The Future of God?

For I am the Lord, I change not
Malachi 3:6a (King James Version)

It was 9 years ago I started this blog; April 2007 was its original iteration.  After a couple year’s hiatus, I returned in 2011 with the present iteration.  It was during these 9 years I shared my experiences from a Christian to a follower of Christ.  It was also during these 9 years I wrote about the Church.

Now as we’re almost in the middle of 2016, and we see Western Christianity going through more changes than a stage actor during their performance, I wonder about the future of God.  As not only Christianity, but human spiritual development is undergoing its evolution, where will God fit in the equation?  A sage once said,  “Galileo put God out of a home and Darwin put God out of a job.”  Today we’re seeing Atheism in the pulpit as preachers and teachers are moving beyond the Big Alpha Male in the Sky who does the supernatural, intervenes, and all that other cool stuff.  In my own African-American community, we’re seeing Atheism among the young, educated and professional-despite media portrayals of us being exclusively the opposite-the population the African-American church is wooing.  Even science, which is slowly coming together with spirituality, is portraying “God” in a light different than that of Scripture.

Plus, God ain’t so hot-despite the “growth” of churches in the Southern Hemisphere.  People don’t really give the Big Guy/Gal much props anymore.  It seems God has evolved from humanity’s Creator to its stepchild.  Even in religious countries where Atheism is a death sentence, people are still kicking God to the curb.

If we look at tonight’s Scripture text, we see a Divine declaration turning into a moot point.

So what’s God’s future?  Is God destined for the welfare motel having to work odd jobs to eat?  Or is God destined for the funeral pyre of history where many a theologian is sending Him/Her?  Will Christianity (along with its fellow Abrahamic faiths, Islam and Judaism) try to fight back for God with whatever means necessary?  Or, as science and spirituality come together, will see see a new “God” come forth?

The future of God?  That’s a good question; and one that will be explored in the days to come.

Peace!

(Image above by me: Abandoned church in Franklin, NJ)

 

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Sorry, You CANNOT Save the World

Can’t save everyone!

17 And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.
18 Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.
Exodus 18:17-18 (King James Version)

It’s a truth many of us don’t want to hear: we cannot save the world.  We cannot help everybody, every time, everywhere.  We’re not the superheroes/heroines we (and others) think we are.  We just cannot save the world.

Many of us try to be the “hero/heroine” for others; always trying to rescue them when they’re caught in some issue.  This is prevalent in families, close relationships, and in churches; we try to rescue those closest to us.  We try to offer some word, do some deed, lend money…etc to help another.  All too often, we do this at our own expense.  We pour ourselves out over others we forget about ourselves.  We think that we may just be able to offer that word, or that act that cane rescue another.  God knows I’ve had: been there, done that, brought the T-shirt, and even posted photos on Facebook.

We see a similar situation in tonight’s Scripture.  Moses and the Israelites were on their sojourn in the wilderness, when Jethro – Moses’s father-in-law – comes out to see Moses after hearing what God had done for him and the people of Israel.  However, Jethro notices something peculiar about his son-in-law. Moses would sit and listen to the people’s cases as a judge from morning to evening all by himself since he could ask God about certain issues; which was the answer he gave Jethro when asked about it.   Jethro then gave Moses his counsel in the above Scripture, saying: “This ain’t good what you’re doing.  This will burn you and the people out.  This is too much for you to do alone” (modern translation).  Jethro was telling Moses that he couldn’t save the world.  Jethro then advises Moses to select judges for the people-leaving only the tough cases for Moses.  Moses heeds Jethro’s advice, making things run smoother and savings Moses’s sanity in the end.

However, we’re not like Moses where we can whip up a support staff to deal with folks’ issues.  We’re pretty much going it alone; and as Jethro warned Moses, it’s burning us out.  We’re becoming tired and spent.  We find that we have no one to listen to us when we need a shoulder to lean on.  We eventually become bitter and ugly towards others to the point we won’t help our best friend.  We feel used and become more harm than good for others.

We cannot save the world.  All we can do is our best to help when possible; however make sure that we keep our spiritual energy stores full.  Sometimes, people must go through their issue-especially if it helps them to grow.  Others we just have to realize that all the help we offer won’t help; and just have to step back so we don’t get sucked into their issue.  Like Moses’s judges, we must use wisdom.

We cannot save the world.  A harsh reality.  However it’s a reality that can save us and others in the end.

Peace.

(Image above by Me: Graveyard at Tranquility Church in Green Township, NJ).

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God IS Dead.

And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.  I Samuel 3:1b (English Standard Version)

Just when you thought it was safe to go to the movies, God’s Not Dead 2 is coming to the big screen.  This film deals with a high school teacher’s career on the line after answering a student’s question about Jesus.  And to think, we were just getting over its recent predecessor, God’s Not Dead (I wrote about that movie in the past).

The second installment of God’s Not Dead shows an “us versus them” Christianity that attempt’s to  “prove” God’s existence.  We see stereotyped “Atheists” and people being “persecuted” for their faith.  This is not a witness of God’s love through our living.  No, it’s just a silver-screen bully pulpit for Christian fundamentalism.  Of course, Christian fundamentalists will gobble this shit up like free appetizers at a happy hour.

When I see stuff like this on any media: movie, social, TV, etc., it leads me to believe that God IS Dead.

“God? Dead?  Surely you jest!” You may say.  However I beg to differ.  You see, God is dead in our hearts.  We’ve turned the Divine into some ventriloquism dummy who we use to beat others over the head with to prove what we believe is “right” by putting words into His/Her mouth.  We treat others as if they’re the bad guys and we’re just “persecuted innocents”; instead of watching for the bad apples in our midst.  Movies like the God’s Not Dead franchise don’t show the existence of God; it in fact diminishes it and has killed God in us.

We’ve taken God and whittled Him/Her down into something we can use-instead of being used of God.  Paul’s words in Romans 1:22-23 come to mind:

 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Instead of lifting ourselves up to God’s level to live higher, we’ve dragged God down to our level.  We then killed God in our hearts by adapting this version of God that is far from what God truly is.  Instead of letting others experience God in their own way, we shove God down their throats.  And in the end, tonight’s main Scripture comes to bear: the voice of God is rare among Christians, and the frequent visions God could give us have all but dried up.  Thanks to that, the world sees a dead God; no matter what the producers of the God’s Not Dead franchise might claim.

Now you may get mad and call me the biggest heretic since Giordano Bruno, however I stand by my words.  God is dead to us and to the world.  And unless we change, they can produce other God’s Not Dead sequels up to Number 10.  God will still be dead….

And in the end, so will we.  Something to think about.

Peace.

(Image: ruins of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Asbury, NJ)

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After Words?

15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.
Mark 16:15-20 (English Standard Version)

I’ve been wrestling with this post-Easter post for what I’ve discovered.

When we think about Jesus’s resurrection, we also hint at his upcoming ascension back to Heaven.  For the next 40 days, Jesus wraps up his ministry and prepares his disciples for Kingdom work after he’s gone.  It’s during this time we hear of the “Great Commission” where the disciples were commanded to preach the Gospel to everyone; and that miraculous powers would accompany the disciples.  After his final words, Jesus was taken up into Heaven to sit at God’s right hand; and to work with the disciples in confirming his message by signs.

Now for many Christians, this would be a slam-dunk: Christ arose; he gave some final instructions to his people; and then he was taken up to Glory.  However, this passage is a very interesting one since Chapter 16 only goes up to verse 8 when the two Marys and Salome discovered the empty tomb on the first day of the week, saw the strange man in white who tells them of Jesus’s resurrection, and their running off afraid and saying nothing.  Verses 9-20 (including the above passage), were not part of the original manuscript.  This is quite interesting since Mark was the first of the four synoptic Gospels to be written (around 65 CE, 30-35 years after the time of Jesus). Even the Codex Sinaiticus-an early Christian Bible penned in the middle of the 4th Century CE-doesn’t have verses 9-20.

So what do we make of these “after words”?  What really happened after the events of verse 8?  What did happen to Jesus?  These are questions that would truly boggle one’s mind.  Who was the man in white: an angel or some human follower of Jesus we weren’t previously introduced to?  Did the two Marys and Salome eventually tell about the empty tomb, or kept it to themselves?  Sad to say, we may never know despite the fact that verses 9-20 were (way) later add-ons; as well as the other three synoptic Gospels.

For now, we’re left to believe that Jesus appeared to his people, gave the Great Commission and then ascended into Heaven.

However, this does make for interesting discussion; or at least thought.

Peace.

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Do We Still Need Easter?

Today’s Easter Sunday, or Resurrection Sunday.  Today’s the day we commemorate the resurrection of Jesus from the grave.  Today’s the day of Sunrise Services, Easter Finery worn to church, Easter parades, Sunday School pageants, “Early Sunday Morning!” sermons (with the “Early” stretched for effect), Easter dinners, and plenty of Easter candy.  And last night was the requisite broadcasting of The Ten Commandments…“Oh, Moses, Moses, Moses….”

Despite the fact of Easter’s Pagan origins, it’s still a high point on the Christian Liturgical calendar (along with Christmas).  We went from Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday…all up to this big day.

However, I have a question for today: Do we still need Easter?  The celebrations grow tiring and predictable.  I think if I hear one more pastor yell, “EAARRILLY SUNDAY MORNING!!!” from the pulpit I may choke them.  Early days at church and Sunrise services should be considered grounds for heresy.  Social media pictures and gooey Easter pics need to be yanked off.  Plus, these Bible movies get to be a bit too much after awhile.  Maybe Easter has outlived its usefulness…

Or maybe Easter serves another purpose.  Easter may not be to “prove” Jesus’s resurrection, and the subsequent “supremacy” of Christianity.  Maybe Easter keeps hope alive in us, that death is not the final word.  That our souls won’t shut down and we just rot as Earth hurls through space for eons.  Maybe like the ancient Pagans, we too need Easter to celebrate the hope of life after death.  In a world where violence is at every corner and hopelessness is the order of the day, Easter is the answer.

Do we still need Easter?  Good question.  Peace.

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Alone…Again…

He had to go alone. (Image by Me)

Scripture references: From Jesus’s prayer in Gethsemane to the Crucifixion and burial.

It’s Good Friday segueing into Holy Saturday.  This is the day we commemorate the Jesus’s crucifixion and burial.  We commemorate Jesus’s trial before Pilate and Herod, his being beaten by the Roman soldiers, his bearing his cross through the mean streets of Jerusalem, his crucifixion on the cross before jeering crowds and his sorrowful mother Mary, his death, and his burial in a borrowed tomb.

We have to go back to Maundy Thursday when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane alone while his disciples fell asleep.  Then it was Jesus alone who was arrested and hauled off by the authorities whilst his disciples punked up and deserted him.  It was Jesus alone who bore the brunt of Peter’s three-time denials.  It was Jesus alone who was hauled off between the houses of Annas and Caiphas-the High Priests-to be tried all night long in a kangaroo court.  It was Jesus alone who was brought before Pilate and Herod to face their questionings; and subsequent beatings by said rulers’ guards.  It was Jesus alone who was mocked and brutalized.  Save for a little help from Simon of Cyrene, it was Jesus alone who carried his cross through the mean streets of Jerusalem where only days earlier he was lauded.  It was Jesus alone who took the nails and was hoisted up onto a cross before mockers and scorners.  It was Jesus alone who gave the lone disciple present, John to care for his grieving mother.  It was Jesus alone who bore the heat of the sun and felt the pains of thirst and laboring breath.  It was Jesus who felt all alone as life slipped from him…

…It was Jesus who died alone.  It was Jesus who was alone laid in the tomb…

From his birth, Jesus was a man alone.  He was born alone in a manger with lonely parents, far from the comforts of home and friends.  He was alone in the wilderness for 40 days as he was tested by Satan.  He was alone even as he preached the Kingdom/Queendom of God-despite the company of his disciples.  He spent much time alone away from the crowds who followed him, so he can be alone with God.  Even on his “good” days, Jesus was alone; knowing he could not fully plunge himself into the typical life of a Judean man thanks to his Divinely-appointed mission.  From cradle to the grave, Jesus was alone.

We talk and sing about Jesus’s being alone-especially at this time of the year.  However, do we stop to fathom how alone he was?  Most of us have lonely moments and may sometimes feel alone, however we still have the presence of friends and loved ones about us.  However, Jesus’s alone was different; it was like he was separate, on the outside of life looking in.  I think if we were to sit and fathom how alone Jesus was, we’d cry.

Maybe we need to take some time from all the gooey “celebration” and meditate on how alone Jesus been all his life-especially now.  Maybe we’ll appreciate him more.

Peace.

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What About Judas?

14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him….

20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself
Matthew 26:14-16, 21-25; 27:3-5 (English Standard Version)

He was one of the most reviled characters in Biblical literature.  In fact, his name became synonymous with the word, “traitor.”

His name is Judas Iscariot-one of Jesus’s disciples.

Judas has gotten a bad rap for betraying Jesus to the high priests for 30 pieces of silver, a decision he later regretted before hanging himself.  It’s a side tale that’s always told during Holy Week.

It was at the Passover of Jesus and his disciples when Jesus made the shocking revelation that one of the twelve disciples would betray him (ref. verses 26:21-25); however it was Judas who asked if it were him and revealed his hand.  And it was later that night in the dark Garden of Gethsemane, when Judas greeted Jesus with a kiss-signalling to the high priests and soldiers who Jesus was.

Judas is the one character we don’t want to think about Holy Week.  We look upon him with evil eyes.  However, what about Judas?  Who was he?  Why did he betray Jesus?  First, Judas was believed to be of the Kerioth region of Judea; “man of Kerioth” is the Hebrew for “Iscariot”).  We did not see any pre-disciple history of Judas; any kind of previous occupation-like we did with Peter or Levi.  Judas just came onto the scene.

Now the Million-Dollar Question is why did Judas betray Jesus?  It was commonly believed that Judas hoped that Jesus was the messiah who would overthrow Roman rule off Israel once and for all.  However, when that didn’t play out, Judas got disillusioned with Jesus and decided to betray him.  However, in the evangelical camp, is that Judas was “foreordained” to betray Jesus; he was part of God’s plan for Jesus during his Passion and Jesus allowed it (John 13:27-28).  I have a problem with this “foreordained/allowing” theory for the reason that if God/Jesus allowed the betrayal, why did Jesus say it would have been better that Judas was never born? (verse 26:24b) To me, that makes no sense whatsoever; and to say this was all part of God’s plan makes God a sloppy planner.  And let’s remember, these Gospels were written at least a generation or two after the events.

Recently, we saw the arrival of the Gnostic text, The Gospel of Judas, where Jesus had Judas betray him as part of his mission.  Plus, in the end, Judas wound up being the good guy to whom Jesus teaches the true meaning of his message.  Although I too read about this “gospel”, I’m left out in the cold by it-especially with its late arrival on the scene (late 3rd Century CE); and that it was penned by Gnostic Christians at that time.

My take?  I believe that Judas represented two things.  First: he was representative of the Jews who rejected Jesus’s teachings (note his collusion with the High Priest and elders); which later became an anti-Jewish pejorative.  Second: if we look at the stories figuratively and esoterically, I see Judas as the part of us that caters to the base things in life (30 pieces of silver) and “betraying” our higher nature represented by Jesus.  That we look for the quick rewards in life that give us temporary pleasure but long term grief over living higher in God.

We’ll never know the whole truth about Judas-regardless what your pastor or priest may preach.  However, I believe he deserves a place in the Holy Week story since he plays an important part-whether you believe it literally or figuratively.  Plus, we all are Judas-one way or another-ourselves.

Peace.

 

(Image: The Kiss of Judas, by Giotto di Bondone)

 

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