Uncovering Jesus

What I’m doing is stripping down everything I’ve been told about Jesus and everything I’ve seen about what church is. It is like I’ve gotten a painting of Jesus that is 2000 years old. The original is underneath many layers. It has been covered in jewels and gold along with dirt and grime. People have added to it what they think needed to be there. They’ve added so much that they can’t even see Jesus anymore.

I’m doing this by reading the Gospels, the words of Jesus. I’m inviting the Holy Spirit in, to help me understand the real meaning behind the words on the page. I’m studying Jewish prayers and rituals to understand the meaning behind the parables. I’m trying to live like Jesus, while at the same time living like someone who has been healed by Jesus. I’m trying to see everyone I meet as if they are Jesus in disguise, just like how the disciples encountered him after he resurrected. I’m trying to remember that Peter not only walked on water, but raised someone from the dead. I’m trying to remember that if he can do that, so can all of us who call upon Jesus as our Lord.

Mostly, I’m creating a sanctuary for Jesus within my heart and within my life. Instead of affixing a mezuzah to the doorpost of my home, I’m affixing it to myself, as a reminder every day, every moment, that God is real, God is alive, and God loves me. I’m inscribing God’s words in my heart through prayer and study every day.

Am I succeeding? Sometimes. Not always. Sometimes I’m so angry and frustrated and upset that I want to yell at everyone and then lock myself in my house. Sometimes all I want to do is give up. And then I remember that even this is part of the journey. I remember that God loves me even when I feel unlovable. And then I remember that it was Jesus that brought that message to me. Then I remember that I need to share that love, that forgiveness with others.

What would make me happy about church? If Jesus showed up, in us, every time. What would make me happy about church would be if we stopped talking about “When Jesus comes again” and we start being real about how Jesus is here, already, right now, with us – as us. We are Christ’s body in this earth. We are how God’s love is made visible.

We are each Mary, who carries the Light of God within her and gives birth to it. We give birth to Jesus every day through our actions of love and compassion and service.

All we have to do is say “Here I am” when God calls us and let God work through us, and with us. We don’t have to be special – God has already made us special. We are each different because that is the way we need to be. We need to stop comparing ourselves to each other, as better or worse. Denominations and different faith traditions need to do the same. We are each different because that is what is needed. We are one in Spirit, and that Spirit will knit us together and create us into One Body that will, that is already, making a difference in the world.

We have to focus on the good, otherwise the bad wins. We have to focus on the goal, or we will be lost on the path.

What would make me happy about church.

I saw a member of my old church recently. I asked her if she knew why I had left. She smiled and said no. She said “You are missed.” I said it’s been two years. I pointed out that if she wanted to know about me she could have called or written me. Of the 200 people in that church only three contacted me. Only three took the time to check up on me. It doesn’t sound like I’m really missed.

While in one way I feel that I wasted three years of my life there, in another I’m glad I got away when this was the response of a church that prides itself on being welcoming. If they can’t take the time to check up on the welfare of a regular member, then maybe it is all an act. I don’t have time for acts anymore. I need people who are real in my life.

She asked me if I was happy. And in a way I am. I’m glad that I’m being true to the voice of God. I’m glad that I didn’t listen to a minister who told me to be silent about that voice.

In a way, I’m not. I’d hoped that I could have found more of what I needed there rather than having to create it from the ground up. I’m sorry about how much emptiness I found. I wanted a community of people where we could share how God was working in our lives, and join together our energies to make the world better. I’m sorry about how I was treated by the minister. I’m sorry for her need to control. I’m sorry that my leaving was so abrupt and final.

I accept that it is all part of God’s plan. I just wish I’d had a bit more of a head’s up as to how it was going to go. I felt that I was abandoned on the side of the road with no map for a bit.

I told the member that I know what my calling is. I knew when I joined that church that it wouldn’t be forever. I knew that there would be a time or I would have to leave. I just didn’t know when and how that would happen. I certainly didn’t expect it to happen like it did.

What would make me happy about church?

All people are ministers. All gifts are valued – no higher than another. All are equal.

All are welcome – rich, poor, gay, straight, all races, and all abilities and genders. All are treated with respect.

The focus is on service to everyone – not just on members of the church.

No proselytizing. Your life is your testimony.

Church is a place where we refuel and reconnect to the Word, to the Vine. We learn how to serve. We learn how to discover, improve, and share our unique gifts with the world.

What would make me happy about church? If church was more about action and less about social club. If church was more about healing the world rather than like an AA meeting. It should be a place where everybody learns that we are loved just like we are – and then we share that message with the world with no exceptions or caveats.

A lot of people go to church to assuage their guilt. They’ve been taught that they are sinners, and the only way to get over that is to go to church. The structure of the service is often so that they have to come back every week to hear this message again. This isn’t what Jesus wanted. It isn’t about a guilt-trip at all. It isn’t about submission and fear. It is about us sharing that message of love and redemption to everyone we meet. We do that by treating everyone like Jesus would – with love, kindness, and compassion.

I’ve not found this yet. I’ve found pieces of it. I’ve found some that are very close, but they exclude women from being full members or ministers. I’ve found some that are high on service to the community, but still have the focus on one main personality – an ordained minister. I’ve found some that welcome other faith traditions for their wisdom but they shun people who are gay. So they are welcoming of some who are “other” but not all.

I learned as part of deacon discernment process that if you see something missing then it means that you are called to create it.