Redeemer

Stephen Gaskin was the founder of The Farm, an intentional community near Summertown, Tennessee. Before the commune was settled, he embarked on a speaking tour of America to talk about peace. His goal was to wake people up to a healthier way to be together as a society, a nation, and a global community.
He regularly allowed people to ask questions as part of the talks. Occasionally, some of the questioners had issue with him referring to Jesus. Most people who are considered countercultural don’t talk about Jesus at all, and Stephen did. He said that the Sermon on the Mount was the finest example of a guideline for how people can live together in harmony.
In his book “The Caravan”, he talks about Jesus as the Redeemer. In the usual Christian sense, this means that Jesus covers your sins for you. He pays that bill, so you don’t have to. But Stephen took it in a different direction. He said that in order to have a Redeemer, you have to have a Deemer. A Deemer is someone who deems – who makes a judgment as to whether something is good or not. Deemers separate and divide.
A Redeemer comes after that and makes things right. Redeemers make things whole again, by showing the value in all people. Redeemers point out that God made everyone, and God made everyone good. Redeemers reset us by seeing us as we were originally designed to be – whole, complete, and pure.
Additionally – not something said by Stephen but an extension of this thought – this is how Jesus was able to heal people instantly. He saw them as they were designed to be, before they were damaged by the world. Instead of seeing people as sinners, he saw them as Children of God. He didn’t heal them through any special power. He healed them by unlocking the power that God had put in them from the very beginning. He unlocked it by reminding them of it when he saw through their mask of sin to the person beneath.
The most radical part of this is that Jesus tells us that we have this same ability. We can heal the world by choosing to see people as Children of God. No longer dividing them into “good” and “bad” – but simply as people. We too can redeem the world, with Jesus’ help.

I am with you

During spiritual direction at the retreat at St. Meinrad’s in Indiana, I was asked to visualize being on a road with Jesus.  Where was he, in relation to me?  Then I was to imagine I found something on the road that was interesting.  Do I show it to Jesus?  Do I have to run to him to show it, or does he have to catch up?  Or do I just point to it and hope he figures it out?

I don’t normally like to spend a lot of time with these visualizations.  I usually feel very self-conscious doing play-pretend as an adult.  I’m also a little afraid that I’m going to be smacked down – that this is a trap.  It wouldn’t be the first time that a religious leader has purposely tried to make me look silly – and thus shame me into silence.

But I decided to a) be brave and trust and b) not go with my usual habit of trying to get to the good part too fast.  I’m not very good with waiting in the stillness of time that it takes for things to gel. Jesus and I are working on that.

I imagined I was walking on a dusty, rocky road, like the Camino de Santiago.  I was walking ahead, and Jesus was  behind me.  He was far enough away that conversation would have to be in gestures and shouts, but we could still see each other.

I saw a rock that was interesting and decided to wait for him to catch up to show it to him.  There were a lot of rocks on the road and I wanted to make sure he saw this specific one, because it was so different.

When he caught up with me and I showed him the rock, he smiled and said “Yes, I put that there for you to find.”

And my mind was blown.  How?  He was behind me.  But this is Jesus.  Jesus transcends time and space.  Jesus is everywhere.  He is before, behind, above, below, and within me.

Where I’d been wondering about him being behind me – aren’t I supposed to follow him, and not the other way around – he answered it.  He was behind me to watch me, to make sure I stayed on the path.  He was behind me to make sure I didn’t turn to the left or the right.  He was behind me to support me, to help me.

Years back, he had to be in front, but I watched his walk and matched my pace to his.  Now I can walk ahead and see new things.  My view is unobstructed.  I can go to new places, because he has shown me how.

The Walk isn’t about doing the same old things again.  It is a pattern, not a map.  You aren’t supposed to recreate his life, like a diorama, like a museum.  It has to be a living path.

The retreat theme was about rocks – about us being the living stones of the Church, about how even the stones would cry out if Jesus made his disciples be silent, about how we are like geodes – that being cracked open reveals our beauty.  I’d decided to take pictures of different examples of stones to meditate on, and took this one before the silent direction time.

rock

It was only later when I was looking at my pictures again that I noticed the one almost in the center that has a cross shape, revealed inside the rock itself.

rock

I went back to that area several times to try to find this rock, to take it home.  In a way, I’m glad I didn’t find it.  It is important to not iconize things, to not be weighed down by them.  It is the One who left me the stone in the visualization and in real life that is to be noticed.  The stone is just a symbol.  Symbols have to point to the thing – they aren’t the thing.  The trouble comes when we focus on the symbol.  That becomes idolatry.

Poem – healing in darkness

Consider Noah and Jonah and Jesus.
At one point, each was separated
from the rest of the world.
Through their time away
hidden they were able
to heal and bring salvation.

Also Joseph,
he was in prison for many years
but that put him in the right place
to be able to rescue the entire Jewish people
from certain extinction.

There is something for us
about these stories of people
retreating from the world
in order to save the world.
They are enclosed
in quiet dark places
they are like seeds
waiting for the right time
for bringing new life.

Remember when you are in
those dark times.
You are not being buried.
You’re being planted.

Everything starts in darkness.
It is not an end.
It is a transition
time to change
a time of stilling yourself
for something new to come.
Go into those times mindfully
and with rejoicing.

Room

Jesus prepares a room for us in heaven,
so that we can be with him.
Likewise, we must prepare a room for him
inside us, so that he can be with us.

Jesus wants to be in every part of our lives.
Our work, our family.
Our fears, hopes, dreams.
Our good days
as well as our bad.
Our sorrows
as well as our triumphs.

“I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” John 15:5

(Bible quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Don’t worship the door.

“Jesus once said ‘I am the door’ – and he was correct. A door is something to go through. The church, however, has remained at the threshold of the door, worshiping it, afraid to enter.” – former Episcopal priest Peter Calhoun in his book “Soul on Fire”

“We worshipped Jesus instead of following him on his same path. We made Jesus into a mere religion instead of a journey toward union with God and everything else. This shift made us into a religion of ‘belonging and believing’ instead of a religion of transformation.” – Richard Rohr

“A rich young man approached Jesus, and kneeling down before him, said ‘Good Teacher, what do I have to do to attain eternal life?’ Jesus asked him “Why do you call me good? There’s only One who is good, and that is God. If you want to have eternal life, then keep the Commandments. Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie about anyone, honor your parents, and love your neighbor as yourself.” — Matthew 19:16-17, Mark 10:17-19, Luke 18:18-20 (from The Condensed Gospel rendition, in “The Rich Young Man”)

Jesus never wanted us to worship him. Jesus wants us to follow him to God. Only God is above us.

Remember all the times that Jesus walked away from the crowds who were trying to make him king? He didn’t want it. Even today, the Jews use the fact that he wasn’t an earthly king to prove that he was not the Messiah. They also say that it is idolatry to worship Jesus as God.

Jesus would agree.

Remember the commandment to “have no other Gods before Me”? That includes Jesus. He constantly pointed people back towards God. He didn’t want to be worshipped. He wanted people to follow him to God.

Christianity has made an idol out of Jesus, rather than seeing him as a teacher and a guide.

Jesus does not punish.

We must remember that the Good News is indeed good. Here are some verses from the Gospels that remind us of that.

Jesus came to save people’s lives – not destroy them.

Luke 9:51-56
51 When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determined to journey to Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers ahead of Him, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for Him. 53 But they did not welcome Him, because He determined to journey to Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” 55But He turned and rebuked them and said, “You don’t know what kind of spirit you belong to. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy people’s lives but to save them,” 56 and they went to another village.

Jesus came to save – not condemn.

JN 3:17
“For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

Jesus tells us what to do if we have interpersonal problems. Note these words are not about if you think someone is sinning, but if you and another person have problems.

MT 18:15-20
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. 17 If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. 18 I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven. 19 Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

Jesus came to be a servant, not a taskmaster.

MT 20:25-28
25 But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. 26 It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”

Jesus came to find and rescue the lost.

LK 19:1-10
“Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

MT 18:11
“For the Son of Man has come to save the lost.”

Jesus came to save the world and not to judge it.

JN 12:44-47
44 Then Jesus cried out, “The one who believes in Me believes not in Me, but in Him who sent Me. 45 And the one who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46 I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears My words and doesn’t keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.

We, as Jesus’ followers, must follow his example of being full of mercy and kindness, seeking to help people and not to condemn them.

Prayer – Jesus as sculptor

Jesus help me know you and serve you.
Help me see you and be you.
Every day in every way help me find you in the faces of everyone I see.
Help me hear you in the voices of everyone I meet.
Help me be the face of you to them and the voice of you to them.
Work through me to bring forth heaven here on earth.
Make me a vessel of your peace and of your love.
Trim away all that is not of you.
You are the sculptor of my life.
Without you I am a block of stone.
With you I’m a magnificent sculpture.
Help me endure the blows of your tools as you cut me and shape me.
Help me to know that each blow of your hammer and chisel is not an assault against me.
Help me to know that each blow gets me closer to being the person who you need me to be.