Patriarchy, Divorce, and Inequitable Laws

     If you only read the verses selected by the Revised Common Lectionary for this Sunday (Luke 16:19-31), you might think the story Jesus made up about the conversation in Hades between Abraham, the rich man, and Lazarus simply refers to the rich man’s lack of compassion and not feeding the poor. That’s what I always thought. Yet, more than ever I am seeing the importance of context in deciphering the meanings.

     Why would Jesus offer this story at this time? Well, you need to look at the verses leading up to the story.

     Last week, the RCL gave us Luke 16:1-13, where Jesus told the Pharisees they could not serve both God and mammon (an unfair economic system based on unequal weights and balances with the accumulation of money as the objective). This week the RCL gives us Luke 16:19-31, skipping verses 14-18.

     I kind of understand why they left five verses out. It appears to be somewhat confusing the way it was originally translated into English…early in the 1600’s…in a male dominated culture. But it steals any ability to connect Abraham, Lazarus, and the rich man with what came before it. Read any other version and then compare vits erses 14-18 with mine:

LUKE 16  [my additions are in green and identify what I believe to be the meaning, and the footnotes are explained after my interpretation of the story]

14 Upon hearing all these things, the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, scoffed at him.

15 So [Jesus] said to them, “You are those who pronounce yourselves moralh in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts, in that what is exalted [in verses 1-13, money was the focus; but in the next verse, the focus turns toward the Law and Prophets] among men is an abominationh2 in the sight of God.

16 “Until John (the Baptist) arrived, the Law and the Prophets were exalted. From that point forward, the kingdom of Godi is being proclaimed as the good news. Indeed, everyone is being strongly urged toward it.j

17 But for you, it is easier for the skyk and the earth to pass away than for one tiny mark of the Law to fall from its elevated position.

18 “Anyone who dismisses his wife and marries another commits adultery; and a man who marries a woman dismissed from a husband commits adultery.

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     Something is missing that connects verse 17 to what Jesus said next in verse 18. To think that Jesus decided, all of a sudden, from out of the blue, to remind the Pharisees about adultery at this point in the conversation, as if he was agreeing with it, doesn’t make any sense. Either no conjunction was used because it was understood as part of a cultural way of saying things, or it was redacted (edited out) by a scribe. Try this: insert this conjunction between verses 17 & 18 and see if it makes a connection:    [For example:]

Then immediately after verse 18, listen as Jesus might have intended to finish his thought:

[“This is a ridiculous law. A divorced woman often has no choice in this culture and society. Why is she declared to be off-limits for any man to remarry her because of a husband’s arbitrary decision to abandon her?l She has no way to support herself except to turn to prostitution. That would be cruel. In fact, let me tell you a story about those who exalt the Law even when it brings pain to the innocent (rejected wives).]

     This is the point (now that you know the context) when Jesus tells the story about a rich man, Lazarus, and Abraham. This is my translation:

19 “A certain man was rich, dressed in purple and fine yellow linen, and he celebrated extravagantly every day. 20 Now there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who had been put out at his gate and 21 hoping to be fed with anything that dropped from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 Now it came time for the beggar to die and to be carried by angels into the arms of Abraham. But the rich man also died and was buried. 23 And in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham in the distance, and Lazarus in his arms.

24 “So he called out and said, ‘Father Abraham, show mercy to me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this fire.’l 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember how you experienced your good things during your lifetime, yet in the same way, Lazarus experienced troublesome things. Nevertheless, now he is being comforted and you are being tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great gulf has been established, so that those who want to cross over from here to you cannot, nor can those from there cross over to us.’

27 “Therefore he said, ‘I beg you, father, that you might send him to the household of my father, 28 for I have five brothers, that he might warn them, lest they might come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them learn from them.’ 30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone (namely, Lazarus) from among the dead goes to them, they will change the way they think.’m 31 So he said to him, ‘If they do not learn from Moses and the prophets [the ones they esteem most highly], neither will they be persuaded if someone (like Lazarus) might appearn from among the dead.’”

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just; righteous, impartial, honorable, fair, moral, unbiased.

h2  abomination. How many things Jesus did call an abomination? A term we might use today would be “disgusting.”

i  kingdom of God: the establishment of Oneness, development of Unity (the Aramaic word for God is Alaha, which means “oneness” or “unity”).

strongly being urged toward it, is suggested by NRSV as well as is pressing forward toward it.

heaven, the sky.

fire is an image of purification, and also as the negative consequences of unloving actions.

m  Metanoia means to change one’s mind, or change the way one thinks.

anistēmi; rise up, stand up, come forth, appear. Since Jesus is referring to Lazarus when Luke says “someone,” it makes more sense to use “appear” so as to reduce the chance of readers being led to think Jesus was predicting his own resurrection. Those who exalt the Law above people would not listen to the spirit of a beggar returning to warn them.

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     The story itself is an insult to the traditional Jewish male way of thinking. Jewish men believed anyone who was rich was favored by God. Poor people were being punished by God. Why would a rich man end up in Hades? Except that Hades was not the picture of Hell that some promote in the 21st century. Hades was the place where the spirit of EVERY person ended up when a person died. Thus, the rich man could “see” Abraham and Lazarus in the distance. They were all in Hades.

     Maybe Jesus replaced the image of a woman dismissed by her husband with a male character—Lazarus. The suggestion of Abraham holding a divorced woman in his arms would not be imaginable by the Pharisees and they would immediately stop listening to the story. But in the 21st century, surely we are advanced enough to tolerate a picture of Abraham holding and comforting a woman in public other than Sarah (?).

     Men are exalted while women are treated poorly by men. So a divorced woman is placed outside the gates of patriarchy to fend for herself. The dogs are the Gentiles who buy her flesh so she can barely stay alive. At least the dogs see some worth in her (small comfort to her that they will pay attention to her wounds, or shame).

     The chasm is a person’s hardness of heart, absence of compassion, and closed ears that cannot hear the cries of those who suffer because of laws that uphold patriarchy and male domination.

     The kingdom of God, as I explained in my book, is the development or establishment of unity, harmony, equity, or oneness among people on earth.

     The bottom line: Jesus was fighting patriarchy and the inability of men to discern the damage that male-dominated, inequitable divorce laws were doing to women. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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The Abomination of Unequal Weights and Measures

Luke 16:1-13

I get really frustrated when I get my explanation of benefits for health insurance claims. During the first year I was retired, I used the Kentucky Healthcare Cooperative for my health insurance. I had an annual physical and because it was a preventative medicine procedure, it was supposed to be paid at 100%. The doctor’s office submitted the claim for $186. Because I was paying monthly for health insurance, the bill was reduced by about half. To $93. That’s the advantage of paying for health insurance. The insurance companies broker a deal with medical providers to get a better price. If the provider won’t agree to their terms, then they send you to someone who will take less. If you don’t agree to be part of the system, you can’t play the game.

So you pay the insurance company for your health care whether you need it or not, for fear that something drastic will happen. If a person can’t afford to pay for health insurance because ten dollars an hour won’t feed, clothe, and shelter a family of four, then what happens when you have to see the doctor for a health concern? You get charged $186 for the appointment. No deal has been brokered because you have no buying power. You have no way of sending business away from that doctor. You have to pay $186. If you cannot pay the bill, a collection agency is called in and you get a black mark on your credit rating.

The problem I’m talking about is the problem of unequal weights and measures. One person pays a different price than another person. And it’s usually those living from week to week, or day to day, who pay higher prices.

Let me give you another example. In many states including Kentucky, there’s a system called Payday Lending that permits people who have money to prey on the desperate and vulnerable in our society. Cash for your paycheck after the bank has closed. Or cash on Wednesday to pay that light bill because your paycheck doesn’t come until Friday. That is, your paycheck plus $20. Or your car breaks down and you need $300 to get it running so you can go to work. $40 is all it costs to borrow $300 for two weeks. But $40 to be able to borrow $300 for two weeks comes out to an Annual Percentage Rate of 320%. And if you can’t pay it in full, even higher penalties are tacked onto it for late payments. Why can’t they get a credit card or a loan from a bank for lower interest rates? Banks only like to give money to people who have money, or collateral, and you have to have good credit. It’s predatory lending and its target is the working poor.

At one point, Jesus said, “You will always have the poor with you.” And we will always have the poor as long as we keep using a system of unequal weights and measures that allows people to prey on them. The Old Testament has laws designed to prevent this unfairness from happening. The Jews were not supposed to charge interest on money that was loaned to other Jews. They were allowed to charge interest to foreigners, because the scriptures say the Hebronites and Ammonites and other Gentiles are not the chosen descendants of Abraham. You can take advantage of others, but not those of your own nation. However, just because Moses laid out these rules for the Israelites doesn’t mean they followed them. People are greedy. And others are desperate. And when people are desperate, they do desperate things. They pay 320% interest to keep a bill collector from taking their car or home. And the laws of our land allow that to happen.

There’s a different name for unequal weights and measures in the New Testament. It’s called unrighteous mammon. We often think mammon is simply money or wealth. But it’s more than that. It’s an unfair system of economics that is based on charging one price to one person and a different price to another. The Old Testament called using unequal weights and measures an abomination. When it takes money to make money, the rich get richer while the poor get taken advantage of. Unequal weights and measures, or unrighteous mammon, is a system where a small number of people at the top dominate a huge number of people at the bottom who are barely getting by.

Insurance companies. The banking industry. The pharmaceutical industry. They are in it for only one purpose – to make a profit. And it ends up hurting the most vulnerable of our society. That’s the abomination.

So I haven’t told you anything you don’t already know. And here we are in Kentucky with our own set of financial problems. How can we think we can change an economic system so old and widespread and inequitable that everyone of us has bought into?

Well, it’s easier than you think. And it’s based on the wisdom of thousands of years. You will reap what you sow. You don’t have to change what others do. You don’t have to change the whole world. You just have to change yourself and the world immediately within your reach.

In the words of Mahatma Ghandi: Be the change you want to see in the world. In the words of Jesus, be a shepherd, be my disciple, follow me, do what I did. Be the change. Feed the hungry yourself if you have extra. Do you have a neighbor who’s fallen on some hard times and is losing weight because he doesn’t have any food in the house? Pick up a couple of cans of some healthy food when you’re at the store, and drop it off.

Do you know someone who needed car repairs or a root canal and doesn’t have a credit card or good credit at the bank? If God has given you extra and it’s just sitting in the bank, offer to cover the cost and say, “I know you’ll pay me back. Two or three months is fine.” Don’t worry if you lend money to someone that they won’t pay you back. God gave you a little extra to help someone today. If you are faithful with a small amount, God knows you will be faithful with a larger amount. Are you worried about trusting the person in need that you loan money to? Again, don’t worry about them. Trust that God is faithful. That’s why in the sermon on the mount Jesus said, “lend to anyone who asks for help from you.” Just like the dishonest manager in today’s lesson, if you are kind to others, then when you become desperate, they may be willing to help you out temporarily.

Do you know someone who’s lost a loved one, and is now alone most if not all day long? If you’re planning a trip to the grocery or the mall or the movie, why not pick them up and fill a few hours of the day? That will be bringing the kingdom of heaven to someone today. You don’t have to change anyone but yourself to change the world for someone else. Be the change. Be a disciple. Leave the 99 sheep who have everything they need and help someone in trouble. Do you know someone who died of cancer because there wasn’t a cure? Give from what the Master has given you for research to find a cure that heals the sick and trust that if you are faithful in a small amount, you will be trusted to manage a larger amount faithfully.

Jesus said “Don’t store up for yourself treasures on earth that will rust.” Gold and silver that sits in banks and doesn’t get circulated gets rusty and tarnished. It does no good to anyone if it doesn’t go back into circulation. In the same way, if you store love in your heart, it won’t circulate and return to you. If you keep joy and hope in your heart and never give it away, it will get rusty and moths will eat it away, so it can never return to you. What you sow is what you will reap. So be generous.

Last week, we heard that if we are not willing to risk going into the darkness to help lost sheep, but instead, sit back and condemn them for the trouble they’ve gotten themselves into, we aren’t worthy to be disciples of Jesus. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can be trusted with much.” May we become more fair in the way we treat people no matter what their race, creed, financial status, or nationality; and more generous with what the Master has given to us. Amen.

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Unrighteous Mammon – What Is It?

     This is my interpretation/translation of Luke 16:1-13 with some footnotes at the end to explain some of the changes.

Then [Jesus] also said to the disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager, and this manager was being accused of handling his goods wastefully. So he summoned him and asked, ‘What is this I hear about you? Hand over the reports of your administration, for you can no longer manage my household affairs.’

“Now the manager thought to himself, ‘What shall I do because my boss is removing me from my management job. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. I know what might work so that as soon as I am removed from the management position, they might take me into their houses.’

“So after summoning every one of his boss’s debtors, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘Nine hundred gallonsa of olive oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your invoice, and sit down quickly and write four hundred fifty gallons.’ Then he said to the next debtor, ‘And how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘One thousand bushelsb of wheat.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your invoice, and write eight hundred bushels.’ Even the master applauded the dishonest manager because he had acted cleverly; for the heirs of this system of thingsc are more shrewd in what they generated for themselves than the heirs of light.e

“I also say to you, make friends for yourselvesf from among those who use an unfair system of economicsg, so that if you fail, they might be willing to accept you into a temporaryh home.

The bottom line is this:

10 The one who is trustworthy with small things is also trustworthy with large things; but he who is not trustworthy with small things is also not trustworthy with large things.

11 Therefore if you have not become trustworthy within an unfair system of economics, who will entrust to you what is true?i 12 And if you have not become trustworthy with what belongs to another, who of our own people will give to you? 13 No servant has the power/ability to serve two masters; for either he will slight the one and be committed to the other, or else he will be attentive to one and disregard the other. You cannot serve God and [at the same time] this system of economics.”

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one hundred measures of oil, about 900 gallons or 3400 liters.

one hundreds measures of wheat.

age, the way things are done in this age, meaning the rich dominate the poor, the 1% control the 99%. the way things are done in this age, meaning the rich dominate the poor, the 1% control the 99%. See Walter Wink’s book, Engaging the Powers.

light, in classic Greek, φῶς is used metaphorically to stand for knowledge.

in their generation, could also mean in what they produce, generate, create, or devise.

Jesus is not advocating using the same unjust methods, he’s suggesting it’s good to have a backup plan based in kindness for the day you are left homeless.

unrighteous mammon. Mammon is not simply wealth. It’s a system or way of doing things in which people use unequal weights and measures (they charge people differing prices for the same product or service – poor people tend to pay more than rich people for the same product) as well as a system that suggests a person is worth only as much as they earn (Richard Rohr). The system of dishonest or unjust mammon doesn’t correspond with Jesus’s focus on caring for the poor, sick, prisoners, etc., who are often the ones taken advantage of.

aionios, inaccurately translated as “eternal” (which makes no sense in this context). My newest book (not published yet) explains in great detail why aionios means “an undefined period of time within the age,” i.e., temporary.

i  what is true: the knowledge and wisdom of God/Oneness; the heavenly treasures.

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sermons on Luke 13:1-13, what is unrighteous mammon,

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To be a Disciple is to be a Shepherd

Luke 15:1-10                                                                        

Jesus had been teaching a crowd about the cost of choosing discipleship when he responded to the Pharisees with the story of a shepherd finding a lost sheep. Everyone who was listening understood that when you lose something of value, it makes perfect sense that there is much joy when its owner finds it. Some of the religious leaders showed they did not value some of the sheep – tax collectors and sinners.

Who are you in this story? Are you one of the ninety-nine sheep that are not lost? Are you a lost sheep, meaning a tax collector or a sinner? Are you a shepherd rescuing lost sheep? Are you a Pharisee making judgment on the sheep?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been all four. I’ve been one of the sheep in the pasture, a lost sheep, a shepherd, and a Pharisee. And, I’m afraid, I continue to be all of the above.

(1) I’ve been one of the flock as a layperson in several churches, and even when I was in-between churches, trying to do the best I could to get along in the world without getting in anyone’s way or hurting anyone. Sheep don’t try to lead anyone. They just follow along and do what they do best – eat and grow hair. I don’t think you have to be a Christian to be a sheep. Every person is valuable no matter where they live or what they believe. Everyone has the capacity for bearing good fruit and being of value to others. Remember that Jesus once said in John 10:16, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” So at times, I’m simply one of the flock that doesn’t need to be rescued from any trouble I’ve gotten myself into.

(2) And then, I’ve been a lost sheep. At times, I have wondered into places where I didn’t know how to get out and I needed someone to lead me out. I brought pain and struggle upon myself by wandering away from the narrow road of goodness. There have been times when I have placed the pursuit of worldly gain and possessions and recognition ahead of integrity and honesty. When you’re not honest, you’ve left the pasture and you can be sure, you’re going to get into some briars that bring pain and struggle.

(3) There have been times when I’ve been a shepherd. I was a shepherd before I ever went to school to become an ordained minister. It’s too easy to claim Jesus is the only shepherd. But you have to think about the context of this teaching. Jesus had just told the people that they were supposed to be salt, making everything better in the world. That’s what we talked about last week. He said, “You can’t be my disciple, or you can’t follow my example or teachings if you are so worried about what your family will think, or if you won’t suffer for doing what is right.”

The shepherd Jesus describes is one who rescues a lost sheep. A shepherd is one who helps people to realize that honesty is the best policy. Honesty keeps you in the pasture and out of trouble. Or it’s a person who leaves the pasture and risks his/her own life to rescue sheep who have wandered and helps them return to the peace and joy of the pasture. To be a disciple is to be a shepherd, willing to lay down your life and take risks for the sake of others.

(4) And then, I’m sorry to say, I’ve been a Pharisee. I’ve been a person who thinks my religion makes me capable of proclaiming judgment on and about others, judging both good sheep who are not hurting anyone as well as lost sheep who wander away, get into trouble, and end up hurting themselves and sometimes others. Today, I have to work real hard keep from thinking my religion makes me better than sheep who don’t believe what I believe. I’ve come to the conclusion that when I’m a Pharisee, it puts me in the same category as the lost sheep. You cannot condemn someone else and feel joy or peace at the same time. Pharisees are angry, unsettled religious people. They don’t live in the peace of the pasture.

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     Jesus told the story for the benefit, and chastisement, of the religious folks who thought they were better than everyone else. He also taught it because he wanted those who followed him to know the cost of discipleship.

Jesus was not putting down sheep. Everyone is valuable. Jesus was not putting down lost sheep. Every person is so valuable that a shepherd will risk his or her own life to help a lost sheep return to the pasture and live in peace.

Jesus was not saying shepherds are better than sheep. This story is part of counting the cost of being a follower—a disciple—of Jesus. Are you willing to risk anything to help someone else return to a place of peace and security in their lives? And if you don’t want to be a shepherd, if you don’t want to risk anything to help someone else, he’s not saying that’s a bad thing. You can be a sheep. Sheep are valuable. It’s okay to be a sheep. Keep eating and growing hair – be of benefit to the world. But don’t claim you’re a disciple and a follower of Jesus’s teachings and example if you don’t want to risk anything on behalf of the wellbeing of others. Jesus risked everything for the sheep. Even his life. To be his disciple, you must follow his example.

So the two main points of the story are these: try not to be a Pharisee. Don’t think your religion makes you better than anyone else in the eyes of the Owner. All sheep are valuable, even the lost ones. Those who judge the value or the future of those they think are below them, may just be one of the lost sheep who needs a shepherd who is willing to risk everything to rescue them and return them to a place of peace, security, and joy in this life. When that happens, the angels of God will rejoice to see a lost one has returned.

And second, if you truly want to claim you are a disciple of Jesus, be willing to risk your life and reputation for the sake of helping others in pain.

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     Here’s my translation of the text:

     Now all kinds of tax collectors and sinners were coming near to him to listen to him. And both the Pharisees and scribes grumbled, saying that this man receives sinners and eats with them. So he spoke this illustration to them, saying:

     4 “What man among you, having a hundred sheep, after losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he puts it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Then when he arrives at home, he calls together friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I found my sheep that was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way there will be joy in heavena over one unloving personb who changes his ways than over ninety-nine persons who are doing what is good and right who need not change their ways.

     8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Celebrate with me because I found the coin that I lost!’ 10 Accordingly, I am telling you joy arises in the presence of the messengersc of God over one sinner who changes his ways.”

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in heaven, as symbolism, this could refer to the higher state of consciousness, the mind.

sinner, sin is defined as “missing the mark” which I propose is love.

angels, many people including myself believe there are angelic spirits without physical forms who are messengers of God, as well as spirits inhabiting physical bodies, like you and me, who are also sent by God.

 

the cost of discipleship, sermons on Luke 15:1-10, the lost sheep, who is the good shepherd

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When Family Gets in the Way of Discipleship

Luke 14:25-33 + 2                                    

     According to Sunday’s gospel reading, Luke 14:25-33, you must (1) hate your family, (2) take up your cross – which is an image of suffering and persecution, and (3) give up your possessions to be a disciple of Jesus. I wonder how many church members in the pews will hear the good news in this text. Is that the message we are supposed to be spreading? Maybe this text needs a little salt.

salt-shaker     In Jewish teaching fashion, the end of the teaching is the main point. But the people who chose the texts for the Revised Common Lectionary managed to amputate the summary of Jesus’s teaching. How do I know the summary of the teaching is left out? Read the two verses that follow:

34 “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can it be used for seasoning? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

     Let anyone with ears to hear listen. That usually comes at the conclusion of a larger body of teaching. It doesn’t come after a “by the way, this is one added thing.” Salt is the summary to what preceded it.

    What are the purposes of salt? Salt makes other things taste better than they are if left to themselves. Salt helps things that might spoil to stay good longer. Salt is helpful in healing wounds because it stops bacteria from festering and prevents infections. But if salt is not accomplishing its purpose, it is worthless. You may as well throw it out.

     We are supposed to be the salt of the earth. We are supposed to help in making everything and everyone around us better than they could be without us. We are to help in preserving others from decay. We are to help in keeping their wounds from festering. That’s what discipleship is all about. How does a disciple lose his or her ability to make others better, or to preserve and keep people from degenerating, or to lose his or her ability to help someone heal?

     The short answer is: by being pulled away from his/her purpose, which is to be salt in the world. Discipleship is being salt in the world.

     It’s possible for us to lose our ability to be effective disciples. How can we lose it? Jesus gave these examples: family and possessions. We can be drawn away from the purpose to which we were called in baptism by those closest to us and by being so attached to possessions. You get preached to about possessions all the time, so I’ll focus on family here.

     When Jesus said unless you hate your parents, spouse, children, self – the word in both Greek and Aramaic means something closer to your ability to detach yourself from them. You can lose your ability to help others by worrying if your family or friends are going to approve of your actions, choices, or beliefs…allowing them to influence you not to do the things Jesus taught. You can’t help those in real need if you are pandering to the selfish needs of family members or their prejudices. If you allow the opinions and expectations of others that are contrary to Jesus’s teachings overwhelm you, you lose your saltiness.

     What teachings of Jesus might they oppose? “Love your enemy.” Killing them with drones is not loving them. “Don’t resist an evil person—turn the other cheek.” The typical response of our government is shock and awe. Pummel them. If you believe we shouldn’t be planning to kill terrorists or bad people in Syria or Afghanistan, some of your family and friends are going to get angry with you.

     Jesus didn’t stop healing or teaching kindness just because his brothers didn’t believe in him (John 7:5). His actions were not dependent upon their approval. He didn’t cater to their lack of goodness. He was salt because he continued to be an example of unconditional love. He was detached from the human need to meet the approval of his peers. He didn’t let them overwhelm his own sense of what were the right things to do.

     Sometimes when you do the right thing, it will bring pain and even suffering. But bear the cross, receive their anger without returning it. Those closest to you will inflict pain, like nails on a cross. Jesus said you must carry the cross to be his disciple. Don’t pummel them when they hurt you with their words. Do not resist an evil (in Aramaic it means unripe, undeveloped, immature) person. Turn the other cheek. Be salt and enhance their better traits.

     So I think the crux of Jesus’ teaching is this: You cannot be salt if you are inextricably attached to or swayed by the opinions and demands of family or possessions.

     This is the way I translate the text (I’ve added some words to clarify what I think is the intent):

25 Now a large crowd assembled around him. And he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone is drawn to me and is not able to detach from the emotional ties or to the presence and/or approval of his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and unable to detach from his own egob as well, he is not able to be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his own crossc and follow me has no ability to remain my disciple. 28 For example, which of you, wanting to build a watch-tower, does not at the beginning sit down to calculate the expense, if he has enough to complete it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying that this man began to build upd and was not able to finish? 31 Or what ruler, going into battle against another ruler, does not sit down first to deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is still far from him, he sends a message asking for peace. 33 Therefore anyone of you who does not renounce all that he has is not capable of being be my disciple. 34 Salt is good; but if salt has become tasteless, with what shall it be seasoned? 35 It is neither fit for the land nor for manure. It is cast out. He who has ears to hear, listen!”   

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psuche, soul, life, ego, personality     

bear his own cross, to receive pain from others without giving it back.

build up, edify or grow his own house, his own self.

      We are to live together and bring out the best in each other as we are salt in the world.

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Compassion or Attendance?

Luke 14:1, 7-14

At the end of this blog is a sermon I preached in 2013 on the Luke 14 text. There’s not much difference in how I have translated the text from the Greek from the typical versions:

     Now it happened, as Jesus entered into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, that they watched him closely. [The missing part in verses 2-6 is that Jesus helps a man who has dropsy on the Sabbath.] Then Jesus shared an image with the guests, noticing how they chose the places of honor, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the highest place, lest one more dearly valued than you was invited by him; and the one who invited you having spoken aloud will command you, ‘Give up this place,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 Instead, when you are invited, go sit down in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 Because anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be lifted up.” 12 Then he also said to him who invited him, “Whenever you give a breakfast or a main meal, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and it would be repayment to you. 13 Instead, when you give a feast, invite the poor, the disabled, the lame, those who cannot see. 14 For you will be fulfilled because they cannot repay you. Therefore, you will be repaid in the rising of virtue.”

           Are we going to be repaid by going to heaven because we go to church on Sundays or will we be “repaid” because we do good things for people? What did Jesus say? You are repaid in the virtue you demonstrate. If that messes with your theology, then reexamine your theology, not Jesus’s words.

You will be repaid for actions that come from the compassion in your heart that says, “I want to help you whether you are important or not—and whether it serves ME in eternity or not.”

James wrote: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble” (NIV).  That sounds a lot like Jesus. Christians wear the cross like it’s a sign of their commitment to the teachings of Jesus, and never do they visit orphans and widows. Interesting, isn’t it?

Is virtue about going to church every Sunday, or is it about helping those who are in need regardless of your eternal future?

+  +  +

09-01-2013   “What’s For Dinner?”

It’s really embarrassing to be caught red-handed, bragging about yourself. I had a high school wrestling coach who preached to us, saying, “If you are any good – you won’t have to tell anyone about it because they will tell you how good you are.” In other words, your reputation will precede you if you deserve to be honored.

Of course, being a teenager, I had to see if that really applied to me. The wrestling team had finished a wrestling match in a town fifty miles away from our high school. A teammate and I were walking down the hallway after both of us had won our matches. My opponent came up to us to talk, and as part of the conversation, I piped in that “Charlie here and I won the County Wrestling Tournament last week.” And he said, “I know.  I was there.”

I felt about two feet tall. Instead of impressing him with my claim to greatness – I felt humiliated by my haughtiness and pride.  Had I been quiet about our accomplishment, he might have mentioned that he attended the tournament and I could have felt honored by his recognition – rather than feeling ashamed for bragging on myself.

I was the one that the Host of the Banquet served some humble pie. I was moved from a chair of higher importance that I chose for myself to a chair of lower importance – and that was an uncomfortable feeling. Jesus summed it up with, “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” That’s an important lesson in the gospel story.

Another important lesson has to do with inviting people to a banquet. When I was wrestling, I had to watch what I ate very closely. Refusing food wasn’t easy as a growing teenager. I remember using my study hour going to the library and page through Good Housekeeping magazines to look at the food and dinners laid out on banquet tables. And wrestling season was during Thanksgiving and Christmas! There was so much to eat and I denied myself all those delicious pleasures.

Sometimes we do that as Christians. We deny ourselves the feast that is available and waiting on the table. We do it because we think discipline, hard work, and denial of pleasures are the keys to getting what we want—which we think is the kingdom of heaven. We work so hard at being Christians when we are really the guests at the banquet. We are invited to the feast. No charge. No work. The moment we took our first breath, we were invited to the feast—life in the kingdom of God.

Since we are invited to a banquet, and we are called to invite others to the banquet, what’s for dinner? What do we tell others is on the table for them? What’s for dinner is the kingdom of heaven? The feast is already laid out on the table in front of us. We don’t have to die to receive it. It was John the Baptist and Jesus who said that the kingdom of heaven is at handit’s within your grasp – help yourself!

Help yourself to what? What’s on the table for us to share when we invite others to eat dinner in the kingdom of God?

The apostle Paul told the church in Rome what’s for dinner. He said the kingdom of God is not found in meat or drink; instead it’s in doing the right things, and in peace and joy in a spirit that is worthy of praise (Rom. 14:17). To the people of Galatia he said the banquet consists of these things: peace, joy, hope, love, goodness, kindness, patience, faithfulness, and self-control. These are the things available to you and me right now.

Let me take a moment to remind you of the Old Testament’s concept of heaven. This is from Genesis 1:6-9 (NKJV). 6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.\

The kingdom of heaven is the space around the earth between the clouds and the oceans.

Then Jesus told us who we should invite to share in the peace, and joy, and hope, and love that is ours today. He said, “Invite the poor, the lame, the crippled, the blind.” Who needs more peace and joy in their lives than someone who has physical pain, hunger pains, mental and emotional pain, or spiritual distress? If you share your peace with them, you’ll be honored when those who do what is right are lifted up. Being lifted up (raised up) isn’t a reference to the resurrection. Jesus is talking about receiving honor from others.

There are some real advantages to interacting with people in pain, people for whom money or fame or power cannot bring joy or peace. For them, life is no longer about surface appearances – how can you look great in a hospital gown that doesn’t close tightly in the back? People in pain recognize that the $100,000 car sitting in their garage can’t help them find relief when they hurt too much to go anywhere. They are the ones who will appreciate your invitation to join you.

Another important point to remember: When you invite them to dinner – take your time! How can you find peace if you’re chomping at the bit to move to the next activity? Live in the moment. Quit trying to get out of it so soon. In the moment is where joy and peace in life are experienced. Learn to take your time. Let things unfold in their timing rather than rushing it.

Jewish meals took a more time than we are accustomed to spending at a meal. Meals took longer fifty years ago that they take today. Families don’t sit around the table as much as they used to. We mimic the culture when we put a four course meal on one ridiculously small dinner plate at a potluck and wolf it down so we can get to the next activity.

A Jewish meal was kind of like a Labor Day barbeque, very leisurely. Or better yet, it was more like fonduing, where there is time to sit around the table for conversation and getting to know each other, eating one course at a time, very slowly. Meals within a community are as much about connecting with others as they are about filling the stomach. Invite someone to share in your peace and love who will appreciate your gift of time and presence rather than those who think life is a competition rather than a time to offer their own unique self to the relationship.

The image our symbolic meal of Holy Communion reflects the relationship we have within the body of Christ. God invites all people to the feast of the kingdom of heaven. This is God’s table and God’s meal offered to us to bring peace to our spirits. It’s around this table and the tables in Fellowship Hall where we get to know others. Their gifts, their joys, their sorrows and pain, and they get to know ours. We find out that we’re more alike than we are different. And that makes people less scary.

It’s interesting that the church has made this sacrament meal exclusive to those who agree with what a group of men decided sixteen hundred years ago. Jesus ate with sinners and outcasts. It’s around the table that the bonds of love are built and strengthened.

Wherever we gather to serve or eat or worship, we are building relationships, becoming one, united as the body of Christ. That’s how our spirits are fed and we can share in peace, hope, love, joy, and all the blessings of God.

In Christ’s name, I invite you to the feast – the kingdom of God, for the kingdom of God is within your grasp. Come to receive his peace and joy, to be assured of His love and forgiveness, and to share this invitation with those you know who are hungry for peace, hope, and love. And then God will bring healing and wholeness to their soul.

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Law Does Not Trump Love

Luke 13:10-17  

     The Sabbath. A day of rest? Or a day of Law, sprinkled with a little good news? What serves you best? A church full of love or law? What serves the church best? Love or law? What kind of worship puts your mind and heart at ease? Do you feel rested when you leave Sunday worship? Or do you leave worship thinking there’s more work to be done? Does the church assist you in your rest? Where does God live? In the Temple/church? Or in you? Answer these questions honestly for yourself and I believe your worship experience will improve. The text for this coming Sunday might help you think about it. Here is my translation:

10 Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman upon whom a spirit of weaknesse had been holding fast for eighteen years, and was doubled over so that she was powerless to raise herself up to completion. 12 But when Jesus saw her, he summoned her and said, “Woman, you are set free from your weakness.” 13 Then he placed his hands on her, and immediately she was lifted up, and then she glorified God.

14 But the presiding elder of the synagogue objected, displeased that Jesus rendered voluntary servicef on the Sabbath. He told the crowd, “There are six days on which one ought to work; therefore come and be treated on them, but not on the Sabbath day.”

15 However, the Lord replied to him and said, “Hypocrites! Does not every one of you on the Sabbath release his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away so it can drink? 16 Therefore this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom adversity has bound – look! – for eighteen years, isn’t it right and proper for her to be released from this bond on the Sabbath?” 17 And having said these things, all who were opposing him were put to shame; and the whole crowd was joyful for all the noble things being done by him.

+  +  +

e  weakness, of mind or body, lack of understanding, lack of confidence, lack of restraint against corrupt desires, inability to bear trials and troubles, possibly affected by a traumatic experience.

healed, from the Greek word therapeuo which means “to serve, render voluntary service, heal, restore to health, minister to.”

+  +  +

     One way to view this is to consider that life places many burdens on us. Sometimes they are health related. Other times they are emotional, mental, or spiritual. The text has many levels for application. Jesus walked in and, with a few words and the touch of his hand, released a woman from her spirit of weakness.

     Wouldn’t you hope a Sunday sermon could release you from your weakness? I value the four years I spent in training for the ministry. The Lutheran seminary I attended for one year was a great experience. Yet throughout my whole Lutheran upbringing and then at the seminary, I was taught to dispense Law and Gospel equally.

     One of my seminary professors read my masters thesis and said there was too much “love fluff.” That alone would never do the job (whatever he thought the job was). But it squeaked through.

     I still question: isn’t the Gospel enough to save you? But preaching Law and Gospel is treated as a Lutheran law because Martin Luther said it. It doesn’t matter that Luther elsewhere said that love is the filter for all law, and laws that don’t promote or support love should be eliminated. We all pick out the quotations we like best and want to promote. It’s like church leaders are afraid you’ll fail (in the way all miserable sinners do) if you only get good news. Law is always how the institution attempts to keep control. The Gospel alone gives the sheep too much freedom to stray from what they’ve been told they must believe and do.

     There’s no doubt that law is important for the lawless. But the law for Christians, according to Luther, is love. We are not lawless. We have our law: Love. Follow love and you can throw out any holy book of rules.

     Truly I preached a lot of law in my sermons. Many sermons were only law—but that means they were only gospel. Love.

     Check out my page of quotations on what Martin Luther said about love and the law. He will free you. It’s sad to realize that Luther’s comments on love and law have been ignored by most seminaries and are unknown to most bishops and preachers.

     One way I look at the Luke 13 text is that Jesus freed the woman (like he has freed me) from the Law, which had been a burden to her to the point of causing her to buckle in on herself. She could stand up, totally free to love and enjoy and serve and rejoice. Lift off the weight of the Law and you can become the beautiful, loving person God created you to be. Period. It’s a simple lesson.

     If you trust in and follow the teachings of Jesus, not much Law is needed. Not much theology is needed. Just love God who dwells within you. God wouldn’t have picked you as a temple to live in if God didn’t create you as intended – which means you have every reason to love yourself wholeheartedly – and then, in joy, love your neighbor as yourself.

     There’s no pressure to follow the 613 laws in the Old Testament. Just one. That’s why Jesus said his yoke is light.

     Love. Do this and the world will be a better place. And you’ll have more freedom and more fun.

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Come To Terms with Your Accusers

Luke 12:49-56

Once upon a time I wrote a blog or two about the viability of reincarnation as a doctrine. Many in the first century believed in reincarnation. Jesus appears to have indicated the teaching was alive and well during his time. “Who do people say I am?”

Did Jesus know that the future church, at the insistence of Emperor Justinian, would vehemently work to remove reincarnation from consideration? There are many biblical texts that would make more sense if being born again referred to coming again in a new body. Elijah returned as John the Baptist, many people said Jesus was one of the old time prophets, and Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist come back from the dead.

Reincarnation suggests that the eternal spirit goes through a learning/purification process each time it enters the body. It’s all about positive movement forward rather than punishment. When you purify silver by burning out impurities, you’re not punishing the silver because it has flaws. You’re eliminating what is not of value.

Not everyone bought into the idea of reincarnation in the first century. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead. We assume they were talking about resurrection into heaven like is commonly imagined today. But now I wonder if they believed they would rise into another body—reincarnation. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.

One of the goals of the Inquisition was to stamp out any person or group hanging onto the notion of resurrection into another body on earth. The Reformation may have rolled another stone in front of the tomb of reincarnation when it established the doctrine of grace alone. You don’t have do anything to go to heaven after you die except believe God’s unconditional love covered your sinful butt. I’m not saying the teaching is incorrect, but there may be far more to it than speaking a verbal confession that Jesus is Lord who paid all your karmic debts. There may actually be some work involved. But that’s a whole book and I don’t intend to write it. I just want you to consider that Luke 12:49-56 may refer at some level to the possibility that our eternal spirits may need to enter into a physical body more than one time.

Biblical context is important. Always look at the text prior to the one you’re studying. The common lectionary doesn’t allow us to hear Luke 12:41-48. In Jesus had told his disciples to strive for dominion over themselves (seek first the kingdom [dominion] – remembering that God dwells within you). Now this is my translation of 41-48:

     41 Then Peter said to him, “Master, do you tell this illustration to us alone, or does it apply to everyone?” 42 To that the Lord said, “Anyone then is a faithful manager, mindful of the master’s interests, whom a master will put in charge over his household to administer provisions in the right amounts and at the proper time. 43 Coming to completiona3 is the lowest of workers, that after arriving, his master will find working in this manner. 44 Most certainly, I tell you that he will put him in charge over all that he has. 45 Nevertheless if that same servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to mistreat the maids and children, to eat and even to drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will arrive on a day he is not expecting, and at an hour he is not anticipating. Then he will scourge him severely and commend him to his fate among those who are not to be trusted. 47 Moreover, that servant who had understood the wishes of his master, but did not make the necessary preparations or carry out his wishes, he shall be punished with great severity. 48 But he who did not understand, yet committed things deserving of punishment, shall be less severely punished. For everyone who is given much, much will be expected of him; and to whomever much has been entrusted, even more will be asked of him.

          Footnote a3:  Blessed, the Aramaic word means “ripening, developing, coming to completion, maturing.”

     There are some not-so-obvious applications for reincarnation possible in this text, (as well as grace in verse 48) but it is not my focus today. Now that you know the context, take a look at my translation of Luke 12:49-56 (I have added my own explanations in green type to clarify the meaning.)

        49 “I came to start a fireb2 throughout the landc2 and how I wish it was already ablaze! 50 Truly, I have an immersiond2 to be cleansed with, and how I am constrained in this fleshe2 until it might be finished! 51 You think that I came to bestow tranquility throughout the landc2 [or You think I came to be like Buddha or Lao Tsu, teaching you things like meditation and solitude]. Not so, I tell you, but rather disagreement. 52 Because from this time forward, five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 [Like the prophet Micah said], ‘They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.’”

        54 Then he also asked crowd, “When you see a cloud growing in the west, immediately you say, ‘A thunderstorm is coming.’ Indeed, it comes in this way. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘There will be a scorching heat.’ And it comes. 56 Hypocrites! You have analyzed and can interpret the manifestations of the earth and the sky, but you have not paid attention to examine the timing of what is going on now.

        57 “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, can you not decide what is the right thing to do? 58 For example, as you go with your accuser to the magistrate, make every effort on the journey to be released from him, that he may never drag you before one who passes judgment, for the judge will surrender you to the officer who administers the penalty, and the officer will throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you shall not escape from that placef2 until you have repaid the last penny.”

+  +  +

b2  fire, probably a metaphor for purification, or for passion.

c2 earth, land, country, it could also be a metaphor for the  physical body.

d2  baptism, esoterically, this could refer to the spirit’s purification through an intense struggle in the flesh (crucifixion) so it can learn, improve, grow to its full development – the Christos.

e2 sunechō: the Greek word means “held together, pressed in from all sides” which is a reference to his spirit being contained within the flesh or body.

f2  that place, the prison of pride, or the consequences of sin; esoterically, this could refer to the spirit’s imprisonment in the body. If karma is not satisfied, the cycle of reincarnation will continue.

     The last verse (59) doesn’t sound like grace alone. You need to graciously settle things with your accuser before someone else is called in to make a judgment about it. Chances are high that you are wrong about your lack of guilt.

What are the consequences of not making amends with people you’ve offended? You’ll end up “in prison” until every penny is paid. Is this to be taken literally, or might this mean someone won’t get out of prison (the cycle of rebirth into the body) until they do what is necessary to make amends for the violations they’ve committed (satisfying all karmic debt)?

If you don’t allow for reincarnation, then you’re trusting the biblical teaching (and universal spiritual law) that you reap what you sow is voided simply by your confession and expression of sorrow to the Deity in the sky. The literal interpretation of grace alone means you don’t have to do the hard and loving work of compensating the person you sinned against (even though this is a component of true repentance).

Think about it. Really. What is just and equitable? What is easy and what is hard? What’s human and what’s divine – saying you’re sorry to God or saying you’re sorry to your accuser?

Whether or not you can accept reincarnation, come to terms with your accusers—offer unconditional love to them while you can—just in case.

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Be Vigilant – Enter the Kingdom Today

 

     My translation of the text from Luke 12:32-40 offers a different understanding of this passage, which is often used in an apocalyptic bent. It’s amazing how different the Greek can be translated when you are not manipulating the text to support fourth century doctrines. Instead, if you take into account the imagery and metaphors, I suggest it means we should be wary of false teachers (even the false ego) who point to the future rather than being prepared to participate in the kingdom of heaven today. See what you think.

32 “Do not fear, little flock, because it pleases the Creator of you to give dominionm to you. 33 Sell what you have and show compassionn; make of yourselves vessels that are not becoming antiquated, an unfailing receptacle for what is most valuable to youo in your mindp, where no false teacherq comes near and nothing eats away at your good worksr 34 because whatever is most valuable to you,o that’s where your center of focuss will be.

35 “Support your creativity using right and harmonious guidancet and be passionate in your service;u and you yourselves be like those who are expecting their master as to when he might unleashv the wedding-feast, so that as soon as he comes and knocks they may open the door for him.

37 Coming to completionw are those servants who the owner finds vigilant when he arrives. Assuredly, I say to you that he will secure his own garmentsx and make them sit down to eat, and having come alongside he will serve them. 38 And if he might come (again) in the second or in the third watch,y and find them vigilant, reaching completionz are those servants. 39 Now understand this, that if a house-holder had known what time/season a thiefa1 is entering, he keeps vigilant and not permit his house to be robbed. 40 Therefore you also be ready, because the one season you do not expect, a false teachera2 is coming.

+  +  + FOOTNOTES +  +  +

kingdom: that perfect order of things which Jesus wanted to establish, rulership

give alms. Give to the poor, charity.

o treasure.

in the heavens, as a metaphor, the mind, the seat of higher consciousness. The true treasures of the mind are peace, hope, faith, love, joy, patience, self-control, etc.

q  thief, the name is transferred to false teachers, who do not care to instruct men, but abuse their confidence for their own gain.

moths destroy: Moths eats away at clothing, which is a metaphor for what is seen on the outside, i.e., good deeds.

o  treasure.

heart, the seat and centre of man’s personal life in which the distinctive character of the human manifests itself. Hence the significance of the heart as the starting point of the developments and manifestations of personal life, as well as the organ of their concentration and outgo.

t  Let your waist be girded with truth. Literally, your loins, the center of your creative powers with truth (in Aramaic, truth means right and harmonious guidance). This is a metaphor for making sure your creative powers are supported with good deeds.

and lamps burning. A metaphor for letting your light shine, or possibly be aware of what’s going on around you.

analuō. Literally means to unloosen.

Blessed, the Aramaic word means “ripening, developing, coming to completion, maturing.”

x  gird his own loins: metaphor for making sure his own actions support his creative energies and purposes.

there are four watches over a prison. The body is a tent, a temporary “prison” for the eternal spirit.

z  see footnote on blessed above.

a1  thief, metaphor for false teacher, or even the false ego that tries to steal the joy of the kingdom.

a2  son of man. In context, this cannot refer to Jesus since the reference goes back to the thief mentioned earlier. Son of man was also a reference to the image or actions or nature of a human being, someone who might be a false teacher/thief.

+  +  +

     Jesus said, “Be cautious. There’s a thief who wants to break into your house and steal your peace of mind or your joy.” Who is the thief? The thief is the son of man. Now that sounds almost blasphemous. My favorite version of the Bible (NKJV) capitalizes every usage of the term “son of man” – conditioning us think this is merely another way to say, “the Son of God.” But the son of man is a Greek term that refers to one’s humanness, a person’s weak side – the side of you that is insecure, fearful, or remembers how people hurt you, or focuses on your failures. In today’s terminology, that might be the false self or the small ego.

     Jesus started saying, “Your heavenly Father wants to give you the kingdom.” He means in this life. If you are vigilant and using your creative energies to promote harmony and doing the right things, he is ready and willing to provide for your needs. But be cautious. The son of man, the part of you — that little voice on your left shoulder who whispers in your ear and tells you that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, or important enough – sometimes he gets into your head when you least expect it and causes you to get creative about not doing the right things. We all can get pretty creative about procrastinating, and avoiding the person we ought to be communicating with in order to patch up damaged relationships—anybody know what I’m talking about?

     Let your loins be girded with truth and lamps burning. The Aramaic word for truth means “right and harmonious guidance, that which liberates and opens possibilities.” Use your creative energies to bring forth harmony. Be aware of all that is going on around you. And be cautious. If you knew at what times your insecurity or your weak side was going to show up and throw a wrench into your peace of mind – you’d be ready for it.

     My book on the Beatitudes explained that blessed means “ripening, developing, coming to completion, maturing.” Mature [blessed] are those who the master finds on their guard in the second watch or the third watch of the night. The second watch is when you’re 40-60 years old, the third watch of life (when you’re over 60). You are being spiritually mature when you are still watching for that thief called insecurity to show up unexpectedly, even later in life when you think you know everything about yourself. Because that little voice keeps trying to break into your peaceful house.

     So how do you keep your weak side from showing up and taking over the house? How do you stay vigilant and awake? It’s a lifelong process to know yourself. That’s the spiritual journey…to know yourself…and to know you are a child of God. The spiritual life is a process of becoming aware of what makes you act – or react – the way you do when difficult things come up. It’s when our emotions are at their height that we stop using our heads and start doing what the weak side of us, the human side rather than godly side, wants to do.

     Mature are those that the master finds vigilant even in the second and third portions of their lives, who continue, as they grow old, to learn about themselves and God. They are building a treasure in their minds that is unfailing. They’re beginning to know and understand God within themselves, and that’s when the kingdom comes.

0 - inherit (sm)

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The True Gift is Trust

Luke 12:13-21

     You and I were not born to accumulate wealth or fame or power. We were given a higher purpose. Whether or not we live out that purpose is up to us. This is my translation of Luke 12:13-21 

13 Then someone from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 But he said to him, “Man, who appointed me a judge or negotiator for you?”

15 So he said to them, “Become mentally aware and guard yourself from any greedy desire to have more because even when a person has abundance, a purpose-filled lifea does not develop from the things he possesses.”

16 Therefore he offered them an illustration, saying: “The land of a certain rich man produced abundantly.

17 So he began reasoning within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’

18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.

19 And I will say to my soul,b “Soul, you possess many goods set aside for many years; retire in ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’

20 However the Creatorc said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is called forth from you.’ Therefore whatsoever you saved up, whose will they be?’

21 “In this way, one accumulates riches for himself, but is not abundantly supplied (with trust) toward the Creator.”

angel in the sky*  *  *

zoa: The NT identifies three kinds of life: bios, psuche, and zoa. Body, mind, and the life or purpose for which you were born.

psuche: a name for the mind, personality, ego-self aspect of life.

theos: the name “God” would be appropriate here because Luke is writing to Gentiles and “God” as a name for the Deity was taken from pagans by Christians. Not only that, but the Greek name for the sky-god was Ouranos. Interestingly in the fourth century, Jerome translated basileia ton ouranos as the kingdom of the heavens (skies). It could just as easily been translated the kingdom of Ouranos, the sky-god, since they are the same Greek word. A simple point that identifies that many nations worshiped a Deity in the sky/heavens.

*  *  *

     This story naturally flows into Luke’s version of “Don’t worry about tomorrow,” reminding me of the song from Annie: the sun will come out tomorrow. Stop worrying about the future. Live out your purpose and passion (zoa life) today. Pray for trust so that you can live fully within each moment of the day. After all, the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that to have wealth and to be able to enjoy it is a gift from God. The true gift is an abundance of trust, not wealth.

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