Sweating drops of blood

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I freaked out the other night.  Didn’t dare go to sleep.  Too scared to go to sleep.  Yet sometime in the early hours I must have dropped-off.

I have seen a few blogs leading up to this-almost-Easter remark how the bible tells us that Jesus sweated drops of blood.  I have no idea how you sweat drops of blood.  Never have and hope I never will.  Never wanted to emulate that element of God Soft Hands Jesus .

But I get the imagery.  That he was freaked out.  Scared.  Terrified beyond scared.

In these times where death stalks silently … without regard for power or privilege – irrelevant to age or health – with and without apparent logic … I get the reality of facing death.  A painful death.  A death where saving my life might be judged less than saving another.  A death where I will be alone of family and friends.  Will be buried without fanfare or closure.  May even become a statistic.  Probably a painful blot more than “normal” on the lives of those I love.

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This Easter we each face death no matter how complacent of our own immortality.  A death unlike the story books.  No concerned family around the bed.  No quiet conversations of comfort.  No tender looks and gentle touch.  No dignity.  Nothing of how we imagine our final breath and words to be.  If you have read the accounts of death by Covid19 they are not a death I would wish on anyone.

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The cross I was taught was fact.

Now I care not whether fact or fiction – real or imagery.  This Easter I begin to understand a little better.  Better than from the comfort of a polished pew in a heated sanctuary surrounded by like-minded (and healthy) congregants.  Each of us with a shiny silver nail as a prompt to enter the rose-tinted sentiment-imagination of death by cross.  A death that was also a “respiratory illness”.  Of lungs that collapsed as breathing became something he used to do.

We are well into the annual debt-fest of Easter.

But this Easter I feel no noble sacrifice.  I sense no honour or dignity.  I have no gratitude or debt.  This Easter I look up and see me and see you.  All of us caught up in something we wish we were not.  All part of a journey beyond our control.  This Easter I see a man not God.  This Easter I see friend not distant deity.

This Easter I care not if it’s a master-plan of foretold prophecy … no interest in debate of a PLAN A or PLAN B … no annual pining to feel even a little of what “our Lord” suffered “for me”.  This year I wonder whether any of that really matters – whether so much of this “rose-tinted and sentimental” bible teaching really matters.  This Easter I crave not the immortality of eternity in some imagined “heaven”.  I pray not for the “second-coming” to save me from all of this.   Right now I see no “sin-filled world” wallowing in its own depravity – about to get the come-uppance “they” deserve (and which I as a good Christian will escape).

This Easter I pray for one more day – lots of “one more” days – right here with those I love in this world that is precious and resilient – a world so beautiful and forgiving of our thoughtlessness.  Right now I want to be with those I love rather than in separate homes.  I want to hug the lady I love rather than have to keep half a house distant.  I pine for the touch of skin on mine: a handshake – a hug – a cuddle – a rough-house … For the breath of a grandchild on my face – even the snot of a toddler to wipe clean – and oddly a nappy to change – I imagine not really caring if that mug of tea was mine or yours.

Sweating drops of blood.

Mine?  Freaking out and not daring to go to sleep for a few hours.  And yet …

Perhaps this Easter my connection is closer than ever.  Perhaps this Easter I need no shiny nail – no like-minded congregants to surround me.  Perhaps this Easter I “get” a little better what the bible invites me to get.

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This world is beautiful.  This world is home.  This world is precious.  This world has everything I desire. 

This world is a world I wouldn’t choose to exit.  This world – and this virus – cares not what I believe nor which religion I claim nor the future I teach nor those I label as good or bad.

This virus is teaching me – maybe all of us – just how much we are ALL connected whether we choose to or not.  How we are ALL the same no matter how much we protest we are not.  How Love really IS the greatest of these – and just how living in the moment of a touch or a breath or a glance CAN BE the eternity of “heaven” I never usually notice.  This Easter I feel closer to my immediate AND global family than ever.

And isn’t THAT the real message of Easter?

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Letting the rest “rest”

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What might Christianity look like if the Gospels had become ink before the Epistles?  … “The Good News” – Andrew Blair

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I have heard many “let’s go back to The Early Church” exhortations.   I have thought it myself.    Seems to me that replacing much of the “Temple Industry” practices/preferences still endemic in religion today with a “pure” faith (like what Jesus taught) to be an exceedingly good idea.

Except at what point do we drop the flagpole of The Early Church … ?

Before or after The Cross … Before or after Paul … ?  If before The Cross where would the “The Big Reveal” of evangelising be?  And if after … would that be before or after The Ascension – and if after how much after – and if before … why?

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What might Christianity look like if the Gospels had become ink before the Epistles?

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What a profound question from my blog partner!

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For The Early Church was riddled with as much dissent as we have now – just that we prefer to paper over the cracks as we do today.  The Early Church writings have as many tellings-off and “scandals” as today.   The same “role model” churches as today.   As much missionary work as today.   A Head Office structure just like today.   And – just like today – it was (and remains) a numbers game …

“How many have you brought me?”

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I think it another good reason for going bible-blind.  For being selective not in finding proof-verses that kill debate, but in finding the essence of the bible and letting the rest “rest”.

We are addicted to bible study, bible teaching, bible preaching.  We have created an academic-theological language more complex than the most difficult of The Difficult Verses.  We have idolised the verses of burden and sacrifice and hardship and persecution – idolised the verses of soul-saving-counting – made it all such hard work!

We have gone bible-blind in the same way as we have gone Love-blind –  we read the bible and prefer to see darkly – we cannot live without sin and choose to Love sparingly.  And we have that wonderful mantra written on the hearts of every believer:

“We are all but sinners saved”

Which is the get-out-of-jail-free-card used again and again as an excusing of our own weaknesses (or addictions) – along with the superstition at the end of almost every prayer “… in the name of Jesus we ask, amen”.  Or else we won’t get what we ask for!

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What might Christianity look like if the Gospels had become ink before the Epistles?

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I think worth thinking about.

Thank you, Andrew.

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It’s just no one can see it anymore

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Over at justmebeingcurious today …

“Love conquers death.  Love conquers a hard-heart.  Love’s the first and last thing we each know – whether by love’s presence OR by love’s absence.”

As we say at Church Set Free: Love is always the answer.

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“When were you last at confession?  When were you last at church?  When did you last read the bible?  When did you last pray to God the Father?  When did you last give?  When did you last … “

As we say in church.

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This Sunday, why not spend a few minutes with

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Dearly beloved …

As we gather here today …

 

 

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Thank you,

Paul

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The qualified teaching of I can’t

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Qualified theology began life with good intent.

And then become bound in ever-more qualification to become ever-more-all-embracing-ever-more-applicable-to-all-people-throughout-all-time.

“All are welcome” shouldn’t need saying.

But it is all the time.

So too God and Jesus and Mercy and Worship and Grace and Love.

All need qualified explanation with a qualified language that only the qualified can understand and debate.  A language that accommodates every objection and question and doubt.  Or else it would not be explaining The Word of God for all occasions for all people in all circumstances throughout all time.  Because if it can’t then it might be flawed – and God is not flawed – so neither can The Word.

Which is why we need the qualified to teach The Word. 

But an unintended consequence is to insulate-bind this God in a Word that has become of Man to address all questions, doubts and preferences.  Because believers …

Believe!

And believers must be strong in belief … must live a visible and differentiated life of The Good and Worthy Servant.  And that takes strength not doubt –  certainty not questions – perfection not imperfection – needs the Devil to explain temptation – needs Sin and Sinners for giving-in to temptation – and needs the qualified to “ok” (forgive?) my “sinning” (on behalf of God?).

Because God is in all – God is in the very-stinky-unkempt-beer-filled-aggressive-sweary-homeless-person – that is God as well as God in me – the well-dressed-educated-employed-responsible-and-much-blessed-so-must-be-grateful-and should-be-attending-church-person (says the qualified Word of Man God)

“BEEN BLESSED?  Give a Buck, Save a Life!”  (the link to “tax deductible donations” under a God-blog)

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.  It can be received gladly or grudgingly, in big gulps or in tiny tastes, like a deer at the salt.” Anne Lamott  (like so many extracts from The Word, we take the bit that works and discard the rest … “deer at the salt”… really?)

“Grace is a gift from Heavenly Father given through His Son, Jesus Christ.  The word grace, as used in the scriptures, refers primarily to enabling power and spiritual healing offered through the mercy and love of Jesus Christ. … The grace of God helps us every day.”  (a gift we don’t deserve but are given anyway – with all the necessary qualified-baggage – gratitude, worship, servitude, etc)

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It all separates us from God.

And in explaining God-in-The-Bible we make me BEING God-like truly unattainable – make Love (the God-version) TOTALLY unattainable for us (weak-but-strong-in-belief!!) sinners-saved.  Which lets me off the hook on “Love” as well as being “God-like”.   All I can do is to try (unsuccessfully) to be seen to be trying.  That’s what the Word of Man God says.

Like the Word of Man God also says that EVEN gays and lesbians and false teachers and those who believe in a different God or no god at all are “All Are Welcome” if …

Which has one teensy-weensy flaw …  

It is not of Love and Grace and God.  Is not of I Am which IS the Word of God.

Now add Love (without any conditions at all)

not even the “condition” of me loving without any condition at all

– which means gays and lesbians and those who believe in a different God or no god at all AS WELL AS the very-stinky-unkempt-beer-filled-aggressive-sweary-homeless-person (who might ALSO be gay or lesbian or believe in a different God or no god at all) are not even visible as “different” to me by my (qualified) differentiation and my (taught) definition and my (conditional) no-conditions-love.

Or to put it another way …

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LOVE makes all “invisible” as different in any way to God.

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Which means ..

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Love makes all invisible as different in any way to me as well.

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And if I am Love …

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Then I shouldn’t need the Word of God …

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To teach me that I can’t.

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I was taught to be unkind

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I was taught about false teachers.  False teachers are of the devil.  False teachers are of soothing words and sleepy listeners.  False teachers are false shepherds – intent only on the destruction of my soul for all eternity.

 

As I continue my journey I am finding that my fear of false teachers is less and less.   I see false teachers too often to fear anymore.  They are everywhere in all corners of my life.  They are not just in church.  They teach society, law, ethics, art, philosophy, science …

Teachers are not just teachers they are friends and strangers and enemies.  They are family, friends and foe.  And the biggest teacher of all is me.

I know.

Is the falsest teacher of all.

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“The kindness of not knowing”, justmebeingcurious

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“I was taught by church – by science – by society – by all around me … To KnowTo Be CertainTo Be SureTo See EvidenceTo See No EvidenceTo Be SureTo Be CertainTo Make Up My MindTo Declare And Defend My PositionTo Take A SideTo Be One Or The Other

And in that teaching I was taught to be unkind.

I was NEVER taught NOT to know.”

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I was taught that not knowing is weakness.  I was taught that I must be correct.  Which means I am either right or I am wrong.  But what is right and wrong if not just the current “majority view” (in and of this world)?

Right and wrong changes.

Slavery was okay.  Loads of possessions wives was okay.  Swearing was okay.  The death penalty was okay.  Burning witches was okay.  Child labour was okay. So much was okay that now is not.  So much that is still not (that one day will be).

I think we forget love without condition when we worry about everything BUT kindness … everything but NOT knowing.

We are taught about the “evidence” of the bible – the false evidence of science (and the same for both – in reverse – by “the other side”).  We are taught about the right or wrong of different faiths and of no faiths.  We are taught and teach all of that “I am right and you are wrong” stuff …

And in that teaching I was taught to be unkind.

But isn’t that …

The biggest “false teaching” of all?

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Love without the small print

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I have a weekly commute to London.  It keeps me in touch with the general populace in this part of the world.  A populace drawn into their own personal smartphone screen.

Music.  Emails.  Instant Messaging.  Interminable Indulgent Instagram.  Social Media.  Less and less (thankfully) those intrusive “Can you hear me?” phone-calls on (what used to be called) mobile telephones.  Voice calls much less popular now keyboard and lens replaces the need for actually speaking.

And the biggest draw of these wonderful gadgets … ?

We can all look down.  We can avoid the need to pretend we are alone.  Avoid the discomfort of not making eye contact.  Avoid all the embarrassment of not having to speak to someone face-to-face (or kneecap-to-kneecap).

I remember my younger sister commuting regularly in London years ago (before smartphones). She reported how wonderful it was to see so many people praying for such extended periods. She couldn’t comprehend that closing one’s eyes when commuting in cramped spaces was simply the accepted way of avoiding eye-contact. I still chuckle remembering her face when she found out that praying wasn’t such a common occurrence in The City after all!

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My Godmother’s husband was a chatterer.  An embarrassment.
In any situation he would strike up a conversation.  Loudly.  What we (used to) think of as “The American Way”.
That genetic malady which ignores everyone else’s comfort zones … which rides roughshod over others’ expected-and-defended “personal space”.
But the odd thing was that the majority of those who suffered this intrusion seemed to enjoy the experience.
We just cringed in the background.  With a little envy.

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And as I look out and see the headlines … the (current) forensic analysis of the (another) horrific terrorist attack on London Bridgethe repeated claim of (all) government who have “allocated £xxm in additional funding” (to fix every problem raised) the noise of right and wrong (as we reduce our planet to one giant overflowing rubbish bin)the permanent public arena of “gladiatorial protagonists” spewed out for our entertainment in news and “social meeja”the increasing and inextricable “looking down” and away from so much that unites us

I wonder what other species is quite so self-absorbed.

I wonder how we have detached ourselves from who we really are.  How we made “religion” just another science.  How we made science just another “god”.  How we manage to convince ourselves that “being connected” (to this wonderful self-healing-home) is no longer relevant to us.

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Us the alpha species … the species no longer a “species” … a “species” now having outgrown itself.   Now entitled … now complacent … now detached from the very connection that gave birth to each of us … on this planet that nurtures us … that heals us simply by the sound of a breeze – the sight of all those stars – the smell of freshly cut grass – the taste of cold icy water.   These simple things that connect us – heal our restlessness – our searching – our very souls.

I wonder what other species despises its own kind so much that it chooses to look down … chooses to detach … chooses to “talk” to someone on the other side of the world (in preference to someone sitting right next to me).

Is it fear – and if so of what?  And if it isn’t fear then … what?  Arrogance?  Entitlement?  Ignorance?  That “you aren’t interesting enough” … ?

What is it that means we each choose to look down more and more?

Even church.

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That (default) looking down when “talking” to the being who is loved and loves.  The default (of “worship”) that is now the default for (“talking” to) everybody.  The default “nice smile” that is the default for everyone in every (unexciting) conversation.

I think church has a very important role to play in the world today. 

A role to encourage “looking up” as THE default.  Making eye-contact as THE default.  Finding excitement in the ordinary (that is each of us) as THE default.  Drawing ALL together as THE ONLY default. 

(because the preaching of correctness … of sin … of division salvation … of judgment salvation …. is the default of looking down)

And “the default” of looking up can only start by looking God in the eye.   By not bitching about sin all the time.  By making Love the beginning AND middle AND end of ALL conversations.  Real love.  Unconditional love.  Inclusive love.

Love without the small print of religion and correct (rule littered) teaching”.

We need to teach THE default of looking up.

Because if the church really is “the people” …

We are ALL “the people”!

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When that kicks in – loves checks out

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I think loving me the hardest of all.  I don’t mean the “I can’t be bothered.” … the “I could never do that.” … the “Let someone else do it.”   Nor do I mean the “I am better than anyone else.”… the “I have rights.” … the “What about me.”

I mean loving me as I would love my own child … my own partner … that stranger in need … that best friend I have known for ever … that special someone I would walk over hot coals for …

That kind of “loving me”.

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The greatest of these.

God?  Well loving God comes in all shapes and sizes.  Initially like a stranger who must be obeyed.  Then, perhaps, as a wonderful deity who can only be worshipped and praised.  Then, maybe, the most important relationship in my life.  Then, possibly, a friend – a best friend.  No longer the detached “up there” gaseous ether.  Now someone I trust.  Not to “fix things” all the time.  That is my role – just like no friend expects me to “fix things” in every part of their life.  That would be just plain weird!  Just someone who will always think the best of me.  Never give up on me.  Always have an ear for me.

I heard someone who does daily marathons for a living say that we rarely – if ever – really know what we are each capable of.  I think that lack of knowing underpins this “The Greatest of these” …

Others?  Well loving others is pretty easy too.  An odd donation … I am praying for you … My thoughts are with you … perhaps even a volunteering of my time – my skills – my resources – my heartbeats – perhaps even my whole diary!  Which is like giving my life for you (the “others” we must love).  Except that is a weird kind of love.  It’s an obligation kind of love.  A duty kind of love.  A service kind of love.  A bit like a God kind of love.  I should (if I am a good Christian).

I heard someone say that “We are a broad church”.  That the buildings aren’t “it” that “we are” it.  But I still don’t really know what “it” is.   Or why I am expected to go to “it”.   I think “it” gets in the way of “The Greatest of these” …

And then me.

What I have found over the years is that when I consciously register that I am “doing” love (in whatever moment of my life and with whoever that moment is with) … It is no longer love.  It is me “giving”.

And I have learned that when I think “giving” I think “getting” (in some weird default can’t control it kind of way).  I have found that when this “The Greatest of these” is a “commandment” … giving AND getting become involved.

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And when that kicks in – loves checks out.

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And as I absorb the essence of (what I think) is the point of the bible … I find that “commandment stuff” less and less relevant.  Along with all this “transaction” faith we have created … The need to sign-up for the creeds stuff.  The “I believe” stuff.  The hierarchy stuff.  The “institution” stuff.  The “religion” stuff which includes creation and sin and a lot of deaths and more sin and atonement through more killing innocent creatures bred for the purpose of “their blood shed for me”.

And then the great “reset”. 

The cross and resurrection – and a conundrum.  The “blood shed for me” being the biggie – with the “resurrection” being the proof it’s all good.  Because if the blood is “it” then why the need for the resurrection?  And if the resurrection is “it” why the need for the killing and blood?  there is loads of healing and bringing others back to life – loads of “your sins ore forgiven”  – all without a cross in sight …

And why the “facts and evidence” we have now made all of this.  The “But God Says” (in the bible).  And the bible is The Word of God (but the Koran isn’t).  Nor is (just) the Old Testament.  Nor is  the continuous political meddling relevant – other than it proves the bible IS God inspired (really???).

Why that “need” for the bible to be “it” – unless it is so the church can be “it” – which means I get to be “it” by being saved and believing in all of “it”?

The Greatest of these.

Two words have become more and more powerful in my journey with The Greatest of these …

“I Am”.

I

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Am

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The Greatest of these is I and Am.

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(what else can top that?)

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