More than a spiritual teacher

“Throughout his short public career Jesus spoke and acted as if he was in charge

Jesus did things people didn’t think you were allowed to do, and he explained them by saying he had the right to do them.  He wasn’t, after all, merely a teacher, though of course he was that too- in fact, one of the greatest teachers the world has ever known.  He spoke and acted as more than a teacher. 

He behaved as if he had the right, and even the duty, to take over, to sort things out, to make his country and perhaps even the wider world a different place.  He behaved suspiciously  like someone trying to start a political party or a revolutionary movement.  He called together a tight and symbolically charged group of associates (in his world, the number twelve meant only one thing: the new Israel, the new people of God).  And it wasn’t very long before his closest followers told him that they thought he really was in charge, or ought to be.  He was the king they’d all been waiting for.

If we look for a parallel in today’s world, we won’t find it so much in the rise of a new “religious” teacher or leader as in the emergence of a charismatic, dynamic politician whose friends are encouraging him to run for president– and who gives every appearance of having what it takes to sort everything out when he gets there.”

From N.T. Wright in Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters

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Psalm 145 is excellent to meditate on

sun-thru-trees-front-yard

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation will commend your works to another, and will declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.

All your works will give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful will bless you.
They will speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.

The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

There is absolutely no way I can stand at a distance from this Psalm or read it out loud without any emotion. If I can, I haven’t met the God of the Bible and I am completely immune to the emotions of this excellent, excellent work. The themes in this Psalm are not sappy emotional stuff, they’re gigantic themes of human struggle and daily existence. What is the character of this God we serve?  (Gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, rewards those who love him, upholds justice by destroying the wicked) Is our God petty and powermongering like we are, or does he display his power in different ways?  (He’s faithful, gracious, raises up those who are bowed down)  Why do people go hungry in this world?  (It’s not God’s desire, and there’s enough food for everyone to eat.  The problem isn’t supply; it’s distribution)  And for me to add the example of Jesus into my thoughts on Psalm 145 brings tears to my eyes sometimes.  How did Jesus, our King, express his kingship?  By touching the unclean, washing feet, spending time with outcasts, giving his life for his friends and his enemies rather than taking life away.  What an example to follow.  No question to me that this God is clearly not an invention of human hands; us projecting a bigger example of ourselves into the heavens.

I didn’t quote the entire Psalm here, just a couple big sections of it, and I split it up as possible chunks for others to cut and paste and carry around with them at work or in daily errands. Words to meditate on, to chew on for awhile.  And the picture is one I took in our front yard one evening.  I’m going to miss the Shenandoah Valley. *sigh*

On Prayer and Religion…

 From John Koenig, a quote;

*point of note; Koenig is distinguishing between “religion,” which is historical and traditionally rooted and “religion in general,” which is more of a pop spirituality that often consists of shallow stabs at transcendence and is unwilling to put in the work to find the freedom on the other side*

“In recent years the great devotional classics of both the Eastern and Western traditions have become available to the reading public on an unprecedented scale. Many contemporary works are also of excellent quality. The popularity of retreat centers for prayer and meditation continues at a high level, and there is no shortage of people ready to offer their services as spiritual guides. In addition, the various twelve-step programs have helped tens of thousands find their way to a lively relationship with a Higher Power. As whole new body of writing on spirituality has developed from such programs and from other groups and movements that are best identified by the term New Age.

Yet there is a difficulty with this recent upsurge in devotional practice and literature, for much of it seems to reflect and foster a diffuse kind of religion in general, only marginally related to the biblical forms of faith. While I empathize with people who find the worship life of their local churches and synagogues to be less than inspiring, I cannot quite believe that the present growth of non-institutional or para-institutional religion signals a real deepening in our communion with God.

I mean that religion without a solid base often falls prey to peculiar romanticisms, which in turn lead to the very opposite of spiritual truth and freedom. Moreover, religion in general, as I perceive it, frequently lives in deprivation. Always standing just outside the houses of the ancient traditions, it does not get properly nourished at any one of their tables. Religion in general often searches for esoteric experiences but turns away from daily sustenance. Such a tendency, I believe, nearly always proves to be self-defeating. And it is far from necessary.

From Rediscovering New Testament Prayer, pgs 1-2