Searched and Found: Good News

  • What made God’s news “good” and “new” was that it declared the opposite of human law demands and punishment. It proclaimed salvation from tyranny. And his news became the power behind encouraging a difference in human behavior. God’s way to get humans to behave humanely was the opposite of man’s way. God’s way was through love, forgiveness, and acceptance, not through fear and threats of punishment.
  • Expecting his children to have no other God than the One who saved them from tyranny and honoring his name accordingly was not too much to ask. Most of the famous Ten were nothing new. 500 years before Moses, Hammurabi’s Code had the same commands among its 282, and it included the “eye for an eye” punishment idea as well.
  • As humans became more conscious of their humanity, they had also found the need for setting standards and applying revenge and payback or punishment for disobedience to their local standard. It should come as no surprise that the scriptures would be full of the same attempts. In fact, even though the writers recorded God’s good news, they more often than not recorded their own standards of law. The question becomes whether they came from God or from their own need of dealing with inhumane behavior.
  • You will find the following included in “The Law” as the Hebrews called it. (A bit of irony to find it there!) The Hebrew religious leaders soon put it in the “closet” and concentrated on teaching all their laws and ceremonies instead. Wait to see what they were missing. The Levites in Ezra’s day, after coming back to their destroyed homeland in scattered groups from Persia, (formerly Assyria and Babylonia), found it in the “closet,” and brought it out to read it to the people. They celebrated, wept for joy, praised God, and changed their behavior. There you have the results. Not since Joshua’s day, about 1000 years earlier, had this been read publicly. Here is some of what they found:

Fear not! I offer you a future and hope in spite of what you see around you. Behold! I am doing a new thing. Cannot you perceive it? I give you mercy without sacrifice. My plans for you are good and just, not evil. My justice is without payment. As far as the East is from the West, I have removed your sins from me and I will remember them no more. All things will become new. See the salvation I set before you today. Your strength will be renewed. I will lift you up on wings like an eagle.

The unjust tyranny of your enemies will no longer harm you. As I have blessed you, so shall you be a blessing to your enemies. I have given them into your hand. I am God Almighty. Walk before me as the blameless human that I say you are. They will see clearly that I am with you. I will teach you what to say to them. They will hear that I am concerned for them and have come to rescue them with my justice as I rescued you. I will redeem them and take them into my mighty arms with this judgment which I have proclaimed to them and I will love them as I love you. Then they will know as you do that I am their God and they are also my own people. And they will sing with you:

“Who is like you among all the gods of humanity? Majestic! Awesome! You work wonders! In unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide us to your holy dwelling. You will bring us in and plant us on your mountain, the place you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary your hands established.”

Understand, then, that it is not because of your integrity that I will do this. I know what you are made of. But I will do it according to my love and my promise and my faithfulness.

I pass before you and proclaim it again: The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. So I, the Lord, will bless you and keep you; I will make my face shine upon you and be gracious to you; I, the Lord will turn my face toward you and give you peace.

Now, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to honor me and to walk in my ways. That is to love me and your neighbor with all your heart. Remember that I especially defend the cause of the fatherless, the widow, and the alien who I provide for through your love and generosity toward them. So be openhanded to the poor and needy.

Then may your enemies say: How can we curse those whom God has not cursed? How can we denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced? God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds. Teach them to your children when you sit at home and when you ride along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Then, in the presence of your Lord God, you and your family shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have and put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.

What I tell you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your understanding. You do not need someone to come from heaven to explain it to you. My word is very near you; it is in your heart and in your mouth so you may proclaim it and do it. Then you will live and prosper for I the Lord your God will bless you. Now choose this life, so that you and your children may live. Love the Lord your God, listen to my voice, and hold fast to me. These are not just idle words. I the Lord your God am your life.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid of your enemies or let them terrify you. I the Lord your God am with you. I will never leave you or forsake you. I myself will be with you. The eternal God is your refuge and underneath you are my everlasting arms. You are blessed. You are people saved by the Lord. I am your shield and helper.

Sing: There is no Holy One like the Lord; there is no Rock like our God!

  • The Holy One’s message and promise cited above was more than enough for David, several of the prophets, and Jesus, the wandering Galilean who upset the religious leaders in Jerusalem with his message. They said it was blasphemy to offer forgiveness without sacrifice, and acceptance without allegiance to their belief system or culture.
  • We wonder why Paul and the writers of the Jesus narratives, and then the church leaders who wrote the early confessions and gathered the scriptures into their holy book all seemed to put God’s good news into the “closet” as well. After all, nothing was more important to Jesus than endless forgiveness opposed to punishment for sin. Those who search can still find it, but do not expect the church leaders to like it, because it challenges their way of salvation through their Savior, their crucified Christ.
  • Let’s see if David and other Psalmists got the message. Remember, we are searching for God’s new message, not the message of the writers who added the same tired old tripe of the ancient Shaman, sacrifice and punishment for disobedience to law, which was a frightful message indeed. Here are a few responses:

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord.

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful. The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. The mouth of a righteous man utters this wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him. God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. I will teach transgressors your ways, my tongue will sing of your righteousness, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever.

I long to dwell in your house forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. All mankind will honor him; they will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done. Those living far away will honor your wonders. Shout with joy to God all the earth! Sing the glory of his name. Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in mankind’s behalf. Praise be to the Lord, to God, our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.

  • What more do you want? What more do you need?

O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord, you are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.

The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteous to the nations. Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

Whoever is wise let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord. He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate. He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever. You, O Lord, have not given me over to death. I have put my hope in your word. The Lord is good to all, he has compassion on all he has made.

  • Little wonder why David’s son wrote of God’s wisdom as compared to human wisdom: “The day of death is better than the day of birth….Honor God and follow his ways (love and forgiveness)….God will bring every deed into judgment (compassionate acceptance), including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.”
  • May God bless you and keep you safe unto himself in his reality as he promised.

– H. Hasse ~ March 26, 2011

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Published in: on March 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Origins of Christian Mythology

This is the time of year for phase two of the Christian mythology. Phase one was Advent ending with Christmas. Now it’s Lent which ends with Easter. At least phase one is a happier time, even if the gift wasn’t quite what was expected. But then, neither was the “Messiah.”

That disappointment needed a lot of explanation by the Doctor of Law, Saul, who was advised to change his name to Paul, probably due to his notorious reputation among earlier followers of Jesus’s sayings. He supposedly had a reawakening that had something to do with forgiveness and mercy without punishment for his past inhumane treatment of these Jesus-followers.

The simplicity of such a concept, mercy without sacrifice, was more than his training could handle. After all, nothing was more important to him than keeping the Law. And the Law demanded just punishment for not keeping it. The guilty had to pay for wrongdoing.

Enter the idea of the “Messiah” as a substitute rather than the expected political leader, an innocent lamb of God, a savior to pay for the sins of the world, and a resurrection to prove that the payment was worthy – a fulfilling of the Law and the birth of a new religion, Christianity. And why believe Christianity’s teaching? Well, because there will be a final judgment to face if you don’t. That concept was borrowed from Judaism and the Eastern religions.

Paul’s teaching and letters became the background for the Jesus narratives written one and two generations later. Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter details were all filled in there.

200 to 300 years later the Church Councils added their confessions to summarize the teachings of this new religion. But nothing is said in those confessions about what Jesus actually taught. He taught what Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ruth, David, and many others trusted. Mercy and forgiveness and acceptance without payment or sacrifice. It was what several prophets complained was not being taught to the people by the religion of the priests.

Judaism and Christianity demanded payment and promised eternal punishment for not believing their sacrificial/salvation concept . But Jesus taught and lived a life of love, caring, mercy, forgiveness, and acceptance without demands and punishment. Mercy without sacrifice. That was the new message of the Father, the message found in the Law (salvation from tyranny) and understood by those who searched and had ears to hear. It was “new” because it was totally opposite from what humans had always demanded and recorded.

His good news was that the Father’s justice is his forgiveness and his salvation from tyranny, and his judgment is his acceptance into his reality. And trusting this good news leads to treating others with the same forgiveness and acceptance, no matter who they are or where they come from or what they believe. It is called Love, and it is proof that the Father’s reality is already here and not some future event to wait for or to frighten us with.

Our past is not an issue with the Father and there is no penalty for being human. There never was! The concept of punishment came from humans and was so recorded in the scriptures; and the Father considers it to be unjust. He knows what we are made of and loves us in spite of it. Just as Jesus called himself a son of humanity, so can we call ourselves a daughter/son of humanity and not be ashamed of it.

The Father’s image is sacred to him, and we are it, each a very unique part of it. This is what Jesus taught. When humanity trusts the Father’s new message found in the scriptures and learns to treat each other as sacred images of the Father who made us, it sets us free to explore and learn and invent and produce for the good of all. It sets us free to love each other. God is patient with those who are slow to learn. And the scriptures are not the only place to learn this good news. I can learn it from your love for me!

The scriptures need to be searched to find it. Finding the Father’s message there is like finding a jewel in a pile of stones. Being inspired to write something does not make the product perfect and holy. That is why Jesus challenged the stoning of the woman taken in adultery, the “eye for an eye” concept, and many other religious teachings, all found in the scriptures, yet unjust when compared to the Father’s good news message. The simple truth is that not all that is written in the scriptures is holy. Whatever demands payment and punishment is not God’s way.

Knowing and trusting and living this message also hints at what happens to our sacred image, our real personhood, after death finally overcomes our mortal body. We do not have to make up something like a resurrection or an apocalyptic judgment to explain it. Let it suffice to say that the Father, who promised that he would never leave us or forsake us, will not ever give up a part of his own image. Never! As to this passage and the rest of such a life, just wait and see…and expect to be surprised by who you find there.

~ Henry Hasse, March 13, 2011


Afterthoughts:

These observations on Paul or the other Apostles are not meant to say that they never finally arrived at the same comforting and simple message of Jesus’ teaching. I have no doubt that they did. They lived in far more trying times than most of us can even imagine, so cut them some slack, and know that they are cheering us on with our searching today.

Since I have questioned the validity of the Christian confessions, I hereby offer my own:

I believe and trust and depend on the words of the Almighty, my loving Father, who created all things and sustains all things.

I believe and trust His justice, that is, His love, mercy, and forgiveness; and I depend on His acceptance which is His judgment.

I believe that His reality surrounds me and all humans, and I know that His justice and love for me is the source of my justice and love for my neighbor.

I believe that we were made to enjoy his reality both now and forever.

And so I borrow from Jesus’ prayer:

  • Father, may all humans honor your holy name.
  • May your reality come to us all.
  • Give us our daily bread.
  • Forgive us as we forgive our neighbors.
  • Keep us safe from the injustice of men who still do not know you. Yes, let it be so.

H. Hasse

Published in: on March 13, 2011 at 5:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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