I can get rather lengthy these days, my apologies up front. However, the pain in my heart, felt when I read about the chaos in the Middle East or when my grandson holds me and I think of what perhaps lies ahead, I do struggle deeply.
Words like theology, seem too generic for the deep feelings what occupy my mind, heart and soul these days. Religion as well, the result of varied studies of theology, it's product often distorted by opinion, offering little true joy.
I do have joy, though I am not at all happy with where we Boomers have allowed things to go. I hope that makes sense?
In terms of practical solutions for peace in this world, religion's failure is quite evident, with all three major religions now in battle with each other! That is perhaps the source of my recent consternation.
All our heady, academic approaches over the centuries are surely less than this Being we call God could ever have intended as the foundational basis for what we call truth, let alone love!
We were designed for relationship, one akin to the best of marriages, as implied in Moses' garden story, where he depicts a God who walked with mankind in the cool of the evening.
I am getting too old to continue wrestling with theology, simply reiterating religious opinions. I desire an escape from complexity, a more bottom line means to communicate the amazing journey with this spiritual force that stirs my soul each day. A journey akin to romance, often loaded with a passion only captured in the near lustful Solomon's Song!
Such intimacy would have been long lost had I given my life over to the conjecture of others, some with the best intent, most more learned, offering only the results of their study of ancient volumes from centuries of church councils.
Then in times of crisis, having witnessed first hand, the same clergy revert to strategies knowingly flawed for the sake of public opinion, audience, or income. In all fairness, having served for years in the "belly of the beast," I know their role is no easy road.
I thank God for my dad's living room, the place where I most dramatically met "the I Am!" Had it been in a sanctuary, I might now question the "how", as so many of the next generation are now doing.
Somehow, there has always been an awareness of "more than church" as I came to know it, though I still attend and enjoy what church offers, believe it or not.
My life seems embarrassingly arrogant given my sense of choseness. Even in my darkest days of rebellion and disobedience, I was never without awareness of the faithful voice within me.
I can identify with Abraham, the called out one, who's life was likely loaded with lesser gods, wrathful symbols of misunderstood science, volcanoes that demanded an appeasement, a sacrifce that was often one's firstborn.
His heart finally stolen forever when as hoped for, he saw a ram caught in a bush simultaneously with the voice of God calling a halt to his sacrifice, just as he drew the knife to execute his own son, Isaac. Jehovah-Jireh had provided for what religion required of him, freeing him for relationship.
Calvary was the same for us, when God raised his hand in obedience to religion, a substitute for our sense of need for appeasement. In Jesus' own words: "It is finished!"
We could only grasp all this by way of a prolific Moses, who gave us the Pentatuech. I am grateful for his recorded conversations with the I Am. Then, following his writings, the prophets who sensed even more than Moses had captured.
Centuries later, with the appearance of Christ, the God of Moses become flesh, we find Moses' understanding somewhat distorted when contrasted with the teachings Christ. Jesus seemed to be about cleaning up Moses' religion.
The writers of the gospels further captured their moments for us, as they lived out this New Covenant, willing to risk religion, having by then experienced the New Wine of communion, walking with and being touched by the Christ.
The Epistles then reinforced the possibilities of empowerment by the Spirit as witnessed in the Christ, all now possible both to the Jew and the Gentile, slave and free. Most of those written by the Pharisee of Pharisees, the Apostle Paul.
He along with the writer of Hebrews, reiterate abundantly that faith alone in the finished work of Christ, rather than the rigors of religion, is counted sufficient for righteousness. On top of that, a grace is afforded sufficient for us to walk in hope, with joy!
The New Testament best describes God's second attempt at "gardening!" Walking with humankind in a true covenant relationship, a friendship sealed by the sacrifice of a Lamb, provided by God Himself in the embodiment of the Christ. Gone are the rigors of religion and seperation from our Creator Companion!
God became flesh and dwelt among us, demonstrating a life based upon love, one quite in contrast with where religion had taken mankind.
Now just as Paul cautioned the Galatians, we too seem to have become re-entangled with the Old Covenant, with religious laws that must be kept to appease an otherwise angry God. So much so that Christianity now quacks like the duck of Judaism, with little evidence of power beyond politics.
Surely our most recent Christianity was never God's idea, but rather as first demonstated by the early church. Those first century Christ-followers were accused of turning their cities upside down, not with missiles but the power of the Spirit and love, as they had witnessed in the Christ!
Neither Judaism, Islam, nor Christianity offer convincing remedies sufficient for hope, as evidenced by the horrors of the war now occuring. Again, this war so blatantly represents the result of religion's impact over time, as all are the descendents of Abraham!
No practice of religion is sufficient for walking with God. The journey is personal, a faith nurtured by conversation and life experience, guided by the Spirit. Sure, the text of scripture is a tool, but never a rule book!
It is only by faith, nurtured in relationship with the Father, that we truly become the children of God, the spiritual chosen. Practicing religion alone, apart from relationship with God no more makes a nation or a person chosen than the proverbial mouse in the cookie jar being called a cookie!
This covenant with God is the essence of love embodied in the Christ and must be personal. It was never intended to be represented by a state, a nation, nor institution, be that Isreal, America or the Universal Church.
We may have again lost our way, but the scriptures do hold remedy. Though written by men and women easily flawed by life, we cannot escape the visceral language leaked throughout this mysterious text, phrases like "flesh of his flesh, bone of His bone," the Body of Christ. What man distorted by religion, God still found a way to communicate; a personal love song, sung anew by the Spirit with each sunrise!
Perhaps if early own we humans would have stayed closer in relationship, "persevered" was the word Paul used, wisdom would have found us and love better shaped our character as believers. Character, not religion is the source of our hope (Rm.5:4).
"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."
That's "bottom line!"