Size Matters

Been trying to find a way into this topic, Brothers and Sisters, but no luck. Maybe if we just chat awhile it’ll dawn on us.

And there are a lot of us’s. Seven billion human beings and counting, alive right this instant, pumping out  many thousands of thoughts in a  day, emotions zigging high and low, body heat, breath itself: life affirming and toxic in each heartbeat.

Question: Do the dark, angry, petty, self pleasing thoughts outweigh the kind, mild, gentle selfless thoughts? In total, I mean, all seven billion. In what ratio? Half empty or half full doesn’t really convey the size of the glass, does it?

That is a challenge for the imagination we decline. We get our thirst for the outsized quenched in imax theaters. Now, nature lovers, I hear you, most of us have had the experience of being dumbstruck by the size, scope and power of the natural world. But being brought to a different mind set by surrendering to the majesty of Nature is not exactly the same thing as keeping all of Human Consciousness in mind.

Or trying to imagine it at any rate, to return the challenge at hand. Because of course the problem is, what image do we use to imagine all of humanity, each of the seven billion souls alive now, the humans leaving life as I write this line, the humans being born just now. What image stands for the totality of mankind?

You know where this is going.

The only image in human consciousness that encompasses all of us is Jesus, the Christ.  Only He is transcendentally large enough for the job. The Calendar of the Western World was broken in half by his birth. Everyone has heard of Him, the vast majority have thought about him, tried to picture him. (It is always a near miss) Many billions have adored him. All of those thoughts, prayers and adoration’s have accumulated for 2,000 years. Leaving the question of his divinity aside, Jesus is surely the most revered and respected human being to ever walk the earth. Think of the sheer volume of positive intentions directed at Jesus over time and across the world.

Excuse me, I’m being rude. I ask you to chat and don’t let you get word in.

Can you think of another image in our heads–man, thing, or spirit–that is universally recognized as a symbol of humanity?

Stumped? Then think of the image of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, arms outstretched, beckoning all of us individually and all of us as God’s creation. It is entirely welcoming, assuring, loving. And it”s message is clear.

Our lives, by the billions, our thoughts, by the decillions, are eventually, inevitably poured into Christ.

The glass only He can measure is overflowing with his Living Water.

Know What I’m Saying?

I rant, I scold, I coo, tickle and poke but I’m not changing any minds here.

Okay, something new. Newish.

Or at least, more spontaneous. For instance, the first line, with the ranting and cooing just came out and I left it in, even though it invoked parents and children, a subject I’m avoiding; not ready to tell my own story yet. Ordinarily I would have backspaced that puppy away and started over.

But lets see where this goes.

I’ve been careful with these posts treating them like miniatures–that’s the image in my head.  I try to make them as well crafted as a late apprentice with mostly the wrong tools can. Just now, the impulse to go back and tinker with the late apprentice business, should I change it to aged apprentice and go that way, play the geezer card? See the problem? If I include you in the decision making process we’ll never get anywhere, even though I let you vote in my booth. Let’s keep going.

So, what’s so great about being a Christian? In your own words.

That’s why I started this blog, as kind of a third party exchange where apologetic language–God talk–could be transmuted  to the world of secular talk. Let’s let the hubris of that statement stand on its own for a minute, like a traitor in the dock, before we send it down.

Okay, the job is too big for me, but it’s one that needs doing. Because we are talking past each other–believers and skeptics–as never before.

Eavesdrop sometime on a conversation among people with a common interest and mutual affection. Fly fishermen, bargain hunters, basketball fans. Guitar players, gardeners, hikers, star gazers. Knit and needle ladies with tea on and kitties purring; guys quiet, glass slipping in the hand, staring into the last of the fire. As cliche as the images are, the conversations are that authentic. People treasure authenticity. We are very aware, as a pleasure of life, when we are in those moments with other people. We are careful not to break the mood with the wrong word.

The thing I’m getting at is there is a very human, inborn, universal though culturally bound, way of speaking that listeners understand to be genuine. That is how Christians need to be speaking about God to unbelievers.

Back tomorrow to give it another shot.

The Resurrected Elephant in the Room

We do not die when our bodies die.

Consciousness survives bodily death.

Individually, we accept and accommodate this fact. Most of us have had personal experience around death, especially of loved ones, in which inexplicably, something in the room changes when a human being dies. Mind exits body in a loss perceptible on the deepest level. Animals are aware of it; think of the spooky hospice tabby the night staff keeps an eye on.

Stories of human beings coming back from the dead and reporting an extra dimensional world are as old as recorded history. Plato’s Republic ends with the myth of Er, a warrior presumed dead, waking up on a funeral pyre with a tale of the afterlife that resembles modern day Near Death Experiences (NDE)  in startling detail.

If you turn to science for answers, Theoretical Physics offers several competing models including the Multiverse, Superfluid and Holographic Universes. These theories respectively say that we live in one of an infinite number of universes, or, wait, it’s just like a ginormous particle ocean where the waves go where they please, or, my favorite, our universe is in reality a holograph projected onto a curved plane–the good news here is we’re only plus sized in two directions.

Everywhere science looks it sees extra dimensions–or one fewer–but never is the world we experience the world found in the math.

Information is never destroyed. Consciousness is information.  Discrete units of consciousness survive intact. That would be you. And me.

I’m a Christian, in part because I believe the resurrection of Jesus is the model for the transformation of consciousness from this bodily plane of existence to the next. I believe the Father of scripture is the Pure Intelligence that generates the ongoing Universe with beneficent intent. The Holy Spirit, the most mysterious of the Person/Energy/Law involved in this cosmic interplay between matter, information and self, is somehow crucial to the process yet gets the work done without fanfare.

As for reincarnation, the idea that the Creator of the Impossibly Vast needs to recycle seems a bit shop worn. Science has revealed a universe infinitely larger than that of the star gazing Ancients, and unfathomably deeper than that of the navel gazing mystics. I lean strongly towards Christianity’s view. We are each of us unique creations. The sense of past lives may well be a kind of tapping in to a storage unit as information is retrieved and read.

If this borders on heresy to Orthodox Christians, so be it. We’re just talking here.

 

The Long View

The Christian life of faith is called the Walk–it is both the Walk of Faith and the Walk with Christ. Sometimes the believer is led by the Spirit around a corner to a sudden new perspective, from habit to horizon. Imagine you are walking for hot miles down a country road, sweat falling into your eyes, you pause to wipe your face as you’ve done a hundred times–but this time, holding your eyes shut just a beat longer, shut tight, another long beat, a deafening wind:and  you open your eyes to the night air from Everest.

Use your CGI: Christ Gifted Imagination.

What we see in the first years of our Walk is in the most charitable sense of the phrase about us. He finds each of us in our personal ditch of pain and dysfunction; most call His name for the first time in utter desperation. When Jesus answers, his Light engulfs us with love and healing that feels so personal that we become disoriented to the world. We stumble along barely aware of our surroundings clinging to that light, that moment of light, without noticing it’s been receding ever so slightly as our worldly vision returns and we reassess our spiritual surroundings.

We believers see, in those first few years, a world no wider than the man-sized Cross he died on. We may hear in Sermons or read about, a Christology that is transcendentally larger than life, that fills the Universe with His presence; we may even become intellectually involved with the idea. But as always the Spirit knows best, and until we are ready we are kept as if with blinders on, following His shadow as he walks besides us.

This is a sufficient way to live in the world for bruised human souls. Many people are so damaged by the world–nothing narrows our view like flinching at memories–that a lifetime clinging to Christ is all their earthly mind can tolerate.

But God, as he promised, is abundant with Grace. Many Christians have been called to see deeper into His majesty as they age in years and faith. Famous Christians certainly, Billy Graham and Aquinas, but most are anonymous Christians, known only to local communities, sometimes known only to God. Many people touched by Jesus lead lives completely devoted to Him truthfully; quietly in shared space, heart uncontained when alone with the Beloved.

Eventually contemplation of Jesus becomes knowledge of Divine Love.

And that changes the human mind. To know that God is Love, that existence itself is suffused with love turns our view of this life upside down. To know that every human being you see is a creation of God. To know that the evil which clouds this world will be gone in an instant. To know that we humans are a Creation of Divine Love, designed for an eternity of Joy.

Luke 3:14

And the soldiers (police) likewise demanded of him, saying, “And what shall we do?” And he said unto them, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.”

Take a minute. Think of the the stress put on Christian police officers who follow that particular scriptural injunction. Adrenaline alone nixes the no injury clause, and since violence makes a mess, the temptation to protect Blue with a false word must be an ongoing danger. It is a challenge other Christians don’t face.

After all, we pay police officers pointedly not to turn the other cheek. Of all Christians, only of them do we urge, Peter, pick up your sword. Is lying to a suspect false witness or good interrogation?.

We ask the police to protect us from the contagion of fear without becoming infected themselves.  We expect the police to engage with real live parasitic murderous evil and to emerge untainted by contact. Christians officers, true believing Christians, have the miraculous antidote, but in the heat of action do they always remember that syringe?

Some young Christian researcher should take up this two part challenge: What percentage of US police officers are Christian and what percentage of those are corrupt?  My intuition says that a dwindling majority are still Christian, although generational and demographic shifts could be taking a toll. Of the percentage involved in wrong doing, my intuition gives way to a prejudice. I really don’t want to believe it’s significant.

Yes, Luke 3:14 is clear about God’s expectation of righteous police officers and deviation can bring tragedy, such as that in Baltimore. But jump up a couple of lines;

        And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?”  And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”

If we Christians who are not the police, we who are the crowd in that story behaved as instructed, in that passage and throughout scripture, not only would there be no “poor neighborhoods”, there would be no call for Blue.

The destruction in human lives caused by poverty, the temptations multiplied by urgency, are burdens which other Christians should help bear. He who has the worlds goods, and sees his brother in need and shuts up his heart against him, where is the love of God in him? Those in power will not escape judgment: What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor, says the Lord God of Hosts Those of us who believe the time is really late, might consider abandoning a worldly economy for a Biblical one:

 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.  And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.  Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,  and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

Imagine a time when the only reason we’d have to flag down a patrol car in Baltimore is to share some Lake Trout sandwiches; aka loaves and fishes.

Something Glorious This Way Comes

This is a spiritual exercise that arose out of a morning walk.

I’ve been doing this for a few years now, not as a scheduled practice, but whenever I need a Spiritual recalibration.

It requires a safe place to walk undisturbed for half an hour. You will want to turn off your alert survival mindset for this short time and let an open and inviting mindset take its place. Also, and I know this is extreme,  you will need to turn off all the electronic diversion you are carrying. Extra credit for first timers who leave the gadgets home.

There are two other requirements. A long vista and a trickle of human beings coming in the opposite direction. Ideally, as in my early morning  route, several people spaced over the duration of the walk.  If you are in an ethnically diverse area, all the better.

If you’re nearsighted, as I am, take off your glasses. Light fog is perfect. For this encounter, it’s best not to see people clearly at first.

Take a few moments before you begin the walk. Deep breaths, until body and mind are calm. Three I find ideal, and on that-not-quite pun let me address any non-Christians reading for just a moment. This practice is so beneficial to me I recommend it with whole heart to my brothers and sisters in Christ, but also to any spiritually minded human being who believes in the soul.

The soul is the focus of the walk.

To recognize, consciously and with intent, with absolute confidence, that every human being was created by God. To see in each other the pure joy of Creation.

The practice is simplicity itself.

As you first see a human form in the distance you say to yourself: Here comes a Soul, a Human Being animated by the Living God. A priceless creation. You cannot at this distance see any details about his or her appearance–this is key. You cannot see clothing, race, age; you cannot see friend or enemy, companion or pariah. You only see the Human Being.

Hold that thought firmly but gently. A human being, a human soul. As the person comes more clearly into view, as you see them in whatever earthly circumstance their life finds them, refrain from judgement. As completely as you, in your earthly circumstance, can, refrain from any judgment at all. Keep focus on the radiant creation before you.

At this point, if you’re interested in this exercise, you will find your own words to keep the thought alive and in your conscious–and deeper–mind. I usually say, Thank You Dear Father for this glorious creation. Thank you for this soul. Let me love with Your heart the human being approaching…and  sometimes, very rarely, at His whim,  I just shut up.

That’s when it happens for real.

It’s just Rock n’ Roll, Innit?…

What I always say is, if God raised Jesus from the dead, everything else is just Rock n’ Roll, innit?…”

London cabbie to N T Wright

Amen Amen.

It is precisely here, at the most outrageous of claims, the most egregious assault on common sense and experience, that Christianity depends.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the time is late. All with ears and eyes know it. The insanity of sectarian division among the Body has just one source. Let’s acknowledge that scorpion’s power. The Earth is temporarily his, even as his defeat has already been accomplished on the Cross.

It’s a mind twister, Beloved, no running from that fact. So let’s not.

Let’s not “blend in”, let’s not capitulate to the “progressive” world view, let’s not at this particular juncture in the unfolding of His time be all things to all men.

Let’s be set apart. As He intended.  Let’s be as distinct as the Amish, as radical as Francis, as fearless as those twenty one Christian martyrs beheaded on that Syrian beach.

Let’s leave every doctrine at the door except Christ Crucified and Risen. At the core of every Christian is the belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Everything else is rock-n-roll.

The time is here Christians. We are at our post. We are Christ to an unbelieving world.