Let’s not forget the Christian demand of discipleship: “Love your enemies.” Central to the Gospel announcement of Jesus is the nonviolent love of those who would oppose us: sometimes physically and other times ideologically. At the center of discipleship is love–love for God and for neighbors. And lest we forget the criteria for a “neighbor,” Jesus makes that clear in the story of the Good Samaritan: a neighbor is the person we naturally hate. For a Jew in the first century to even acknowledge a Samaritan as anything but a despised traitor to the God of Israel was unthinkable! Yet that is exactly what Jesus called his hearers to–to equate enemies to the status of neighbor. Therefore, a neighbor is any and every person on the face of this earth that we like, dislike, or would even consider an enemy. We are called to love our enemy-neighbors.
This is one of my favorite stories is the gospels ( John 6:1-15 ), everytime I read it, it is like a sun rise that slowly and mysteriously illuminates the landscape of reality to endless possibilities.
It continuosly breaks the illusion that God is restricted to borders...that he graviates to those he likes. As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5:45, " In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike." Suddenly there is a profound redemptive spark that ignites the imagination...like the sun, and the rain, God orbits humanity and permeates everything.
It's interesting that Tiberias is a jewish community but it is permeated and surrounded by a heterogenous population. In the days of Jesus many more religious Jews refused to settle there because the presence of a cemetery rendered the place unclean. Herod settled many non-Jews from rural Galilee and other parts of his domains to populate his new capital, and built a palace on the acropolis, " city on the extremity." Here Jesus finds himself in a collage, a landscape of diversity...of faiths, of cultures, of race and langauge. His presence embraces every inch of this human landscape.
Also the teller of this story reminds us that it is nearly time for the Feast of the Passover. Again, my mind, my memory and imagination rewind to that incredible journey into freedom. It again was centered around a meal that would sustain God's people across a threshold, through a doorway into a journey where the horizon was filled with the hope of new possibilities. The God-man must have been acutely aware of this reality as waded through and was surrounded in this sea of humanity.
This diverse mass of people has seen, and heard the word " miracle "...that more than anything it has been the magnet that pulls, and gravitates them toward Jesus. They want to see Jesus perform some God-tricks...and the crowd gets bigger, and bigger. The day is coming to a close, the shadows are getting longer as the creator pulls the curtain, and light dims.
Jesus is profoundly aware of the moment and in it he sees the fullness of humanity...he sees the intersection of humanity and God. He more than anyone knows of the mysterious profound redemptive possibilities that can be found when the two interact and become one...he more than anything is proof of that reality.
Jesus lights a match, trying spark some human imagination asking Philip, " Where can he buy bread to feed these people?" Immediately Philip is doing some calculations in his mind, counting on his fingers and finally coming to the conclusion, " we don't have enough money." Not the best answer, but at least he's absolved himself, and the disciples of any responsibility.
There is a yound boy in the crowd with his bag lunch of five small loaves and two fish that he sees as a possibility. But, like a flickering candle about to go out, Simon readily admits it doesn't offer much hope.
Jesus seats everyone on the ground and takes the bread, giving thanks passes it into the midst of the people. He does the same with the fish, and everyone ate as much as they wanted. When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted." They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.
To often in this story we want to fast forward, and hit stop...satisfied with the obvious conclusion it's " all " Jesus performing some kind of God-magic in a miracle. Now, I'm not saying Jesus can't, and didn't do miracles. I'm saying maybe in the profound redemptive imagination of Jesus he doesn't want us to stop there. Maybe there is another kind of miracle going on...a kind of God-man collaborated miracle. Maybe it's that profound interesction when God and humanity merge as one, and in the fusion something heaven-on-earth shattering happens.
The young boy in this story ignites the redemptive imagination in my mind to a new generation that is not just on the fringe. But that they " get " Jesus and are close to him. They understand that Jesus was deeply and fully human more than he was religious. It's profound that the disciples didn't really grasp what was going on. But here is this young boy hovering close to Jesus saying here is my bag lunch...its not much, but I'm willing to share it.
Can you imagine the look on the disciples faces, " Are you serious kid...there is 5,000 or more people out there." That would be like sharing a " Happy Meal " with a small town. But more than that the young boy doesn't just want to share it with his family, his friends, his tribe or even his faith. He wants to share it with everyone..." you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike."
It is that profound mysterious intersection...if God is like that, humanity should be like that. It is when we live like that miracles are possible...heaven comes to earth, they become one.
So could it be possible someone saw this young boy pass his meager bag lunch to Jesus, and whisper started through the crowd, and the whisper became a wind, like spirit touch everyone. Slowly people searched their packs, and there pockets, and everyone regardless of race, and religion started to share with one another.
It is that profound mysterious intersection...if God is like that, humanity should be like that. It is when we live like that miracles are possible...heaven comes to earth, they become one.
I bumped into a friend a couple of months ago down town, a churchless follower of Jesus. He shared that he had went to Gurdwara at a Sikh temple in town. A part of the worship involved a meal in this large kitchen room. It is a meal where all are welcome regardless of faiths...it is here evryone sits together and shares a common meal. This profound act of worship is said to enable people to serve one another, and to banish all distinctions between people...its the profound mysterious realization in the midst of God's presence there is no circumference...everyone is in.
More than every we must re-kindle redemptive imagination...and come to the profound truth there are many paths to God. But real faith is found in the intersection of humanity and God. Jesus the God-man came to reveal this to us...this is what is is to be fully human. And I believe it's in this intersection in our unique and diverse religions, and beyond our religions that miracles can happen today to change the course of humanity.
I dream there is a generation of young people that are like the young boy in this gospel story that will lead us into a new journey of faith beyond mere religion but into the fullness of humanity that Jesus lived and spoke about.
This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed non-conformists. The saving of our world from pending doom will come not from the actions of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a dedicated minority. (Martin Luther King )
The human dilemma is that we want to personalize what ever it is that ignited the fuse to initiate this infinite creative explosion. The idea, that if we find it, we might reason with it finding ultimate answers to life. What if it is just energy, a force of somekind. What if we stretch our theological minds, extrapolate all the laws of physics backwards to the other side of the explosion and we are left with absolutely nothing, an infinite emptiness we can't relate to then what. Will we be better off? I think it is good to know our place in the vastness of the Cosmos, because I think it may come down to an incredibly profound act of mysteriously beautiful chance. Maybe to the theologian all looks scripted, to the physicist pure and precise laws, again what if it is an illusion, and, that it is a profound evolving mystery in which everything miraculously unexplainable have fallen and hold us in place. Maybe what we truly worship is the ultimate form of infinite mystery. It sounds weird, but I might be cool with that.
This is the second video exploring redemptive imagination. In the " Cathedral of the Outdoors" all creation is sacred. It is awakening to the reality, that there is something on the other side of the "Big Bang". This God, or Ground of all Being, who knows or can imagine, like a neuron, maybe there was somekind of tremor, a synaptic explosion. This God, Ground of all Being sprayed infinitely in all directions. We maybe star dust, or maybe we are God particles, or profound particles of the Ground of all Being. The truth is we are all part of the profound reality, all creation is made of God, absolutely every speck.
In the Cathedral of the Outdoors, from rock, fern, trees, water, animals, birds, you and I are all of God. We and everything is profoundly sacred. Today we explore the idea of baptism beyond religion, to something profoundly human.
We rethink the roof top meeting with Jesus and Nicodemus, that late night meeting exploring being born again. Could Jesus have meant some profoundly more inclusive than what we've made it. From Genesis, the land separating from water and life evolving out of the water onto land. Us, you and I, the water breaking in our mothers womb and us bursting into the world.
In redemptive imagination can we reimagine a baptism, birth where humanity we born again profoundly new, and more abundantly inclusive. I wonder?
I've been on the margin of religion for some years now. In this self imposed exile, I'm misunderstood and usually avoided like an unpredictable crazy person. To strike up a conversation is like striking a match near a gas pump, it usually comes with a huge warning sign.
Here's my point, you may like your beautifully constructed theology, the creation script for life written before time eternal. The idea we as actors in this epic drama, we find our lines and play out our parts until the final curtain falls. It's not only the end of the play, but everything, the stage of life is destroyed in a catastrophic fire. And the only way to be saved, is to believe in the director/choreographer/producer's son and you'll be saved. Everyone else fueling the fire in some eternal furnace.
Yes, I believed in the script idea for awhile. Now, I'm kind of seeing everything as more improv, a drama that is evolving. It's the landscape of the stage in a state of constant change. It's reacting to the special effects. It's the idea if there is a choreographer/director we've not seen him. It's like profoundly, and suddenly it was scene one, and the curtain opened and we had to start acting...responding to everything going on the stage, the landscape of life. As quickly as it started, the director vanished, we had no script.
I deeply resonate with Jesus, the God-man, his humanly divine story in the gospels. I really believe if we lived out the redemptive imagination we see infused in the Jesus-life of the gospels we would see the dawn of a new creation, some profoundly more abundantly human, for all humanity.
But I don't believe in a personal deity, a god that "likes" some of humanity, and "dislikes" everyone else. I believe in some kind of entity on the otherside of the big bang, or the spark that ignited reality into being. Is it being, is it a force, is it energy, I don't know and I don't think it cares.
I don't believe any one sacred text contains the one wisdom for all humanity. I believe all sacred texts contain wisdom, but, not all of it. I believe both science, and philosophy offer wisdom to understanding reality, and understanding humanity's place in it.
I believe we as "humans" have a big role in this mysterious profound drama called "life." I don't believe the choreographer/director has a script in his hand with a plan to save us. Like I say, from the outset, from the opening curtain to this epic drama, as the drama has evolved, we have been given everything we need to change the play, change the future, or prolong it. The challenge is, whether we will be courageous enough to play our part.
Like I say I'm on the margins of religion, not an atheist, and not a religious believer...but I do believe.
The great challenge today is to convert the sacred holier than now bread into real bread; the theological jargon of peace into political and social peace; the worship of the out there, up there, somewhere cosmic ruler and judge into reverence for humanity, the exclusive one way, our way community into an authentic all-inclusive human fellowship. It is risky to celebrate the Eucharist, the radical scandalous Jesus meal of love. We may have to leave it unfinished, having gone first to give back to the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the other...what belongs to them.
I don't exactly know when my belief in the absurd story of Genesis finally evaporated from my mind, the mythical story of God digging his hands into the earth like an artist shaping and molding the human body. And when the artist finally pleased with his work, embraced it, breathing into its nostrils, humanity came to life.
It was beautiful to think of creation this way, so profoundly special, so about us. But, are we more freaks of nature, rather than the ultimate end to grand design.
Evolution is deeply disturbing. On the one hand, yes we are unique, but in the other, could our coming into being be more of an unraveling, a cascading series of profound accidents, a chain reaction of possibilities that sometimes "stick" together.
The Genesis story is certainly comforting. The artist who loves his work, the realtionship of molding, shaping and seeing it come to life before his eyes, a sort of self portrait made in "His" image. But, perhaps even more profound (scary) and extremely fragile is the reality of organic chemicals, atoms suddenly sticking together like glue in this primordial ocean. From there unfolds unicellular life, to multicellular life, to a rigid internal frame, to musculature, to neurons, to grey matter, the human brain.
This celestial ocean that our galaxy spins in is some four or five billion years old, and what we imagine as infinity stretches in all directions beyond that. Looking back over our shoulders this evolutionary man, the up-right walking " Homo erectus " is said to be fifty to one hundred thousand years old.
If one still clings to the idea of a cosmic creator, sitting in the factory of "existence," the assembly line slowly moving as he randomly sticks atoms, and molecules together; maybe it is more a story of Dementia (taken from Latin) originally meaning madness, from de- (without) + ment, the root of mens (mind) is a serious loss of cosmic cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person (a God) who lost his mind and we are the outcome of the accident.
Back to the Genesis story. Was it really a conversation that just instantaneously started like someone flipping a switch and words flowed freely back and forth, or again was it something evolutionary?
The shock of self confidence came into existence and this awakening brought the knowledge we were distinct, and in some sense separate, outside the non-being of the rest of creation. Humans would never again identify themselves completely with the natural. The Genesis story reinforces the myth of a creation story being about us, and our maker when maybe against all odds the dice were rolled in our favour and humans found themselves on a evolutionary pathway of higher complexity.
With consciousness we experienced a greater sense of self which stood over against the world. We became conscious of the uncertainty and the shortness of life. We began to contemplate life. With the evolution of human consciousness a tremendous need was also born to find meaning, permanence and stability in a world suddenly meaningless, transitory and destabilized.
We can only imagine the first humans gazing into the infinite black depths of the night sky, the glittering surf rolling across this mysterious ocean. Try to imagine the shock, trauma, sense of aloneness and radical sense of insecurity that seized the human conscience. Now there was an awareness of danger being a chronic state of being. We were aware of our own mortality, and of the existence around us being so utterly vast we sensed ourselves as being insignificant.
The mind of humanity must have been gripped by angst and a fear of being squeezed to death. One thought must have oozed out constantly, "Who? Why? Is there anyone out there?"
There were no rockets, nor satellites to be launched. Primitive man howled at the moon. We screamed at the top of our lungs to anyone, anything, hoping for a response. We began to muse something beyond us, a maker, a creator. We mused what ever it was, it was as interested in us, as much as we were interested in it.
The relationship had begun, the evolution of God and the evolution of humanity.
Poetry, parables are acts of imagination that offer and purpose "alternative worlds" because they are open, door ways to infinite possibilities. Can imagination be indeed a legitimate way of knowing?
Numbness does not hurt like torture, but in a profound insidious way, numbness robs us of our humanity, and makes us infinitely smaller. It is taking an eraser and removing the God-image in those who do not fit. Has our imagination been claimed by false lenses of perception and idolatrous theology that we protect and defend as absolute “truth?”
Are spiritual nomads, navigating a changing landscape and taking seriously, the shaping of their own field of perception and language of understanding? When we become so at home in a belief system, do we become oblivious to the points of contact in our neighborhoods, in culture, in technology, and art...do we drift and drown in an ocean of irrelevance?
The dominant partisan religious culture, now and in every time, is grossly uncritical, cannot tolerate serious and fundamental criticism, and will go to great lengths to stop it.
Jesus dismantled the religion of static triumphalism by exposing their gods and showing God was profoundly more mysterious than their “truth.” Jesus dismantles the religion of oppression and exploitation by countering it with the profound mysterious reality of “truth” being God’s infinite love.
When we leave our theology unexamined and unquestioned, we end up being slaves to it. When believe in our theology at what ever the cost...do we end up suffocating the redemptive imagination of Jesus?
William Blake called imagination, " the body of God ".
The Garden of Love
I laid me down upon a bank,
Where Love lay sleeping;
I heard among the rushes dank
Then I went to the heath and the wild,
To the thistles and thorns of the waste;
And they told me how they were beguiled,
Driven out, and compelled to the chaste.
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were shut
And 'Thou shalt not,' writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.
There is no rituals, no doctrine, no theology...just one command, " Don't eat of the tree of knowledge." They are tempted...and they eat. This is what Augustine mused as the " orginal sin." I wonder if we still aren't sinning then?
The Old Testament seems nothing more than humanity's wreckless pursuit of religion. We delude ourselves in thinking religion was God's idea. We wanted laws, rules and commandments to keep...and when we failed we wanted ammendments to the laws. This was so far from the intimacy in the garden of Eden. But we were hoplessly hooked...it was always just one more chance and we'll get it right. We never did...and we never will.
As many times as I have read the gospels...I never come away with an image of a religious Jesus. I come away with my imagination ignited of a God who doesn't occupy a church, but a God who walks in the midst of his creation...as a friend. There are no barriers, no rituals, no confession of beliefs are needed to abide with this profound mysyerious God, who Jesus called, " Love."
I wonder if Jesus in the profound mysterious redemptive imagination he lived and spoke...if he didn't envision a new creation like the Garden of Eden...where it wasn't so much religion, but more life. Or as William Blake called it, " the body or God...and the existence of humanity ", as one...God again walking in the midst of his creation. Man and God, walking and talking as friends.I wonder?
"We have longed to taste the resurrection... the insurrection of life... We have longed to welcome its thunders and quakes, and to echo its great gifts. We want to test the resurrection in our bones. We want to see if we might live in hope instead of in the ... twilight thicket of cultural despair in which ... many are lost." - Daniel Berrigan, priest and radical peace activist.
Faith should be filled with redemptive imagination we need to envision the reality of the resurrection " now ", for out the the resurrection comes the inauguration, the revelation and the building of the Kingdom Jesus imagined, and lived in.
There was nothing special about the parking lot behind the Capitol Six Theater, and the transition to the Traveller's Inn. What was special was that a few people took likely what they thought was a mustard seed of faith and planted it. They nurtured it, cultivated, prayed and loved and it grew. There was a vow of commitment, of faithfulness, that despite cold, rain, wind they would be there. The same time, same day, week after week, year after year.
There was a profound evolution of borders and boundaries being erased. What was once "us " and " them " became a community of friends. It became an anticipation and expectation of watching, and looking for the arrival of friends. It was hugs, it was conversations and prayer. It was the worry of wondering about someone if they failed to show up on Friday...to now Sunday.
It was a circle of friends, holding hands, it was faces, it was eyes and smiles. It was improvisation of a God talk, a few minute sermon that sparked imagination. It was communion with the street community distributing the sacraments. It was the parable of the feast, the servant with invitations in hand going to the back allies, the gutters, skid row hotels, anywhere and everywhere so his Fathers table would be full.
It was hot chocolate, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, baked goods, cookies, fruit, socks, mitts, toques, blankets, sleeping bags, shoes, under-ware, clothing. It was, I was naked and you clothed me, I was hungry and you fed me. It was whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.
" What is this ", the young man kept saying to me." I've never seen anything like this." I really believe it was the reality of the resurrection, the " now " presence of Jesus risen in the midst of a community living out radical scandalous faith. He caught a glimpse of the Kingdom now. He saw people acting as co-creators in the revelation and building of Jesus' Kingdom. He saw a place with out borders, boundaries...a place where people aren't reduced to labels and stereotypes. He saw radical hospitality, grace, and mercy. In his " lostness " he felt the loneliness and separation of the prodigal son. But, more, he saw God in that parking lot with open arms welcoming him home. My son which was once lost, is now found.
For me CARTS has become a wild and crazy church. We long to feel the resurrection in our bones.We long for the Kingdom. We long, and welcome its thunder and quakes, and to echo its great gifts. The Kingdom coming into being can seem messy and chaotic. But as someone once said, at the Rainbow Kitchen...even in chaos there is beauty yet to be recognized, if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
Practice resurrection in your daily life...simply let your life be your religion.