The Garden of Eden (revisited): if we knew then what we know now

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?

 

cliffhanger … suspense … come back for the next episode … 

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ADVERT BREAK

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part two is about to begin please take your seats

 

The man said, “Dear God, yes you did. You commanded us both not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.  And this little snake thought we were easy marks and he was right as well. We were easy marks. We did wrong.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is your part in this?”

The woman said, “You commanded us both not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die – and we didn’t. The serpent deceived me, and I ate and then invited Adam to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.  And he did.  I could have said no to the snake – except I was created innocent and devoid of all shrewdness because I hadn’t eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.  And now I have.  So I have just become aware of what “shrewd” means.  Just as I now know what “innocent as a dove “ means as well.”

Then the Lord God said to the man, “But you did wrong!”

The man said, “Yes we did.  We did wrong – we were commanded by You not to do something and we did that thing.  But I have a question, Lord God.”

And the Lord God said, “Go on.”

And the man said, “What is unconditional love, Lord God?  I have this sudden awakening that it is relevant here somehow – but as yet my thoughts are unformed and I cannot get the words out.”

And the Lord God sighed, “You really have come a long way in a short time haven’t you, young Adam!”

And the man said, “So unconditional love is part of this moment, Lord God?”

And the woman said, “Lord God, I get the same sense too. That unconditional love is not separate to “later” – but part of this “moment”.  That the serpent and the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die were all necessary somehow – all to allow unconditional love to be part of this moment – but not right now – which seems at odds with unconditional love as the thought forms in my mind – and the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die is particularly potent, Lord God.”

And the Lord God was lost for words.

And the woman looked at the lord God and asked, “What IS unconditional love, Lord God?”

And the Lord God looked at them both, “It was going to happen sooner or later … I guess sooner is okay …”

And the man and the woman looked at each with uncertainty.

And the Lord God said, “It’s okay – really it’s okay.”

And the man and the woman drew close to each other and said to the Lord God, “If we work really hard and do everything you tell us for generations to come – if we make the best religion and laws ever seen by mankind to follow – if we refine and hone this way of living by the law – will you forgive us – can you forgive us – will be ever be as One again?”

And the Lord God smiled and said, “Let me get you some clothes, and then we can all sit down around my little kitchen table and have a cuppa and cake together. If you want to talk about all that AND unconditional love, I might as well show you a kitchen, and a table, and chairs – not to mention putting coffee and cakes into the mix as well (thousands of years before I saw them as good).”

And the man and the woman were shown around IKEA by the Lord God, and they picked up a French Press and on the way back found the best carrot cake ever baked (which wasn’t hard as it was the very first ever carrot cake ever to be baked).  And then they all sat down around the Lord God’s kitchen table and had a very long chat about The Law and unconditional love and things like that.

And no one ever got cross again.

The end

(or is it?)

 

cliffhanger … suspense … come back for the next episode (you just know there will be a next episode – this franchise is too good to stop now) … 

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Acknowledgments:
a) The Lord God
b) Genesis & The Garden of Eden
c) Don Merritt (who might be wishing he hadn’t prompted the idea)

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I love Jesus but I want to die

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Are not words I hear here …

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I love Jesus but I want to die:
what you need to know about suicide”

 

Sarah of “beautifulbeyond” writes words every church should hear – that every church should read.  The full post is here please read it – please hear her words.  

and here is why …

“I remember my colleagues’ faces as my words sunk in. They had never heard what it’s like to be suicidal and they started to understand, at least a little. And I’m reminded how little the church knows about depression and suicide.

We are called to be the light of the world, a refuge for the broken and weary. But if we don’t understand the darkness people endure, it’s much less likely we’ll reach them in it. So here are some things every Christian should know about suicide and depression … “

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“In 2013, a Lifeway Research study found that nearly 50% of evangelicals believe that prayer and Bible study alone can conquer serious mental illness. Unfortunately, this mistaken belief prevents people from seeking the help they need.

I know this firsthand. No matter how many times I recited verses, asked for healing, and did all the other things I was supposed to do, I still had an illness. I wasn’t miraculously healed.”

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The disease lies. When healing doesn’t come, it’s easy to believe that God has left. And if we’ve been taught that depression and suicidal thoughts are sinful, selfish, or displeasing to God, we may believe he’s right in abandoning us.”

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“This is why we need to treat depression and suicide with the same compassion we treat other serious health issues. Kindness and encouragement from other believers are rich and powerful; they prove the presence of God and demonstrate his unshakeable love.”

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Sarah writes of hope and healing.  Sarah writes with knowing.  She bares herself with great courage – the courage of love … so that you and I might connect with those who can’t … love better those who desire love and hope … and embrace those the Lord deems us ready to embrace.

Because Sarah’s reality is this …

We pretend.  We avoid those who make us confront our own pretending.

We need Sarah’s words because we have been taught to pretend.

That we cannot let Him (or ourselves) down.  That in our church no one is “that” depressed … In our church no one would ever be that bad because we would know.

We pretend.  We pretend we would know.  And in the pretending we pass by on the other side never realising we have.

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So often, all it takes to save a life is being Jesus to us – being present, being loving, and being light. Christ is “in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). You don’t need answers or to be able to fix it. You just need to be present, perhaps help set the doctor’s appointment or just listen. Just be aware of those hurting. Just be kind.

Depressed and suicidal people just need you to enter the dark and sit there with us, your love unchanged. You could be his arms to hold us, his hands to feed us, his voice to tell us we’re not alone. Your love and kindness are more powerful than you know.”

 

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Sarah shared this post in an email and closed her email with a PS …

“P.S. This may be the most important thing I’ve ever written – it’s certainly the most honest. It would mean the world to me if you would take a few moments to read and share this article.”

The Lord deemed me ready to embrace Sarah’s words.

I know you are as well.  So why not let Sarah know?

Thank you.

Paul

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The Book of Discipline

More than 600 United Methodist clergy and laity say they are bringing church law charges against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a fellow United Methodist, over a zero tolerance U.S. immigration policy — a policy that includes separating children from parents apprehended for crossing into the U.S. illegally.

However, an authority on church history and polity said he’s unaware of a complaint against a lay person ever moving past the district level.

The group claimed in a June 18 statement that Sessions, a member of a Mobile, Alabama, church, violated Paragraph 2702.3 of the denomination’s Book of Discipline.

Specifically, the group accuses him of child abuse in reference to separating young children from their parents and holding them in mass incarceration facilities; immorality; racial discrimination and “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrines” of The United Methodist Church.

All are categories listed in 2702.3 as chargeable offenses for a professing member of a local church.

“I really never would have thought I’d be working on charges against anybody in the Methodist connection, much less a lay person,” said the Rev. David Wright, a Pacific Northwest Conference elder and chaplain at the University of Puget Sound in Washington State, and organizer of the effort to charge Sessions.

But Wright said the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy as enforced by Sessions, combined with Sessions’ use of Romans 13 to justify the policy, led him and others to conclude that more than a statement of protest was needed.

Sessions did not immediately respond to a request for comment left with his press office. In recent speeches, he has said the zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration is in the national interest and will protect children by discouraging immigrant parents from taking them on dangerous journeys to cross into the U.S.

The Rev. William Lawrence, professor emeritus at Perkins School of Theology and an authority on Methodist history and polity, said anyone in the church can bring a charge against anyone else. While it’s not uncommon for pastors, district superintendents and bishops to get complaints about a layperson, he said a formal complaint bringing charges is extremely rare.

The Book of Discipline allows for a church trial and even expulsion of a lay member, but the first step in a long process would be for the member’s pastor and district superintendent to solve the complaint through “pastoral steps,” Lawrence said.

“I’m not aware of any circumstance in the 50-year history of The United Methodist Church when a complaint against a lay person moved beyond the stage of its resolution by a district superintendent or a pastor,” he added.

Wright said the group’s goal in filing charges was to prompt such discussions.

“I hope his pastor can have a good conversation with him and come to a good resolution that helps him reclaim his values that many of us feel he’s violated as a Methodist,” Wright said.

He added: “I would look upon his being taken out of the denomination or leaving as a tragedy. That’s not what I would want from this.”

Wright said the complaint has been emailed to Sessions’ home church in Alabama, and to a Northern Virginia church that Wright said he understands Sessions regularly attends.

Sessions’ pastor at the Alabama church did not return calls.

Bishop David Graves of the Alabama-West Florida Conference did not respond to a request for comment on the group’s move against Sessions, whose home church is in that conference. A spokeswoman said he hasn’t been given details of the complaint.

Graves did release a statement that specifically addresses the separation of parents and children.

“I implore Congress and the current administration to do all in their power to reunite these families,” he said. “Changes to these laws need to be addressed starting today. Let us join our voices in prayer for the separated families, for those working to end this injustice and for our nation’s leaders.”

The Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy, specifically the separation of parents and children, has been widely criticized by religious leaders, including conservative evangelicals.

Last week, Sessions cited a verse from Romans to support the policy, prompting another round of criticism. Those critics included United Methodists.

The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, decried both the policy and Sessions’ invoking of the Bible in its defense.

Calling the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy “immoral,” former first lady Laura Bush, a lifelong United Methodist, said the policy that separates children from parents “breaks my heart.”

Bush, writing in the Washington Post, said people on all sides agree that the current immigration system is not working but said zero tolerance is not the answer.

“In 2018, can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis?” she wrote. “I, for one, believe we can.”

Laura Bush and her husband, former President George W. Bush, are members of Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas.

Some individual United Methodists have written Sessions’ pastor on their own, asking for accountability from Sessions on the immigration policy.

The Rev. Valerie Nagel Vogt, associate pastor of Travis Park United Methodist Church in San Antonio, mailed such a letter on June 15. She said she was prompted, in part, by imagining her own feelings if she were separated from her two young children.

Vogt also hopes for a searching conversation on immigration and United Methodist values between Sessions and his pastor.

“I believe it is in community that we learn, grow and become more like Jesus,” she said. “There is abounding grace and an ongoing need for all of us who claim to follow Jesus to ask for forgiveness.”

The Rev. Abigail Parker Herrera, community outreach coordinator for Servant (United Methodist) Church in Austin, Texas, also wrote a letter to Sessions’ Alabama church.

She too is hoping Sessions will be persuaded to a new position on immigration, based on conversation with his pastor.

“Christianity wouldn’t exist if we didn’t believe people could change,” she said.

A number of interfaith leaders signed a June 7 letter calling for an end to the policy of separating families, including two United Methodists, Bishop H. Kenneth Carter Jr., president of the denomination’s Council of Bishops, and Jim Winkler, top executive of the National Council of Churches.

“Tearing children away from parents who have made a dangerous journey to provide a safe and sufficient life for them is unnecessarily cruel and detrimental to the well-being of parents and children,” the letter said.

The Clergy Letter Project, an organization representing a wide array of religions and denominations, including The United Methodist Church, also has voted to condemn the government’s separation of immigrant children from their parents.

Criticism of the use of family separation as part of a zero tolerance policy has come from a number of other religious groups and individuals, including Roman Catholic bishops and the Rev. Franklin Graham.

“Church charges brought against Sessions”: The People of The United Methodist Church (copyright)

Have You Noticed?

“OK, as we continue our discussion, someone says, “Maybe we should agree what Sunday worship looks like. For example, do we need music? How about Communion? Will there be a sermon or homily? Do we need prayer books? Will our worship be formal and traditional; that might be tough to pull off in that environment since we can’t have anything with an open flame (candles).”

OK colonists, this time you get to go first… What does corporate worship need to look like? Maybe we should take something with us after all…?”

Church Set Free, or Church As We Know It …

If you haven’t joined the conversation yet – why not head over to Don’s place and add your own thoughts?

Thanks –

Paul

(comments closed here)
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TLP

We’ve made it though our first question in organizing our new church in our Martian colony. I’d like to thank each and every one of you who responded and offered your thoughts about what we need to take with us so that we can have worship services on Sundays. Reading through your responses, I see a definite pattern: We don’t need anything special to worship together each week.

I must admit that I was a little surprised at that; has anyone noticed that if we don’t take anything with us for worship, we’ve chosen a ‘worship style’ by default?

One of you, my former neighbor Rob, asked if we need a clergyman or approval from a church body to establish a new church. A couple of you replied to Rob by saying essentially that we really don’t need any of that and even suggested that this would be an opportunity…

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The Blanket

“My name is Heather Brian. I am a thirty-something mother of two living in the suburbs of Atlanta. A former teacher, now I stay home with my children and run the “home office”. I have a passion for nature, music, writing and lounging with a warm blanket. Panic Disorder bombarded my life at age 23, and I’ve been trying to get my life back ever since. My hope is to connect with those who suffer with panic disorder by offering advice, resources, transparency and encouragement. We got this.”

I am sure we are all connected. And that when we allow – we connect for a reason. I also know that I don’t need to know why. That I may never know why.

That, for me, sums up walking in faith.

This morning I was drawn to Heather’s post. Her words resonate. Her words connect. And I wonder if it is just me – or might they resonate with you as well.

Walking in faith might be a personal journey, except we are never alone. We are community.

Thank you.

Paul

(as usual, comments closed here)

Rerouting Life

I’m drinking coffee…on a plane!!! What?!! Who is this girl?

Many people head straight to the bar before they board an airplane, hit the Starbucks, whatever pumps them up (or calms their nerves) for the flight. Not me, I am straight-up ginger ale only up in the air.  I want to be in complete control at all times, just in case. Like I’ve said before, someone needs to be sober in case it all goes down, just in case I need to take over for the pilot or something. Yet here I am in the middle seat, next to my son; my husband and daughter in the next row, ordering coffee.  A previous panic trigger. There was a point in time where I wouldn’t drink coffee at my own house, as even the slightest elevated heart rate would start me down the worm hole of panic.

Ahhhh the dangerous…

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The Hypothetical Revealed

“Last call for … a fresh look at what worship might or could be … “

And all you have to do is to click on the link to Don’s post.

What have you got to lose?

Paul

🙂

TLP

Thank you to everyone who “liked” or commented on yesterday’s introduction of our little experiment and grand adventure. Of the comments from yesterday that I have received so far, 2 liked the idea, two sort of liked the idea, and two didn’t like the idea. Assuming that all 25 “likes” were done after reading, “likes” fell off by about a third of what I normally have for a second post as of this writing, but more comments and likes will probably follow for the rest of today. Anyway, a special “thank you” to everyone who commented: I asked because I wanted to know, so to the ones who didn’t like the idea, an even bigger thank you!

I think there is enough interest to give this a try and the next step is to reveal the hypothetical…

Congratulations!

Out of more than a half-million applicants, you have been selected to…

View original post 349 more words