Beyond The Pale

Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Beyond The Pale - Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Becoming A “Camino Catholic”

There is a great moment in the recent World War 2 movie imageMonument Men where Hugh Bonneville (of Downton Abbey fame) attempts to protect a group of Catholic priests and the art in their monastery from advancing Nazis. Seeing the peril he is putting himself in one priest asks, “Are you Catholic”?
“Tonight I am” Bonneville responds.

My eyes welled up.

Solidarity is perhaps the most powerful act which binds people together. When someone’s says, “Yes, I stand with you” it can change literally everything. Whether in marriage, family, friendship or even enmity, the act of solidarity breaks down the walls that previously divide.

When humanity found itself under siege with violence, disease, pain, and death it’s as if we collectively call out to God and say, “What, are you human?”
And God responds in Christ, “I AM now”

In the most powerful act of solidarity in human history God says,”I stand with you”

Camino Catholic

Although I have not been raised a Catholic, those that know me know I have a soft spot in my heart for my Catholic brothers and sisters. When I lived in Colorado I was known to sneak out for the occasional Sat. night Mass at our local Catholic Church. Here on the Camino de Santiago there is a strong catholic feel as the pilgrimage is historically a Roman Catholic pilgrimage.

So I’ve made a bold decision that probably won’t sit well with some people but it is this:

On the Camino de Santiago I’m Roman Catholic!

Yep, I made the decision to attend Mass and take the Eucharist with my Catholic brothers and sisters while on the pilgrimage. When I made the announcement to some of my fellow pilgrims, most supported the decision except my new Aussie friend who thought otherwise.

Steve, I work in a Catholic school but I’m not Catholic. You aren’t supposed to take communion if you are not Catholic.”

But I am a Catholic” I responded.

Our little group was enjoying the discussion outside on the lawn as we shared wine, olives, cheese, and chorizo sausage.

No, you are only pretending to be Catholic” she countered.

I’m not pretending. I am a Christian and I want to enjoy the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis while I am on this Christian pilgrimage. So on the Camino, I’m a Catholic…”
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This discussion carried on for a few minutes with different thoughts from the group. One of the Dutch pilgrims also announced that for the Camino, she too was going to be Catholic. Suddenly we were approached by an elderly local Spanish woman walking her dog. She motioned to us she would like a piece of the chorizo sausage. On the Camino de Santiago a spirit of sharing prevails so without hesitation one of my fellow peregrinos cut a generous slice and offered it to the woman.

She promptly tossed it to her dog…

I looked at my Aussie friend and said, “If our good Chorizo can be fed to dogs, I think I should be able to take Catholic communion.”
Looking at the dog licking it’s chops she replied, “Yeah, I have no more objections”

Camino de Santiago: Pamplona and Beyond

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Last night after 8 evenings in an “albergue” (dorms) we splurged, went one step up, and stayed at a “pension”. A “pension” gave Gabriel and I our own room though with a shared bathroom. We didn’t care about that. Don’t get me wrong, the albergue life is pretty cool. You meet some cool folk who are all walking to the same place you are and have travelled from the four corners of the planet to get there. Having said that though, the ability to shut our own door, sleep in our own beds, and have our own space, well, some things are just priceless.

I have quickly realized that the pace and sheer distance we have to cover means daily updates aren’t going to happen, (See, you’ll just have to read the book when it comes out). But here are a couple highlights from Week 1

Pamplona

We entered Pamplona on Easter Sunday. There was a huge party going on in the streets and a band struck up a really upbeat song just as we entered the city gates which made it hard to not feel it was all for us. We checked into the Jesus y Maria albergue which established in a former church. Gabriel had saw some punk rockers and departed after dropping his pack on his bunk. Wanting to keep an eye on I set out to look for him AFTER taking a shower. (One of things that separates a 17 yr old from an adult.)

Wandering the ancient streets of Pamplona, known for both the “Running of the Bulls” and a tenure by Ernest Hemingway, I was disappointed to see that the celebrations were not “Easter” themed as I had assumed coming into a Catholic town. People seems to be waving flags and posters (as well as drinking) quite passionately. As I scanned the crowd looking for Gabriel I was approached by a local who asked if he could help me.
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He drew me back to his outdoor table and small group of friends all huddled around large glasses of beer. The man kept assuring me my son was fine wherever he was all while apologising to me for how drunk he was. I politely insisted I needed to move on when suddenly one of the ladies at the table stood up and said, “Wait, I want to show you something.” She reached up and started to unzip her top.
Oh, god” I thought, “please let her not be flashing me her…”
Fortunately, under her top was a small t shirt with a slogan on the front.
Whew!

She explained that it was symbol of Basque independence from Spain. That she was a “separatist” They all went on to explain that everyone on the streets, all the live music, all the banners and flags which blanketed Pamplona on Easter were a statement of the Basque people.

So much for my romantic notions of a “Christian” Easter.

I excused myself a final time but not before the local man apologised yet again for being drunk and then, extending a half eaten sandwich, asked me to have something to eat before I went.

It was hard not to like these people…

Alto del Perdon

The day after Pamplona we reached that part of the movie The Way where Martin Sheen and his entourage are admiring the wrought iron sculptures representing a number of medieval pilgrims heading west to Santiago. Of course the movie didn’t show them climbing uphill an hour before hand to reach the top. They probably drove…

The views were stunning and we ended up spending a little more time then we planned. Gabriel and I lounged around having a lunch of sandwiches and fruit. We also enjoyed some wine with our fellow pilgrim friends.

 

 

Camino de Santiago: Day 2

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The albergue in Ronsevalle was pretty well equipped and unlike other albergues we would stay in, there were no bunk beds. A gigantic room was divided into small 2 bed cubicles with waist high walls. This meant when standing up you could look out over the whole area and see everything but when you were lying in your bed, you felt like you were in your own room.

We woke the next morning and started to head out the door at 7:00 am but realized it was still dark and freezing outside. (There was still piles of snow on the ground at this altitude) When you are starting a 500 mile walk I figured we didn’t need to make it any harder so we hung inside for another 30 minutes and had a vending machine cup of coffee)

We finally left the ancient monastery which for centuries had been a refuge for Santiago pilgrims at 7:40 in the morning. After we had waled about an hour or so we entered a small town and had the first of what is becoming a pilgrim ritual; morning coffee and a bocadillo. A bocadillo is just the Spanish name for a sandwich made from a baguette. Gabriel had his coffee in the way favoured by the Spanish; cafe con leche or “coffee with milk” which in Spain means the cup is about 1/2 coffee and 1/2 milk.
And my coffee? As always black, no sugar!

We shared a table with 3 Korean pilgrims. One of them asked Gabriel what the yellow ribbon on his jacket signified. Gabriel replied that it showed his support for the democracy movement in Hong Kong where he was from. The girl answered, “oh, in Korea we wear a yellow ribbon to honor the students who died when a ferry sank last year. I thought it was the same meaning”.

We continued on and although there was some challenging climbs at times, nothing that left me in the catatonic state yesterday’s accent left me in. After walking 23 km we realized we were at a good spot to reach Pamplona the following day so we stopped at an albergue in the town of Zibuiri.

When we got checked in the 2 Catholic Americans we met on the mountainside yesterday also arrived. However they wanted to be in Pamplona for Easter mass the following morning so they arranged to take a taxi. Tempting as that was, and as much as I’d have like to enjoy Mass in Pamplona on Easter, Gabriel and I (well me really) were determined to walk this whole thing…God willing.

We went across the street for dinner to a cafe serving a pilgrim’s dinner. As it was the night before Easter most places were closed…which meant this place was packed. We were seated at a table with a young Spanish couple who were doing a few stages of the Camino during the holiday. It helped explain why the trail seemed so full. Most of the folk we were encountering were NOT making the pilgrimage all the way to Santiago.

The Spanish couple introduced us to our first “tapas”. Then as our waitress was taking our order the owner behind the counter suddenly kicked the Spanish music up louder and came over to dance with our waitress. They did a whole salsa routine much to the delight of the cafe patrons. When the song came to an end, the owner went behind the bar once again and our waitress finished taking our order as if nothing had happened.

“I think I’m going to like Spain” Gabriel remarked.

Camino de Santiago: The Start

As I usually do I rose early on the first day of the Camino. imageBreakfast at Beilari was at 7:00 am and we were served as we were the night before by Hans, a hospitiltero from Holland. Hospitileteros are volunteers who come from around the world to work for a couple weeks to a few months at the albergues. Hans was a successful business man who had come to volunteer at Beilari for about 3 weeks. He was the model of what I was learning is a big part of the Camino; the ongoing theme of how can I serve someone else?

After breakfast we said our goodbyes, slung our new packs on our backs, grabbed our walking sticks and took our first steps as bonafide pilgrims. As we left town the rode forks to take either the Napoleon route to Roncevalles, our day’s destination, or the Valcarlos route. Most folk choose the Napoleon route as it ascends immediately and gives spectacular views of the Pyrenees. However the Pilgrims office said the route was closed due to snow and highly recommended we not attempt it. Of course I was tempted to do it anyway but this was where Emilio Estevez died in the movie The Way and I didn’t want Tammy to have to do the Camino with my cremated ashes one day. (That line only makes sense if you’ve seen the movie)

Although all the pilgrims seemed disappointed, we all seemed to resigned to doing the Valcarlos
route which remains low in the valley…until the end. Valcarlos is a beautiful path that took us along rivers, streams, and forests. It was beautiful and relaxing and I thought “this Camino thing won’t be so bad”…

…but then we started going up.

See, our destination is an ancient monetary and church at the top of a mountain in the Pyrenees. The Valcarlos route stays low most of the way and then in a burst, climbs almost 3000 feet in the last 5 kilometres. We went up…and up…and up… Suddenly my 10 kilo backpack felt like it was filled with gold bars. My heart was pounding like a jackhammer and as someone who has had heart disease and a stent in the past, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t praying “please Lord, don’t let me have a heart attack”

At one point I paused to rest on a log. As I moaned in self pity I suddenly heard gentle Bible verses about mercy and grace being spoken out. I looked up to see two ladies approaching about as slow as I had been reduced to. The Bible verses seemed to be coming from an MP3 player. “Thanks for sharing that” I said

“You are welcome,” one of the ladies responded, “are you Catholic”
“I am on this trip” I answered.
“Good, these are the 3:00 Divine Mercies. You look like you were in need of a little mercy”
“I am”
And with that I got up and pressed on.

As we got closer to the top, my pace got slower, my steps got smaller, and the breaks got more frequent. I remember telling my friend Paul that no matter how tough it got, I will always be able to put one foot in front of the other. I was seriously starting to wonder if I was wrong in that. Gabriel was a champ. He patiently waited for me and although he was feeling the pain as well, didn’t need to stop as often as I did.

Finally, we did reach the top…about 2 hours later than I had estimated before the uphill slog. I collapsed in a bench at the albergue check in area and a hospitallers kindly went and got me a glass of water. I was so exhausted that I was actually nauseous. As much as I wanted to gulp the water down I feared I would throw it back up. I hadn’t felt this way since I played varsity sports in high school. The first couple days of practice were cardio nightmares designed to separate the “wheat from the chaff”. Usually someone barfed…this was how I felt now except I no longer had a 16 year old body.

Anyway, after a pilgrim’s blessing in the church that evening and a nice meal with wine all the world was made right again and we were ready for day 2.

Welcome to the Camino de Santiago!

Camino de Santiago

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The first few days of the Camino have been such a flurry that it been hard to even think ofposting a blog entry. But now, three days in, I think I am getting a feel for how things are done; which translates to mean I have quietly slipped out of the room I am sharing with 10 other people and have come down to the albergue (hostel) common room at 5:00 am to share what Gabriel and I have been up to.

We arrived in Madrid on April 1 and then took a 3 hour train ride north to the city of Pamplona (famous for the annual Running of the Bulls). An important note to make is that my 17 year old son has eschewed the traditional (i.e practical) hiking attire normal for walking 500 miles with backpack in favor of his “punk rock” attire. He wants to keep his “identity” he said. The result of that “identity” was that we gathered the attention of police and immigration officers with much less effort.

So no sooner had we stepped off the train in Pamplona than Gabriel was intercepted by 3, very large, Spanish police officers. I suppose I could have kept walking and let him face the full consequences of his “identity”…but he is my son…so I turned around to acknowledge I was with him. After producing passports and explanations the officers seemed convinced we were neither drug traffickers, Basque separatists, or trouble in general, and proceeded to let us go.

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We were picked up at the station by istvan, who with his wife Barbara, ran the Pilgrim’s accommodation we would stay at that night. Because the traditional starting point of the Camino de Santiago, the small French village of St. Jean Pied de Port, is not the easiest destination for Internationals to get to, Istvan offers a wonderful service. He picked us up in Pamplona, took us back to the pension for dinner and a relaxing night stay, and the morning he drove us about 45 minutes to St. Jean.

With a handshake and some words of advice, Istvan left us near the Pilgrims Office where Gabriel and I went in to register. We received our Pilgrims Passports, which would be stamped along the way and validate to the officials in Santiago that we had walked the route. We also received our scallop shell, the traditional symbol of the pilgrim making the journey to Santiago, which we affixed to our backpacks.

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We stayed that evening at an albergue called Beilari which means Pilgrim in the Basque language. We couldn’t have started our Camino from a better place. Everything about Beilari was designed to infuse a spiritual / reflective start of the pilgrimage with a community feel. Like life, our journey is done both individually, and with others. If you focus to much on one at the expense of the other, life gets out of balance.

Beilari, unlike other albergues, advertises that has NO Wifi. Yes, we were disconnected for 24 hours from the web and it felt great. Instead, prayer and reflection areas were provided outside. Then in the evening all 18 people staying there gathered together to share about themselves, where they were from, and what had brought them to do the Camino. At the table were pilgrims from Australia, Ireland, Germany, Korea, Spain, Holland, Finland, Great Britain, and of course us, two Americans from Hong Kong.

Then around a common table we had a wonderful meal and wine and broke bread together as we wished our new friends a good first day and a Buen Camino!

 

Journey With Me On The Camino de Santiago!

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It’s been nearly three years since Gabriel’s and my last adventure across England and as the days have rolled by we find ourselves off again tomorrow for our next journey; walking across Spain on the famous pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago.  

As we have prepared for the Camino many people have asked questions about the details of the walk as well as the motivation for doing it.  So here are the answers to a few of those questions:

What is the Camino de Santiago?  The Camino de Santiago translates as The Way of St. James.  For 1200 years Catholic Christians have made pilgrimage to the cathedral in Santiago Spain where reputedly the remains of James, the Apostle of Jesus, were interned.  Modern day pilgrims walk the The Way for a number of different motivations both spiritual and secular.

Where do you start? Medieval pilgrims started by walking out their front door. Coming from Hong Kong that may a bit impractical so we have chosen to do the Camino Frances, the “French Way”, which starts at the village of St. Jean Pied de Port just inside the French border and one of the ancient setting off points on the Camino de Santiago.

caminofrances

How far is it?  500 miles (800 km) from St. Jean to Santiago.

How many days will you walk?  30 -32 days to the Cathedral and then provided we are not injured or sick, another 3 or 4 to the Atlantic Ocean.  We have a max of 35 walking days before our return ticket forces me to go back to work! :)

How far will you walk each day? It will vary based on the geography and how we are feeling but we need to average about 16 miles (25 km) per day.

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A Camino “Albergue”

Where will you sleep?  As pilgrims on the Camino we will be issued a Pilgrim’s Passport “credential”  which will allow us to stay at pilgrim’s hostels “albergues” along the way.  These hostels will cost will vary from a donation to about 10 Euro a night.  We will probably splurge every week or so on a economically priced hotel room just to get out of the dorm for an evening.

Where will you eat?  Our pilgrim’s passport will allow us a economically priced set meal every evening.  Also some of the hostels we will stay at have communal meals for the pilgrims or a kitchen where items purchased at the grocer can be cooked.

Walking 500 miles sounds crazy!  Why are you doing this Steve?

Two reasons really:  The first is to spend quality time with my son.  At 17 he is on the verge of adulthood and I think this time together will be wonderful for him and me.

The second is because there are two moments in my life when I really felt a time of strong reflection on my life, my faith, and my relationship with God. Once in 2007 when I was recuperating from my cancer surgery, and once in 2012 when I was walking for two weeks across England.  I’d like to avoid the cancer option again and instead go with doing another really long walk. :)

Finally: In 2014 50,000 people registered in St. Jean Pied de Port to begin the Camino.  The Cathedral in Santiago reported only 29,000 made it.  A lot of people don’t finish.  Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as I am really trusting that either injury or sickness doesn’t sideline us of our goal of completing our journey.

Also: I hope that Beyond the Pale readers will appreciate the break from our regular scheduled programming to enjoy the updates and reflections I’m sure will becoming as we begin The Way!

Peace,

Steve

Hey Indiana, If A Gay Man Asks You To Bake Him A Cake, Bake Him Two

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If you haven’t heard the news, the State of Indiana and it’s Governor, Mike Pence, were feeling a wee bit nostalgic.  Pining for the good ol’ days they announced a new law that would allow people in the state to discriminate based on a religious principal.

Yep, you heard right…

This is for Jesus…

But what it really is..is fear!

The gays are coming and we have to “take a stand” !

If we don’t we’ll be forced to:

* rent them rooms

* bake them cakes

* serve them food

* give them jobs

Heck, people will be singing show tunes in the streets…

It will be complete societal breakdown!

And as the law is designed to allow people to discriminate their professional services based on religious convictions, why stop at assuming this will only be used against the homosexual community.

Will:

Catholic owned stores deny service to Protestant customers?

Muslim owned restaurants refuse to serve Christians?

Evangelical hotel owners require proof of marriage before renting a room to a couple?

Perhaps we won’t hire a person who is:

* overweight 

* living together with a girlfriend / boyfriend

* divorced

The people of Indiana could live this way or…

…they could trump the law!

no gays

Yes, the people of Indiana could jump right over this new law and  instead do what Jesus taught; treat people around them with dignity and value.

You see, the law never stopped Jesus!  The law demanded that

* Jesus not associate with foreigners

* Jesus not eat at the same table as “sinners”

* Jesus not enter the homes of corrupt officials

* Jesus not socialize with the sexually immoral

But the Law cannot stop Grace….and it certainly didn’t stop Jesus!

Christians in Indiana have a choice:

They can either use the new law to mask their fear, insecurities, and self -righteousness

or

They can love people with the grace and compassion their Lord has demonstrated and taught them.  Or to paraphrase Jesus

“If a gay man asks you to bake him a cake, bake him two!”

Peace,

Steve

 

 

 

American Jesus (March) Madness Predictions

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I’ve never been into March Madness.  Call me a spoil sport but getting SO excited, not over a nation or even a city mind you, but schools?  And schools I never attended?  Do I really care about the amazing new freshman point guard at Duke?

I think not…

But over at Zack Hunt’s blog Zack has manged to put a fun twist on the “March Mania” by highlighting a madness I find even more …um maddening?

Christian soaked American religiosity

And by combining the two he has created an  American Jesus Madness bracket challenge.

Brilliant…

So looking at the results so far I thought I would make my predictions on what appears to be very competitive quarter-final matchups:

Pope Francis vs. God’s Not Dead:  This is a tough one to call.  I mean I knew God’s Not Dead would knock Ken Ham out of the race (though despite evidence of his loss Ken still refuses to believe it) but going up against the juggernaut that is Pope Francis?  I have to go with the Holy Father on this one but this is a matchup where an upset is very possible.  If supporters of God’s Not Dead are told to picture Pope Francis as an atheist University professor attempting to silence them, well, then all bets are off.

Jesus Feminists vs. Yoga Pants: This one is a little outside my knowledge  zone.  Apparently there was a bruha over a Christian blogger who stopped wearing yoga pants so as to not cause men to lust.  To test this hypothesis scientifically I wore yoga pants around town all day with a notebook in hand. Sadly I produced no lust whatsoever but I did garner a few snickers, laughs, and a look of sickness or two.  But against Jesus Feminists?  I’m going with the yoga pants.

Christian Patriotism vs Liberals, Immigrants, Muslims, The Poor, and the Entire LGBT Community: Sadly for the Christian Patriots, this isn’t the same unstoppable juggernaut team they fielded in 1982.  Gone is star Forward Jerry Falwell and even though legendary Center Pat Robertson is still playing, he tends to just come out on the floor occasionally, mutter something incomprehensible, and that go and flop back down on the bench.   Also the game rules that had previously favored Christian Patriotism are being changed and the playing field is getting a little more even.  Its a new season for this team so look for the Liberals, Immigrants, Muslims, The Poor, and the LGBT community to take the match.

Hating Rob Bell vs. The Gospel: This is a match for the ages!  American Jesus Madness Christians LOVE to hate Rob Bell.  He represents everything they are not.  He is kind, thoughtful, compassionate…you know…Christlike and it drives them crazy.  There is one thing American Jesus Madness Christians love more than the Good News Gospel of Jesus Christ and thats “hating Rob Bell”.  Look for “Hate” to triumph over “Good News” in this matchup!

Well, there you have my predictions.  What about yours?

Peace,

Steve

Why Many Christians Still Build A House On Sand

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An interesting conversation I had recently started when someone stated that if we “believe in Jesus” it’s like building your house on a rock. (Matt 7:24) When the rain and storms come we will be able to stand, unlike the person who doesn’t “believe in Jesus”.  That unfortunate person will be washed away because their house is built on sand.

Sounds easy enough;  Belief in Jesus produces a healthy fruitful life that can weather life’s storms.  Don’t believe, and well, all bets are off.

But is it true?

Often when we teach the parable of the wise man who built his house on the rock, Christians tend to make it a “believe in Jesus” moment.  Have you accepted Jesus as “your personal Lord & Savior?”

But if we look closely, that’s not what Jesus said:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Matthew 7: 24-27

There are three things to consider here:

1) Therefore: The first word in this passage suggests it is connected to what immediately proceeded it; which is a verse that implies that calling Jesus “Lord” isn’t what God is primarily focused on:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7: 21-23

The verse is suggesting that an affirmation of God followed by a lot of ministry activities isn’t God’s priority and, even worse, is still like building your house on the sand.

Know any burned out pastors, missionaries, and ministers who feel miserable and whose families are a wreck?  Case in point…

 

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2) Who hears my words AND puts them into practice The parable of the house built on the rock was all about hearing the words Jesus had just spoken and doing them! And what were his “words”?

Well it had nothing to do with what we would see in a standard evangelistic meeting designed to get someone to “receive” (give a verbal affirmation) of Jesus.  Instead, starting with the Sermon on the Mount in Chapter 5, Christ had begun instructing the crowd in a Way of life that was counter-culture and counter intuitive to their nature.  It was teachings on:

* examining yourself rather than judging others

* sacrificing your abundance for a person in need

* loving those who would abuse you and talk bad about you

* not championing your relationship with God for your own esteem

Jesus said putting these things into practice is like building your house on the rock!

3) The authority that Jesus had when he taught these things stood in direct contrast to the religious leaders teachings of the time.  Like today, ministry leaders tend to focus on particular rituals and activities that, they teach, God smiles upon.

Jesus shook up that whole system.  

He was saying, “The religious leaders will tell you what God desires is this, but what God really desires is that!

Isn’t it really what Jesus’ ministry was all about?  He was pretty much always saying, “You think the road to God’s Kingdom is that.  But that road is wide, traveled by most folk, and leads to a life of pain, anxiety, and destruction.  I’m telling you the road to God’s Kingdom is this and unfortunately few find it.  It is quite narrow and following it will go against your natural reflex and comfort zone.”

Oh, but if you can find it, and He has promised to show us the Way, it leads to Life and Life eternal.

Peace,

Steve

 

 

5 Reasons Jesus Was Rejected…And Why We Would Reject Him Again

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I think as Christians we often look back at the rejection of Jesus by the religious rulers and people of the time and shake our heads in disbelief.  How could they have done that?  Were they crazy? They had the Son of God right there in front of them and they not only rejected him, they had him killed.

But if he had come today, with our present “Christian system” would we be any different? Would we embrace him…or cast him out?

Sure, if he showed up, we would be all excited at first; but once Jesus began to speak, disrupting our very notions of God, tradition, culture, and morality, I rather suspect we would reject him in much the same way as our brothers and sisters did 2000 years ago.

So here are 5 reasons Jesus was rejected…and would probably be rejected again!

1) Jesus didn’t always side with the Bible

Jesus valued the scriptures, quoted them often, and even began his ministry by publicly reading from the Book of Isaiah…

but…

he was not a Bible literalist.

Jesus would often would give an interpretation quite at odds with the religious understanding of the day, and that didn’t go over so well.  Whether it was on issues of the Sabbath, ceremonial cleansing, sacrifice, or morality Jesus would often say, “The Bible says this but I am telling you that…

Jesus arriving today would find the “way” we often use the Bible at odds with his Way.  As he did 2000 years ago he would teach us his “Way” to correct our “way” and many would, in turn, reject the Living Word for the written word.

2)  Jesus embraced the “outcast”

Jesus was constantly raising eyebrows by the company he tended to keep. The poor, the disenfranchised, the ones who were not benefitting from “the system” were the ones Christ was proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was made for. The religious establishment were aggravated with his constant siding with the people they themselves wanted to have nothing to do with.

Jesussermon

Systems, whether religious, economic, or cultural, sustain themselves by having a clear delineation line between “us” and “them”.  Jesus was regularly going to “them” (Gentiles, Samaritans, and  ”law” breakers) and saying they were now part of “us”.

And are we any different in the modern church?  What if Jesus had encounters today that mirrored the encounters that infuriated religious folk 2000 years ago

How would we feel about Jesus:

* having dinner with politicians (right wing or left wing) that we despise? (Luke 19)

* happily receiving a homemade cake from a gay baker (Luke 7:36-40)

* seeking out and affirming a man who had been kicked out of a church (John 9: 34-37)

Although we like to assume we would react differently, I rather think we would largely remain judgemental and convinced Jesus was hanging out with the “wrong” sort.

3) Jesus wasn’t what they were hoping for

Everyone is a little guilty of creating God in their own image.  We want him to behave in a certain way; affirming what we affirm and rejecting what we reject.

We all do it to greater or lesser degrees and I stand guilty of it as well.

The people of Israel in Christ’s time were no different.  They wanted the promised Messiah…but they wanted him on their terms.  In their minds the Messiah was going to champion the Jewish religion, crush Israel’s enemies, and usher in a lasting rule under Jewish nationalism.

But Jesus, it turned out, was not a good fit for that job description.  He instead came championing the Kingdom of Heaven, embracing Israel’s enemies, and promising a lasting rule under Himself and his “Way”.

That didn’t go over so well…

If Christ were to come today we would welcome him with open arms…

…but once he began affirming his “Way” rather than ours I rather suspect we would give him the “left foot of fellowship” just like he received so many years ago.

4) Instead of answering plainly, Jesus told stories.

Jesus was asked a lot of questions…and he gave a lot of cryptic answers. Sometimes it was just because it was a “bad” question.  Sometimes it was the malicious intent of the inquisitor, but often it was simply because the Kingdom of God is best explained as a story.

storiesjesustold

People love stories. Difficult concepts can be better understood with a well told story. So Jesus told stories.

In fact, Jesus avoided getting bogged down in religious arguments and clarifying faith statements by answering theological questions with, “A man had two sons, and he said to the first son…”

This really irritated the religious folk who wanted to know where he stood on certain moral and faith based issues.  Presently there is a lot of argument going on within the church on the acceptance of “gay” Christians and whether a person can be “gay” and “Christian”.  People on both sides of this issue are certain how Jesus would respond.  But if Christ was around today and we asked him to weigh in on this controversial topic asking him to plainly say yes or no I think he would say something like,

“Ok, a business owner had two sons, and he said to the first son…” 

And many of us wouldn’t be any more happy today with that response than the folk were 2000 years ago.

5) Jesus was a threat to the temple system

By the time Jesus arrived, the religious system was running like clockwork. There were priests, offerings, worship, and sacrifices and many people had a vested interest and identity rooted in that system.

Then Jesus showed up.

* He disrupted and denounced the  commercial elements (Matthew 12:12-13),

* He proclaimed himself to be the temple God would utilize to connect with humankind (John 2:19)

* He abolished the priesthood being the gatekeepers to God by effectively making everyone a priest (1 Peter 2:9) 

Today’s church system bears a striking resemblance to the temple system of old.  We have temples (church buildings), priests (pastors), a temple tax (tithes), and regular sacrifices (time, money etc.)

Not that all these things are “bad” in and of themselves.  I participate in many aspects of this “system” myself.  But if Jesus came today, I ask myself often,  “how much of this “system” would he disrupt and how many of our vested interests would he overturn?”  We’re kidding ourselves if we think he would just remain quiet and endorse our “temple”.

And when he called into question the things we had been taught were essential to our faith would we embrace him…or reject him?

Now thats a good question?  And the answer is, “The owner of car dealership had two sons, and he said to the first son…”

Peace,

Steve