Unconditional Love – (V)

There are many ways to sound opinionated. When in, and around church, I have found that simply talking about God is the easiest way. It makes people nervous. Makes people reach for their diaries. Seems we church folk like to diarise the times we talk about God – planned fellowship (of one sort or another).  But spontaneous stuff … ?

We click “like” on a Facebook status, we type “amen” with fleeting approval, we “follow” a blog whose words are cool.  Planned stuff … ?

We go to church and listen to a sermon. We go to church and preach a sermon. We volunteer for stuff. We do stuff.  We will talk with awe about the relationship others have with their God. We will cringe with embarrassment at the way others sing their worship songs. We will look at all the hardware necessary for a small church service and wonder where it all went wrong (or simply look on it with wonder)! We will have an opinion about how we should worship … used to worship … don’t worship at all.  We will have an opinion about the congregation … the minister … the clerics …  the lay preacher … the rota fillers.  And we will have an opinion on the sermon … the length of the service … the flowers … the coffee and tea … the biscuits … how easy (or not) it is to park.  And we will have an opinion about other denominations … our own … “theirs” … our faith … “their” faith … our country … “their” country …

But all of that is expected.  All of that is churchspeak.  But talking about God?

Expressions and body language tend to “glaze over”, people tend to move away, find someone else to talk to, people regard you as “intense” … you become a bit odd (and very opinionated).  Which I have always found to be the oddest thing amongst church folk (from an early age – and ever since).

So … as we already have our bibles open, why don’t we all now look at how Jesus (who seems to talk about nothing other than God) handles His bible. The one in which God wipes out nations. The one with all those laws and rules that are no longer relevant. The bible for which foreskins of a certain style were the uniform of the day – “that bible”.  Look closely.  See how Jesus mangles it – Jesus freestyles it – Jesus messes with the usual slice and dice – Jesus shows it great irreverence …

And I never realised that.

I always thought that Jesus who is God (even with the clothing of ordinary “human” … like yeah – really??) was The Practitioner of The Bible – the “go to resident expert” – that He has an edge over the rest of us then and now (because He is God and all that).  I have always seen Jesus take just the right “soupcon” of a way back yonder “slice and dice” – for just the right question – just the right answer – just the right moment!  Like “WOW Jesus – you are THE Man!”  And yet – all the while (and the same time) …

I never understood why every bible reference (the bit after “the bible bit” in a Jesus speech) was always different to the way Jesus said it.  Have a look yourself.  Almost EVERY “quote” is a mis-speak.  Almost every “quote” is never as that verse was originally written – not exactly.   And (like so much in the bible) I simply put that down to bible editors, language differences – all the “theological stuff” we all get used to (glazing over in expression and body language again).  Because that is the bible as she is taught and learned.  The bible as we are taught to read the bible.  Because the bible is the Word of The Lord. (Thanks be to God!) – and we don’t mess with the bible – do you!!

Turns out that “freestyling” is how they all did it back then.  Who would have thought?   Turns out that making connections that were never intended is how the theological elite did the bible.  Turns out that hearing the elite” freestyle” is how the crowds heard their bible taught.  Turns out that Jesus was doing to the bible “what they all did” to the bible back then.  It’s just that we don’t do that to the bible anymore (or do we … ?).  Now if we don’t agree with how others read the bible – we have a fight – and then stomp off and start up a new church (and they did some of that back then as well).

Now – as I look back with a fresh eye – I see that “excusing the bible” was, and is, the thin end of the wedge for me.  A wedge that kept/keeps on getting bigger and bigger. That evolved/evolves into my own personal “I excuse you God” for so much else in the bible – and then for all the “mysteries of God” – and now for all the messy bits – and has become this massive bulge: ALL the bits I sweep under my carpet of faith.  The messy bits.

“Freestyling” is what we regard as heretical today.  Today we regard it as messing with the bible – taking what the bible says (as we have been taught) and making it something else.  And today – THAT is bad teaching – that is outcast territory.   Because there is an “on message” today – and and not on-message.  And if you veer from on-message – you are off message – and out-of-friends (and often out of church).  Except that is what they all did back in the day.

And do you want to know something else … ?

Turns out that “that” is not what got Jesus into trouble back then.  What got Jesus into trouble was for pointing that freestyling back to himself as “The Main Man” – as the second coming – as the Messiah – as the One of one from One – as The Son of God in human form – just without a sword – just without sticking it to the Romans – just without more genocide .

That didn’t play well back then.  And so back to today … ?

You ever noticed how it makes people nervous when you write down a conversation with God?  When the words of God are not IN the bible – but delivered direct to MY brain or YOURS?  When I or you hear God speak and write down the words?  Turns out that still makes “people nervous”.

Now we get nervous about freestyling AND pointing the freestyling stuff back to ourselves (even by just talking about God!).

.

Okay, it’s Sunday and I know you all have church.  So see you back here tomorrow …

15 thoughts on “Unconditional Love – (V)

  1. I used to hear stories of how, back in the old country (eastern Europe, Greece, etc.) how, after Divine Liturgy, people would meet in the market place (closed on Sunday) afterwards and discuss what the priest preached about. Sometimes that conversation would occupy the entire week. Today, if you mention it in the parking lot you are thought of as a weirdo to be avoided.

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    • Dear TMT, I keep hearing stories too. Of how we used to do things. Of the way things used to be. And of the future. How things should be, ought to be, could be if only … And yet (I think) it is the same world and same/similar “issues” as that/those Jesus walked in and through. And more and more I wonder if it is not down to some “magic bullet” – some revival – some God appointed hour …

      Just down to each of us in this moment – with those we can touch, do touch and have yet to touch. One at a time (even when surrounded by thousands of the curious).

      Here’s to more market places and parking lots!! 🙂

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      • There are some things then that were better than now; some things now that are better than then. I imagine the future will be the same. I see church attendance dropping (in the past it rose and fell frequently) and that is a bad thing…or is it? Jesus didn’t tell the Samaritan woman that he came here to establish a new (physical) church, or to convert Samaritans into Jewish Temple worshipers. He came to turn souls into worshipers of God. I think in his time that people put the Temple before God, just as now people put the church building before God. I’ve watched people in church, few are really participating, many talk to each other. Is that really what Jesus wanted? Is that what would have made him happy? Or, would he be happier with people doing the Father’s will, building or not? We tend to remember people (Saints, saints) more for what they did than for the building they were associated with. Paul, Chrysostom, Theresa, King. Do we associate any of these people with buildings?

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        • That final question/thought is one I rarely hear from any. And if buildings are discussed there is always seems a “but”. Where would we put this, keep that, do this, do that, keep our folk warm and dry, keep our old folk out of the sun … Always a but.

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          • By building I wasn’t, necessarily, thinking in terms of a physical building as much as a church. I refrain from using the word denomination as they didn’t exist in the early church, people were more from the Church at Antioch, Jerusalem, etc. When people talk about Mother Theresa they rarely mention her as Catholic, same with Dr. King, few mention his being Baptist. These people were admired and honored for who they were and what they did, not so much for what church they belonged to.

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            • Never heard “d”‘s referred to as buildings! Makes perfect sense. Thank you.

              And on a personal note, being a particular “building” seems more like where I park my car. It is not “the car”. And I hesitate to label myself a “Christian”. That (bigger) “d” also seems to come with too many pre-conditions. Which beings to mind a question I never hear us asking each other: “And who do you say I am?”

              If it’s good enough for Jesus …

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  2. Most preaching seems to be “at” us today, like a college lecture in an auditorium (even if it’s only a small classroom). No room for questions or discussion. I much prefer the pondering, the ruminating, the wondering. Because in the wondering is when the light comes on.

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    • This week I will be attending the 11th Holy Spirit Colloquium at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Over the 11 years they have invited a number of speakers from all churches – Catholic, Orthodox, Presbyterian, etc. The topic is the same – the Holy Spirit, though the focus changes each year. Other churches in the area also offer annual gatherings on different topics, but I find that Duquesne’s reach out the most to different branches of Christianity to speak. Plenty of time at the end for questions, and afterwards everyone gathers for the opportunity to talk with each other and the speaker. The Byzantine and Pittsburgh Theological Seminaries also offer these opportunities, but they seem to stick within their own “branches” for speakers.

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