Hope for the future

I have been very anxious about the future – about getting older and needing help. I do not have children or a close family (“distant” isn’t just in miles). There is nobody on the horizon that I can count on to help me when I get older, if my husband dies before me. Or, say we are both old, and both need help. Who will help us?

I have long thought that there should be some sort of community, like a convent or a monastery, where people live and work and die together, as a kind of adopted family. But how to go about making that happen? People value their privacy and independence. People are wary of “religion”, yet it is a good center to a community.
We humans were not made to be alone. We lie to ourselves when we think we can do it all. We are not designed that way.

I have researched “co-housing” and similar communities. But I’m nearly 50. I take care of myself, but how long will it be until I need help? One broken bone, one car accident, and things change quickly. The system needs to be in place before that.

I love how religious people who live in community (monks and nuns) spend their lives together. They don’t go away to a nursing home – that facility is part of the property. It is an expected part of life. They don’t pretend that illness and death isn’t going to happen. I think it makes it easier to know that you won’t be tended by strangers – your own adopted family is taking care of you. Your home is there, with them, not shuffled away into some forgotten facility.

My recent Bible readings speak to the answer –

Psalm 142
I cry aloud to the LORD;
I plead aloud to the LORD for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I reveal my trouble to Him.
Although my spirit is weak within me,
You know my way.
Along this path I travel
they have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see:[a]
no one stands up for me;
there is no refuge for me;
no one cares about me.
I cry to You, LORD;
I say, “You are my shelter,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Listen to my cry,
for I am very weak.
Rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
Free me from prison
so that I can praise Your name.
The righteous will gather around me
because You deal generously with me.

Isaiah 51:12-14
“I am the One who comforts you.
Who are you that you should fear man who dies,
or a son of man who is given up like grass?
But you have forgotten the LORD, your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth.
You are in constant dread all day long
because of the fury of the oppressor,
who has set himself to destroy.
But where is the fury of the oppressor?
The prisoner is soon to be set free;
he will not die and go to the Pit,
and his food will not be lacking.”

They tell me to wait – that God’s idea of time is not my idea. They remind me that Abraham waited 30 years after he was promised an heir – long after he and his wife were past childbearing years. They remind me that I need to put God first and everything else will fall into place.

(Bible translations are HCSB)

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A new definition of “liturgy”

The word “liturgy” means “work of the people”. It is a church term that refers to the actions that laypeople do to create the church service. Before the Protestant Reformation there was no liturgy. The church service was performed entirely by priests. After the Protestant Reformation the role of consecrating communion was performed by the priest but nearly everything else was often done by members of the congregation. The idea was to make space for people – to make them feel part of the ministry.

I propose that we change the idea of liturgy from meaning the things we do in church to the thing we do as the church. In liturgy we might wear special vestments or carry the Bible or a candle or a cross. How about we do the same things but in a different way – out in the real world? Otherwise, all we are doing in liturgy is play-acting, and that isn’t what God wants of us.

How about instead of wearing special robes we wear what we wear every day and see it as the uniform that we put on to do our work in the world?

How about instead of carrying a Bible in our hands we carry it in our hearts?  How about we live it out loud instead of just reading it out loud? Instead of just sharing the Gospel we live it by being the Good News to a hurting world?

How about instead of carrying a candle we carry the light of Christ in our hearts and share that light in a dark world?

How about instead of carrying a cross we help others by carrying theirs? Like how Jesus was aided by Simon of Cyrene to help bear his burden on the way to his crucifixion.

Crazy in the church

“Being considered ‘crazy’ by those who are still victims of cultural conditioning is a compliment” – Jason Hairston

I left a church when the minister thought I was crazy for praying to God and hearing a reply. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that in the three years I’d been a member there, not a single person had talked about hearing from God – including her. God and Jesus were past tense and future tense – not present tense. They weren’t right now. You’d think getting people to feel comfortable talking with God would be the goal of church, but often it isn’t. Often the goal is mute submission to authority.

I remember that even Jesus’ family thought he was crazy, and the religious authorities decided that he was possessed.

(This is from The Condensed Gospel)
When the Pharisees heard about this they said “This man drives out demons with Beelzebub.” Some, to test him, were demanding to see him perform a miracle. Even his own family thought he was crazy.
Jesus knew their thoughts and said “A divided kingdom cannot stand. No one can enter a strong man’s house and steal his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Thus, if the king of demons drives out demons he is fighting against himself. How can his kingdom stand then? If I drive out demons by the king of demons who is it that your own people drive them out by? Accuse them of the same thing you accuse me of! Now, if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then this is proof that the kingdom of God has arrived among you. People will be forgiven for whatever they do and whatever they say unless they speak against the Holy Spirit. That is unforgivable. Anyone who is not with me is against me, and scatters rather than gathers.” He said this because they were saying he had an evil spirit in him.
MT 9:32-34, MT 12:22-32, MK 3:20-30, LK 11:14-23, LK 12:10

In John 7:5 we learn that even Jesus’ own brothers didn’t believe in him. They lived with him and knew him well, and they thought he was a crackpot.

If this is how Jesus was treated by his own family, it stands to reason that his followers would be treated likewise, but it is sad that it happens in the church. He even warned his disciples that they would be accused of everything he was, and suffer his fate – but he meant that it was going to come from the religious authorities that they were trying to usurp, not from within the faithful.

“Crazy” is the modern way to silence someone, especially a woman. It is said to discredit or diminish her impact on others. It is used these days in the same way that the accusation of witchcraft was in years past.

If you have been told you are crazy by a church member or minister, leave right away and find people who hear the same voice you hear. You aren’t crazy. The ones you left are, because they can’t hear the One who they say they follow. How can you follow God if you don’t even know God’s voice?

Rebuild the church

cross

St. Francis saw this cross in the church of San Damiano and heard it say “Rebuild my church”. He then did literally that – stone by stone he repaired a falling down church near his home.

But what if it is more than that – not a building, but the idea? Remember Jesus said “Upon this rock I will build my church” and renamed Simon to Peter, which means “rock”.

The church is a group of people, not a place.

Saint Peter was never ordained, neither was Saint Francis of Assisi. The title of Saint was given long after they died as honorifics, as descriptors of their goodness and adherence to the Way.

Remember, Jesus never ordained anyone, never built a church out of stones. “Church” is meant to be a collection of people working towards a common goal, not a collection of cinderblocks.

The Church Jesus intended is one that is living, dynamic, real, present. It makes a difference in the world by helping people. Remember his final exhortations to Peter, his rock. Feed my sheep. Tend my sheep. He tells him three times to counter the three times that Peter denied him.

The church has nothing to do with actions or behaviors. Whether women cover their hair or wear modest clothing or not is incidental. Who people make love to or not is incidental.

Remember Jesus repeatedly quoted the prophet Hosea saying “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”. God wants our loving service not the incidentals. God would rather have nudists who run a soup kitchen then people who cover their bodies from head to toe and all they do is meet once a week to “have church” by praising God together.

God doesn’t want our prayers and our songs. God wants us to feed his sheep, to heal them. God wants our actions more than our praise. Our best form of praise is to serve God by serving our neighbors. Not by judging them or by pointing out how they are not serving God in the way we think they should.

We cannot be codependent Christians, constantly finding fault. We must find and bring joy wherever we go. Who is hungry? Feed them. Who is in prison? Visit them. Work for justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God.

This is how we rebuild the church.

God or man?

As followers of Jesus, we are told repeatedly to follow God and not humans.

We are not to have religious leaders.

Mark 10:42-45
42 Jesus called them over and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. 43 But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”

We are to treat everyone equally.

John 13:13-15
13 You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.

Only God is above us – we should not take on airs and call or be called by titles. We are to be equal.

Matthew 23:8-12
8 “But as for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi,’ because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven.10 And do not be called masters either, because you have one Master, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Jesus tells us that we aren’t even supposed to follow our own family.

Luke 14:26
26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple.

We are to follow human laws, however.

Matthew22:15-21
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to trap Him by what He said.16 They sent their disciples to Him, with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that You are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You defer to no one, for You don’t show partiality. 17 Tell us, therefore, what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 18 But perceiving their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, hypocrites? 19 Show Me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought Him a denarius. 20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” He asked them. 21 “Caesar’s,” they said to Him. Then He said to them, “Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Matthew 3:13-15
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to stop Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and yet You come to me?” 15 Jesus answered him,“Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him to be baptized.

Matthew 17:24-27
24 When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the double-drachma tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your Teacher pay the double-drachma tax?” 25 “Yes,” he said. When he went into the house, Jesus spoke to him first,“What do you think, Simon? Who do earthly kings collect tariffs or taxes from? From their sons or from strangers?” 26 “From strangers,” he said. “Then the sons are free,” Jesus told him. 27 “But, so we won’t offend them, go to the sea, cast in a fishhook, and take the first fish that you catch. When you open its mouth you’ll find a coin. Take it and give it to them for Me and you.”

Peter and his fellow apostles understood this message. The Jewish leaders ordered them to stop telling people about Jesus.

Acts 4:19-20
19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; 20 for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

And later, when they persisted in teaching about Jesus, they replied the same way.

Acts 5:27-29
27 After they brought them in, they had them stand before the Sanhedrin, and the high priest asked, 28 “Didn’t we strictly order you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to bring this man’s blood on us!”29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men.

So why do the vast majority of today’s churches have ordained ministers, bishops, or elders? Why do we separate and elevate? To elevate certain members of the church over others means to make the others unequal, lesser-than. This is in direct opposition to the instructions of Jesus. If you are in a church that has leaders who are above you, be sure to follow God first and foremost. If God speaks to your heart and a minister tells you to not talk about it or to not do what God said, then you must follow God and not the minister.

(All verses are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Spiritual but not religious (poem)

There are many people who say
that they are spiritual but not religious.
Perhaps they are this way
because there are so many
other people
who are
religious but not spiritual.

These are people who
go to church
but they don’t realize that
they are the Church.

They go into a building
but they don’t realize
that the Church
isn’t that.
It is them.

They believe that their
entire obligation to God
is to go sit passively
in a building
and listen
to someone else talk
for an hour
once a week.

This is not what Jesus meant
when he died for us
to create his Church.
When he said
“upon this rock I will build my Church”
to Peter,
he’s talking to a human being.
He didn’t mean a building.
He meant that we are supposed
to serve God
with every moment
of our days.

This does not mean
sitting in a church building
and singing hymns
and praying for people.
This means actually working.
This means actually helping people.

Many people have
left the Church
because the church
has left Jesus.
Many people don’t go to church
because they don’t find
Jesus
there.

Sealed (poem)

What would you do
if I told you
that the same oil
used to mark you
at your baptism
is the same
used to anoint
priests, bishops, kings, emperors?

You, in being marked
as Christ’s own forever
have a share in his kingship,
a part in his priesthood.

You, yes, you.

It was not for nothing
that you were born.
You are anointed,
consecrated to God.

Royal. Holy.

This honor is not limited to those
in the royal family.
Look at David.
A poor shepherd boy,
the youngest in the family.
Look at Moses,
raised in a stranger’s house.
They were nobodies until God called.

God called you too,
marked you as God’s own at your baptism.
Sealed. Sanctified. Saved.

What would you do now,
knowing this?

Why are you giving away your power,
your calling, to others?
Why do you follow priests and pastors, bishops, popes?
Your one teacher is God,
and God only.

Jesus says that we will do more and greater than he did –
more and greater than
restoring sight to the blind,
making the deaf hear,
making the lame walk,
making the dead come alive.

Us.

Imagine the healing of the world
at our hands,
the power of God
coursing through us.

It is here, now.
Anyone who tells you otherwise,
who keeps this to themselves,
is misleading you.