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Be Not Afraid

By Pastor Michael on May 22, 2019 09:56 am

Joshua 1.9 (CEB):

I’ve commanded you to be brave and strong, haven’t I? Don’t be alarmed or terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

John 14.27:

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.”

I’ve been thinking about the state of the world and trying to remember that even amid global turmoil, God is at work. Knowing God is with us through the thousands of global conflicts around the world brings me peace, comfort, and hope. I despair when I forget that God’s love permeates existence, or when I forget to go to God when I’m most troubled.

Also, my understanding of God as the connective love-energy of existence helps me see my fellow humans as an integral part of God’s being. I love this multicultural tossed salad of a world. Sampling the food, art, language, and music of other cultures has revealed to me the depths of God’s creativity and inclusiveness. Believing in a non-judgmental, all-inclusive God gives me a peace and sense of global community I long for the entire world to know.

In considering the comfort and universalist world view a relationship with God brings me, I’ve begun to wonder why other people don’t more readily embrace an all-loving, all-inclusive, expansively welcoming God. In particular, I wonder why global leaders, many of whom proclaim a religious affiliation, don’t actually reflect the values of their spiritual masters, from Moses to Christ to Mohammed, from Buddha to Krishna.

Seeing God’s love in the world today is challenging. It seems to me that the leaders of most countries are incompetent, fatuous, self-serving, bought and paid for by EvilCorp (a division of Comcast) nincompoops.

Yes, you read that correctly. I said the leaders of the world are, collectively, nincompoops. The solutions to the ills of our precarious planet are overcomplicated by these nincompoops, because their so-called “resolutions” in response to war, poverty, gross wealth imbalances, food shortages, climate change, and the zillion other ills slowly driving the planet and us to extinction, are focused on the wrong facets of those issues.

Nearly all our political systems, whether democratic, socialist, communist, or authoritarian, are failing us. The only possible exceptions I can think of are Finland and the other Scandinavian countries, The Netherlands, Denmark. Their people are happy, healthy, and well-educated. The countries themselves are always jockeying for position as the U.N.’s “Happiest Country.”[1]

Skeptics will tell you these countries score high on the happiness scale because they are small, or the people pay high taxes because their governments are socialist.

First, the Scandinavian countries are social-democracies. People do pay high taxes in these countries, but that’s because the government—at the mandate of the people—is correctly focused on the underlying causes of the social problems facing their countries. And guess what? Solving the social issues in your country requires taxation.

The Scandinavians have learned that the taxes are worth it because they finance a healthy, well-educated population that is more involved in civic affairs, more likely to vote, and more likely to invent, create, and otherwise participate in society in non-violent ways. Crime is low because a real opportunity to live a meaningful life is available to everyone.

The Scandinavian countries focus their governments on the social well-being of their people, providing universal healthcare, education, childcare, and, in some cases, Universal Basic Income. In America, we decry this as socialism. It isn’t. It’s democracy by people who care about their people instead of democracy by corporate fiat. But, in truth, any country providing a social safety net is practicing what I call “Jesusism.”

Probably unintentionally, the Scandinavian countries are shining examples of the sort of society idealized in the Jewish Covenant with God, in Jesus’ concept of the Kingdom of Heaven, and in the practices of Jesus’ first followers, who willingly redistributed their wealth to care for each other.

For Jesus, and later for early Christians, solving the world’s troubles came down to a simple, yet difficult to implement, premise: Love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul. Doing so is life-altering and gives us the vision to understand every human being as not only our neighbor but, more deeply, as our very selves. Submitting completely to God’s love causes us to see everyone else as God’s very self, staring us in the face, reaching out a hand, offering a smile or a hug, until we realize they are not someone else, they are us. The world changes when we change our focus. A relationship with God changes our focus.

Focus is the big difference between, say, our country and Finland. The government in Finland has learned to concentrate on the bigger picture, the communal picture. Politicians, the bourgeoisie, and the proletariat agree that a government intent on providing the framework for a healthy, well-educated community leads to a happy, prosperous, much less violent, less stressed, less dystopian society.

It turns out that when a government actually meets the needs of the people, the people respond with inventiveness and pride in their community! Who’da thunk it?!

I see in Scandinavia that Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of Heaven is possible. It’s not a “perfect” society, of course, because, humans. But, if we are to continue to use governments to organize societies, the countries of Scandinavia seem to have their act together. Which begs the question, why not us? Why not the U.S.?

I get so frustrated. The United States is in dire straits. Our physical, educational, tax, health, transportation, and penal infrastructures all need overhauling. Yet, instead of focusing on fixing our decaying country, our government has chosen sides. Both Democrats and Republicans attack each other like wild junkyard dogs, snarling and snapping and incessantly barking nonsense at each other while accomplishing absolutely nothing. I am guilty of snarling here and there myself.

But, Jesus reminds me that pointing fingers is shameful on both sides of the aisle, especially considering we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We just need to adopt and adapt the policies of other countries who are succeeding where we are failing, countries that would not proclaim to be Christian nations, but who, in caring for all their people, exhibit much more Christlike tendencies than the U.S. right now.

I don’t blame politics for our current situation, politics is only a symptom. The root cause of our corroding divisiveness is fear. We are afraid of “the other,” yes, but we are afraid of them because we are first afraid to believe in a life-altering relationship with God. And we’re afraid to believe in it either because we don’t think it’s possible, or because we’re afraid it is possible.

———

We are afraid of a visceral bond with God because if a deep relationship in the style of Jesus is possible for all humans, it means the systems of the world will naturally be upturned, and all our governments will probably look a lot more like Scandinavia’s. Yet, I look around the world and see little momentum toward loving, inclusive governments. I turn on the news and become like a tea kettle, slowing boiling at the ineptitude, lack of humanity, and greed being openly flaunted by our government officials.

Until about Thursday this week, I had resolved myself to the idea that the nincompoops at home and abroad are about to lead us into an unimaginably horrifying global conflagration, probably beginning in Iran for no reason whatsoever. Dejected and worn out from the American Fascist propaganda machine, I turned on my computer to try to get some work done. As the screen slowly glowed to life, the following passage from The Gospel of John, the most mystical of the Gospels, appeared front and center, a DM from God:

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives.

Don’t be troubled or afraid.

Don’t be troubled or afraid. It knocked the wind out of me. I do not believe in coincidences. Little moments like that, where you hear or see or feel exactly what you need, are profound examples—proof, even—of the reality of the conscious universe we call God.

Don’t be afraid. It will be all right. I give you peace because I give to you not as the world gives.

At first, it seems Jesus is telling us not to be afraid of the world. But I think what he’s really saying is, don’t be scared of God. Don’t be afraid of God’s radical love. All this backlash against gay marriage and abortion, all this nationalism, the portrayal of all Muslims as terrorists, Brexit, all of it—it’s resistance to God’s radical, inclusive, barrier-breaking, wall-destroying, hate-obliterating love.

God gives us a peace we can never find from the world alone, because the world is too afraid to believe in God, to submit, as our Muslim brothers and sisters say, entirely to the will of God. Believing in God, you see, means we give ourselves over to God’s work, which is always about building bridges and including outcasts. God’s work is about radical change because unconditional, all-inclusive love is revolutionary and changes the world.

God requires brave, loving radicals! God embraces radical thinking because God’s love is radical. This does not mean God demands violence. Jesus never condones violence in the name of God. Neither does Mohammed. Being radical has nothing to do with being violent. God is radical because God loves, even us when we’re focused solely on destroying absolutely everything we touch. Jesus loves by daring to proclaim God’s love and then demanding the world’s systems be restructured around it.

This demand, of course, could topple Empires and organized religions, which is why Jesus is crucified. It should be evident that anyone today attempting to completely change the way we think about our political, religious, and economic systems often receives the same treatment.

As followers of Jesus, we must retain the presence of mind and awareness of Spirit to persevere. In times such as these, we must constantly, continuously, and courageously call on God, through whatever mechanisms are available and using whatever names are powerful for us. Christian, Jew, Muslim, followers of Ascended Masters, Buddhists, Taoists—these are all ideologies describing a single goal: Awareness of our Oneness with God, which transforms us into practitioners of unconditional love.

Awareness of God within eradicates our fear and gives us the courage to resist the ways of this world while helping to create God’s new one. Let God bring us into Oneness. Let God make us the hands and feet of Universal Love. Let God work with and through us all the time, boldly and unashamedly proclaiming through us a new, more loving, more accepting, more socially concerned world order.

Amen.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Happiness_Report and https://worldhappiness.report/

The post Be Not Afraid appeared first on The Current.




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