Do Everything With Love

love

Do everything with love.

This was the word from Spirit today.

So, in the two subsequent hours, I prayed, cleaned the kitchen, ate breakfast and folded laundry in love.

Then I totally failed. I became frustrated and LOUD at the robot who answered when I made a phone call.

But I recovered when – finally – I was connected with a human. I even remembered to wish her a quick return to health, since I could hear that she had bronchitis.

Do everything with love. Everything. Everything.

Everything.

At-One-Ment

crossIn a conversation where I expressed my belief that Jesus did not ‘die for our sins’, someone responded , “Maybe people don’t need Jesus to die for their sins today, but back in Jesus’ day, things were pretty barbaric. Do you think he needed to come and die for THEIR sins?”

Interesting question. Here are my thoughts:

Living in the USA today, we may feel that people were more barbaric two thousand years ago, but I doubt the Palestinians share our opinion, or the peoples in Syria, South Sudan and other war-torn parts of world. Personally, I’m not sure the USA stands on much higher ground than the Romans of Jesus’ time, given that we still employ the death penalty. It seems our modern world has just as much need for God’s atonement.

But what IS atonement? If you look at the etymology, its original meaning was reconciliation after estrangement. It was only later that it evolved to mean making some kind of amends. In other words, payment was not initially a necessary component of atonement – the emphasis was on restoration, not remuneration.

Restoration is what Jesus understood his ministry to be about. The first time he appears publicly in his hometown, he opens the scrolls and reads,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

In his reading, he extended God’s restoration to all (even non-Jews) without remuneration. That’s why the crowd then tried to kill him. Turns out, universal forgiveness and restoration wasn’t a popular message. It still isn’t. Even today, we insist people pay for that which is most basic to human survival – food, shelter, healthcare. Given that mindset, it makes sense that we would try to apply it to salvation, too. Then or now, we humans just don’t seem to be able to wrap our heads around the concept of ‘freely given.’

But if we didn’t need his death as atonement, then what was the point of Jesus coming at all? I think the point was Jesus’ LIFE:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

It doesn’t say, “that he gave his only son to be crucified and to die.” We add that in ourselves. Jesus came – was given – to proclaim good news, news that would change the heart of both religion and politics. And that news was: God dwells among us! His message was powerful enough that it frightened, not just the Jewish leaders, but Roman ones, as well.

So they killed him. But it wasn’t the end of the story. Humanity cannot overpower God’s love, and THAT’S the message of Jesus’ resurrection. Not even death can stop God from saving the world – and us.

Many Christians have a different understanding of atonement, one that involves Jesus as a sacrificial offering, as the substitutionary Paschal lamb. That’s fine with me; it’s why I love the Episcopal Church. We can stand side-by-side with our different understanding and still be in full communion. There is no need for estrangement – we can skip straight to at-one-ment. 🙂

We Don’t Do Karma

Jacob Wrestles the Angel, by Arthur Sussman http://www.arthursussmangallery.com/
Jacob Wrestles the Angel, by Arthur Sussman
http://www.arthursussmangallery.com/

It’s been more than a month since I last posted. I moved both home and office in September and October. I experienced financial tribulation. (I’m always so optimistic about how much it will cost to move. This is one scenario where pessimism might a better choice. Although then I might never go anywhere at all.) While I reconnected with some of my loved ones, I said goodbye to others. I traveled and I worked. Stress abounded.

My prayer practice was irregular. It would have been easier to maintain a center if I’d been more disciplined about altar time. Wish I could really LEARN that lesson. Still, in the midst of the maelstrom, I found myself, like Jacob, on the road wrestling with God. I emerged not with a limp, but with a renewed commitment to pursue ordained ministry. Why? Because I was reminded that my life centers around my desire to reach out to others and show them the Divine in the universe and in themselves.

After searching my heart and soul, looking at other denominations and other faiths, I am certain of my call. I am ridiculously in love with with this guy who walked the earth 2000 years ago. Call me polyamorous, because I want to share him, not in a “have-you-found-Jesus-as-your-personal-savior” way, but in a “OMG-did-you-hear-what-he-said-isn’t-he-dreamy” way. Ewwww. Saccharine. I know. But there it is.

It makes me sad that because of well-meaning but theologically incorrect Christians, many people are turned off even by the mention of his name. That’s heartbreaking. It’s like being turned off by the mention of Buddha or Mahatma. Like them, Jesus had game-changing ideas.

His best one is forgiveness. In Episcopal and Lutheran churches, we do this ritual every Sunday. Put simply, it’s called DO-OVER! (AKA confession and forgiveness.) You see, guilt and shame cripple us, prevent us from being our best selves. But Christianity (another touchy word) says, “You’re forgiven. Let it go. Move on.” It’s a do-over. Christians don’t do karma. We do love and forgiveness. That’s radical.

Speaking of love, Jesus  had some pretty interesting ideas there,too. “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you…just as your heavenly Parent shows love to everyone, so must you.” When someone irritates me, hurts my feelings, doesn’t appreciate me – my response can be, not anger or irritation, but love. Jesus says, “Someone’s hurt you? Love anyway. Love especially.” How is that even possible? But when I take his words to heart, my life is transformed.

I’m sometimes asked, “How can you possibly believe that? And why would you want to?” My response is that my life is better for believing.  If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I’ve talked about what I DON’T believe with regards to traditional Christianity. I’d been trying to decide if this disqualified me from pursuing the priesthood. I’ve been reminded that it’s not my decision, so I’ve placed the call and I’ve committed to preparing the paperwork. We’ll see what happens next.