Today's Gospel reading is one of my favorites from Luke (10:25-37) — the story of the Good Samaritan. Indeed, I have paraphrased it many times in my life. It is, for me, an incredibly powerful, yet very simple story of life and how to treat others. And one that is often ignored when talking about groups we don't "agree" with or believe are against what we believe.
In ancient times, the Jewish people and the Samaritans were enemies. They didn't like each other and didn't think the other group knew anything about God. They certainly didn't think of each other as God's children — or even God's distant second or third cousins.
And that's why Jesus chose a Samaritan as the one who showed mercy. It was a multi-faceted message to the people, just as it is a multi-faceted message to us. And we still don't really get it. The message is simply this, whosoever shows mercy is our brother. Whoever shows mercy is our neighbor. No matter the color, religion, sexual orientation, shape, size or species. It's not a debatable thing. WHOEVER SHOWS US MERCY IS OUR NEIGHBOR and must be given/shown love.
Not an easy thing to do in our judgemental, prejudice, scarcastic world, but something we must all strive for. One of God's great commandments and one of the greatest commandments according to our loving, compassionate leader Jesus. [Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:27-31]
Jesus stories are a challenge to us. Not to emulate our human leaders, but to emulate our heavenly leader. To give good, mercy and a blessing to all we meet, no matter whether they are Christians, athiests, Muslims or ... It's not a request, it's a commandment.
I've read all the stuff about the earthquake in Haiti. I've read all the vitrol from the alleged "Christians" who have spoken more like the devil they invoke than the Prince of Peace and lover of all people. And I have read about all the people reaching out to Haiti with help, money and real prayers. And once again, I find myself both proud and ashamed of being called a Christian. Proud because of all the help people are so generously sending to Haiti. And ashamed because of the comments being made by supposed Christians like Limbaugh and Robertson.
And I find myself angry at the bullsh(*# coming from the mouths of those who some people consider leaders in the Christian community who are instead voicing words of hate, racism and violence. They are bearing false witness to the people of Haiti and to those of us Christians who really believe what the Prince of Peace said.
IMHO, it's time for real Christians everywhere to stand up and let the world know that people like Robertson, Limbaugh and other whose claim to Christianity is shaky at best, do not speak for real Christians. Whether you are conservative, moderate or liberal, it's time to show the world what real Christians are like and to remove these pretenders from the spotlight.
Let's stop watching, listening to or giving response to these hate-mongers and put the real Jesus in the spotlight. The Son of Man who always supported and protected the poor, hurt, wounded and meek from leaders who were leading people astray.
Let's let Robertson, Limbaugh and others know that for REAL Christians, Jesus comes first and we want Jesus in the spotlight instead of hatred and racism. All those in favor of putting Jesus (and love) back in Christianity, raise your hands and your voices.
“The greatest ignorance is to reject something you know nothing about.”
After reading two beliefnet blogs (Beck, Bath and Bizarre and some of the blogs on Brit Hume I started wondering...when did Christianity become so intolerant and Christians so arrogant? And where is that reflected in the teachings of Jesus? Nowhere that I know of. Yet those who are in the limelight continue to give Christianity a bad name and the rest of us, who claim to be loving Christians, do nothing to stop it. As a matter of fact, many people just love listening to these un-Christ-like "Christians" and supporting their rants. It makes me almost ashamed to call myself a Christian and know that other people are afraid of me because of those intolerant, arrogant, in-your-face, conservative Christians who believe like Beck and Hume.
Well I, for one, would like to stand up and say, loud and proud, that I am a TOLERANT, LOVING CHRISTIAN WHO SUPPORTS ALL RELIGIONS AND THE GOOD THEY DO FOR THE WORLD. Instead of bashing other religions or using the third grade, "my God is better than your God" argument, I choose to learn about other religions and try to understand them.
There is an old saying that goes, "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." Those "Christians" or those who call themselves Christians bash other religions without knowing enough about them to really intelligently comment on them. Thus, they continue to show their own stupidity. Unfortunately, their loud comments make other people believe all Christians are as ignorant and foolish as they are. IMHO, if you don't know anything about any other religions, you shouldn't comment on them at all.
Many people follow the tenants of Christianity without following the "religion" and they are turned off by those blatant "Christians" who are in their face and anti everything that doesn't exactly follow their beliefs and dogma.
IMHO, it's time to start following Jesus' teachings rather than religion's rules. Of course, that requires us to spend much time learning exactly what Jesus taught. And while we're busy learning, we will be too busy to bash others. Sounds like a good way to become better Christians and better world citizens.
I must say, this quote from Bhagavad-Gita As It Is best describes my beliefs about God and getting closer to God. "God is the same in every religion. He is called different names in different faiths; just like people from around the world see the sun from different angles and call it by different names. Just as all rivers all eventually reach the ocean by their different courses, so we call all reach God through our different methods."
Or this from Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, "A man can reach the roof of a house by stone stairs or a ladder or a rope-ladder or a rope or even by a bamboo pole. But he cannot reach the roof if he sets foot now on one and now on another. He should firmly follow one path. Likewise, in order to realize God a man must follow one path with all his strength. But you must regard other views as so many paths leading to God. You should not feel that your path is the only right path and that other paths are wrong. You mustn’t bear malice toward others."
Then, of course, there's the good old Golden Rule which appears in almost every religion on this beautiful earth. Check some of them out here. It's time we started following the Golden Rule — and teaching it to our children once again — and demanding it from our "celebrities" and leaders.
I was reading about another "Christian" (this one was the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama) who was found guilty of taking bribes. I find it interesting that so many supposed "Christians" are accused of or found guilty of various crimes while many of those people Christians revile are living good, safe, honest lives around them.
It seems to me that before all these "Christians" who are saying it's wrong to be gay or athiest open their mouths, they need to look in the mirror. If God is going to judge us all, maybe you might want to be careful what you say. Make sure you are living your beliefs -- ALL of your beliefs.
Today All Saint's Day is celebrated in many churches. It's a day to honor all the people who gave their lives for God and the gospel. But more than that, it's a day to honor all who gave their lives. So what's a saint?
When Paul talks about saints in the epistles, he isn't talking about formally recognized, officially sanctioned "saints." He's talking about those who gave their lives to following Jesus' teachings. Since there was no formal church, these people weren't asked to follow any church dogma or organized rules. As a matter of fact, many of the people Paul talks about were not even dead. Paul talks about saints as those who follow Jesus. So in Paul's way of thinking, all those who follow Jesus' teachings are saints, living and dead.
In times past, and in the Catholic church, saints were considered to be "special" people who are designated as such by the pope after much study, reflection, and examination. But prior to the Catholic church (yes, there was a time when the church was just a community of followers of Jesus and not a formal "church"), the community of believers honored those who had been killed for following the gospel. It is thought that "All Saint's Day" as an official church holy day began around the fourth century.
So if you're not Catholic, what do you celebrate? Can we celebrate all those who have given their lives to God no matter their religion? An interesting idea. Can we celebrate any modern saints? What about simple people like my brother, who passed away this summer. Although he is not a saint according to any "church," he was a "saint" to his family and friends. He spent his life helping others and giving what he could. Was he perfect? No. But neither were all of the other saints, formally acknowledged or not.
Even Saint Paul acknowledges that he is flawed. And many others both in the bible and officially sanctioned "saints" didn't start out as those great, noble folks. Most of them started out as roudy, unkind, arrogant, error-prone people. They were all "missing the mark" (the real meaning of the word "sin").
God doesn't call "perfect" people to be his saints. And many of the people he calls never totally become "perfect" in their lifetimes. But then, the word often translated as "perfect" in the bible, as in Jesus' comment, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." [Matthew 5:48 NAS], is actually the Greek word telios.
Telios doesn't mean "perfect" the way the English language defines perfect. In our dictionaries, "perfect" is defined as " being entirely without fault or defect..." [Merriam-Webster online]. But the ancient Greek word we translate, telios, means "to make complete, whole... to be fully mature." And using the correct word makes an amazing difference in the interpretation of Jesus' words.
Think about it. Instead of Jesus saying you are to be "entirely without fault or defect" like your Father in heaven, he is saying you are to be "... fully mature" like your Father in heaven. Gives a completely different meaning to the saying. And makes it possible for us flawed humans to actually achieve the "perfection" of Jesus and the Father in heaven.
None of us is perfect no matter what we do or say. But those who have given love, helped others, brought hope, and given their lives to do good are all saints — even my brother ... and you if you follow Jesus' teachings. Not the "church's" or "religion'" teachings, follow Jesus' teachings and strive to be complete, whole and fully mature.
We dress up in costumes and scare each other. We eat candy and treats and wish everyone a Happy Halloween. In the poll on beliefnet's Halloween page, most people say, "It's a fun holiday for kids and adult parties; I don't take it seriously." That got the most votes in the poll. But why don't we take it seriously?
I suspect the main reason is that to take Halloween seriously means we have to do what most of us don't want to — take death seriously and face it. And that is way to scary for most of us. Most Americans are afraid of death and dying and so would rather not talk or think about it.
Yet most of these same Americans also say they believe in God and life after death. So why so scared? Could it be that we really don't believe in life after death? Are we afaid of losing ourselves in death? Are we afraid of the pain we may suffer? Or something else?
I know, for me, I'm afraid of possibly suffering pain when dying. My sister died of cancer and it took a long time for her to finally pass. On the other hand, my dad died quickly from a heart attack. One minute here, one minute gone. Nice way to go in my opinion.
And even though I'm a Christian, I am not sure what life after death will bring. Challenges, struggles, more pain. I think for a lot of us it's the not knowing that scares us most. We WANT to believe in life continuing in an unbroken line, but... The questions keep popping up.
Maybe it's time to join the many Hispanic cultures and pagans in taking one day to celebrate death and those who have gone before. Maybe all Americans need to learn to celebrate the Day of the Dead. We can learn something from those cultures and groups that honor and celebrate the dead. Something about life, death, and ourselves ... and something deep and strong about God. Think about it.
I read through a variety of blogs and it started me thinking (always a dangerous occupation :-) I read about those who are stuck in a limited way of thinking, of Muslims, of God. And it started me thinking again that as long as we continue to follow the belief that "our way is the only way," we will continue to have problems on this planet. A question on the sidebar of one of the pages asks about peace and whether we will ever have world peace. Interesting.
I don't think we will have world peace as long as people continue to believe that they MUST force their way of thinking on the world. As long as people continue to insist that their way is the best or only way. And as long as people continue to disrespect others' views and beliefs. Yet preachers and other religious leaders, along with comedians, TV and movies, books, and video games continue to preach intolerance.
Don't get me wrong, there are lots of people out there preaching and practicing tolerance and respect for others, but the most vocal, and most publicized are the intolerant and disrespectful. Good and decent doesn't sell newspapers or magazines or translate into Nielsen ratings or movie profits. And, after all, money is what it's all about.
For those of us who have suffered to some degree in the financial crisis of the past few years, money has become both more and less important. As a result people are more interested in learning about other ways to survive and thrive. As preachers, it is up to us to teach these people that God requires us to respect, tolerate, and indeed LOVE all people no matter what. We need to start teaching people how to respect again. Most of us have forgotten how.
Our children are killing each other because they don't respect life or each other. Because they have bought into our belief that "my way is the right way," or the "only" way. They are being taught that if someone disagrees with you, just kill 'em. After all, that's what many of our TV shows, movies, and video games do. Our children are not paying less attention to us and more to the video games they play.
It's up to us as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, even neighbors and friends, to rescue our children from this legacy of hate, intolerance, and disrespect and teach them once again to love and care for each other. That starts with love and respect in our own homes and neighborhoods and will gradually move outward into the world. Then we might come close to world peace.
I haven't written in a while, but I just had to write today. It's the church's first annual Pet Blessing service and although I'm excited, I'm also a bit nervous. This is my first big event as a pastor and, like a nervous bride, I want everything to be perfect. So I found myself fretting over all the details this morning. I had to take a break and relax. I headed for beliefnet.com and the wisdom of the bible to see me through. And once again, peace comes.
I know that some of the nervousness comes from not knowing how many people will come and all the questions that come along with that. Will we have enough chairs? Enough bulletins, enough certificates? Do I have everything I need? And on and on... Still, I have everything together and know I am doing the best I can. I also know God is with me and will see me through this time. It is His ceremony, I am only His representative. So I go forth in confidence and with patience knowing that God's ceremony will work as God wants.
There was a song out many years ago called "Teach the Children of the World" which I loved. Some of the words were, "Teach the children of the world. Teach them now before it gets too late. Teach them how to be the parents of tomorrow or they'll become the parents of today and pass on all our hate and madness to a whole new generation..." Too bad more people didn't listen to the words to that song and take them to heart.
I have read so many stories about children acting out like the movies and TV shows currently around. One story was about a child who recruited another child to kill his mother as an initiation into the kid's Sons of Anarchy group?!?!?! First of all, what parent in their right mind would let a child watch Sons of Anarchy? Come on people, pay more attention to what your kids are watching! Sons of Anarchy is certainly NOT a show I would let a child watch — I wouldn't watch it either, but that's just my opinion.
As I watch shows on TV or movie or video game trailers, I wonder about the state of our country and especially the minds of our youth. Maybe it's just that with all the electronic gadgets we have, we get more news and much, much faster than before. Maybe this kind of violence has always been going on and we just never knew about it before. But it sure seems to me that more and more — and younger and younger — children are committing acts of violence similar to those shown on TV, in the movies, and in video games.
I think it's time for us to reflect what we are teaching our children and think about whether we really want our kids to be like the people they see on TV, in the movies, and in video games. Think about it.
I have been immersing myself in the Beatles retrospective on VH1 Classic for the past two weeks and it is really bringing back some memories, as well as some old emotions I thought were long gone. The Beatles were the band of my childhood. There was other music too, like Motown, the Stones, etc., but the Beatles were my absolute favorite band. Besides that, those boys were all cute ;-)
So I have been filling up my life and ears with Beatles music and stories. It's raining outside so why not listen to Beatles music and clean the house. One thing I've noticed as I watch all the shows is the innovation and the many things started by the Beatles that we now consider staples of the music industry. What an amazing, and fun group! I think I'll always be a Beatle fan.
The other thing I have noticed is that, among the emotions and feelings coming up while listening to the music, are the many things I have wanted to do over the years that didn't get done. There is some regret there and sadness for things and chances lost, but also a realization of how I've changed over the years. My focus and purpose now is so far away from what it was as a teenage. I suppose it's like that for many people. Some folks seem able to make their teen dreams come true (like the Beatles), others are drawn to different dreams as they age. Curious...
When I think of all the things I thought I wanted to do as a teen and what I'm doing now, I realize that I really wouldn't change anything about my life now. I love my animals and the rescue work I do. I love the church Arleen and I are building, and I love my home and family. So I guess, despite some lingering sadness over things not done, I am satisfied with the way my life is going. But I'll always be a Beatle fan.
I have a new, longer term foster dog. Boog will be staying with us until the beginning of December. His mom had to move in with her mother temporarily so we agreed to keep Boog for her. He is a Basset Hound/standard Dachshund mix with a black tongue. Don't know what else is in there but he is black and tan with Basset legs and a tail that stands up over his back. His face looks like a Doxie. And he is the sweetest dog I've met in a long time. He's very laid back and easy-going.
I am sure that if his current owner decides she can't take him back, he will probably stay with us. Arleen already loves him and so do I. Of course, the girls are a bit jealous, but even Bentley is getting along well with Boog. And the every gay (actually, we think he's bi) Dinky is really enamoured with Boog.
I will put up some pictures of Boog as soon as I get some. Right now, we are all getting to know each other and get spaces and places settled. It's always exciting when a new dog enters the pack, but I'm thinking Boog will fit right in. In a way, he reminds me a lot of Brownie, the dog my neighbor had when I was a baby. Brownie and I were tight. He was my protector and we were best friends throughout his life. I LOVED that dog. And Boog reminds me of him. Brownie was a brown, standard Dachshund. Did I say I LOVED that dog?
Right now, Boog is settled in his crate — he made immediate friends with Arleen the first night when he took himself into the crate for bed by himself. After the last two puppies, who hated the crate, this is great. And during the day, if he's tired, he heads right for the crate. That is a plus for Arleen. No more screaming puppies. So the house is much more peaceful with Boog. I hope it stays that way. We need some peace and quiet right now.
Things are moving in terms of the church and stuff, but they are moving slowly. We are working on a Pet Blessing service for October 4, 2009 — the traditional day for pet blessings. I am thinking of having it at Dunk N Dogs. I thought about having it outside at Hines Park, but the weather is a question. I can't handle another rain-out. :-( We were rained out several times this summer.
I am hoping that Sharon can get the back room cleaned out before the 4th. I'm hoping to have a good sized crowd for the event. Well, gotta get to work on the house and Pet Blessing stuff.