Jesus – A Witness to Truth

John 18:33-37

     Truth or Consequences was a television show originally hosted on radio by Ralph Edwards from 1940–1957) and later on television from 1950-1988 with other hosts. On the show, contestants received about two seconds to answer a trivia question correctly before “Beulah the Buzzer” sounded. If the contestant could not complete the “Truth” portion, which was usually an off-the-wall question that no one would be able to answer correctly, there would be “Consequences.” That would usually be a wacky and embarrassing stunt. If you couldn’t identify the truth, you paid the consequences.

     So what does this have to do with Christ the King Sunday? In his response to Pilate about his kingdom and how he ruled, Jesus said, “I was born into this world to bear witness to the truth.”

     The church established the last Sunday of the church year as Christ the King Sunday. However, because of the text that is chosen from the Gospel of John, I call it Truth Sunday. And as usual, I have a different understanding of the word “truth.”

     My meaning of truth comes from the Aramaic word that is translated as “truth” (serara) which is defined as “right and harmonious direction or guidance; that which liberates and opens possibilities, or is strong and vigorous.”

     Truth is not about concrete “facts” nor is truth always the same for everyone. When one of my children was eight years old and the other was six years old, the guidance I gave them was not always the same. There’s a lot of difference between what you can let an eight year old do and what you can allow a six year old to do. Of course, the six year old never thinks that’s fair. But that’s a lesson to be learned in itself. Truth is dependent upon each person and context.

     It drives some people nuts to be told that truth is not necessarily what is written in concrete (or worse, in black and white in the Bible).

     Truth is right and harmonious guidance. If you don’t follow right guidance that is directed toward harmony (and based on the circumstances), then you will suffer the consequences. And those consequences are generally negative. While the consequences of following right guidance leading to harmony are theoretically harmony and peace…more in the long run than in the short run.

     Jesus said he was born to bear witness to the right and harmonious way of living. Later, he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus’s example and the way he lived his life was the embodiment of right and harmonious living…truth.

     Now that you know the “truth” Jesus might have been trying to show by his life, let me ask you this: what kind of king do you think we should be portraying of him when he comes again? A king on a golden throne with servant angels tending to his needs, with legions of sword-bearing angels singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” and herding the unbelievers into the fires of hell as if they are the enemy?

     What a travesty the Christian church has made of the image of Jesus’s kingdom and the way in which he will rule the world! A kingship designed from human pride and domination has been assigned to our servant Lord.

     Isn’t Jesus the one who said:

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me (agrees with me and my teachings) before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matt. 10:32-34 NRSV).

     To deny Jesus is to disregard, forsake, reject, or not follow the guidance of Jesus. Period. Saying you believe in Jesus with your mouth and then promote killing your enemy is a denial of Christ. The sword he carries is not a weapon for killing, but a teaching that separates the ways of the world from the ways of a God who seeks ultimate unity and harmony in the creation.

     Jesus was not popular with the world and he was a thorn in the side of religious leaders. Jesus was subversive to the ways of the world. He didn’t agree with “an eye for an eye” and things like that. That’s why he was killed. Jesus wouldn’t survive the NRA and Wall Street and racists if he lived in the 21st century, either.

     Jesus calls us to follow him. To be subversive. To stand up for the poor, the outcasts, the sick, and sinners. And we are to follow him using his ways, not the ways of the world. His right and harmonious ways are turning the other cheek, nonresistance to evil, going an extra mile, giving more to those who take from you. If you aren’t pissing off the rich and wealthy and righteous, you aren’t following Jesus.

     The image of Jesus coming as a powerful king with a crown, scepter, and an army of weapon-carrying angels is a denial of everything Jesus came to bear witness to. The only difference between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam centers around the deification of Jesus. Christianity has not shown a better way through following the teachings of Jesus.

     This is my re-translation of this week’s text based on my understanding of “truth” and “kingdom.”

33 Pilate then went back into the public judgment hall again and called for Jesus. He said to him, “You are the king of the Jews.”

34 Jesus replied, “Are you saying this because it’s obvious to you, or did others tell you this concerning me?”

35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own people and chief priests have brought you to me to be put to death. What have you done?”

36 Jesus answered, “The way I govern (My kingdom/my rulership) is not through using the methods of this world. If my way of ruling was in the manner of this world, those who follow me would have been fighting so that I might not be handed over by the people. But as it is, I do not rule in this way.”

37 Therefore Pilate said to him, “So you are a king.”

Jesus answered, “You are saying that I am a king. I was born for this, and for this I came into the world: to bear witness to the right and harmonious way of living. Everyone guided in right and harmonious ways is hearing my voice.”

     Jesus is still a threat to empires that exist today. The desires of the flesh, pride, power, materialism, lust, greed, self-indulgence, self-importance, comfort, convenience—all of these are empires within us and outside of us. Just like Pilate—all these sinful desires in us are ready to go to war against anyone that threatens them. And Jesus, Christ as King, is the ultimate threat to a power-hungry, greedy world.

     Jesus as king doesn’t overcome anyone by force. He enters open hearts by invitation. He’s a king that reigns from a position of service, of unconditional love, and laying down his life for the well-being of others. When Jesus reigns in you, your life and actions will look like his. You will become subversive to the ways of the world. But he will provide you the power of unconditional love (grace) to flow through you to make a difference in the world, and you will be rewarded in and through your service.


Posted in Interpretation, Meditations on Specific Texts | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The End of the World is a Good Day

Mark 13:1-8              

     The end of the world is coming. Even though it’s a difficult process to go through, it’s a good thing. Except it will be a different kind of end than what most of us were taught. The Greek word that is translated into English as “end” is telos. This is a portion of its definition: the fulfillment or completion of any thing (Latin effectus), that is to say, its end or issue (not its cessation). It denotes strictly, not the ending of a departed state, but, the arrival of a complete or perfect one. And also, the end to which all things relate, the aim, purpose.

Earth     The “end” does not refer to the termination of the world, but the arrival of a completed or perfect world. I think we might call that the kingdom of heaven (which is within you and also in a communal setting). Jesus and John the Baptist said this is “at hand” or within your grasp.

     So has the arrival of a perfected world come? Not for anyone except Jesus, the firstborn of creation. He had reached a perfected state. St. Paul said Jesus was the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18). Paul couldn’t have meant that literally. We are told that Jesus raised three people from physical death— Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, and the widow’s son at Nain. Jesus’s spirit had reached perfection—firstborn of those dead in sin—perfected through and by unconditional love (grace).

     The thirteenth chapter of Mark (the coming destruction of the Temple) also needs to be considered as a metaphor about the life of the spirit within each of us. What spirit is that? The one breathed into us at birth. The one made in the image of God that must be raised to new life or be reborn in us.

     As we approach Advent and Christmas, we might consider that the Christ is to be born within us. This is a spiritual concept that few have been able to wrap their heads around, including me. But the time is coming…the end is coming…the arrival of a perfected state…Christ in us (2 Cor. 13:5).

     My research into Aramaic has shown that there are many levels of meaning possible in the biblical narrative. The physical meaning points to the destruction of the Temple itself in 70 CE by the Romans. Although there is truth in the literal meanings of many stories, the treasure lies deeper—in the metaphors and spiritual story.

     The metaphor of the destruction of the Temple is the struggle of the mind and spirit to reach completion or wholeness. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit. Try to wrap your head around that. You are marvelously made. However, the false self with the appetites and desires of the temple tend to overpower the birth of the Christ child within you. Only when they are torn down will the mind of Christ grow within you and help you reach fulfillment—a perfected state of unconditional love.

     If you don’t believe you can be perfected, then you won’t expend any effort to attempt to move forward and achieve this perfected state – sin will continue. Love will not reach its fulfillment without belief that it can be done. And Christ cannot come again by being born in you, at least not this December. 

     But the end will happen one day. How do I know? Because later, verse 13 of Mark 13 confirms it: you will be detested by all because of my name. Nevertheless, the one who endures to the end (has persevered toward fulfillment) shall be made whole (saved).

     The world is coming to an end. It’s moving toward a perfected state. And you have a part to play in it. But it’s got a long, long, long way to go. Give or take ten thousand thousand years.

     I think that’s why Martin Luther, when he was asked what he would do if he knew the end of the world was coming tomorrow, he said, “I would plant an apple tree.”  Why would he do anything different than what he already had planned?  Life will go on until it is perfected. 

     When John Wesley was asked what he would do if he knew the world was coming to an end tomorrow, he said he would get up at 4 a.m., preach at 5 a.m., visit the sick at 7 a.m., go to communion at 8 a.m. and on and on, until the questioner realized it was exactly what Wesley had planned to do anyway.[1]

     In the Old Testament, Daniel said our names are written in the book. He said on that last day we will “shine like the brightness of the sky”. That last day is the day of our completion. We will wear the robe of Christ. What does that robe look like? Remember—it’s a metaphor. In the Bible, outer clothing is an image of our outer actions. We will radiate with unconditional love (grace).

     While we wait, the book of Hebrews instructs us to keep meeting together, to encourage each other, to stimulate each other to good works….to keep on keeping on….until that last day when we are perfected in love.


[1] Donald Strobe, Collected Word (

Posted in Meditations on Specific Texts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Widow’s Compassion

Mark 12:38-44                                  

     Maybe you’ve had the same experience that I’ve had when interacting with very young children. I remember one time being introduced to a little girl. I think she was three or four years old. She had an ice cream cone in her hand. I don’t know what possessed me to say this, but I said, “Wow, that ice cream cone looks so good – can I have it?”

     And she handed it to me. She didn’t know me from Adam. It was all she had, and she gave it to me because I asked for it.

     The rest of the story is that I didn’t take it – I promise. But the shear act of giving me all she had just about floored me. That’s not the response I see myself giving if a stranger would ask me for my ice cream cone – unless of course, he’s two feet taller and two hundred pounds heavier than me.   

 offering plate    The story about the widow’s mite reminded me of that experience. The poor widow gave away her last two copper coins – all she had…she gave it away.

     Why would this widow give all she had to live on? The cynical side of me wonders if she’d been listening to an evangelist telling her some story about how she will be blessed with answered prayers or the abundance of more money if she’d send it to his or her wonderful ministry. And then the ministry uses the money to put gold faucets in their buildings or to buy a new chariot so the leaders can maintain their image of success and God’s blessings.

     Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law.” For them, it’s all about appearances and show.  They don’t care about anyone other than themselves and how good they look. They drain the resources of widows. Jesus said these people will receive the greater condemnation.  In 1 Cor. 6:10, Paul reminds us that robbers and extortioners use forceful means or intimidation or deceit to take from others and will not inherit the kingdom of God.

     Research has shown that the wealthiest of Americans (top 20% of income earners) donate, on the average, 1.2 percent of their sizable incomes while the lowest 20% of income earners donate 3.2 percent of their limited incomes. And those who are rich tend not to give to charities that help the poor.

     In 2012, not one of the top fifty individual charitable gifts went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the displaced. The poor tend to give to religious organizations and social-service charities, while the wealthy prefer to support colleges and universities, arts organizations, and museums that cater to the nation’s and the world’s elite. None of the biggest donations went to any of our nation’s largest social-service organizations, including United Way, the Salvation Army, and Feeding America.[1]

     But that’s due in part to the way the rich insulate themselves from the realities of those living in poverty. It’s also been shown that when higher income earners have more direct contact with people in difficult financial circumstances, the amount of money they give to satisfy some of those needs is greater. When you don’t see the pain and struggle of others, your heart cannot come alive and go to work doing what it does best—love.

     Giving out of duty is no fun. Some people give to churches like they are making an insurance payment. Others give only when they think they’ll get something back, like special attention to their opinion about what the church should do. That’s not giving out of compassion, and so that’s not giving. It’s buying influence.

     Was the widow giving money in the Temple duped out of it? I don’t think so. She believed her money would feed another person that day. I think it’s about her compassion, the laying down of her life for her less fortunate neighbor. She didn’t have to check her bank account. She was living in the moment and she acted from her heart.

     It also a strong message about the faith of the widow showing complete trust and dependence on God to provide for her. Just like a sparrow in the field, she wasn’t worried about tomorrow.

     A professional fund-raiser once led an ambitious financial campaign for a congregation. He did some research and found that after an analysis of the church’s giving patterns, the majority of the top fifty contributors were widows on fixed incomes. According to his calculations, those widows on fixed incomes’ were subsidizing about sixty percent of the congregation’s annual budget. His advice was that if they wanted to improve the giving in that congregation, the stewardship team needed to talk to those women first, find out why they were giving, and then try to infect the rest of the congregation with the faith of these widows on fixed incomes.[2]

     No matter what amount you have to live on, when you give from the compassion of your heart to meet the needs of others, you have done God’s work. It’s through you that God answers the prayers of those in need. And that not only strengthens their faith, but it confirms for you that you have purpose and meaning in life.



[2] William H. Willimon, The Widows-On-Fixed-Income Infection, eSermons, Mark 8:38-44 text.

Posted in Meditations on Specific Texts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Saints, Come Forth

John 11:32-44

RIP_headstone     If you were Lazarus, wouldn’t you be upset if Jesus called you back from the dead? Think about it. You’re in heaven for four days. You’re getting accustomed to the peace and joy and harmony, the heavenly feast.

     Then St. Peter comes up to you and says, “Put down your harp, Lazarus, I just got a text to send you back to the place of tears, and pain, and sorrow.”

     “You’re joking, aren’t you, St. Peter?”

     “Nope. I just got it on my new iPhone 6. But don’t worry. Take a sip from this cup before you go. It’s got some of the stuff surgeons of the 21st century will give you so you forget everything that happens while you’re awake on the operating table. You won’t remember a thing about being here.”

    You reply, “But what if I don’t want to go back? I’m in the light. Why do I have to go back to that darkness?”

     “I don’t know. Maybe it’s your karma catching up to you,” the gate keeper speculates. “I’ll say goodbye to your friends for you.”

     The next thing you know…people are shouting and unwinding grave cloths from around your head. The bright light and grave lotions sting your eyes and in the ruckus, someone kicks dust in your mouth.

     What a bummer.

     This dialogue comes from a literal translation of the text. That’s supposed to be the good news for everyone. Don’t worry about your life today. It’s going to be better after you’re dead. As good as life is for some people in the 21st century, we have been promised that the new life in the kingdom of heaven will put this life to shame.

     Except we are never cautioned from the pulpit that the literal interpretation of the text gives Jesus the option to call us back.

     Do you think you would be happy to return?

     If all you get out of this lesson is that Jesus has the power to raise you from the dead, then there’s no good news for this life. The good news is only good news after you are dead. You’re just going to have to tough it out here, praying that God will give you a break.

     And that’s one reason I think fewer people are showing up in churches on Sunday morning. Many churches believe more in life after death than in life today.

     On the other hand, if you understand the metaphorical nature of the term “dead” in the New Testament, you might be able to find good news for your life today. Death is the absence of life. Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.”

     He meant life that is true life, the one you can be living in your body. A life with some joy, some goodness, some kindness, some love. You know, the life that the Prodigal Son came back to live. Remember the end of that story? The father said, “My son was dead, but now, he is alive again.”

     Was the Prodigal Son dead? Yes, metaphorically speaking. And he rose from the dead.

     The reckless son had not been living the abundant life. His existence was devoted to satisfying the desires of his flesh. As a result, he lived with the pigs (also a metaphor). He was dead to true life until he made a decision to turn away from the desires of the flesh and live in his father’s love.

     How does one die to the abundant life? Lots of things can steal you away from a life with joy and peace and hope. And death looks a lot like depression, anger, despair, isolation, etc. Yet, there is One who can lead you back. It just takes him two words, “Follow me.” That means do what he did. Trust and live according to his teachings. That’s what will bring you true life and raise you from the dead, long before you see St. Peter.

Posted in Meditations on Specific Texts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Grace Opened the Eyes of Blind Bartimaeus

Mark 10:46-52

     Grace is usually the final answer to opening the eyes of the blind. I attended a leadership conference where the speaker (Gordon Lathrop) shared some information about the story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus.  He spoke of the way the book of Mark was structured – focusing on this story. He suggested that it’s similar to the middle part of a first century book called The Timaeus, written by the philosopher, Plato.

     The biblical story is that of giving sight to Bartimaeus which means “son of Timaeus.”  Lathrop said this is not a typical Jewish name. Instead, he said The Timaeus was actually the second most read book in the first century. (The first most read was Homer.) Plato wrote The Timaeus as a dialogue between Socrates, Timaeus, and two other notable philosophers to explain the origin and design of the world.

     I decided to purchase the ebook and look for a story he mentioned was in it. I couldn’t find the story on my Kindle so here’s my analysis of why there’s a story in the Gospel of Mark that speaks about a blind man whose name was Bartimaeus and was seeking Jesus.

     In the book, Timaeus explains the creation, design, and structure of the universe. He repeatedly expresses that the concept of God and creation is beyond understanding, so he’s not claiming absolute truth. But he says this is the probable explanation and inquiring minds must seek to understand these things. Remember that this is written the 6th century before Christ.

     Timaues explains creation of the world, how the human body was designed, how diseases arise, etc. He uses the mathematics of Pythagoras as the basis for suggesting the patterns in nature. It’s quite involved and imaginative. Some of it made perfect sense. When Timaeus started connecting emotions with fire, water, earth, and air, it became too primitive for me. Yet it was interesting to see how some of the brilliant people of that day tried to explain the universe. It’s based on the human limitations of what is seen and heard and felt and tasted and smelled with the human senses (and that’s without microscopes, Hubbell telescopes, and physics laboratories). Lathrop suggested that philosophers of that day believed that the common person could never understand the cosmology of the world – the movement of the heavens and the stars.

     Lathrop also suggested that the gospel of Mark subverts Timaeus’ theme (the human capacity to understand). Mark is the most obvious of the Gospels concerning the disciples’ inability to understand Jesus. And scholars today suggest that one purpose of the story of Bartimaeus is to contradict The Timaeus’ picture of the complexities of how the world is designed.

Bartimaeus story     The point is this:  the story of the healing of Bartimaeus is far more than a miracle story. The people of the first and second centuries would have clearly recognized a name like “son of Timaeus” was more than a typical Jewish person. It challenged the people of that century (and hopefully in our own century) to think that we can figure it all out from the limitations of human intelligence based on what we can see or do with our physical senses.

      In my words, Mark’s claim is that Jesus, more than anyone, is able to help the common person understand how the world works together in harmony, physically and spiritually.

      What does all this additional information say to me? It says that there is far more underlying the visible words of Scripture than meets the eye. From my perspective, some of those words aren’t even translated or interpreted accurately. If humans understand biblical stories only by what they can see or imagine with their physical senses, they are blind to anything that lies beneath what can be detected at the surface.

     For me, that means a literal understanding of the Scriptures could represent spiritual blindness. There is always more to every story than meets the eye. There is so much more to what was written by the authors of biblical texts than what lies on the surface. The surface level is primitive in comparison to what lies beneath. It should make a seeker want to dig more for the treasures in the Scriptures.

     Yet it’s not a sin to be blind. People are where they are on the spiritual path. It’s their path. And their path is not your path.

     No one has sinned against God because they haven’t heard the deeper details about the story of blind Bartimaeus (or others). And it does no good to hurt someone with insults who cannot see. (That would be like the blind calling the blind “blind.”)  They don’t know any better at this point. They may not know any better after they’ve heard more details either. They will need guidance in many things. It’s their knees they are scraping when they fall. We’re simply at different places on the same path.

     Carrying this to the next step. It does no good to criticize, insult, or minimize biblical literalists. What does the most good is to love them unconditionally. Don’t love them because you think you’re supposed to drag them to the same level of understanding as you. Don’t love them because there’s a commandment to love. Love them because the Divine dwells within them. Like you, they are on a path. They are being guided toward the Light in God’s own time. You’re simply in different places on the same path. It is what it is.

     The only way you can help the Bartimaeus’s of the world is to let them meet Christ in you. A Christ that will love them unconditionally, no matter what they know or don’t know. A Christ that will not resist their ugliness or insults or evil. A Christ that will receive the pain they hand out and not give it back (taking up the cross).

     One day, if you trust in unconditional love (aka, grace) the eyes of Bartimaeus will be opened.

Posted in Meditations on Specific Texts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Use It or Lose It

Mark 10:35-45

     Unless you use your gifts and talents in service to others, you may lose them.

     A great violinist, Nicolo Paganini, gave his violin, an incredible instrument, to the city of his birth—Genoa, Italy. He established one condition: that it never be played again. This turned out to be an unfortunate condition for everyone concerned. It is a characteristic of wood that as long as it is used and maintained, it shows little wear. But as soon as it is set aside, it begins to decay. That wonderful, mellow-toned violin has become worm-eaten in its case, useless except as a relic. His instrument is a reminder to us that a life removed from service to others loses its capacity for usefulness and beauty.[1]

     It’s when the instrument is used that it learns to submit to the skill and the touch of the Musician. And the result is beautiful music that brings joy to others. It has purpose. In doing this, it retains its life.

     There’s another story about a great Roman aqueduct built in Segovia, Spain, in the year 109 A.D. For eighteen hundred years, it carried cool water from the mountains to the hot and thirsty city. Nearly sixty generations of people drank from its waters. Then came a generation that said, “This aqueduct is so great a marvel that it ought to be preserved for our children as a museum piece. We shall relieve it of its centuries-long labor.” They did; they laid modern iron pipes to carry the water. They gave the ancient bricks and mortar a reverent rest. And the aqueduct began to fall apart. The sun beat down on the dry mortar, causing it to crumble. The bricks and stone sagged and began to fall. What centuries of service could not destroy – idleness caused to disintegrate.[2] It was its service, its usefulness, that kept it alive.

     The rub with human beings is that you are both the musician (after all, God is within you) and the instrument. You must make the decision and exert the effort to use your special talents in the service of others in order to be of value. If your abilities are only placed in service for yourself or if they are not used at all, who can appreciate you and consider you of value to them?

     The apostle Paul said you were created for good works. I don’t think using your abilities only for your own good is classified as good works. I’m guessing good works is about what you do for others. We were not created to live for ourselves alone. We were created to be a blessing to those around us.

     The violin that stays to itself, unused for its true purpose – good works, deteriorates and no truly beautiful music comes from it. The aqueduct that is not allowed to do that for which is was created, falls apart. And so it is with us. When our talents are removed from service to others, we lose the ability to make the impact that could be made.

     Serving others, we are useful instruments, individually and also united together as the body of Christ. We provide hope and light and encouragement to others in situations that may seem hopeless, dark, and discouraging.

     Use your talents and gifts to bring peace and joy to others. You will feel appreciated and of value. Your life will have purpose and meaning. Use it or lose it.

[1] Bits & Pieces, June 25, 1992.

[2] Resource, Sept./Oct., 1992, p. 4.

Posted in Meditations on Specific Texts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Unity and the Exceptional Life

This gallery contains 1 photo.

     I’m working on a couple of writing projects right now. One is on eternal life and another is on retranslating the Gospels, inserting all the different biblical terms I’m redefining. What I’ve found is that so much of our … Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment

Early Childhood Development

Mark 10:2-16  

     Children have always gotten the short end of the stick. They are powerless. At least, until they get big enough to take the long end of the stick from your old and feeble hands. Then who has the short end? It’s a cycle that doesn’t seem to change. Similar to the cycle of retaliation.

     Why did the disciples scold the people for bringing children to Jesus? Because children were ranked among the least in that society (see my post on Serving the Least). The disciples didn’t think Jesus needed to be bothered with such trivial matters as children. It reminds me of the adults of this generation. Education appears to be the least in importance when it comes to taxes and funding. It’s the first thing cut on most city and county and state and federal budgets.

     Jesus had a different opinion of children.

     Because of my research about the kingdom of God/heaven, I have a new understanding of what Jesus came proclaiming. You can get the details and justification in my book about the kingdom of heaven. Now when I retranslate this text in Mark, I’m convinced our children hold the key to the development of unity in the world. Why? Because what children learn at a young age sets up what they do in when they are adults. Here’s my translation:

14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Permit the little children come to me, and do not prevent them because in these begins the development of unity (both inner and external). 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not begin the movement toward unity as a little child will not experience it.” (my translation)

     The congregation I served for eleven years had a preschool. It’s was a great boost to the future development of the children who came. Early childhood education, elementary education, and high school education will determine the future of our nation and world. It always has. If we aren’t teaching unity, harmony, tolerance, beauty for the world, patience, service, equity, diversity, and love for our neighbors and enemies when they are young, they will never experience it. Instead, professionals imagine that the child who is able to memorize the most facts for standardized tests is the evidence of superior intelligence. We already have access to all the facts of the world on our iphones. You don’t have to be intelligent to look up facts. What children need is to increase their capacity for creative thinking and the ability to solve problems.

children guns 2     Children learn mostly from their parents and home environment. Do they learn how to enter (or not enter) the kingdom of God (the movement toward unity and the working together of all things) in their homes? Parents set an example. Some buy/allow games of war, and promote plastic weapons for children to practice treating each other like the enemy. They are taught to fear what someone else “might” do to them and they must be prepared for battle. Moses said whatever you teach your children, when they are old, they will not depart from it.

     For me it points to the necessity of putting our money where our education is – into the development of harmony for future generations. This is the foundation of their adult lives. If they don’t learn love and harmony and discipline and ethics from teachers with the highest of values and passion as children, they’ll not develop the potential to achieve the purpose for which they were born. If they don’t learn methods for resolving their own inner conflicts (meditation, communication, conflict resolution), they will carry those inner conflicts into adulthood and use drugs, sugar, sex, alcohol, and violence to escape their confusion.

     The money put into education today will reduce the amount of money we’ll need for national defense in the future. Children who don’t learn unity and harmony will become adults who are divided within themselves and therefore, divided with their neighbors.

     And that will be the fault of this generation. What we sow is what we reap.

     Is that important to you and me who are over fifty/sixty years of age? After all, we’ll never see it. That’s a very short range and selfish point of view. Are you sure you will never see the consequences of ignoring the proper education of children? It’s my humble opinion that you and I will reap what we sowed in this generation.

     That will be the topic of my next book (after the one on eternal life which I’ll be finishing this fall).

Posted in Meditations on Specific Texts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Salt Seasons Salt

Mark 9:38-50

     Can you season salt that has lost its saltiness? Physically, I don’t know if NaCl can lose its ability to enhance the flavors or to preserve foods from deterioration. Maybe if something breaks the sodium atom away from the chlorine atom, it will destroy the nature of the molecule and its properties. But then I’m not sure it can become salt again. However, metaphorically, the answer is “yes.” Salt that has been weakened or broken can be restored.

 free-clipart-of-salt-shaker2    There was a time when I put salt on about everything I ate. Salt enhances the flavor of many foods. It improves the taste of bland vegetables, brings out the essence in meats, and gives them all some added pizzazz. It also dampens or masks the bitterness in some foods like chocolate and broccoli, so they are much more palatable. When you store something in salt, it prevents bacteria and mold from destroying the food. Salt enhances most of the things it contacts. It brings out the uniqueness of each food type.

     So Jesus brings up a good question:

Salt is good, but if the salt loses its strength, how will you season it?

Then he answers his own question.

Possess salt in yourselves, and live in peace with one another” (Mark 9:50).

     You are the one who seasons salt that has lost its saltiness.

   Let me explain. First, most people recognize Jesus is speaking in metaphors. He has been speaking in overstatement and metaphors for the complete text. To cut off hands, feet, and plucking out eyes is so ridiculously barbaric, someone has to be a mental infant to take it literally.

     The salt metaphor is pretty clear, too. You and I are supposed to be like salt. We are to enhance the unique properties and talents of those we touch in our daily lives. We are to preserve others so that they are not destroyed by the cares of this life.

     But what happens when you and I get overwhelmed by life? What happens when you lose your ability to enhance others? How do you regain your strength?

     It helps if you have been hanging around other salt in a salt shaker.

     Three weeks ago, a friend in the church I’ve been attending died. He was salt. His wife was salt. She is in a phase of her life where it will be difficult for her to focus on enhancing the lives of others. Although being salt is natural to her, for a time, she has been weakened. Other grains of salt are surrounding her, comforting her, and assisting with food as her family comes and goes. They telephone and send cards, trying to preserve her from the destruction of shock, disbelief, depression, despair, and loneliness.

     It’s a long road ahead for her. And those expressions of love and comfort from within the salt shaker will continue, giving her the space she needs, but always ready to protect and defend her. One day, her strength will return.

   Jesus taught that people will be tempted and they will make mistakes. You’ll reduce the mistakes you make by removing the temptation before it brings its negative consequences. The fire is a metaphor for the pain suffered from the consequences of your unloving actions (sin). The purpose of those painful consequences is to make you a better person. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’ll keep suffering the pain they bring.

     Jesus said every person will be seasoned with fire. Every person will suffer the unquenchable fires of Gehenna. This is how he said it:

“The fact is, every person will be seasoned with fire, but every sacrifice (the victim that is going through the fire) will be seasoned with salt.  Salt is good, but if the salt loses its strength, how will you season it? Possess salt in yourselves, and live in peace with one another” (Mark 9:49-50).

     The consequences of sin tend to make people act better. Except for the slow learners.

     And salt will season salt that has lost its ability to enhance others. We comfort, encourage, and bring out the best in each other as we journey through the wilderness and the fires of Gehenna.

     Have salt in yourselves so you can season your friends who are going through the fires of life. Stay close to the salt shaker so other salt knows when you’ve been burned by life or by sin. And they will do the same for you.

Posted in Meditations on Specific Texts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Serving the Least

Mark 9:30-37                                    

     Jesus said, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”  Then he gave them a visual demonstration. He brought a little child into their midst, put him on his lap and wrapped his arms around him and said, “Whoever welcomes (receives, accepts) a little child like this in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not [just] me, but the One who sent me.”

Jesus Helps Person Lying On Ground     That sounds kind of sweet to us, doesn’t it? But, what Jesus did with that child was radical in his day. Children in that day were not considered the precious little darlings we think them today. Especially the children of the poor were at the lowest rung of society. They were easily overlooked.

     Aristotle lived about five hundred years before Jesus. With others, like Plato, he advocated that no handicapped baby should be given food or water, saying, “Let it be a law that nothing mutilated (born out of the ordinary) shall be nurtured.” It was legal in some countries to put the infant out in the cold to die of exposure.

     Aristotle advocated abortion with this reasoning, “It is necessary to take care that the increase of the people should not exceed a certain number in order to avoid poverty and what comes with it, troublemaking and other evils.”[1] Limit the number of unwanted children so you don’t create more poverty and the evils that come with poverty.

   Children were wanted only for the benefit they might be for their parents as they got older. Children were the least of value in that society, and easy to ignore.

     Who are the least in our society today? Who in our world would we rather let die because they are of so little value? Well, it’s not Isis or Al Quaida terrorists or North Korea or drug lords in Mexico who are the least. It wasn’t a terrorist that Jesus was holding on his lap. They are not the least because they are not ignored. They are the enemy. We pay much more attention to our enemies than we do to the least and most defenseless of our society.

     Some people spend more time fighting about the rights of the unborn than they do in trying to help the children who have survived the womb but don’t have parents who want them. Yet they don’t want to help in the care of children born into poverty. I don’t have a political agenda. I’m prolife. But I’m prolife all the way through life, not just until an infant takes its first breath in the arms of a parent who is not committed to caring for it. If you vote that every fertilized egg should be born, you ought to be voting to make sure each infant gets proper nutrition, clothing, medical attention, and education to become a gift to the world – making sure every child knows it is loved and wanted.

     Some might think it’s cruel and unusual punishment to innocents to force zygotes into being born knowing that the privileged who think they are on the highest moral ground will berate these little ones as they get older since they might need some of that hard-earned cash the privileged would rather burn on extravagances.

     Let me rephrase Jesus’s teaching in another way: “Whoever agrees to take charge of one of these little children, acting on my behalf, is taking charge of me; and whoever takes charge of me, is taking charge, not of me, but of the One who sent me.”

     In 2013 it was estimated that there were 2.5 million homeless children in the United States. What impact do you think that will have on the success and well-being of future generations? Children who are homeless are subject to criminal and social victimization that can only be imagined by most of us. This is early life experience is the foundation they receive and becomes the basis for their lives and decisions as adults.

     What you sow is what you will reap.

     Who are the least in your world that you can wrap your arms around? How will you become the greatest person to enter their lives?


Posted in Meditations on Specific Texts | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment