Posts Tagged ‘Understanding’

We May Listen But Not Understand

October 18, 2016

To you have been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’  –Jesus

I have tried blocking political stuff from my social media feeds so that I can see what people are doing in peace. But it seems to be inescapable.

That part that does slip through has no (as in none) information that is truthful or enlightening. There is no probing into issues or how candidates would actually carry the country forward or represent it to the world. The untruths, half-truths twisted one way or another, character assassinations drive me to drink (well, not really, but I wish).

I’ve been studying the words of Jesus lately. Sort of “red-letter Christian” if you will. Early in Mark, he is recorded in the explanation above. “So that they may indeed listen, but not understand.”

Do you feel like that describes discourse in America today?

We aren’t alone in that in the world, unfortunately. Because I cover manufacturing technology globally, I must become familiar with the situation globally. Many other countries suffer from the same dilemma.

Hmmm. Sounds as if this is a human condition–not simply an American one.

And that was where Jesus operated. He probed deeper than politics. Remember the Roman coin question? He probed into what we call the heart. In that day, instead of heart, they talked about the gut. As in, when something bad happens, we say we “got hit in the gut” (abdomen below the rib cage). That is really where we feel emotions. I think that word brings the meaning home more than the word heart, which has become so sanitized and romanticized over the centuries.

Jesus was concerned with us as individual people. He’s concerned with the way we conduct political discourse. He’s concerned with the way we conduct any discourse.

Are we indeed looking but not perceiving? Listening but not understanding? Or as he said later, “He who has ears, let him hear.”

Jesus’ Last Week and the Spiritual Discipline of Befuddlement

March 21, 2016

We’re in a situation. We aren’t in charge of things, yet there is a lot going on. Meetings. Whispered conversations. An increasing aura of tension in the atmosphere. We are looking for an anchor. Something stable and permanent within the pending changes.

It’s like the week we now call Holy Week.

Jesus and his friends travel to Jerusalem for the Jewish festival even though everyone warns Jesus not to go. They know there is danger from the establishment.

But Jesus seems more intense than usual. He drops hints about the coming days, but they make no sense. He implies that it should all be clear to them. That he’s already explained everything.

It is not clear. Nothing is clear. Why are we there? What’s going to happen? What is this queasy feeling in the gut that just doesn’t seem to go away?

But the week begins in the suburbs at the house of good friends. That is comforting.

Of course, there is no spiritual discipline called “befuddlement.”

But this word describes how we feel at times. Don’t we sometimes feel that way trying to understand Jesus? He was a man, yet God. Huh? Doesn’t make logical sense.

He taught with stories that left people confused–at least at first. He made people (who cared enough) think about his teaching. Sometimes for months.

I wonder why John devotes about half of his Gospel to the last week. He wrote his account last.  He knew there were plenty of stories of Jesus’ life and teaching. He wrote about what affected him the most deeply.

I think he was there. His family was “connected.” He knew the high priest and most of the leaders. He could have gotten in to the areas. The story reads like a first-hand account. Even though he’s called the most “spiritual” of the disciples and pictured as softer, I see him as a physically strong. He was a commercial fisherman. Not a pale, soft student found in libraries reading all the time.

This week greatly impacted his life. It probably took him years to digest the story in full. Then he shared it with his community and eventually the world.

He took us from befuddlement to the Light of the World.

Paradox of Faith

March 2, 2015

Jesus is the Lamb of God. Jesus is a powerful healer and speaker able to take on the most powerful men of his time and place.

Wait a moment. He’s meek, led to slaughter, bleating? Or, is he powerful, a healer, tremendous inner strength, leader?

I love paradox. I love how seemingly contradictory attributes can both be correct.

Some people need one or the other. There were some strands of thoughts in philosophy that began especially in the 16th and 17th and 18th centuries with disastrous results in the 19th century where the focus on Jesus was only as a bleating lamb not understanding the power of the gospel. 

Some people still fix their thoughts on one or another attribute. Sometimes we don’t understand people because often people are walking paradoxes.

Paul said that he often does what he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do what he wants to do. 

His actions, like ours, don’t always reflect our beliefs. We don’t always do as we say.

As long as we keep trying to do what’s right, that’s OK. We are born as a paradox and life is a paradox.

As a youth I was targeted to be an engineer. I loved technology from the time I was quite young. But I hated school. I’ve worked as an engineer. But I discovered I don’t have the typical engineer’s personality. They tend to like certainty. They like things to be black and white. I revel in shades of gray (not 50, that’s the topic of another article).

The point is, can we all come to grips with paradox? Can we accept a Saviour who is both meek and powerful? Can we be both meek and powerful? Can we live with people who are living through things and cannot be defined in just one word? And say, that’s OK.

Understanding that we all often fail to do what we want to do.

Pervasiveness of Bigotry

September 25, 2014

“Think not the bigotry of another is any excuse for your own.” — John Wesley

I’ve been a member of a Methodist (now United Methodist) church for most of my life. But they don’t teach Wesley (one of the founders of the movement) as much as they used to. Probably part of the blending of overall teachings, I guess. But there is much to learn from Wesley’s example and his teaching.

This week I was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I’m not sure what the status of race relations is these days in the state that was once a symbol of the “Old South.” A startling revelation came upon me Monday. Where are all the black faces?

A restaurant we visited had a black girl as a hostess who seated customers. I’d swear that I heard a different tone of voice from the hostess when she said Miss so-and-so or the black girl was seating someone. I didn’t think about it at first. But the tone sort of laid half-formed in my brain.

Then we went to a show. Out of probably 1,000 people there, perhaps 5 were black. No performers were black people. Then I looked around. At the resort I saw perhaps 3 black families.

Within the past month, I’ve also heard comments about the Spanish-speaking people trying to come to the “Land of the Free” and work their way up a ladder that so many of us take for granted. The tone was, shall we say, not that of a sincere Christ-follower. The tone of those who labored with Paul to bring all the disparate cultural elements into one common fellowship.

I was made fun of for my civil rights views in the late 60s in my home town. Later I realized what a fool I was to drive to Louisiana through Mississippi in 1970 with an equal-rights decal on the car. Back then I’d have hoped for better understanding among the races and ethnic groups than I see today. It’s severely disappointing.

Where did we go wrong? Or lose our enthusiasm? However, let’s let Wesley’s words guide us.

Spirit or Religion

January 29, 2014

The other day a thought popped into my brain–I don’t think about religion. I think about living a life in the spirit. I don’t think about religion. Ever. I like to read books by (not about) spiritual seekers of all paths. I don’t really know much about religions since my early reading. I’ve seen Hindu paintings and Buddhist art. In the West, we’re filled with Renaissance art that still fuels the popular mind with pictures of what Jesus looked like, or what Hell looks like.

Last Sunday John Ortberg and the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (California, of course) took a chance that would never fly in rural Sidney, Ohio. The message was a panel discussion conducted with respect and honor that included representatives of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, humanism and Christianity.

It was interesting. You can navigate here and find it or go to iTunes.

As a Jesus-follower, I live the words “I am the vine and you are the branches” and “I am the way.” But I’ve known so many spiritual seekers who know nothing, or very little, about Jesus, yet their spiritual quest seems little different from mine. Well, forget the humanist who denies a spiritual realm. Sorry about his luck.

Most of the people I grew up with or relate with today would say that all these people are going to hell. Heck, I grew up taught that Catholics were going to hell! I am not prepared to be that judge. To me, that’s a God thing.

It was interesting to learn that in both the Judaic and the Islamic traditions, the Scripture is more of a living document. Most Christians seem to think that revelation from God ended somewhere around 100 AD or CE. When I’m interpreting Scripture, I tend to go back to the 4th or 5th Centuries and before. But there are many people who lived in the ensuing 15 centuries with tremendous Spiritual insight whose writings are worth studying.

Anyway, blessings on the MPPC and the ability to listen to others. Listening surely beats wishing bad things on them or even trying to kill them.