Easter

Easter 2010

Dear Friends,

I did something like this last year. Expect a repeat with more specific additions. Because I think each of you is a very unique and special person, this is the day that gives me an opportunity to share an important part of my life. And I think you will at least try to understand my message. It certainly is not what you might expect. In fact, Easter is not the center of this message at all.

Everyone knows that I have come close enough to my last breath enough times for me to have learned something about this life and especially about how we relate to each other. How we treat each other and manage to live together in peace while accepting each other in spite of differences in personality, philosophy, and even behavior is what really matters. We may be miles apart in more ways than just physically, but given the opportunity, we could still party together because there really are no barriers between us.

Many made the decision to dress up and go to church this morning. That’s OK. I still remember how important this day is in the church year. But I chose to privately consider the gracious, unconditional forgiving love, and generous humanitarian justice of our God. It is outrageously portrayed in Jesus’ stories of the Prodigal, the Good Samaritan, or the Land Owner who hired at different times yet paid everyone the same promised wage. The Prophet Micah declared: “Do justice and love kindness and walk humbly. Does God take delight in thousands of rams? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, or the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? “

So here is my main concern: Contrary to what is taken for granted today in most churches, God’s justice has nothing to do with punishment, anger, payback, or atonement. Please see Psalm 103. Also, the Prophet Hosea tells us that God “desires mercy, and not sacrifice.”

The good news nearly hidden by all the war stories and priestly religious rituals found in the Hebrew Scriptures is that God does NOT require a bloody atonement. Instead, “a broken and a contrite heart He will not despise.”

Repentance is nothing more than coming to our senses. Like: OMG, what have I done (said)!? It is not six weeks of fasting and ashes. It is a turn-around, or a realization of past arrogance in treating others unfairly or unjustly. It is the result of hearing about or remembering that God is gracious and forgiving, that God is our loving Father. It is realizing that He is not demanding perfection or seeking revenge through punishment. Returning to the comfort of knowing our loving and humanitarian God who invites us into His family with no strings attached is an important part of this message today.

God knows what we are made of and that accepting us for what we are and giving us yet another chance to live and act differently can make all the difference in relationships. Our loving Father does not force His will on His children. His values are clear and simple. And He permits us to test their validity. Sometimes we create a terrible mess for ourselves by disregarding them. That mess is of our own making, not His. Yet He patiently waits for His example, His forgiving acceptance, to reverse such behavior.

This “seventy times seven” forgiving justice of God that Isaiah and Jesus declared as a “new thing” and a “comfort” to God’s children is still His message today. It remains new because it is unheard of and totally scandalous to the religious and civil systems of justice that demand obedience and require punishment and/or payment for disobedience. Mankind’s justice is destructive. God’s justice is restorative!

Jesus understood God’s great news and it became the fire in his belly. It was his vision of justice and his life was proof of it. His life was a life of inclusion, not exclusion. Jesus was actually quite different from the “Christ” and the “Lord” so named and portrayed in the Gospels and the Epistles of the New Testament. Fortunately, the historical Jesus can still be found hidden there if one sifts through all the embellishments and additions made by the writers and the Councils between one to eleven generations after he lived and died. But that’s another issue. More on that issue later.

What really matters today is proclaiming God’s scandalous and forgiving justice which opposes the justice given to Jesus and to us under religious and civil law. In spite of Jesus’ humanity and sometimes scandalous life (especially according to his church and according to the civil laws governing insurrections; no doubt also according to his parents, family members, and friends, and certainly not unlike the behavior of the rest of us in some ways, which is why “a prophet is not accepted in his own neighborhood”); in spite of all this, God weighed the justice of men who had punished Jesus and He found such justice coming up very short of His loving justice to mankind. God discarded mankind’s justice, invited Jesus into his Reality, and treated him as a son, just as He promised to do (just as Moses and Elijah must have assured him would happen when they appeared to him out of the same Reality), and just as Jesus taught us that God would do for us – accept us into His Reality and treat us as sons and daughters in His family, with no strings attached. We are among those countless stars that God promised to Abraham when he was still childless.

It was reported later that Jesus appeared out of God’s Reality to many of his followers. Perhaps it was so, especially if their faith really needed such an assist. It is this report that is behind most of the celebration today because of the hope it offers to us. Unfortunately, another part of today in the typical Christian church is trying to believe the basis for such hope, namely, that Friday’s bloody punishment was also a perfect and acceptable payment or atonement to God which He graciously counted for us as well. Close, but no cigar! This salvation theory actually covers up God’s scandalous REAL justice: mercy without sacrifice! Forgiveness without the need for payment or required punishment! Love without preconditions!

History is important. Apparently the early Christians needed more than an appearance out of God’s Reality. They needed a resurrection account and a godlike figure to add to their fragile religion, a figure not unlike many Roman godlike heroes, especially if it was to survive within the Roman culture. Remember, the Romans had already killed or dispersed the troublesome Jews and destroyed the center of their religion and its temple in 70 A.D. And Jesus’ followers had already spent their lives before accounts of his life were finally written two and three generations later. These first manuscripts were not first hand reports and even these were unavailable to the Councils that determined which of the copies were acceptable for their new Bible three and four hundred years later. And they solved the accuracy problem by simply calling them “inspired” by God and “holy.” This declaration also provided them the authority they needed over the early churches.

The first mention of Jesus was actually found in the Book of Acts which relates little about his life. The hot-tempered Peter wrote letters as did the Lawyer Paul, again with no specifics about Jesus’ life. Peter was obviously looking for the typical justice for wrong-doing while still trying to believe God’s love for mankind as he had learned it from Jesus. Paul’s personal mission was to properly organize and explain the details of this fledgling religion to the Gentile Christians. Before that he was busy arresting Jewish Christians and having them jailed or killed in order to eliminate the new sect started by Jesus.

I have often wondered: Was Paul’s change of behavior because he worried about a lawful punishment he thought was coming from God for participating in that round-up? Was it an attempt at making some restitution for his past behavior? Or was it genuine? After all, when Jesus appeared to him out of God’s Reality, Jesus did not come to destroy Paul for his participation in those atrocities. Instead, Jesus taught Paul by example what it meant to love an enemy! You can tell from his letters that Paul struggled with what he had learned from years of study with his Law Professors compared to what he had learned in an instant from Jesus’ example of forgiveness.

I have already indicated that the prophets and Jesus, while opposing the sacrificial rituals of the priests, clearly declared God’s loving, forgiving, and humanitarian justice. They knew that only such comforting news could turn unjust behavior around to love, forgiveness, and acceptance among humans. God’s very existence and his ultimate treatment of Jesus and the rest of us in spite of our humanness stirs up REAL faith, that is, belief in what cannot be seen.

A “faith” that requires a just historic punishment (an atonement), and then a resurrection theory is called into question. Some 1900 years of teaching it has not made a very impressive difference among humans. Rather, these famous Christian teachings tend to supplant God’s REAL loving, forgiving, and accepting news, including its comforting and behavior-changing results. But Jesus’ Prodigal, Land Owner, and Good Samaritan stories uncover this news and do bring about genuine results. Another example: Jacob was the master of treachery, but he saw the “face of God” in the forgiving face of his brother Esau who was not at all interested in any payment from Jacob. And remember that God continued to call Himself “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!” Then there is the story of Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers. There are numerous examples of God’s new justice, not least of all is the story of the Exodus itself when God saved a whole nation from tyranny. Can you see the difference? Powerful and religious men have covered up God’s generosity for centuries, even millennia. Enough of it!

God’s mission of sharing His Image and His Reality with mankind has not changed from the very first time He thought of doing it. Mankind, however, has been very slow to duplicate His merciful ways within relationships, distracted mostly by the mysticism of religions over the centuries, but God is patient. He is very patient! Occasionally, a prophet like Isaiah, Micah, Hosea, or Jesus challenged the mystic religions and  declared a new message of justice to mankind. (This is not to say that the OT prophets did not ever return to presenting God’s values as threats to arrest disobedience instead of using them as guides for enlightenment toward behavioral change.)

God’s new message offers freedom from the tyranny of punishment for disobedience under the mysticism that rules our lives. His message also offers enlightenment on new responsibilities toward others, a new life that begins to treat others as graciously as they have been treated by their loving Father. This is 1) the unthreatening way the Father’s values are passed on to His children, and 2) the way the false justice of the mystics is check-mated. This has been God’s goal from the beginning, namely, overcoming tyranny with the offer of forgiveness and freedom with no strings attached for past behavior, and thereby setting the stage for a reversal of mankind’s behavior, that is, finally treating others as God has treated them. The more God’s justice is presented and becomes visible in our lives, the less mankind’s unkind justice is needed. Free humans who recognize their responsibilities do not need more governing. They need less of it. They only need temporary protection from those who still do not believe God’s new justice!

Another prophet’s clarion call concerning God’s REAL justice is surely needed again today. Many of the Reformers of the 1500’s came close to opposing the religious tyranny of the day, and they did oppose several aspects of it, but they still could not give up the typical concept of justice (punishment for disobedience) and then replace it with God’s justice: “mercy without sacrifice” and “love your enemies” in order to change their behavior.

About 300 years later, America offered a home to the “tired and poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe freedom” from political tyranny. The Founders of our country may not have been very religious, but they certainly knew the same gracious God I have been presenting to you. Why else could they so boldly declare their rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as being granted by God? They knew it was God who gave them independence from tyranny. And why else would they have presented their vision of an extremely limited government in our Constitution? They were willing to accept the responsibility of governing themselves and taking care of those in need! Unfortunately, there were those who did not believe that such self-governance was realistic, because they did not believe God’s REAL justice to mankind and could only accept the church’s mystic teaching of justice and being ruled by endless laws.

Today, only a few seem to understand the message of God I am presenting here, and just as few seem to know the early history of our country and still depend upon the guidance of our Constitution. It seems that most do not want to be responsible for themselves and for the few who are unable to care for themselves. It appears that they would rather have a nanny government to rule their lives and take care of them. Even government leaders find ways to disregard our Constitution and discourage growth and development and innovation and improvement among us because they only want more power over us. Our children and grandchildren will finally face a formidable challenge for ignoring our history and blindly following such leadership. But remember God’s patience and know that restoration of what is right and good and true is not impossible with God.

All I want to do is share this great news about our just and loving God. We need no other Savior but YAHWEH (LORD) who has checkmated tyranny with His message of justice, “mercy without sacrifice.” Although He is the Almighty, He is NOT an angry-ogre-sky-god demanding a payback justice and atonement for our misbehavior toward others. Because he recognized God’s kindness, Jesus called Him “Father” and he called himself Nasha (human one) because he knew he was just a man, not a god. Neither is Jesus a Messiah-Christ or Lord who will return some day to get even with his enemies, destroying them in some hellish environment invented to fit extreme embellishments and visions written in the Christian Scriptures. Does that picture match his foot-washing scene with his followers or the forgiveness scene with Paul on his way to more mischief? Like the OT prophets, he “came to serve” and he “came to save” by proclaiming the good news of God’s loving justice, teaching that God offers us forgiveness and free admission into His family, with no strings attached. He came – NOT to be sacrificed and “NOT to destroy” with a holy revenge, as if there is such a thing. Jesus was and still is our brother, not our Lord. Do you really think that the historical Jesus would actually supplant his loving Father-God as Lord? At best, Nasha was a prophet of God’s vision for all mankind like others before him. In spite of his humanity, he was not afraid to call God his Father, and he depended upon the validity of God’s vision and promise just like the rest of us.

Yes, this also calls the “triune” concept into question because “the Lord, our God is ONE!” Many inventions came out of the infamous Councils and found their way into the Christian NT scriptures, mostly to back up their claims of power and authority over the early churches. More tyranny again, in a slightly different format, maybe even worse, because they placed Jesus in the center of it all as a god-figurehead, and they covered up God’s new message that He “desires mercy, not sacrifice.” (“Forgive them, Father. They think they are doing the right thing, but they just do not know yet.”)

Our Creator-God is our Father-God who loves us more than we know. Just try to learn about His generous love and then you will begin to live and love and enjoy the first fruits of His party! So learn all you can now while practicing with the rest of His family. And prepare yourself for much more freedom to come in His Reality where ALL our potential will be turned loose! Choose your favorite musician for instance. Just think about the Cantatas that J. S. Bach wrote while he still accepted the church’s justice concept. Can you even imagine what he is composing now that he knows better? Wow! What a party God is throwing even as I write to you!

Be well, and do remember that just as there are no barriers between us and our God who accepts us as we are, there need not be barriers between us either. God bless you and may you always take comfort in His restoration, knowing His peace!

~ Henry (Hank) Hasse, April 4, 2010

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Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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