10 Reasons Jesus Couldn’t Get Elected President By Either Political Party

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1. Jesus never challenged the existing Roman or Jewish system of taxation. He is a free trader with and a regular visitor to Tyre and Samaria. Is he too invested in the status quo? Does he not care about Galilean jobs?

2. His ludicrous views on nonviolence and love would render him unsupportable to national security voters in either party. You cannot love your enemy in a world of multi-level threats from non-state actors and resurgent nuclear states.

3. He rebuked a follower for using a concealed weapon to defend him. Is Jesus weak on the 2nd Amendment?

4. He once called a Samaritan woman a “dog” who wanted his help and assistance. Is Jesus not a feminist? Does he hate women?

5. He undermined local, family fishing businesses (and the equivalent of a 1st century commercial fishing union) of their workforce by recruiting their labor to do non-economic tasks. Does Jesus want to destroy local, family run business?

6. Jesus was fond of name calling. “Foxes” and “fools” (the English word fool is translated from the Greek word “moron”) were a few of his favorite insults. Is Jesus too rude for the public to follow?

7. Jesus wouldn’t recognize the terms “Evangelical” or Christian to describe a subset of religious voters. Jesus speaks of a “kingdom”. Is Jesus against Christians? Does Jesus hate America by his refusal to even say such terms?

8. Jesus provided free health care. Regardless of how Jesus financed his medical practice, giving away freed medicine makes him a European style socialist. The healing ministry must be repealed and replaced. Both parties will be split on this issue.

9. Jesus doesn’t want his movement to grow beyond a certain size. He’s invested in growth by word of mouth. He has no ground game.

10. He talked a great deal about money and seems to have problems with the wealthy. Does Jesus hate the rich? Why all the class warfare and income inequality rhetoric? Blessed are the poor? There are other issues, Jesus.

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Warning: Possible Side Effects (Colossians 3:1-11)

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Do you watch drug commercials on television? It’s hard to avoid them.   They seem to be on every network during most commercial breaks.  Not only do they tell you much about who networks believe are watching television, you can learn the most ridiculous names.  The names these drugs carry, it as if they’re from a language unto themselves.   Viagra, Cialis, Lunesta, Otezla, Jardiance, and Trentelliz:  who is making these things up?  Is it by committee?  Or do they pay one person, who failed greeting card school, to create these silly artificial words?

As cheesy as the “names” seem,  the side effects of these drugs are worse.  Have you paid attention to the potential side effects of these medicines?  For Otzela alone (an arthritis medicine), here’s what you might expect:  nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, and upper respiratory tract infections.  Those are pretty standard across the board.  The more I see of these medicines and consider my options, I’ve come to the realization I’d rather have the condition than live with the side effects.  The side effects could kill you.

These ads, the drugs they offer, and their side effects got me thinking; are there side effects of following Jesus?  We talk about Christianity in healing and medicinal terms.  Regardless of your Christian tradition, you probably sum up our belief in two words “Jesus Saves”.  Christianity is an idea rooted in changing unhealthy aspects of our life (as scripture itself says) into healthier was of living.  We are saved from “death” into “life”.  Supposedly, that’s what these medicines claim to do.   Even the best, most well funded, and researched pharmaceutical advances come with side effects.  It is part of the price we pay for healthier living.

Are their side effects to becoming and living as a Christian?  If so, what might they be?  Are they good or bad?  Can we live with them?

As Paul writes in Colossians 3, belief (or life in Christ) works against a number of pre-existing conditions, “anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language.”   In Luke 12, we hear a parable about a man who lives to “eat, drink, and be merry”.  He’s been blessed with abundance and overcome with greed.  Jesus is saying: There is something about what we do which treats spiritual and moral indigestion.

Like an insurance policy whose owners never intend to pay out, it’s easier to accept people who aren’t sick, have no pre-existing conditions, and have no plans on dying anytime soon.  In the same way, it would be easier accept, says Paul, for the church to accept people with perfect records of spiritual health and moral probity.  There is absolute and unconditional openness in whom we treat.

We need to be reminded:  Jesus puts no limits on who comes into the Kingdom.  Boundaries, borders, and checkpoints do not define our salvation journey.  If there are walls (both physical and mental), Christians are people called to go, live, and see beyond them.  Paul reiterates this even more clearly at the end of today’s epistle reading:

“There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, Slave nor free, but Christ is all things in all people.”   Here’s a challenge:  in place of what Paul wrote substitute these words: Christian nor Muslim, Palestinian nor Jew, Black nor White, Gay nor Straight, Immigrant but Christ is all things in all people.  How does it sound if it were written to us today? Make it new, allow Paul to speak, and see what the side effects are in your life.

As happened in his own time, when we allow Christ’s love to speak clearly and without filters to the world around us:

People will get headaches

Maybe some sweating or rashes

Some people will get sick to their stomachs in a variety of forms.

The Gospel will cause pains in people’s backs and sides.

And last but not least…

If you’ve been in love with Jesus for four hours or more!  Great!  Call a friend and tell them!

Yet despite these side effects, I seem to remember a hymn which said, “You come as you are, just as you are, and without one plea.”  It didn’t mean come as you are, without your one plea, as long as you were a white, Gentile, and from the good side of Philippi, Colossae, or Corinth.  It said, “Just As I Am, right now, whoever I am, what color I am, where I’ve been, and whoever I love, without one plea.”  It’s hard to sing that hymn and read scripture and think it may apply to other people.  That’s another side effect, one of our very own.

Paul says it is a challenge, our defining illness, to think of the things from above versus on the things from below.  This is Paul’s way of saying, in Colossians 3, that being positive is harder than being negative.  It is far easier, even natural for us to focus on “anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language.”

Paul asks, if you now have the opportunity to get better, to “take off the human nature with its practices and put on a new nature”, why not take it?  What is that opportunity:  To look at the world through Jesus’ eyes and act in love.  It’s more than doing “good for goodness sake”.

No one gets up on Sunday morning and comes to church because they believe in being good.  That ought to be part and parcel of our humanity, that’s why there’s not a line in the Apostles’ Creed where we all say together, “I believe in being Good, Nice, Happy, and Friendly because that’s the way Jesus wanted it to be.”

Christians have come to that place, like alcoholics and drug addicts reaching rock bottom and finally admitting that doing all the good we can has failed and the only option we have left is love.  The good we do comes with too many strings attached but the love we share is completely free.  There are always limits, definitions, and financial constraints placed on sharing “the good”.  Good needs a budget, love does not.  Love is a free gift which cannot be quantified or stopped.  This is why Jesus’ love frightens some in power.  You can not pull it back  when it’s on the move or simply stop uttering words of sacrificial love. You can do that with a Creed.

Love on the other hand, it’s a way of life.  Once you tell someone they’re loved, their world changes forever.  This is why the church is different.  Without love, churches will become monuments to a movement built on love.

Doing good, alone, isn’t good enough.  Anyone can do good.  To this I say, Amen.  But if it’s just about doing good, then churches ought to close up shop and go home.  Any community non-profit or social service can do good.  We have to do better than good.  We have to love.  Loving is hard and it hurts.  Love is the most painful side effect of all.  The cruciform love to which we are called is says there is neither “Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is in all things in all people.”

Paul says get ready to love in a world without boundaries.  That’s going to take more than goodness.  It’s going to take all the Christ centered love we can muster.  Christ is in all things in all people; tell me, can you believe that last sentence without love?  If you can’t believe it, affirm it or say Amen; you might as well write your own creed, because everything we do is meaningless without love.

 

Is It Solely About Doing Good, Tim?

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It was at the Miami rally where Senator Tim Kaine was introduced as Secretary Clinton’s Vice Presidential running mate.  The topic turned to faith.  The Senator said, “I’m a Catholic.  Hillary is a Methodist.  Her creed is the same as mine.  Do all the good as you can.”

Let’s hold that thought for a moment.  Yes, the Senator is attempting to paraphrase a portion of a well-known quote from John Wesley.

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

Methodists now know that John Wesley never said those words.  Someone made them up, around the turn of the last century, and placed them in his small English mouth.  For a moment, hold that in the back of your mind.  I want to ask, apart from the technical definitions of a creed (or specific examples thereof), is that all churches are about?  Of course, I’m asking as a United Methodist.

Is organized Christianity solely about doing “good”?  Am I leading simply another community non-profit, a social service organization dedicated to the betterment of humanity, albeit with some hokey language and organ playing?  Is that it?  For some, yes. (Others want to rack up souls saved on the eternal life scoreboard.  It’s a long running debate.) For those who don’t bother to come to church, they can do good all by themselves, in clubs, organizations, and activities which never speak of eternity, the afterlife, or virgins getting pregnant.  Many people have this vision of church.  I know them.

I’m certain there’s more to being the church than something which motivates our desire for goodness.  It’s not the fear of eternal damnation.  I don’t believe it is the idea that we’re right and everyone else is wrong.    I think loving our neighbors is a choice we’ve come to realize we can’t afford not to make.  Doing good leaves open the door to doing bad and making alternative choices.  We don’t “affirm” doing “good” as if good can later be rejected.  By this, goodness, as a moral action isn’t included in any of the historic creeds of the church.  No one gets up on Sunday morning because they believe in being good.  That ought to be part and parcel of our humanity, that’s why the early church writers didn’t include simplistic moral formulas in our creeds.

Christians have come to that place, like alcoholics and drug addicts reaching rock bottom and finally admitting that doing all the good we can has failed and the only option we have left is love.  The good we do comes with too many strings attached but the love we share is completely free.  There are always limits, definitions, and financial constraints placed on sharing “the good”.  Love is a free gift which cannot be quantified or stopped.  This is why Jesus’ love frightens some in power.  That’s not like a creed.  It’s a way of life.  Once you tell someone they’re loved, their world changes forever.  This is why the church is different.  Without love, churches will become monuments to a movement built on love.

Doing good isn’t nearly enough.  Anyone can do good.  To this I say, Amen.  But if it’s just about doing good, then churches ought to close up shop and go home.  We have to do better than good.  We have to love.  Loving is hard and it hurts.  The cruciform love to which we are called is says there is neither “Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is in all things in all people.” Paul says get ready to love in a world without boundaries.  That’s going to take more than goodness.  It’s going to take all the love we can muster…black and white, rich and poor, white and Hispanic,  gay and straight, Arab and Jew, Christ is in all things in all people.  Christ is in all things in all people; tell me, can you believe that last sentence without love?

 

Poetry in Response to the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-13)

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Jesus,
You heard what was said,
John the B,
Is now dead,
I got so much,
I need to say,
Is God listening?
You know how to pray,
Teach me the words,
Y’all used to lay,
Up on God’s heart,
Not the cheesy clichés,
Simple words from the start,
God’s name is holy,
A coming kingdom,
Was Herod’s bitter pill,
Ain’t no euphemisms,
A verbal exorcism,
Of strung together empty words,
Doing God’s will,
Don’t look like nothing I’ve seen:
On Earth,
Is that what I read?
“Pray for my daily bread?”
Surely you do not mean,
While my bread is mine,
Vengeance is thine?
My enemies get off clean?
This prayer,
Is more than it seems.

–Richard Bryant

Poetry from the Common House Cat

 

maxresdefaultHey,
I’m in heat,
You know what that means,
At this crucial time,
I’m so really sweet,
Not the narcissistic witch,
You claim to have found,
In a toxic waste ditch,
I’m prepared to be,
Exceptionally nice,
I might let you,
Rub my head,
More than twice,
While I gurgle,
About that time,
I ate beans and mice,
If I’m on my heat,
I prefer to flop and meow,
My useless gestures of love,
Lost on humans who squeeze,
Hopes of roaming the hardwood,
My dreams of killing dogs with fleas,
A self contained life of smells,
Amid nine lives I’ve accrued,
Too many jingling bells,
I am your cat and I hate you.

–Your Cat

Things We Ignore, Forget, and Take Advantage Of

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1. Paper-From drying our hands, wiping our bottoms, to signing receipts for financial transactions and reading the occasional book; paper still matters. We see and use so much paper. Granted we’re recycling more than ever, yet from the crackers you’re buying to the carton containing the beer you’re hauling on the boat, paper is everywhere. Without paper, we’d be in a mess. Our history is written on paper and a present (no matter how bland) is held together by paper.

2. Ice-Where would we be without the electricity and subsequent technology to freeze water into ice? I’m not talking about air conditioning or electricity per se. The ability to freeze water is a miracle. The fish we catch, the groceries we buy, and the health we crave would be nothing without the ability to cool our food and bodies with ice. Our lives would return to those of our ancestors; the day to day struggles of subsistence living. Dehydration would take our lives, hunger would stalk our homes, and “going to the bad” would no longer be a euphemism easily fixed by spending money. Ice is the frozen line between civilization and anarchy.

3. Humanity-We know what it means to be human. It means so much more than we ever imagined on our best days.  We are not mysteries hiding behind masks, resting angry faces, forced smiles, or improbably large sun glasses. The human genome has been sequenced and can be contained in 800 average length dictionaries (3.2 billion letters for one person). Four letters, AGCT, arranged in just such a way to make you, you. Sixty years ago, no one knew what a genome was! In June of 2000, the mapping of the genome was completed by a team of international scientists. We know what makes a person unique. The government spent 3 billion dollars to finish the first human genome project. Now, companies are offering individuals the chance to map their own genome for just 1000 dollars. We can know who we are on a level never possible in human history and possibly save countless lives. Will we take the chance to get to know ourselves and heal the broken essence of human consciousness, something not as easy to quantify as DNA?