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Old Age And Perspective?


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I'm 50 years old now and it's time for a reflection and a bit of a confession: I have selfishly spent a large part of my life, despite being a Christian, trying to get what I wanted, trying to fulfill my own needs. And I’ve never discovered any real peace or lasting joy in doing that. I figure I might have, God willing, maybe 25 years left on this old earth before I shuffle off into I know not what. And I want to spend those years making a difference for others – for my immediate family, for my friends, and for my community, even, in some sense, for the world. I am very concerned about the state of our world right now and I want to do some part, no matter how small, in making it better for my children and for my children’s children. I’ve been taking some steps in that direction in the last couple of years and feel in my heart that I need to continue in that path, not for glory or fame or even for remembrance sake, but just because life is sacred to me.

 

Many Christians today seem to be interested in some kind of church reform. They want to try to find some new ways for the church to survive through the 21st century. There is probably a need for that; in fact, I’m sure there is. There are many, many people who still go to church and some would most likely rejoice to find that their own church is discovering “a new Christianity” or “a new way to be a Christian”. I applaud these Christians in their efforts to do this, but this is not my calling. I don’t feel called to “the saints” except to encourage them to love “the sinners.” I don’t have the desire or the gifts for church reform. This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in it, just that it is not part of my dream.

 

We have been gifted, in our day and time, with great theologians like Robinson, Borg, Crossan, Spong, and others who can and have helped Christians make more sense of their religion. Thank God for these dear people who are hammering out some kind of new theology (or philosophy) that can help people remain part of a church or remain under the label “Christian”. These people have helped me greatly also and have helped restore my faith in Jesus. But while I find it very interesting to discuss new images of God and new forms of theism or sacredness, I always find myself coming back to the question of, “So what? What difference does it make to the 6 billion people on this earth?” Do I need a new definition of God in order to give a cup of water to someone who is thirsty or to help feed someone who is hungry? Do I need a new Christology to help someone find clothes to wear or to put them in touch with others who can help them find shelter? Do I need a “new Christianity” in order to stand up for the cause of justice and equality?

 

Time and again, I find myself answering, “No.” I don’t need the church to do these things. And I don’t need the label “Christian” to be a more compassionate person. I don’t even need “the authority of Christ” to command me to be this way. I want to do these things simply because I feel connected to others and want to make a difference.

 

So I am simply not much interested in preserving the existence of churches or Christianity. Others are. And that’s fine. But it is not where my heart is or where my path goes. My heart seems to be drawn to “the least of these” in the highways and byways, not to the saints sitting in the pews.

 

To me, the great truths of human/divine relationship would still be there without the church, without Christianity, even without the Bible and Jesus. This is why we see them surface in other religions. It seems to me that churches and Christianity have long ago given up on making a difference in this world in order to get a "better world" in heaven. I, for one, am not convinced that there is a "better world", unless we make it. So while other Christians my age are packing their bags, I'd rather be doing what I can to see, as Jesus prayed, "God's will done on earth." I think the earth is worth it. I think my children and their children are worth it.

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Bill,

 

Personally, I can relate to most all of what you said having over 10 years on you and having arrived at similar conclusions. Perhaps compassion needs to start with ourselves. What we have done in the past is past. It was not wasted as it was necessary to bring us to where we are. What we did at the time seemed appropriate and with the conditioning we were working with was the only thing we could do as evidenced by what we did, as hypotheticals have no basis in reality. I think understanding this generates compassion for our own predicament and aids us in having compassion on others that are similarly trapped as we were or may in some areas still be.

 

Personally, though i am not active in a local church I see many in this area that are in spite of their doctrine reaching out to feed and clothe others and help with living expenses both domestically and in missions. Community can be more effective than a single individual. While i don't particularly agree with their teachings, I do see them reaching out to help with the things you mention and while it is true that one needs no label or church building to do these things, what is done by these organizations with labels in the form of reaching out to me is a wonderful expression of compassion. As you said, what does the Christology matter anyway. And perhaps this is what those people need at this time. It seems we have to many times go through something for ourselves to realize it for what it is.

 

It seems to me that there are more and more people like you that are beginning to realize what is really important and they are scattered throughout the organized church system and are making a difference. Some feel led to leave the organizations and others work through and in spite of their organizations. Either way, I believe progress is being made. Perhaps, through suffering, progress is inevitable. Perhaps this is why we must be led by a source greater than ourselves as solutions are not in my view, always as they seem to appear.

 

Thanks for your thought provoking reflection,

Joseph

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Bill,

I'm one of those who is trying to reform church. I feel God has put that calling on my heart. I understand that our most important mission is to bring God's kingdom to earth by making the world a better place, by helping others, and I really spend quite a bit of time doing that as well. The church is only one place people can organize to help others. The church is also a place where people can find faith-based learning, support, and connection for their own life journey , and I think personal transformation is something Jesus calls for at least as often as he asks us to help others. Also, I hope the church can become a place where children are given respectful, accurate, understandings about multiple views of God and faith, so that our mission of bringing God's kingdom is passed down to the next generation.

 

I don't think we're all called to the same thing, and church reform is frustrating. My experience trying to help the absolute "least of these" is that I'm not yet mentally prepared for the risks I would assume. I started to get involved helping some men who were fresh out of jail until my husband asked me not to because of safety concerns. At some point, I hope God calls me to be helping the very least. Right now, I'm settling for school children in generational poverty. Maybe on another forum we can talk about how to practically help the very least, so that I wouldn't be so scared. It's not that the desire isn't there. Help??

 

Did the new church you attended not work out well?

 

Janet

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Did the new church you attended not work out well?

 

 

Hi Janet. No, the church is fine, as far as churches go. They have many good programs and activities whereby they are reaching out to members and to the community. They are, as you often hear me say, “trying to make a difference.” I’m greatly encouraged by what I find happening there.

 

This ties back to what I said about reform. To me, there is a difference between trying to reform a church and trying to make a difference. To me, reformation carries with it the notion of nailing 95 Theses to the door of the church, telling the leadership what they are doing wrong and demanding that they change. I simply won’t do that at this church or any church because 1) I don’t have all the answers and 2) even if I did, if the church doesn’t listen to the spirit of God in their hearts, why would they listen to me? ;)

 

I was on a Methodist forum recently and, unfortunately, almost every subject posted on that forum seems to get turned into an opportunity for their “official” Methodist to reiterate how the Book of Discipline says that homosexuality is against the teachings of Christianity. I mentioned that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality whatsoever. I was told that Jesus would have agreed with levitical law but that, regardless of what Jesus did or did not teach, the Book of Discipline is the guide for Methodists and that if I don’t agree with the BOD, I shouldn’t attend a Methodist community. For this “official” Methodist, the BOD is his GOD and his sole rule for faith and practice. I said what I thought I needed to say about the issue, but I am not going to continually tilt at that windmill.

 

Last Sunday, I helped make sandwiches for a shelter downtown. It’s a very small thing and certainly doesn’t require and “spiritual gift.” But I enjoyed doing because I knew it would help someone and make some small difference.

 

So my point is that I would rather do that than argue theology or church policy or try to reform a particular denomination. In my experiences, leaders of churches, denominations, or even forums don’t like to be questioned as to if they are leading as Jesus would lead. Leaders, as this “official Methodist” does, see his calling as one of control rather than as service. His call is not to a dream of the future, but to the preservation of the past. So be it. There are always more sandwiches to make. :D

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I THINK YOU WILL FIND, IF YOU KEEP MAKING THOSE SANDWICHES, REFORM WILL COME, ONE MOUTH AT A TIME. biggrin.gif

 

On the serious side, it seems to me, that churches/people will be more influenced for the better and changed by actions of others than by our words. In my experience, most people go by their own doctrine anyway and as you have alluded to a few times, it is not all that important. He/she that is not against us is for us. As in the Jesus parable of two sons told to do something by their father, actions speak so much louder than words. Don't you think?

 

Joseph

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As in the Jesus parable of two sons told to do something by their father, actions speak so much louder than words. Don't you think?

 

I would think so, yes. I tend to think that actions are born of relationship rather than doctrine. One son, IMO, had a better relationship with his father than the other.

 

This doesn't mean that doctrine is totally unimportant. Some doctrines can be downright harmful when put into practice.

 

But I would rather simply practice compassion as best as I understand it and, as someone once said, "preach the gospel always; if necessary, use words." ;)

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I agree 100 percent with what you guys are saying. AND I'm embarrassed about the "official" Methodist position on homosexuality. It is NOT shared by the Methodist community I attend on Sundays, and IMO one thing that desperately needs reforming.

 

The sandwiches thing is great! When I am talking about church reform, that is what I am talking about. Church is more than sitting in a pew staring at others' backs and listening to a talking head. This is why I'm SO getting behind the Charter for Compassion. It's about putting aside theological differences and uniting in compassionate action.

 

Right now the church leadership is listening to my ideas (and hopefully more importantly, God's tuggings). Change is SLOW, though. There's a balance between patience and passion.

 

Janet

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(snip)

Right now the church leadership is listening to my ideas (and hopefully more importantly, God's tuggings). Change is SLOW, though. There's a balance between patience and passion.

 

Janet

 

 

So true Janet. Sounds to me like you would make a wonderful leader. May God richly bless the work you have been given and give you the wisdom and balance you speak of.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

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On the one hand, I agree that it would be more productive to focus on issues that really matter than on church doctrine like helping to feed the poor and giving to others. I'm reminded of something Robert Ingersoll once said, "the hands that help are better than the lips that pray" or something like that. At the same time, I think it's also important to call out churches when they use doctrine for spreading hatred. However, I also agree that not everyone feels its their particular calling to lead a church reform and I think this bible verse sums it up nicely. 1 Cor 12:4-31

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

 

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

 

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

 

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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  • 4 weeks later...

 

Last Sunday, I helped make sandwiches for a shelter downtown. It’s a very small thing and certainly doesn’t require and “spiritual gift.” But I enjoyed doing because I knew it would help someone and make some small difference.

 

Indeed it does require a spiritual gift. That of discernment. :)

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  • 2 months later...

Thank you Bill for this. I have kind of went full circle in my Christian faith...meaning I started out just simply believing that there was a Creator and that He loved me; His creation. Then I went for yrs and was very involved in the church and practiced my faith to the utmost. I got very serious about witnessing and etc...

 

However, I am pretty much back to where I started. A very simple faith..yes, a more mature and assured type of faith with much more understanding, but simple none the less. Part of what I have come back to, altho in a stronger sense, is paying attention to what is in my heart.

 

When I, personally, brainstormed a list of the things God would hope His children do in this life...what I came up with at the top of my list is something that many think is nice to do at least once in a while...or they give money, so others will go out and do it for them...or they think it is mostly just fluff...or they don't think about it at all.

 

The thing I couldn't help but put at the top of my list is love. However, love as a motivation and way of life. A love that is something other then incidental as I am going about doing my other priorities. A love that comes from a heart convinced that love is a way of thinking and living. Because, if a person is not convinced of love being a way of life (Christ-like)...then it will become something that ends up being a striving and an obligation...which defeats the purpose ((cause who wants to "be loved" by someone who is only doing it cause they feel they have to))...instead of something a person does naturally, and with fervor; like living and breathing.

 

Anyway, it has become this way for me. I have come to believe and am convinced that the 1 Cor. 13 type of love is the remedy for most of our social and emotional ills...and even tho I have had people roll their eyes at me when out and about and I pay attention to the lady at the store who is in back of me with just a few groceries or the waitress that seems over-worked, and also the other people around me...I continue to do what I believe is the highest calling anyone could have. SO, THANK YOU for caring for the world!!!!

 

 

I'm 50 years old now and it's time for a reflection and a bit of a confession: I have selfishly spent a large part of my life, despite being a Christian, trying to get what I wanted, trying to fulfill my own needs. And I’ve never discovered any real peace or lasting joy in doing that. I figure I might have, God willing, maybe 25 years left on this old earth before I shuffle off into I know not what. And I want to spend those years making a difference for others – for my immediate family, for my friends, and for my community, even, in some sense, for the world. I am very concerned about the state of our world right now and I want to do some part, no matter how small, in making it better for my children and for my children’s children. I’ve been taking some steps in that direction in the last couple of years and feel in my heart that I need to continue in that path, not for glory or fame or even for remembrance sake, but just because life is sacred to me.

 

Many Christians today seem to be interested in some kind of church reform. They want to try to find some new ways for the church to survive through the 21st century. There is probably a need for that; in fact, I’m sure there is. There are many, many people who still go to church and some would most likely rejoice to find that their own church is discovering “a new Christianity” or “a new way to be a Christian”. I applaud these Christians in their efforts to do this, but this is not my calling. I don’t feel called to “the saints” except to encourage them to love “the sinners.” I don’t have the desire or the gifts for church reform. This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in it, just that it is not part of my dream.

 

We have been gifted, in our day and time, with great theologians like Robinson, Borg, Crossan, Spong, and others who can and have helped Christians make more sense of their religion. Thank God for these dear people who are hammering out some kind of new theology (or philosophy) that can help people remain part of a church or remain under the label “Christian”. These people have helped me greatly also and have helped restore my faith in Jesus. But while I find it very interesting to discuss new images of God and new forms of theism or sacredness, I always find myself coming back to the question of, “So what? What difference does it make to the 6 billion people on this earth?” Do I need a new definition of God in order to give a cup of water to someone who is thirsty or to help feed someone who is hungry? Do I need a new Christology to help someone find clothes to wear or to put them in touch with others who can help them find shelter? Do I need a “new Christianity” in order to stand up for the cause of justice and equality?

 

Time and again, I find myself answering, “No.” I don’t need the church to do these things. And I don’t need the label “Christian” to be a more compassionate person. I don’t even need “the authority of Christ” to command me to be this way. I want to do these things simply because I feel connected to others and want to make a difference.

 

So I am simply not much interested in preserving the existence of churches or Christianity. Others are. And that’s fine. But it is not where my heart is or where my path goes. My heart seems to be drawn to “the least of these” in the highways and byways, not to the saints sitting in the pews.

 

To me, the great truths of human/divine relationship would still be there without the church, without Christianity, even without the Bible and Jesus. This is why we see them surface in other religions. It seems to me that churches and Christianity have long ago given up on making a difference in this world in order to get a "better world" in heaven. I, for one, am not convinced that there is a "better world", unless we make it. So while other Christians my age are packing their bags, I'd rather be doing what I can to see, as Jesus prayed, "God's will done on earth." I think the earth is worth it. I think my children and their children are worth it.

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Development through the span of life is more complex for us today than in the times of Jesus and Buddha. Back then, the average lifespan was a mere 30 years or so. Not much time, barely enough to establish a family. Today, we need a perspective that takes us to, perhaps, an age of 100 or so. Now, we have time to give something back and to reinvent ourselves, perhaps more than once.

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  • 2 months later...

Good Morning, Bill...

 

I thank you for sharing your reflections and spiritual thoughts. Being 'fifty something' myself, I tend to look in the rear view mirror myself at life gone by and feel the tugging of regrets. I look at my life as a Spiritual Journey, a personal adventure, that is unique and individual. As Spiritual Beings having a human experience, the human and worldly side of us longs for the material, sensual, and experiential not yet gained, but these things are of no value when our lives are seen as a Journey. They are simply passing scenery. My life has never been about getting and having. Whenever I have tried to make it so, it never worked out...almost as if I had to become someone else in order to have the career in order to have the income in order to have the house and the car, etc. Are we called upon to be successful or are we called upon to be faithful? As with anything in life, there is a spectrum. I believe that when we begin to simplify our lives and rid ourselves of things and attachments to them, we remove the clutter and concern that takes up so much space Within. How can we know who we are Spiritually if we are measuring ourselves materially? To know ourselves based on our Within, by deepening our Inner Life, our own Way opens before us. Don't regret what is not or has not because you have now reached a bend upon your own Path where you can now see other tasks ahead. Your Journey isn't coming to an end...it is continuing to unfold.

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