A Call To Return

A Call To Return To Simple & Great News

When He introduced Himself to humans He called Himself   “I am….”  Since then, humans have given Him many names. God, Alah, Lord, Shepherd, Judge, Creator, Preserver, Savior, Father, Holy One, Supreme, Almighty, Shield, Redeemer, and on and on, which I suppose is precisely why He stopped with “I am….”

Whatever you call Him, the Creator’s plan for humanity has never changed. I call Him Father, depend upon Him, trust what He has told us, and seem to be in good company.

Father, may your name be honored among us. May your kingdom of peace spread among us. Give us our daily bread. Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors. Keep us safe from injustice.

That was the simple prayer of Jesus as it appears in his original sayings which were passed on by his illiterate Galilean followers.

The ONLY thing sacred according to Jesus is a daughter/son of humanity (as he called himself) who honors the Father as her/his Creator-Provider and who accepts and forgives another human just as their loving Father forgives and accepts them. And the only thing we have to fear is the injustice of another human, not the judgment and punishment of our loving Father whose justice is forgiveness and whose judgment is acceptance.

We have been taught so much nonsense that does not fit with any of Jesus’ simple teaching of the Creator’s plan for humanity. Call it Christianity’s myth if you will. But fear not. Among many other things, He is very patient. Just as Jesus questioned the religious concepts of his day, it is our business to do the same. All one need do is compare what we hear from today’s religions with the previous paragraph. Anyone can do it. No theological training required!

It all started with Paul, who proclaimed his concepts of the Old Testament Torah (Law of Moses) as being fulfilled in the life of Jesus. Paul’s claims created the Christ of the New Testament Christian Church and were picked up by narrative plots written one, two, and almost three generations later. This combination of preaching in the early churches finally smothered Jesus’ original sayings.

Jesus’ original sayings have no connection with his life as it was finally recorded two generations later in the narratives that followed the destruction of Jerusalem. Nor did his life have any connection with an apocalyptic future of the world, much less with endless sacred things, rituals, and doctrines added later. Jesus’ teachings were not about himself, but rather about the Creator’s just reality and its effect on humanity.

What Jesus actually taught cannot even be found in the Christian confessions. The creeds that were spun around his life as it was presented in those narrative plots, especially the contrived saving purpose of his life, have all but erased his real message of good news from our loving Father’s reality.

Jesus proclaimed that this reality was already present. Humans of all cultures, races, and religions who accept and forgive each other, and generously care for those in need, are proof of its existence.  They treat others just as their Father accepts, forgives and cares for them. This is a picture of gracious mercy, not one of sacrifice. There is no room for payback or punishment in this reality of Love proclaimed by Jesus.

Instead, Christian teachings have led most Christians to conclusions which separated themselves from each other and sometimes even destroyed each other and outsiders for what was believed to be a just cause or “following God’s will.” In fact, their behavior was entirely the opposite of the Father’s will.

Today, Christians and Jews feel threatened more than ever by the evolving counter-religion of Islam and its radical followers. In spite of trying to accommodate them in every way possible, the threat by its radical followers continues to grow.

We see little difference between this threat to humanity and the threats presented by the Crusades, the Inquisition, Nazism, Communism, the treatment of Native Americans and the African slaves, and countless other political and religious atrocities around the world, all of which spread their inhumane treatment, loss of freedom, and even loss of life to the recipients of their dastardly deeds. Even tyranny found within neighborhoods and among families is no different.

Father, keep us safe from injustice. Help us treat our enemies, not as WE want to be treated, but as THEY want to be treated, that is, humanely. May we learn from your gracious ways. May your reality of peace spread among us as we keep from forcing our will and our ways on others. Yes, let it be so!

Perhaps a better grasp of history and recent scholarship is needed to question the blind faith of most within Christianity.

Many church historians have written about the origins of Christianity. Unfortunately, most have merely repeated the early works and confessions of the early church leaders who had an agenda of their own, namely, maintaining order and authority in a growing religion. Congregations that had minimum communication with each other and were threatened by both a Greco/Roman culture and the evolving counter-religion of Islam needed a common bond.

The first four centuries were indeed fearful times for early Christians. Emperor Constantine* finally gave them some peace by supporting Christianity as the religion of his Empire. This encouraged church leaders to take more control and gather their teachings into formulated creeds which the Christian Church still recites to this day.

To help us understand how a misrepresentation of Jesus’ message could have happened, recent scholarship has revealed how the original sayings of Jesus, which they call “the Source,” were nearly lost in the stories of Jesus’ life.

After Jesus’ demise and from 30-50 A.D., there were three groups of Jesus followers.

  1. There were those in Jerusalem who followed the disciple Peter or one of the other disciples who had returned to many of the separatist teachings of Judaism. Many of these teachings such as Heaven, Hell, Satan, Judgment Day, Resurrection, and others found their roots in Persia during the Judean captivity under Darius and his state religion of Zoroastrianism.
  2. There were the followers of Jesus’ oral (unwritten) sayings on living in the kingdom. They were found in the hill country villages of Galilee, were generally uneducated, and were not at all interested in Jesus’ narrative or what was happening in Jerusalem.
  3. There were the followers of Paul in Syria and beyond, mostly Gentiles and the first to be called followers of the Christ-Messiah, the resurrected Savior of the world. Paul was also successful in convincing Peter and his followers to join him in practicing a more free religion, one centered around his Christ-Messiah.

The Jewish/Roman war and destruction of the Temple, Jerusalem, and surrounding Jewish settlements about 70 A.D. scattered these three groups.

After the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed (The disciples had no doubt died by then.), the writer Mark built his story plot around Jesus’ life being a symbol of the Temple’s destruction. About 80 – 90 A.D., the writers Matthew and Luke borrowed Mark’s plot and with some variations of their own, such as Luke’s virgin birth claim and Matthew’s eternal punishment for unbelief claim, they also added many original sayings of Jesus from an unknown source.

Perhaps local scribes had finally written them, but these simple sayings have never been found intact except in Egypt, included in the more recently discovered (December 1945) Gospel of Thomas which had no narrative at all. There is some evidence that several such letters were originally written in Greek and Aramaic during the second century, banned by the early church leaders as inappropriate “wisdom sayings,” then translated into Coptic, the late form of Egyptian language in use from the Roman period on, and finally hidden in jars in an Upper Nile cliffside.

But back to about 100 – 110 A.D. The writer John, certainly not the disciple, took another tack. His claim was that Jesus was the Son of God from the beginning of time. This was very similar to the Roman claims for their heroes. It was perhaps still another John who recorded wild visions of destruction in his apocalyptic book of Revelation, visions which were also a dream of Judaism and the Eastern religions. Later, the book of Acts of the Apostles appeared, undocumented stories told with a flair that had been shared for at least two generations among the early congregations. It was supposedly written by Luke, but that was probably either another Luke or possibly an unknown writer whose work was credited to Luke because of his notoriety for his Jesus-narrative.

The preaching of the supposed meaning of Jesus’ life from the four “gospel” plots mentioned, and Paul’s connecting his Christology concepts to the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law of Moses finally smothered the uneducated followers of Jesus’ sayings from gaining any great following among eary Christians. But when today’s scholars remove Mark’s plot from Matthew’s and Luke’s narratives, those sayings of Jesus stand out loud and clear on their own, especially in Matthew.

200 to 300 years later, church leaders gathered in councils to write their creeds and confessions about Jesus, what they thought he had done, and who they thought he really was. And in 382 A D. they gathered in Rome to determine which copies of many books and letters would become a part of their “inspired” Holy Bible and in what order they should be arranged. They finally had the written authority they needed to control the churches.

Again, it is important to note that the followers of Jesus’ sayings had not been interested in portraying Jesus’ history or his life, but only in passing on his sayings and in actually practicing/living them. His original sayings spoke only of “the kingdom of God” as it is already found on earth among humans of all races, creeds, and cultures. It also included some sayings that questioned social, religious, and cultural traditions which were burdensome to people.

Simply, the Father’s kingdom is humans doing the humane thing to other humans, especially to those in need. Love, kindness, acceptance, forgiveness, generosity, caring, living in peace with each other. Jesus called himself a “son of humanity” and he went about doing humane things to any and to all, without regard for their backgrounds.

His good news was that the Father’s kingdom had arrived and was evident in people doing humane things for each other. No payback. Only paying forward without any expectation of anything in return. Endless forgiveness and acceptance. No threats of punishment. Only love, just as the Father loves all, accepts all, and forgives all.

As Jesus said, “The kingdom is spread out upon the earth and people do not see it. The kingdom is inside you and it is outside you.”

Someone said that Jesus was a passerby and invites us to become passersby. He was unsponsored and free. He calls us to the knowledge of already being a part of the Father’s reality, not to a belief or a faith system demanding payment or sacrifice. Everything is already open to us. Just walk in and know that you have finally come home. Then experience the love and be free to serve one another. One cannot found a church on this good news. There are no organized sacred truths to broker or to minister about and demand obedience to.

Jesus’ message was new indeed! It was a clarion call to become part of the Creator’s reality, where the Father’s  justice means forgiveness, where His judgment means acceptance, where righteousness means trusting and sharing His love for all, and where He is humanity’s one and only Creator and Provider, a loving Father. There is no threat of nor any fear of punishment or payback in this reality. This clear call is especially needed today in a confused world of competing religions at odds with each other.

Unfortunately, the New Testament writers embellished Jesus’ life to turn it into a “sacrifice” and a “payment,” which was really no different than any message of ancient Shamen who demanded the same things from their followers. They also incorporated a Persian/Judean apocalyptic message. This combined message gathered a larger audience than just trying to pass on and especially trying to be examples of the Father’s reality.

The message of forgiveness and acceptance as found in Jesus’ stories such as the Prodigal Son…well, just like the Prodigal’s brothers who thought the Father’s treatment was unfair and unjust by their standards, Jesus’ good news message upset too many religious people! Worse, such a message gave church leaders no authority over the people just as it still does not grant such authority today. Try to question their “inspired” Bible and call for a return to this simple message and see how upset Christians can become! The charges they make and the name-calling are unbecoming of who they claim to be.

It has been said that if one is unwilling to question the Scriptures to see if they really are of the one true God, and if one is unwilling to question the agenda and the decisions of 3rd and 4th century or current church leaders, then your faith NEEDS to be shaken by hard questions. It has also been said that if the Father’s simple message of forgiveness and acceptance without any payback punishment really pisses you off, then you are actually not listening to it. Please listen. And be prepared to be overwhelmed by a God of Love! It will work a genuine change in how you act toward other humans, even your enemies.

Note: Most of the concepts and studies above have been gleaned from those willing to ask hard questions. I have merely learned how to make them my own. I am very thankful for my friends, Robert D. Brinsmead from Australia and Wendell Krossa from Canada whose scholarship, thoughtful questions, and insights have taught me to question my Reformation Christian heritage. The scholarship of James M. Robinson, Burton L. Mack, Marvin Meyer, and John D. Crossan whose work on the original sayings of Jesus was also quite revealing. See: A New Quest of the Historical Jesus; The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q & Christian Origins; and The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus; The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant

Henry (Hank) Hasse ~ December 26, 2010

*Constantine’s supposed respite for early Christians is questioned by a description of the imperial banquet celebrating the conclusion of the Council of Nicaea. It is recorded by Eusebius and should make us wonder about the early Christian church leadership and their confession of Jesus as the Christ and Lord of all.

“Detachments of the body-guard and troops surrounded the entrance of the palace with drawn swords, and through the midst of them the men of God proceeded without fear into the innermost of the Imperial apartments, in which some of them were the Emperor’s companions at table, while others reclined on couches arranged on either side. One might have thought that a picture of Christ’s kingdom was thus shadowed forth….”

The particpants are the male bishops, and they recline with the Emporer himself, to be served by others. Is this the true picture of the kingdom Jesus spoke of? Little wonder how his explanation of the kingdom became hidden so soon!

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Published in: on December 30, 2010 at 9:02 am  Leave a Comment  

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