This is the blog for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, September 12, 2010. The Scriptures for today are Jeremiah 4: 11 – 12, 22 – 28; 1 Timothy 1: 12 – 17; Luke 15: 1 – 10.
I really never came up with a name for this weekend’s blog. I looked at the Scriptures and saw the threads of my thoughts but a title didn’t jump out, so this is a just “a blog for the weekend”. I suppose that I am going to get into trouble for writing this but I need to express some thoughts, thoughts that some people will find blasphemous or heretical. But I also hope that, as with many of the other blogs that I post, they will cause you to think.
Let’s start with how we began, how we became human. I once wrote that I believe that we became human the moment we discovered/created/realized who we were, when we became conscious of our surroundings and our place in said surroundings.
And when we became conscious of our own being, we had to begin asking “why?” We saw things and we had to wonder why they occurred. Some things that we saw (when I use “saw”, understand that I am using that term to mean a use of all five senses – sight, taste, touch, smell, and hearing.) were easily explainable; others were not.
It seems to me that is why we created gods; it was an easy and logical means for explaining complicated observations and phenomena. There was conflict between people – it must be that there is a god of war. There are seasons – there must be gods that control the weather and the world around us. Plants grow and die – there must be gods for the crops and fertility. Mankind, in all places around the world, developed or created a god to explain everything observed.
Perhaps that is why we developed religions. We need some sort of organization to help us better understand who we are and where we are in relationship to this universe. But I have also noticed that many religions and many cultures had a supreme god, a central figure to whom all things were ultimately directed. And therein lays perhaps the greatest problem of all times.
Our position in the cosmos as Christians is predicated on a belief and a faith that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and that He came to us to offer salvation and the chance for redemption. But we sometimes forget, and there are many who don’t even know, how we became Christian.
We forget that the lineage of Christianity goes back to Judaism. And that Judaism began when Abram understood that there is and was only one God. Because of this revelation, Abram became Abraham and had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, both of whom became the founders of great nations. It will be Isaac whose sons and grandsons will lead to the nation of Israel; it will be through Ishmael that the nation of Islam will form.
Whether we are talking about one branch of this extended family tree or another, it still remains that all those who profess to believe in God as a Jew, as a Muslim, or as a Christian (what we call the Abrahamic religions) all have as a basic core belief that there is one God and you shall hold no other Gods before Him. We recognized that all those other gods (the god of war, the god of fertility, the god of money, and so forth) really don’t exist; though the way we live today would perhaps suggest that many still see such gods as real and more powerful than God.
I really don’t think it matters whether you choose to say you worship Allah, Yahweh, or God; the person who answers to all three names is the same. But I do hope that however you worship, you are true to your beliefs. I know many people who have experimented with a variety of religions and belief systems, trying to either resolve their own internal thoughts or because they feel that the religion is somehow no longer true or valid in today’s society. I am certain that others have attempted to create a belief system of their own through a study of all other systems and picking the best of each for their own. I really don’t see how that can work; one would be trying to create something out of a conglomerate of various parts of different sizes and shapes and somewhere along the line, you would have to force things to fit. And such a system, if it could be created, would be incomplete. There is a reason for a belief system and you have to accept the good parts and the bad parts, even if you don’t want some of the parts. And again, there are quite a few people today who do try to take only the good parts or somehow force the parts to be what they want. Maybe this is why we have so much trouble inside denominations and religions and between denominations and religions.
All I can say is that you should make sure that you follow whatever path you choose to follow. The animosity that occurs between Judaism, Islam, and Christianity occurs because adherents of each branch claim that only their branch is the true one and all others are false. And if you wish to get to heaven, then you must denounce your belief in other options and accept their option as the only viable and feasible one.
Now, because I was raised in a Christian environment and I was given the opportunity to think about the path that I wish to walk, I choose to follow Christ. There were times when I thought about that decision and I did explore, as others have always done, other options. But it always came down to who I was and what could I do and I was only going to find those answers in a path where I walked with Christ. I know many individuals who perhaps had the same path laid out before them and they have chosen to follow another one. That is their choice and I wish them well. But I see my life in the words of Paul, who understood where he was going and what he was likely to encounter because of his life as Saul.
Saul saw his life as the enforcer of the truth and he did a very good job of prosecuting and persecuting the early Christian church (which wasn’t called the Christian Church but that’s for another time). Saul was the penultimate fundamentalist – there is only one path and I know what it is and you will follow that path to its conclusion or pay the price!
I can’t speak to why he converted. Maybe something inside him was driving him to justify his own faith; maybe watching how Stephen dealt with his stoning began to make him ask questions about his own belief. But on the road to Damascus, Saul’s life changed and he became Paul. As Paul, he pushed for the new faith but not with the ferocity that he had pushed Judaism as Saul. He did make it clear what he thought the best path was; he did make it clear what he believed were the consequences if one chose to follow an alternative path. But he did not condemn those who failed to follow his direction or chose to follow another path like those in today’s world do.
In the end, the choice of the path that we are to follow is our choice and our choice alone. We have to live with its consequences and enjoy its rewards. It is not up to us to say to others that you have to follow the same path that we are on. And if others say to us that they will go where they feel they must go, so be it. In the end, they have to deal with that choice and there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it. It is their choice and God gave them free will to choose.
All I know is that there are those in the world today who are lost, who seek answers. They may want others to provide the answers; they may want others to offer them the evidence so that they can make the choices. If I am to be a faithful follower of Christ, then I must offer that evidence to those who seek the answers, whether they accept what I offer or not.
It means that I lay out the evidence before them (such as using this blog); it means extending an invitation to come and visit my church, sometimes at home (services are at 9 and 10:30) and sometimes when I go somewhere as a lay speaker (see “Working for The Lord – Summer, 2010”).
We are at an interesting time in the life of civilization and this planet. We have the capability to destroy this world and those who live on it, both quickly and slowly. Our desire to use violence as the answer to violence says to me that we can quickly destroy this world if we do not change our course; our seeming indifference to what we have done and are doing to this planet tells me that we are slowly destroying this world and if we do not change course real soon, we will one day wake up and see that we have destroyed this world and wondered how it all happened.
And that is what I think when I read the words from Jeremiah today. I hear the words of the one true God telling this world that we have to make a change in the way we live, in the way we do things, and in the way we treat others in this country and around the world. Because of our indifference to the thoughts of others, because of our desire to believe that our thoughts are better and more important than those of others or that we are better or more important than others, we are on the verge of destroying this planet.
We have forgotten who we are, where we came from, and who brought us into this world. It is time we remember and it is time that we begin to change.