + 13.7 billion years
     
= me, created from stardust
following in the Way of Yeshua
     
= me, created anew
            
a gift, in the name of God (perhaps)
                  
an insistence
                  
a calling
                        
to turn the relational priorities
                        
of empire and institutionalization
                              
upside-down and inside-out
     
to demonstrate a preferential option for the poor
     
to be in solidarity with the least, last, lost, and left out
     
to empower widows, orphans, and the strangers in our midst

When we live in such a manner
     
in response to the insistence of God (perhaps)
     
we become
            
emissaries and advocates for
                  
the Way of Yeshua
            
insurrectionists for
                  
the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice
            
spokespersons who
                  
make God manifest in the world
            
agents of reconciliation
                  
binding up the wounds of the world

Obligation (Or Not)?

Obligation
CC0 Public Domain (words added)

ROMANS 8:12      12 So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on the basis of selfishness.   (CEB) 
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

So then, sisters and brothers — that is, those of us who have heard and heeded that unheard inner voice that calls us to participate in the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice in the name of God, perhaps — we have made our choice. To renege on our promise, to cop out, is to succumb to the standards of this world — metaphorically, death. To continue to live toward the Commonwealth, to follow in the Way, is to be led by a communal spirit, in the name of God. Perhaps. It is as if we have been adopted into the Commonwealth and become heirs of all that Yeshua promised, our lives beginning to conform to his.

Isaiah on Broadway

 CC0 Public Domain
CC0 Public Domain

Isaiah 6:1-8      1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, the edges of his robe filling the temple. Winged creatures were stationed around him. Each had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew about. They shouted to each other, saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of heavenly forces! All the earth is filled with God’s glory!” The doorframe shook at the sound of their shouting, and the house was filled with smoke. I said, “Mourn for me; I’m ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips. Yet I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces!” Then one of the winged creatures flew to me, holding a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips. Your guilt has departed, and your sin is removed.” Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?” I said, “I’m here; send me.”   (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

 

Isaiah on Broadway

While sitting in worship, I had a remarkable vision. God was so big and great that the worship space was obliterated by God’s dynamic presence. That presence was all that counted; it shook the very foundations of the earth… and it spooked me! I began to despair because I felt so inadequate in that presence… and not only me, all of humankind. Then I heard a faint melody in the background… volume increasing… Annie and the girls were singing (and I was humming along):

     Steada treated,
          We get tricked
     Steada kisses,
          We get kicked
     Cotton blankets
          Steada wool
     Empty bellies
          Steada wool

Then, somehow, the song changed and I was singing with them:

     Steada existence
          Insistence
     Steada falling
          Calling
     Steda powerful caprice
          Justice ‘n Peace

Then, arising up within me, a still small voice, easy to dismiss as unheard. It insisted, persisted, nagged, nudged. It was calling to me. Responsibility for being God’s presence, God’s action in the world, was insisting within me, calling to me. I had to make a choice. Do I answer or not? In my own still, small voice I squeaked out a hesitant response that, when it hit the airwaves, thundered aloud, “I’ll go; send me!”

The Insistence of Divine Love

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Avaiable under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license

1 John 4:9-12       This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. 10 This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us. (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

Divine love insists this way: Yeshua lived and taught a Way in order that we might live as citizens of the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice. The love we experience in the name of God (perhaps) was made manifest in Yeshua’s giving of himself on behalf of those who were deemed to be unworthy. Worthy or not, you and I have been recipients of that love; in turn we ought to give of ourselves for others. Since we have insistence in the name of God (perhaps) instead of God as an existent being, it is our responsibility to live in such a manner that God becomes real in and through us. You were formed in love and you are energized by love in the name of God. Perhaps. Therefore you are tailor-made to radiate that love to others, especially those who may seem unloveable.

A Different Tactic

"Creative Commons Francisco" by tvol is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Creative Commons Quid Pro Quo” by Jon Gosier is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Matthew 5:38-42      38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.[a] 39 But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. 40 When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. 41 When they force you to go one mile, go with them two. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you. (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

Do you think that Yeshua insisted that you return quid pro quo to all who have wronged you? Or is it more likely that he calls us not to attempt to wage or win a pitched battle, overcoming violence with violence? Yes, we all know that money talks. Does knowing this mean that we have to listen so we can win at the money games in which we are regularly tempted to engage? When power makes powerful demands of you, do you accede and become resentfully obedient? Why not try a different tactic — take your sails out of their wind. Instead of either confronting their power or capitulating to it, simply acknowledge that they are powerful and then walk away. Then, focus on what is really important — namely, taking care of those who have special needs.

Where is God?

WhereGod is in…
      the beauty of the sunset
      the raging storm
      the explosion of a super nova
            (producing new elements for creation’s building blocks)
      the babbling brook
      the fertile potential of soil
      the smell of rain on a summer day
      the Big Bang
      the symbolism of the Temple curtain
           being torn asunder at the time of Jesus’ death
God is the power and creativity of the cosmos.

God is in…
      joy of holding a new-born child
      tears of the grieving
      anguish of the suffering
      attraction between young lovers
      caring patterns of life-long partners
      fears and confidences of those facing death
      Jesus’ sermon in his home temple declaring
            that God is on the side of the poor
God is the passion and energy of life itself.

God is in…
      the laboratory of the scientist seeking new discoveries
      the classroom where teachers are patiently encouraging learning
      the church-goer’s practice of studying scripture regularly
      the process of evaluating progress toward vision and goals
      the mentoring of the apprentice by the master
      the learning and the befuddlement of Jesus’ disciples
God is the unfolding of knowledge and wisdom.

God is in…
      the “aha” that old behavioral patterns are
            creating problems for the people around me
      the 14 month sobriety of an alcoholic
      the resistance of Teens to adult authority
      the turning of the seasons
      photosynthesis
      Jesus’ overturning the tables of the money-changers
God is the anguish and the joy of the process of transformation

God is in…
      friends
      lovers
      life-partners
      teams of co-workers
      Jesus and Mary and Martha and Lazarus
God is the space between people, where compassion, peace, and justice are birthed

God is in…
      the curiosity of children
      the dreams of youth
      the plans of adult
      
the passions of reformers
      the visions of the mystics
      the faithful trust of Christians, Jews, Muslims,
            Buddhists, and even Athiests
      Jesus’ wilderness experience that something new
            was being expected from Israel
God is all that calls us beyond ourselves…
      all that stirs us toward compassion, peace, and justice
      all that claims the best of our intentions for humanity and nature
      all that insists that life moves forward

What is Religionless Christianity?

BonhoefferWe are moving toward a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore. Even those who honestly describe themselves as “religious” do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by “religious.” … If religion is only a garment of Christianity–and even this garment has looked very different at different times–then what is a religionless Christianity?  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

In order to explore the question “What is a religionless Christianity?” one might first ask “What is a religion-ed Christianity?”

A religion-ed Christianity:

  1. begins with a proclamation that we are born in sin – that is, our primary identity as human beings is separation from all that is characterized as holy, one, mystery, God. As such, we are without the capacity to alter our identity, direct the true course of our lives, to be saved (that is to be connected with that which is holy, one, mystery, God.

  2. Then, posits that God wants us to become that which we cannot become on our own – that is, connected with Him(?)

  3. therefore, we need some external mechanism(s) to connect us.

  4. religion is the instrument to connect us – via law, sacrifice, circumcision, confession, participation in certain rituals (e.g., sacraments), membership in a religious society

  5. the substance of which religion is the instrument is a sacerdotal savior, access to which / whom is defined and controlled by the religion

  6. the reward for participation in religion’s instrumentality is promised after life is completed, completing the control mechanism which prevents any straying from the religion-ed path

  7. the punishment for defying the control mechanisms of the religious establishment is separation from the religious society’s instrumentation (shunning, excommunication, heresy) during one’s lifetime or the threat of consignment to Hell after this life is over.

Christian religion has been built upon the conceptual foundation of a flawed humanity needing to be saved and protected by the church.

A religionless Christianity

  1. affirms the innate connection of all life to the unity, mystery, holiness, divine nature of the universe

  2. clearly states that we are to grow into the fulness of our humanity

  3. presents Yeshua’s Way as a path toward that fulness – Messiah becomes a messianic impulse implanted in the individual and the community that promotes and supports the movement toward the wholeness of persons and the care of nature

  4. offers abundant metaphoric symbols (rituals, art, music, poetry) to celebrate the movement toward wholeness

  5. recognizes the seriousness of the shadow side of the human journey and encourages community as a locus for exploring and growing into and through the shadows

  6. the only reward for the growth toward the fulness of our humanity is the wholeness that is attained (even in its partiality or incompleteness)

  7. the only punishment for life lived away from growing toward wholeness is the experience of greater partiality and incompleteness

Religionless Christianity is built on the foundation of the holiness of life – both nature and humanity. Instead of needing to be rescued, humankind is invited to return to its more natural state of oneness and holiness. The church is a community that offers the rituals, symbols, and practices which support growth toward wholeness among people and care for nature.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor awaiting execution in a Nazi prison, understood that the three-tiered universe with a majestic God had been swept away by the war and argued that a new “religionless” Christianity had emerged from history’s ashes. Elie Wiesel, a Jewish humanist and survivor of the death camps, who daily experienced the horrors attending the end of the world as it was being incinerated at Auschwitz, summed it all up with a plaintive questioning cry, “For God’s sake. Where is God?”  …  [I]t became increasingly evident that you can no longer revive a God for a world that no longer exists. (Diane Butler Bass, Grounded)

“Religionless” Christianity is an attempt to answer Wiesel’s question, for the world that does exist.

Growth Toward Wholeness

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“Creative Commons Integrity” by contemplativechristian is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Psalm 119:159-160 159 Look at how much I love your precepts. Make me live again, Lord, according to your faithful love! 160 The first thing to know about your word is that it is true and that all your righteous rules last forever.
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

Scripture provides me with a marvelous resource for growth toward wholeness — what many call salvation.

There are general principles that guide my life – ordinances and laws. (I am never sure whether there is a distinction between the two. All I know is that they are designed to restrict my behavior.) They re-direct me when I err.

When I really understand and live by scriptures dictates, I find myself at odds with all the institutions that would manage and regulate my life — government, religion, social convention.

I want my life to demonstrate integrity at the deepest levels — integrity of thought, integrity of action, integrity of being. So, I seek to conform my life to the good news of Yeshua, who opens the messianic to us all, who catalyzes our salvation.

O Lord, let me understand according to the good news of your word so that I may find peace and justice therein.

“I Will Follow You”

"Creative Commons Your Vision Pulls You" by Celestine Chua is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Creative Commons Your Vision Pulls You” by Celestine Chua is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Luke 9:57-58      57 As Jesus and his disciples traveled along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Human One has no place to lay his head.” (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

 

Yeshua is regularly approached by those who proclaim undying commitment to him, “I will follow you to the ends of the earth!”

His response is sobering, “It is way easier for you to follow politicians who promise you the moon (like foxes, they have their lairs — safe campaign headquarters and lobbyists who cater to their every needs); you think that you’ll feel more secure under the domination system of the American eagle which has feathered its nest in the world.

Follow me and you will have to follow your own inner-most, God-awakened longings. Those yearning will put you on a constant journey, carrying with you only those inner resources.

Consider this wisely before deciding where and when you commit yourself.

Radical Hope

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“Creative Commons Radical Hope” by Robert Nunnally is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Lamentations 3:19-26     19 The memory of my suffering and homelessness is bitterness and poison. 20 I can’t help but remember and am depressed. 21 I call all this to mind—therefore, I will wait. 22 Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! 23 They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness. 24 I think: The Lord is my portion! Therefore, I’ll wait for him. 25 The Lord is good to those who hope in him, to the person who seeks him. 26 It’s good to wait in silence for the Lord’s deliverance. (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

There are times when it is easy to get caught in a depressive, downward spiral, thinking that when the hard times come the good ones are lost forever — either one or the other. What I have learned, however, is that you can’t have one without the other. Therein is my hope.

Yeshua refused to resist evil, but integrated the evil that was befalling him (and even that which was within him) with everything else in his life to issue forth his mission in the name of God. Perhaps. Yeshua didn’t promise us a Kingdom of Goodness; instead he call us into a Commonwealth of Peace and Justice.

Peace is the integration of all that is in conflict into cooperative community; Justice integrates both the high & mighty and the down & out into a dynamic, functional society that serves the needs of all. Integration toward wholeness rather than either / or. That is the Way which Yeshua lived and taught.

That is the salvation for which we hope and work.