[This is part two of a series — part one is here.]
The other day, I wrote about how enamored I am with the living, human Jesus vs. the one ascending into the clouds as the masses gape in awe at his supernatural glory — like this painting…
And it’s true. I love the human Jesus. The one who went to the margins of society, fed the poor, and taught an alternative form of anti-egoic perennial wisdom that applies to life in the flesh today.
I also wrote the other day about how I consider myself a religious humanist.
There’s been a lot of human-talk coming from my corner of the internet lately (hooray for humans!). But I have to say, as much as I love humans, I’m also aware of how we seem to be wired with the innate propensity to muck things up.
In and of ourselves, we’re pretty great (if I do say so myself), but there’s something about us — a proclivity of sorts — that makes us turn in on ourselves and thereby others at certain points throughout life.
Sometimes things get really dark inside the human heart and mind (maybe you know what I’m talking about). And there are a lot of really well-intended feel-good personal development/spiritual self-help books out there that tells us if we just change our thoughts and beliefs, we can be rid of this kind of proclivity forever.
But I beg to differ (and I think Jesus did too)…
When we live with the profound and radical awareness of God's grace, we become superhuman.
[Note, I didn’t say ‘suprahuman’, I said ‘superhuman’ — there is a difference.]
With grace, worthiness goes out the window. There’s nothing to ‘do’ here. There is no ladder to climb or 7-step process to get God’s grace. Grace is built into the source code of the human condition.
Grace… We can be resurrected from the many deaths we experience as humans when we recognize a presence that’s closer than flesh yet lies beyond the personal ego that we can surrender our despair to.
Because this stuff — the dark stuff — is real for us humans. I don’t think it ever goes away, no matter how ‘spiritual’ or how ‘secular’ we become.
But with grace, we’re forgiven, renewed, and enlivened. Time and time again. We’re able to love and live more fully no matter the history of the situation.
And so, yes… We have the propensity to royally muck things up. But we also have the propensity to love each other and ourselves more deeply if we can get beyond ourselves.
Jesus, the embodiment of the divine meeting flesh, just put a face to this principle. Jesus, the prime example and wayshower. 100% human and 100% divine. Just as we all are.
I once sat in a room full of burgeoning ministers (this was back in my SBNR days). We were prompted to talk about ourselves (an excruciating exercise for yours truly) and where we saw our ministries going. Eventually, it got to the woman next to me, I heard these words come out of her mouth…
“Well, when I think of myself and ministry, the word Messiah comes to mind…”
Right then and there, I knew I was in the wrong room.
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time containing my skepticism when someone claims to be a Messiah of any sort (especially if they’re still alive and they proclaim it themselves). And so, I’ve always felt kind of weird about Jesus proclaiming himself as the Messiah — the chosen one.
Until I realized the context of Jesus’ world…
In first-century Near-Eastern culture, the coming of a Messiah wasn’t a question. People believed in a Messiah — period. The only questions were who, where, and when.
We can’t relate to this today (I mean, I’d argue we each have our own individual Messiahs, but that’s for another post, perhaps). In our postmodern, skeptical, individualistic, materialistic, rational world (not knocking it — yay for doubt, money, and science!), we roll our eyes at anyone who comes along proclaiming they’re the chosen one who can save us (unless this person wears a power suit, appears on reality TV, and owns a real estate empire, I guess — again, I digress).
In Jesus’ time, strong rulers like Herod and the Caesar proclaimed to be the son of God anointed from on high. But then Jesus came around and there was talk of a new kind of Messiah from the lowly outskirts. Eventually, he grew and claimed to be the true Messiah, the son of Man (I love how he did that, btw — from ‘son of God’ to ‘son of man’).
Mind you, this messianic proclamation wasn’t some guy trying to pull a power move on social media. It was a subversive middle finger to the Caesar and it led to his public execution (not because of some epic mythical father/son drama).
This is why I believe Jesus called himself the Messiah. Because if he didn’t own that role, no one would’ve given him the time of day. I’m not saying he didn’t believe it, I’m just saying it’s different in Jesus’ historical/cultural context than ours.
I think Jesus wanted to direct people’s wandering idolatrous eyes off of robust military power and dominance and instead, see that his living example of love, forgiveness, and radical grace were the qualities that were going to bring heaven to earth.
It was as if he was getting their attention and saying…
The kingdom of God doesn’t reside under the thunderous roar of boots, horse hooves, and spears — or anywhere in this world. The only way to the kingdom of God is through me and if you watch where I’m pointing, you’ll see I’m pointing to a place beyond myself or any individual human. Because my rule is not defined by power and dominance in this world, but by my complete self-emptying surrender to the living, loving God that sustains and unifies all.
This is alternative wisdom and it gets people killed.
And so, maybe we can let Jesus off the hook for calling himself the Messiah. I’ll admit, I have a higher Christology than this. I see this Jesus as more than merely a wisdom teacher.
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Fr. Richard Rohr’s series this week about the Universal Christ (I’ll include links below). The man keeps outdoing himself, what can I say?
I don’t know if it’s legal or not, but I really want to copy and paste the text into a document, give it some nice formatting, and print it out to give to friends and family for Christmas to show them what the religion of their youth likely failed to point out about Jesus and the Christ.
But then I’d be that guy at Christmas dinner pushing my ‘religion’ on people, wouldn’t I? The jury’s still out on whether or not I’ll be bold enough to do this, but at least I have you, dear reader, to ‘push my religion on’:)
As Rohr states, the problem is that much of our Christian religion has focused on the symbol of the thing, not the thing itself.
…for the last 2,000 years, we have not understood the Cosmic Christ. We fell in love with the symbol instead of what Jesus fully represented. To love “Jesus, the Christ” is to love both the symbol and everything that he stands for — which is precisely everything. This lays a wonderful foundation for a new consciousness and a new cosmology — and a very different notion of religion itself.
Which made me think, it’s not called Jesusianity, it’s called Christianity. This should’ve been our first clue. After all, Christ isn’t Jesus’ last name (how shocked I was to have learned that).
Much of our Christian religion has focused on the symbol of the thing (Jesus), not the thing itself (Christ).
Again, from Rohr…
Christ is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of God’s nature, sustaining the universe by God’s powerful command. — Hebrews 1:3, Jerusalem Bible
Christ is not Jesus’ last name. The word Christ is a title, meaning the Anointed One, which many Christians so consistently applied to Jesus that to us it became like a name. But a study of Scripture, Tradition, and the experience of many mystics reveals a much larger, broader, and deeper meaning to “the Christ.”
The above passage from Hebrews says that Christ “sustains the universe.” The concept of Christ can be used to describe reality in an archetypal, symbolic, and profound way. But it names the shape of the universe before it names the individual who typifies that shape, the one we call Jesus Christ. All of creation first holds God’s anointing (“beloved” status), and then Jesus brings the message home in a personal way over thirteen billion years later!
By delineating Jesus and the Christ, everything makes sense. This is the only light that I can call myself a Christian in. And I can embrace Jesus in a whole new life-affirming perspective.
Here are the links of Rohr’s ‘Universal Christ’ series for you to peruse…
Please know I write this in a pure state of curiosity. See, I’m entering the ministry in a tradition that’s kinda Christian-ey. I was raised Catholic-ish, so my fundamentals of popular Christianity (as our society knows them to be) are shaky at best.
To be honest, I’ve always had some resistance to the way Christianity has been portrayed to the world (mainly through dogma, doctrine, guilt, and other nonsense that only make the human condition worse).
But recently, I’m really digging some of these youngerChristianpastors who work in megachurches (I can’t believe I just wrote that). Their message seems to be on-point with my beliefs and it’s awesome. However, there seems to be a couple things that I can’t wrap my faith around when it comes to their version of Christianity.
Below are just a few statements I pulled from one of these church websites (but many of them seem to commonly hold these as tenets of their faith). I’ll address each one in-line. If you have any light to shed on these, please highlight that particular section and respond (either publicly or privately — makes no difference to me)…
We Believe that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the inspired Word of God and that men were moved by the Spirit of God to write the very words of Scripture. Therefore, we believe the Bible is without error.
So, the Bible is without error? What does this mean? From what I’ve read, the Bible isn’t a straightforward checklist or rule book. It’s a topsy-turvy, convoluted, bizarre, shocking, beautiful collection of stories, accounts, prayers and poems that seem to contradict each other at every turn.
We believe Jesus Christ to be the virgin born Son of God who lived in flesh, died for the sins of the world, was buried, rose again bodily, and ascended to the Father.
Okay, so the part I’m fighting here is this one: “…died for the sins of the world.” So, did God call for a blood offering? Did he need someone to die in order to ‘pay for’ these supposed ‘sins’? What exactly is Jesus dying for and what good does it do?
(This one is the kicker for me, below…)
We believe that the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross, provides the only way for the forgiveness of sin. God freely offers salvation to those who place their faith in the death and resurrection of Christ as sufficient payment for their sin. Salvation cannot be earned, it is a gift from God.
Really? Wow… So it looks here like this God WAS calling for a blood offering. How is this different from the pagan traditions that most Christians rail against? And ‘sufficient payment’? So this is a tit for tat? Like God was pissed and needed someone to die, so his only son (according to this belief system) had to be the one?
Honestly, I don’t know if I can get behind this story. If you can, I’d love to know how you came around to it. Or whatever you think about it.
Speak freely. You’ll get no argument from me. Just a silent, open mind.
(But any trolls will ruthlessly be blocked and reported, stat.)
Looking forward to seeing your responses.
Jonas writes microsermons and meditations here in Higher Thoughts on the daily. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.
I feel most Christian religious orders are well-intentioned (although, some not), but have missed the mark in a big way when it comes to Jesus.
Now, please know I’m no Bible scholar (yet), but from the blips and blurps I’ve read and heard, Jesus didn’t want to be worshipped in a physical sense. It seems that the thought of a religion being named after him would make him roll over in his grave (wait, I guess that analogy doesn’t work here, sorry).
Yes, he said things like, “I am the way,” but this must be taken into context from the original translation in Hebrew, etc. When we do this, we see his statements like this in a more subtle, metaphorical, lyrical, non-direct way. (People have written volumes on this and I may go deeper into it someday, but this little daily blog post isn’t the place. Google away, friends.)
Essentially, I feel like Jesus was one of many quarterbacks whose intention was to hand the football of the Christ Consciousness off to humanity, but rather than taking the ball and running with it, they stopped, got on their knees, and started worshipping him.
I feel like he’s kinda like, WTF, guys?! Go!!
Jesus was the quarterback. Our job is to catch the ball and run with it. Not to stop, get on our knees, and worship the dude.
Learn from the great teachers, love them, get lost in them, but you have to realize the divinity they speak of rests in you. Hero worship does no good. They’re pointing to the divinity in you and me.
We have all we need to live a divinely-guided life. This has nothing to do with being religious or pious.
It has to do with having a good business. It has to do with having a table full of healthy food. It has to do with fire pits on cool summer nights. It has to do with community. It has to do with making sure people’s rent is paid. It has to do with making sure our fellow man doesn’t starve. It has to do with good politics. It has to do with being true to your word.
I could go on for a long damn time here.
Now, before I close, let me say… If meditating/praying on the name/thought of Jesus helps you connect with that consciousness so you can better make that next play in the proverbial football field of your life, more power to ya.
But treat it like a huddle. Not the point of the game.
Now… Go get ’em, champ…
Jonas writes microsermons and meditations here in Higher Thoughts on the daily. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.
In our western world, the trend is to resist that which ails us.
We resist through the survival mechanisms of fighting, flighting, freezing, and pleasing. When shit hits the fan, these are our go-to modalities.
But I’m fascinated by the idea of absorption.
I take absorption to be the main lesson of the crucifixion of Jesus. He absorbed the violence and took it out of circulation. He went with none of the four above tendencies of the survival-based lizard brain.
Jesus embodied Christ by absorbing the violence of the crucifixion.
If you’re not a big Jesus person, that’s okay. Don’t see this man as God. See this man as a dude who embodied the cosmic Christ consciousness that’s available to all of us. (No, Christ wasn’t his last name.)
We utilize the power of absorption when we’re faced with any kind of pain, strife, sickness, or misalignment with our greater good and, instead of doing the four things above, we breathe into it, we love it, we take it in, and we transmogrify it.
Instead of resisting pain, we can absorb it, transform it, and bring it into alignment with our greater good.
This is an alchemical process.
I heard of a woman with late-stage cancer doing this. Instead of seeing her cancer as an enemy, she loved it. She listened to it. She didn’t try to affirm it away (she also didn’t stop her treatment).
What she did was recognized that 90% of her body was healthy and that 90% could take that 10% in and absorb it. She focused on the restorative state of the healthier parts of her being absorbing the 10% that was out of whack and slowly brought it into alignment.
And she was healed. Now, I’m sure the medical treatment helped. Maybe it was 100% to thank for her healing. But the doctors seemed amazed at the progress she’d made after she took this mental approach. If nothing else, it got her out of her anxious, panicked mindset and into a meditative, prayerful, consciously aware state.
But we don’t have to wait until we’re sick or being crucified (literally or figuratively) to put the power of absorption to use. We can do it throughout the day when we’re hit with that low lying undertone of anger or resistance towards whatever it may be.
We can stop. Breathe into it. Let it be. And lovingly absorb it, thus taking the pain of it out of circulation.
Jonas writes shortish preachments and meditations on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.
If you’re like me, you may have been told the story that Jesus died on the cross for your sins so that you could go to Heaven someday. It’s a lovely message, but from what I’ve recently learned, there’s a lot more to this day than just that…
Maybe when you hear the above story, your nonsense detector goes off (and has been going off since you were 9 years old, but you’ve muted it so as to keep the peace and not ruffle any feathers).
And so for a lot of people, Easter is about a guy dying so that we can go somewhere else after we die.
Here’s some history…
A little over 2,000 years ago, the Roman Empire — a massive military, economic, social industrial complex bigger than anyone had ever seen — ruled the world all the way from England to India, conquering everyone they could.
This empire was run by a series of Caesars (yep, you’re probably way ahead of me, but I just found out it’s not just one guy). They believed that they were the sons of God who’d been sent to Earth to impart a universal reign of peace and prosperity.
A catchy tagline they used was this: Caesar is Lord.
So what they’d do is march into your town, knock on your door, hold a sword to your throat, and say, “Confess that Caesar is Lord.” If you submitted, your town would become part of the empire. You’d begin paying taxes to the Caesar and the Caesar would take those taxes and expand the empire even more.
If you said, “No,” they’d introduce you to a specific form of punishment that showed people what happens when the empire was defied. They perfected a way to keep people in the most amount of pain without killing them too soon — in public — in order to bring the point home as profoundly as possible. They had a thing called an ‘execution stake’ that they’d crucify you on (located in the center of town for all to see, of course).
Their message was simple: This is what happens if you don’t submit to Caesar.
What a fail-proof way to grow an empire, right?
Soon, a movement started in the corner of this massive global empire. A group of people kept insisting that their leader and Rabbi, Jesus from Nazareth, had been crucified by the empire, but had risen from the dead.
They made up their own catchy slogan that said the following: Jesus is Lord.
From a historical context, can you see how punk rock this was? They were taking Roman military propaganda and subverting it for their own purposes.
These early ‘Christians’ would have gatherings where they’d provide bread (Caesar gave out bread as a way of showing how he provided for his subjects) and wine (because they were Jewish) and they’d have meals called Agape Feasts (‘love’ feasts) where they’d remember their Jesus.
Good tax-paying Romans would look at these nutty Christians going, “You guys, Caesar is going to totally crucify you.” (I’m paraphrasing.) But the Christians would respond with their defiantly subversive slogan: Jesus is Lord.
These Good Romans would look at them with frustration and ask, “Dude, what has your Jesus done besides getting his ass crucified? Caesar is creating a world of peace and prosperity, man. Get with it.”
To that, the Christians would respond, “Hey, man, why don’t you come with me this Thursday night. We’re having an Agape Feast. We’re from all backgrounds — Romans, Greeks, Jews, Gentiles, men, women, etc. We gather around a table. We put some bread and wine out to remember this Jesus whose body was broken and blood poured out. But before we eat, we go around and make sure all the single mothers have their rent paid. We make sure that anyone sick is brought food and care. We make sure everyone’s practical needs are met. And we make sure that those with more than enough feel free to share with those who don’t. We do this because we believe Jesus is Lord. And we believe there’s a whole new way to be human.”
So, if you were a Christian back then, you’d invite your friend. When you were walking home that night after the Agape Feast, you might ask them, “So, whattdya think? Who do you think is making a better world? Caesar or Jesus?”
Basically, what you’d be asking is this:
Is the world made better through coercive military violence? Or is the world made better through sacrificial love?
What this is really all about
And so the contrast was made: maybe the question isn’t, “How can I crush my enemy,” but, “How can I serve the most downtrodden among us?”
The resurrection said that all oppressive power and brutal regimes are, in fact, temporary. That there is a power in the world greater than the bully. It was hope for anyone who had the boot of an empire on their throat.
Here’s the thing: People who live in wealthy, triumphant empires can easily miss the power of this story. This is why modern Christians living in the western world can’t really relate. They turn it into Jesus forgiving you of your sins, which makes the whole thing about YOU.Our me-first, affluent culture (God bless it) has turned this message into here’s how I can go to heaven someday when I die.
But for the first followers of Jesus, sure it was about the individual, but it was largely about a whole new kind of world. This world. Here and now. It was about providing economic, societal, visceral help and healing for this very world that desperately needs it.
Resurrection says it’s good to be human.
And it can all be healed right here, right now. This was about the resurrection of the body. Not the order of the day that said the body was bad and you had to leave it behind and float off to another realm after death.
The resurrection and incarnation is the radical idea that the divine and the human can exist in the same place.
It says it’s okay to be alive and human, here and now. It speaks to the inherent goodness of the material world. It’s about laughter, wine, sunshine, fresh snow, good coffee, great books, sex, more sex, tacos on a summer evening, babies, dogs, big meals with friends, Cubs games, stargazing, hot spring-poaching, and fixing that garage door. It’s an affirmation of the sweat, blood, dirt and all the grittiness that we know of the human experience.
This tradition starts with the divine who announces: it’s alllll gooood. Resurrection is the climactic announcement that it’s still good. And it’s worth being renewed, restored, and reconciled.
Please don’t let that priest or preacher tell you it’s just about saving your soul after death.
It’s about your skin, your society, your kids’ school, and all the way you use your sacred spirit to DO something with your life and make the world a better place.
Creation is good and it is to be cared for. Resurrection is about our air, our soil, our food, and our water. It’s about feeding those who are hungry, being trafficked, being marginalized, being exiled, trying to get a small business loan, and helping parents and grandparents in need.
This world. This world is good. It’s good to have a body. It’s a resounding YES to all of this.
Do NOT let anyone shrink resurrection down to a nice little selfish doctrine that can fit into your Dolce and Gabbana purse.
This is about our world being healed, life restored and renewed to the paradise it is at its core.
What this has to do with us
Now… Given all of this, what do we do when someone wrongs us? If you’re like me, everything within you wants to lash back and get revenge. But if we do this, what we’re doing is keeping the violence alive. We’re keeping the aggression in circulation.
You bomb us? We’ll bomb you. (Or today — you THINK of bombing us? We’ll bomb you.)
It happens in marriages, town hall meetings, and national diplomacy and has been for ages.
But the story of resurrection is about a Jesus who, when injustice comes his way, when he’s betrayed and crucified, DOES NOT retaliate.
He does the strongest thing anyone can do, which is, he takes the violence and absorbs it. Not because he’s weak or passive, but because he understands that the greatest strength is that which absorbs all that pain, and when it does, it takes the pain, violence, and evil out of circulation.
In that very moment, Jesus showed us the God of life. The God of renewal. The God of resurrection.
Jesus took the violence out of circulation.
Looking around today, it’s too bad he seemed to die in vain. If we would have gotten the message and lived it these last couple thousand years, we might not be staring down the barrel of a nuclear holocaust this Easter weekend. Maybe this world would look a hell of a lot different than it does now.
I’d say it’s not too late. Happy Easter, my good friends.
This is Part 7/7 of the weekly series where I break down, line-by-line, the Lord’s Prayer and interpret it however I wish (because everyone should do this). This series is inspired by the book, ‘Power Through Constructive Thinking’ by Emmet Fox. If you’ve missed the previous entries in the series, you can read them all here.
Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
This one is subtle…
When you think of it, the notion that God can somehow tempt us to do sketchy things is a strange one. Like, why would He/It/We (sorry, I’m jumping prematurely into the Trinity — for another post) do that? Just doesn’t seem to fit.
Now, we’ve covered a lot of ground in this powerful little prayer up to now. We’ve come a long way. If we’ve meditated on and lived the lessons of each line of this thing, we should be (finger’s crossed) at a higher level of consciousness. We should be getting our spiritual houses in order.
And this is where God can get us into deep sh*t.
Not directly, like that kid in sixth grade who got you grounded every weekend. But indirectly. Allow me to explain…
When we develop our soul through prayer and align with Source, Life tends to… work better. We move through the world with more resolve, we work with more intention, we become magnetic in a way and our aura explodes across the canvas of our lives (or so I’m told).
At this point, it’s really easy to sink into a state of self-righteousness and superiority. You can see how easy it is for the ego to sneak in there and for us to begin thinking that we’ve done this all on our own. If we fall into this kind of thinking, our consciousness sinks like a lead balloon.
THE TEMPTATION AND EVIL OF HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS COMES FROM THE REGRESSIVE NOTION THAT WE’VE DONE IT ALL OURSELVES.
We can’t let our ego-repellent run dry the more we expand in consciousness. If we’re not aware, it can creep into the picture and kick us back to step-one just like in a good, clean game of ‘chutes and ladders’.
We must remain steadfast throughout our spiritual growth to ensure this doesn’t happen. The small self must remain humble and give credit to the indwelling God within. This keeps us real. This keeps our path on the straight and narrow.
Author’s Note: This concludes this 7-part series on the Lord’s Prayer. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. To get more serialized content like this, please follow Higher Thoughts and subscribe to my emails so you can get one with your morning coffee on the daily: