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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Nicolas Berdyaev and More

I find myself fascinated by the thoughts of Nikolai Berdiaev (Russian spelling) in his book, "Freedom & the Spirit." It is an odd book, for the pages look blotty and copied rather than newly set. It is a bit challenging, but worth it. Nikolai lived from 1874 until 1948 - quite a span of history and its major changes from the end of our Civil War, to the 1917 revolution in Russia, to two world wars and the insanity of the warmongers to the drop of the first atomic bombs on people, etc. It was a vastly different world at the end of his life, scarcely recognizable from the one of 1874 I would say.

Here are a few excerpts (I'm sure more will come later as I'm only on page 52 of 369 pages):
Victory can indeed be won over the past, and Christianity teaches us that it can be redeemed and forgiven. Rebirth into a new life is possible, but into every new and transfigured life there will return those former experiences which cannot disappear into oblivion without leaving traces behind them. A period of suffering can overcome, joy and happiness can be born anew, but into every fresh joy and happiness there will enter again, in some mysterious way, that suffering which as already been endured. Joy and happiness will henceforth be different.... Suffering disappears, but the fact of having suffered is always with us.
He shares that the struggle to awaken to God, going through the darkness, makes a person different and more open to Spirit than those who never questioned and did not go upon the quest. Those who stay only with the rituals and traditions are not free, and finding Spirit/God is Freedom. Since Spirit is not static, frozen teachings are not about God but about control of people. He seems to think that for Christianity to survive it needs to let go of the political controls, superstitions, pagan elements, and go to Spirituality much as it did in the very beginning. He said:
Spirit is life, experience, destiny. A purely rational metaphysic of spirit is impossible Life is only disclosed in experience... Spiritual life is the most real kind of life.
I bring to mind the how of it all. I have known for a very long time that we the people of earth are in need of genuine spiritual awakening. All we need to do is look around to see the sorrowful life of so many of us. The how has not come to me. Let us all contemplate and seek how to seed spiritual awakening for ourselves and for all the people of earth.

Lord God, Spirit of all, open our hearts and minds and lives to You and to ways to seed an actual spiritual awakening on earth. I know there is a way or You would not have given me this idea. Show us the way.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Well-- is it a good thing or not?

It surely has been a maybe good, maybe not week. I lost a crown, a bad thing. There was decay under it, so actually it was a good thing. The dentist has a fancy digital camera and a milling machine that made a custom perfect cap for my tooth in less than half and hour, a good thing, an amazing new science thing. My tooth still hurts, a bad thing. Ibuprofen takes away the pain, a good thing.

Then there's Gilbert. He awakened me Thursday night bleeding from intestines. A bad thing. We went to the hospital, which is rated highly, a good thing. They did tests and admitted him. His blood count went down to 8 (should be 13.5-17.5), a bad thing. He kept on bleeding, a bad thing. They gave him meds to prep for a colonoscopy, eww awful stuff, it stopped the bleeding though, good thing! He had the scopings and found the problem, a good thing. His blood went up to 10.2, enough to release him from the hospital, and he's back now, a good thing. What a prayerful time the past 5 days have been, a good thing. So many wonderful people prayed.

We'v e had some strange, often bizarre challenges for a bit over 4 years. So much of our lives seemed to be our own personal ice age. We finally we were able and made an offer on a house that was new and lovely, a good thing. The deluge came in January and it had major water and mud problems - at first glance a bad thing. At second glance, it saved us from buying a problem house, a good thing. So we started looking again.

Two weeks ago we went to an open house after church. It was our dream house. The owners were no longer in this country and wanted to sell it with the contents, beautiful contents --- much of which fit well with our things that have now been in storage over 4 years. It was a miracle thing, Today we made an offer on it - hopefully they will accept and we will move in - a very, very. very good thing.

And today is the birthday of my beautiful, kind, and loving daughter - a good thing through and through.

Things that look bad, may turn out to be good - often depending on our responses. Life can be confusing for sure. I think though that if we can focus on the idea that all will turn out if we listen to our intuition and get the help we need. In the end, it can be good.

I know that we have Invisible Means of Support. As Julian of Norwich once said - all will be well. May it be well for us all and for this beautiful, gorgeous planet and all who live here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Thinking about Paul

As you may recall, I've read a pile of books on Paul in the past year, and I'm reading 2 more right now. Why? It seems, according to theologians and historians, he may be the single most successful religious teacher in history! He crafted the birthing Jesus Movement, The Way, into Christianity that veered sharply from James and Peter - and his vision and version was THE one that won.

His was the only focus on the non-Jewish, non-God-fearer Gentiles.

In the beginning, The Way, was within the synagogue and spoken and later written in the order of the Jewish liturgical calendar. James stayed in Jerusalem and, as the brother of Jesus and because of his reputation for being righteous, he was the leader, the one that had to be spoken to in order to get his approval for most anything. He insisted that all men who wanted to be baptized had to have circumcision, keep kosher and formally become part of Israel. Peter went out to the diaspora, speaking to the Godfearers as well as the Jews. The Godfearers were Gentiles who preferred the ethics and teachings of Judaism over the Roman gods.

But Paul also spoke to those people who were pagan Gentiles, baptizing them and incorporating them into his various communities with no other requirements than they professed to follow Christ. He created huge problems because of this. He was beaten at least 3 times, stoned almost to death, imprisoned, and rushed out of more than one town.

There is such a mixed reaction to Paul. As I have mentioned, part of that is because only 7 of his letters incorporated into the New Testament/Second Covenant were his. At least 3 of the others are opposite of his teachings. (authentic = 1 Thessalonians written about 51, the earliest writing in the New Testament, Romans the last of his letters, I & II Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon).

I feel compassion for this tormented man filled with such passion and dedication. I appreciate his original ideas such as: equality - neither Greek nor Jew, neither free nor slave, neither male nor female in Christ - all part of the body of Christ; the sharing so that if one had food, all had food; the coming of each to know God internally by following Jesus' kenosis/emptying; the recognition of The Kingdom here and now as all helped to usher it to the fore by their participation; etc.

His influence was primary for Augustine, Luther, Wesley and others. I urge us to look at Paul again with fresh eyes as we focus on his 7 authentic letters.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Paul etc

I've read a number of books on Paul in the past year and am currently reading a Bruce Chilton book on him. I am struck by how random it seems the currents were that shifted and moved into what became Christianity in its many forms and ways.

Paul was an extreme devotee of the Pharisaic ways, studying in Jerusalem to become a Pharisee for probably about 4 years. He was thoroughly a true believer. He was extremely one pointed, excluding all other possibilities. Then he had a vision and believed himself a new Moses who was to take the message of Christ to Gentile, non-Jews. This flew in the face of everyone involved in Judaism and The Way of Christ at the time, it was even abhorrent to them. They all had stayed within Judaism and stayed in the synagogues. Paul  had a strained relationship with James and Peter, and they sent him out of Jerusalem, as he was stirring up big controversy. He was in Nabatia for some time and made the ruler extremely angry. He wrote about his many internal conflicts and seemed to not consider himself a worthy being. He was beaten, chased, imprisoned, shunned and treated with utmost disrespect. It is thought that he was killed by Nero around 64 C.E.

Yet, in the end, Paul's view prevailed. It is said that Augustine was the most influential Christian theologian in the first thousand years of Christianity. Paul's words converted him. He based a lot of his theology on translations and mis-translations of Paul's authentic and non-authentic letters. Paul was simply writing to different groups in different cities, advising them on their situations. I'm sure he never thought his letters would become scriptures. I'm sure that after his death, his disciples never thought their letters written in his name would ever become scriptures either.

It was a messy, confusing, frightful time in the 1st century. A wide array of thought, of groups, of teachings whirled around. There was almost total illiteracy (estimated at least 95%).  There was extreme poverty. There was no science. There was a violent and brutal Rome in charge.

Emerging from this chaos, I think it is no wonder there are to this day so many ways to interpret what it means to be a Christian. I don't suppose there will ever be unity on this either. I do wish all those who endeavor to follow Christ would emphasize his teaching of Oneness, forgiveness, generosity, kindness, prayer and honoring the sacredness of all. Maybe the details are not so important. Maybe the big picture is actually bigger and more meaningful to our walk on earth.