Spiritual but not religious – poem

“Spiritual but not religious”?
So was Jesus.
Jesus didn’t come to create a religion
he came to start a relationship.
Jesus wants you to know
that God loves you personally.
That God isn’t some
amorphous thing in the sky
waiting to catch you screwing up.
God loves you
God made you.
God wants you
to know God personally,
directly,
without an intermediary.

Jesus couldn’t stand
the religious authorities
of the day
and how they made sure
that people
saw them praying,
and saw how big
their prayer shawls were.

Jesus wants people
to show
how big
their hearts are.

Jesus wants us
to be in relationship
with each other
and with God.
He wants us to serve God
not by religious observance
but by taking care
of each other.

Jesus would rather a person
never go to church
than spend all their time
in church
and none of their time
helping people.

With Jesus,
your religious observance
would be in a soup kitchen
or helping people clean up
after a tornado
instead of sitting for an hour
in a building, in “church”.

Jesus came to tell you
that you
are the church,
not the building.
That we collectively
make up living stones.

Jesus didn’t want us
to be anything
other than equal.
We are not supposed
to have
ordained and lay people,
but all the same people.
We’re not supposed
to have
bishops and popes.
The only one
above us
is God.

So “spiritual but not religious”?
So was Jesus.
His teachings are true.

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Jesus builds upon the old

Jesus came to uphold the words of God, not tear them down. His message was fresh but not new. The more you read of the Hebrew Bible, the more you’ll see it echoed in the words of Jesus.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-20
17 “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Here are some illustrations of this –

Consider his words in Luke 14:7-11
7 He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. 9 The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. 10 “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This is an illustration of Proverbs 25:6-7
6 Don’t brag about yourself before the king,
and don’t stand in the place of the great;
7 for it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here!”
than to demote you in plain view of a noble.

Likewise, Proverbs 25:8-10 continues on, saying –
8 Don’t take a matter to court hastily.
Otherwise, what will you do afterward
if your opponent humiliates you?
9 Make your case with your opponent
without revealing another’s secret;
10 otherwise, the one who hears will disgrace you,
and you’ll never live it down.

These teachings are illustrated in various verses –
Matthew 5-21-26
21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 I assure you: You will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny!

Matthew 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 expands and illustrates the lessons and teachings from the Scriptures he grew up with, and explains them in relatable ways to people. Instead of just repeating them, he made the teachings meaningful by telling them as stories. But he didn’t make up the original teaching. He built upon the old to create something new.

(all Bible translations are HCSB)

From the East

James Hilsden, the lead singer of the Israeli band Miqedem, explained the meaning of their name at a recent concert at Kol Dodi Messianic Congregation, in Nashville TN. He explained that “Miqedem” means “from the East” – but it also means from ancient times. The Hebrew word for the East refers to the rising sun.

He then reminded us of the story of the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve were sent out from there, they were sent to the East of it. In Genesis 3:24, we learn “After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life”

The cherubim were large angelic-looking creatures with huge wings.

Now notice this –

behind the veil

This is a replica of the veil that separates the Holy of Holies – the innermost section of the Tabernacle (In Hebrew it is מִשְׁכַּן “mishkan”, meaning “dwelling place”).  God’s instructions for how to build the Tabernacle are in Exodus 25.  Instructions about the curtains begin at Exodus 26:1.

“Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them by a skilled worker.”

This is for the inner part of the tabernacle, which is then covered with a tent made of the more durable fabric of goat hair.  The curtain for the Holy of Holies is described in Exodus 26:31-33

31 “Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim woven into it by a skilled worker. 32 Hang it with gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and standing on four silver bases. 33 Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.”

Notice that the curtains are to be embroidered with cherubim!

Note that the entrance to the Tabernacle is from the East.

tabernacle-17

The Holy Temple – the building in Jerusalem designed to be a permanent version of the traveling Tabernacle – was also oriented with its opening to the East.

her_tem_plan

When you enter it, you are essentially returning to the Garden of Eden.  The cherubim, who were guarding the entrance to the Garden, part to allow you to enter.  You are once again allowed to be face-to-face with God.

This is, of course, if you are of the Priestly line.

This was true until Jesus died on the cross.  Before then, only people who were blood-kin to Aaron (Moses’ brother) were allowed into that inner sanctum, when they were serving as the High Priest.  But when Jesus died, the curtain was supernaturally torn in half, from top to bottom.

Matthew 27:51-53

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

His death opened up direct access to God to all who follow him.  His death brought life to all the faithful.

Much thanks to James of Miqedem for providing the important pieces of this teaching. I had not noticed the connections before between Eden and the Tabernacle facing East.

(All Bible translations are NIV, all images are copyright their respective owners.)

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)