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Thoughts for April 12, 2015, the 2nd Sunday of Easter (A)
I realized during the services on Sunday, April 12th, that I was subconsciously channeling the Gospel reading from John (where Thomas questions the Resurrection but only because he had not seen the evidence) in this piece. Funny how things work out.
This isn’t about what you believe, it is about why you believe. Even atheists must have some sort of belief system for even saying that you do not believe creates a belief system. (Always remember that no page is ever completely blank and the subset of no numbers contains something.) So why do you believe?
I believe in God because I see His presence in the many faiths and cultures which attribute creation to a Supreme Being. God may have many names but only one identity. I believe in God because, as Dr. Francis Collins noted in a recent interview, I see His existence in the beauty of the world around us and in the vastness and intricacies of the universe in which we reside.
And there are those questions which come from what we know. We know that, based on the evidence we have today, the creation of the universe occurred some 13 billion years ago.
This means two things; first, how did we arrive at that particular length of time? This answer, along with other answers are derived from the physical evidence left behind. This means that our lives require an understanding of science.
But even in knowing that the universe began 13 billion years ago, we still don’t know why there was a creation or what caused it . And no matter whether the creation was an accident, a fortuitous event, a coincidence, or even if the universe has always been hear, we have to ask how it all happened. And, for me, that implies the Hand of God.
Now, it should be noted that own thoughts on this matter have developed over the years and are a by-product of both my secular and sectarian education. But it should also be noted that this self-study seems to run counter to current societal beliefs that say we should let others decide for us what it is that we are to believe and that we don’t need to seek further answers to such questions.
And there are those, on both sides of the spectrum, who will tell you what to believe. And they will tell you that there are no alternatives.
Such approach, of a fixed and inflexible answer, does not allow for creativity and while it may provide the answers for questions that may have already been asked, they do little to find answers to questions that haven’t been asked. And there are gaps in the knowledge such fixed answers provide.
The answers to such questions, the ones to fill the gaps or solve new problems, can only come from each individual. One can offer suggestions as to what the answers might be but it is still each person’s responsibility to seek the answers.
Personally, I think that leaves in you in the greatest position possible because now you have the opportunity to explore and determine the outcome for your life. But where do you go to find your answers, what questions do you ask, and ultimately how do you seek the truth?
The good news is that we can do this but we have to step back for a moment and think about how we learn. Right now, our learning process is more memorization than anything else. There is a place for memorization in the education process but simply memorizing things doesn’t lead to creativity and analysis; it only provides the basis for doing that.
As I have studied the Book of Revelation and considered what it might mean, I often envisioned what it might have been like were John the Seer, the author, to live in today’s society and offer the vision the same vision he provided in his Book of Revelation. I think that we would most likely label him crazy and/or weird and possibly wonder what type of drugs he might have been taking.
But if we had studied or understood what was taking place at the time he was writing this interesting closing volume of the Bible, we would arrive at a different conclusion from that of those late 19th and early 20th century fundamentalist who see it as the prophecy of doom for today’s society.
When Jesus gave what some call the Great Commission, he gave those who heard His words the task of making those they would encounter disciples. But disciples are not simply followers of the Teacher, they are students as well. And students are taught what to believe, not told what to believe.
Each book of the New Testament, from the four Gospels through the letters of Paul to the Seer’s Revelation, was written for the people of their time, to tell them what took place those three years in the Galilee. But it wasn’t written as a history but a telling of the story, so that others would also come to know what happened.
The authors of the Gospels wrote the Gospels in such a way to make sure that we understood that things changed when Jesus walked the roads of the Galilee and a group of people followed and listened and then carried on that same mission.
So I believe in part because I was taught and because I was given the freedom to seek more information about Christ. When we accept Christ as our personal savior, when we begin to believe as so many before of us have done, then we accept the challenge, to teach others what Christ taught us.
I believe, not because I have seen the wounds in Jesus’ hands, feet, and side but because I have been allowed to seek Christ and I have found Him.
This is an only but a goldie and worth reading again!
Originally posted on A Grace-Filled Life:
H&R Block rep’s Note: Sometimes a story comes to our attention that needs no polishing or enhancement to make it a good Block tax story. This is one of those. It is a real letter submitted to the IRS in 1995 in the midst of the previous year’s weird and bizarre denial of dependents, exemptions, and credits. We believe the letter speaks for itself.
I am responding to your letter denying the deduction for two of the three dependents I claimed on my 1994 Federal Tax return. Thank you. I have questioned whether these are my children or not for years. They are evil & expensive. It’s only fair that since they are minors and not my responsibility that the government (who evidently is taxing me more to care for these waifs) knows something about them and what to expect over the next year. You may apply next…
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Back at the beginning of the 2012 election campaign, I posted a piece entitled “They Are At Again” in which I provided a link to a New York Times piece which pointed out that Republican candidates were again using songs without the permission of the bands or the writers.
This followed incidents in 2008 where Republican candidates used songs without the permission of the bands or the writers. What I liked about 2008 was that at least one Republican candidate used one of John Hall’s songs when he was with the group “Orleans”; the only problem being that at that time the song was being played during the campaign, John Hall was a Democratic congressman from New York (see “The Difference Between Republicans and Democrats”)
Now we read the screw-ups of two of the Republican candidates for the 2016 election circus. Ted Cruz doesn’t own the rights to two potential websites and Rand Paul put a video on YouTube that had a copyright violation, which meant that the video was blocked almost immediately.
Maybe this is a sign of the times. If these two candidates have set the bar for the rest of the field, then it will be very clear that the Republican candidate will push for legislation that moves the clocks back to the 18th, or perhaps even the 17th century. Right now, they don’t know the 21st century and I doubt that they can find their way to next week.
This, by the way, doesn’t mean that I will vote for the Democratic candidate. Right now, my vote is undecided and leaning towards a third party. The only way that we are going to get out of the two party rut we seemed to have fallen into is to look for, support, and then vote for viable and electable third party candidates at all levels of government.
And I am seriously willing to work for that!
Today is April 4th. It is that day between Good Friday and Easter. Some call it “Black Saturday”, others don’t call it anything at all. I have never understood why, from at least a liturgical standpoint, we don’t do anything on this day. I wrote a piece entitled “The Missing Day” a few years ago that tried to put into words what I thought took place that day (I have since tried to turn it into a play and if you are interested, let me know).
But the significance of this day is not just in its place on the liturgical calendar. Next year, because of the uniqueness of the Easter calendar, this missing day will March 26. It will still be the day between Good Friday and Easter but it will not have the same significance as today, April 4th, might have to some, myself included.
On this day in 1969 I would have been either on my way from Kirksville, Missouri, to Memphis, Tennessee, or already in Memphis for Easter/spring break. I would have in my possession two books, Letters of a C. O. from Prison (Timothy W. L. Zimmer, The Judson Press, Valley Forge, 1969) and Faith In A Secular Age (Colin Williams, First Harper ChapelBook, Harper & Row, 1966).
These books were given to me by Reverend Marvin Fortel, my pastor at the 1st United Methodist Church of Kirksville, after our meeting and communion the day before I left for Memphis. I have read and used the Faith book so much that is has fallen apart and is held together by a strong paper clip. Reverend Fortel gave these books to me to help me understand some questions I had about the role of faith in society and what path I might take. ((I first published my account of this conversation and what happened on that spring break trip home in “That First Baptism”; the details of the conversation itself were first published in “Our Father’s House”.)
But the meaning of this day goes back one more year, to April 4, 1968, when I was a senior at Bartlett High School in Memphis, Tennessee. It was on this day that Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot, shot for speaking out for the sanitation workers on strike in Memphis and for speaking out for equality, both racial and economic. As I have written elsewhere, I have no doubt that Dr. King would have also spoken out for gender equality as well. (My thoughts on this day are posted on “Where Were You On April 4, 1968?” and “On This Day”).
The meaning of this day in 2015 is perhaps an understanding that we haven’t moved towards the goals that were so clearly envisioned that spring in 1968, both in what took place in Memphis, and on the political trails with Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy. Sadly, the political vision that Robert Kennedy offered this country that spring will also be cut down by an assassin’s bullet some two months after Dr. King was assassinated.
We live in a society where the rich demand favors and politicians are so quick to give. We live in a society where many people think that the rich will share the wealth with them so that they too can be rich. We have accepted as economic truth that the wealth of the view will somehow trickle down to the masses but we fail to see the flow of money only goes one way and that is to the rich and not the poor.
We live in a society where you are not allowed to be who you are and often times assumed to be less than others because of the color of your skin or the nature of your relationships with others. We are quickly finding out that bigotry, racism, and inequality are the norms of society and not the outliers.
We live in a society where many people see religion and faith as either superstitious or antiquated thinking and others do everything in their power to ensure that view remains. I am not sure where we are going when faith and what one believes does more to harm than it does for good.
In 1968, we were just beginning to understand the role humans played in the care and upkeep of the environment. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River would once again catch fire and while as damaging as an earlier fire in 1952 (it turns out that the Cuyahoga River has had a history of catching on fire, dating back to 1868), would help us to understand, what it was that we were doing to the environment.
And yet today, there are those who would refute the evidence that shows what mankind is doing to its home planet, for to accept the evidence would mean a change in how we live.
As 1968 ended and 1969 began, we were on the verge of walking on the moon. There were those who envisioned the possibilities of moving beyond the moon and to the planets and perhaps the stars. But we stopped going to the moon and the vision of traveling to the stars is often only seen on television and in the movies.
We seem unwilling to create schools that produce thinkers and visionaries because such processes open the eyes of the youth to the truths of society. Education was once the means by which we could move forward; I am not sure what it has become today.
How long can we continue to live in a world where ignorance and greed dominate our thinking and, in the end, destroy not only mankind but the world on which we live?
What is the meaning of this day in 2015? For some, this day is the beginning of Passover and marks the beginning of the path to freedom. For some, myself included, this day is the day before Christ’s Resurrection and the triumph over sin and death. It too is the beginning of the path to freedom.
I hope that you will pause this day and begin to think about how it is that you can work for freedom and justice. This is not a day to keep the past as the present but to work so that the future can be reached.
Laws have been passed that say that I don’t have to serve someone in my place of business if in doing so it goes against my religious beliefs.
But how will I know if that person or persons is doing something that goes against my religious beliefs? Will I now have to ask everyone who comes to my place of business if their activities in the past or present or even in the future will somehow go against what I believe?
I know that Jesus often told those He met during the course of His ministry to go and sin no more but I don’t recall Him ever asking anyone what it was that caused them to be a sinner. I don’t recall Him questioning the individual who hung next to Him on Golgotha as to the reason why he and the other individual were hanging there with Him. All He did was forgive him and allow him to enter into Heaven.
In fact, the only ones who seemed upset when Jesus even so much as talked to the sinners of the community were the religious and political leaders.
So how will I know who to serve and who not to serve? Wouldn’t it just be better if I did as my Lord and Savior did and treat everyone the same, with equal love and concern for the well-being, even if they do not return the love?
This is worth reading. My first thought was that it echoed, in a slightly different manner something I said in my own piece from back in 2009, “When are we going to learn?” – https://heartontheleft.wordpress.com/2009/09/05/when-are-we-going-to-learn-2/
Originally posted on The Unlikely Evangelist:
It is getting much harder to call myself a Christian.
This isn’t because I have lost any faith in the saving and redeeming power of Jesus. Far from it: my commitment to follow the Way is as strong as it has ever been, stronger even. It isn’t because I have been sinning in any spectacular way: my sins are what they have always been, significant only in their persistence, rather than their magnitude.
No, it is harder to call myself a Christian because that title has become toxic to so many people, both inside and outside of the church. While I would love to loudly proclaim myself as a Follower of Jesus, that proclamation now has to come with caveats to avoid hurting entire groups of people.
“I am a Follower of Jesus, but I don’t hate gay people.”
“I am a Follower of Jesus, but I don’t hate…
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