Religion is an incredibly divisive word, as I suppose any label eventually is, parsing out meaning to the exclusion of periphery. Full of paradox, a label is inherently definitive in reaching for understanding and thus limiting of what can be understood. Those places where religion is most rigid are also those places where diversity is least free. Though the experience of humanity is as broad as can be imagined, definitive religion relegates humanness as narrowly as possible. This can be seen in the “history” of the word church, which has gone from the meridian meaning of God’s people in their wide ranging episode coalesced in theory behind a purpose, to “the church” meaning a certain sacrosanct encyclopedic entity worthy of worship whose professed dogma her adherents must pay homage, just to find God. Not surprisingly, the dictionary defines religion as a system. And that it is, a conveyor belt of congregations all producing a similar product. In pondering history, at least as far as can be, rarely has religion served humanity well. And almost never have those who were true ‘prophets’ passed muster in these schemes, though their tenants are pushed there. Those are the two sides of lense through which the last-days are pushed.
It has really weighed on my spirit for awhile that we must discuss the reality of how much bigger God’s view is than ours. In fact it is readily observed that when we are not seeing through the expanse filling peace of God’s charitable light, our view is inherently short sighted. My purpose in this thought process is to point out that definitions of words and labels given by us are inherently fickle. Even if the teachers voice is on par with eternity, the hearer must be exactly on the same wavelength in order to experience real understanding. This is likely second nature for many of us to ponder, but I believe it to be instructive. I know God’s voice has been heard on the pages of this Journal, and I have felt the moments of expansion in the words and hearts of those around me…but who has heard? My friends and I can often pontificate for hours, into the bleakest moments of night, haranguing ideas till the last morsel seems to have been squeezed, only to still find ourselves straining in the joyous effort to see eye to eye. This is part of being human, we are the eyes of God and all see things in disparate light. In order for such experiences, friendships and conversations to endure, let alone come together as one, neither party should be entirely fixed in their course or judgmental of the other’s. However both should have the same intent, in which mine is to find complete light in such magnitude as to recognize it at once. I can say I have tasted this fruit, but it being made full it only leaves me to thirst and hunger for more. That light is often spread from the minds and hearts of unsuspecting people all around us, in experiences that ‘religion’ disregards. Were my definitions always fixed within my tiny and personal human ability to comprehend, rather than bounded only by God’s omnipresent omniscience, I will miss out entirely on millions of nuggets of truth that contain the slivers of light shining in our experience. And were I to stay fixed as such, my cup will not be empty enough to accept the filling and complete enduring light that is God’s presence in the “Holy Ghost”.
Concrete connotations more often than not weigh down the hearts and minds of people. I’d submit that our inability to come to understanding, to reach out and touch real compassion, to experience empathy, to celebrate diversity and finally to have charity could all be traced to the firmly rooted nature of our thoughts within our own paradigm (rather than in the eternal nature of the spirit that gives us life). The blanket commandment is to ‘repent and turn to Christ’ while what that path means to a walk is as individual as every person who accepts it’s tutelage. Finding the peace of Christ Eternal, that voice, within the constant work of momentary devotion can only be viewed through the eyes we are given as individuals. Trying to define such a work for everyone around us will only limit our ability to see. Our definition can only be truly guided by the God who knows our hearts. As such, roots in hard ground will not accept transplanting, dunging, or grafting. The sower of the field throws out seed, but if the ground is too hard, the seed goes by unnoticed, as fodder for feeding even the flightless fowl (luke 8).
Perhaps no life, to this point at least, has demonstrated the pitfalls of being rooted in religion more than Jesus’ appearance amongst the Jews and should serve as instructive to what we are waiting soon to see. Orthodox by birth, even to the point of knowing ‘letters’, he relentlessly challenged the status quo. His first lecture in a “church” (the only true church at the time, sarcasm intended) had him taken to a cliff to be thrown off. His gospel was a stark contrast to their dogma, from marriage to divorce to adultery and drinking with the publicans, to his timing of ‘the work’ and quoting of scripture that didn’t accord with their own. He quickly cropped millennia of commandments and handbook down to two simple adages …love god, love your neighbor (a theoretic stretch, as they are the same). As the antithesis of established religion He is well documented, making the ensuing establishment of enslaving religion under the guise of his life all the more ironic. He repeatedly demonstrated what a Buddhist sage would label the ‘beginners mind’, able and willing to enter discourse with vagrants of all backgrounds and never be offended, while being always enlightening. Religion couldn’t contain him and thus paid politics to put him away.
All of this brings me to a point that continues to be all the more alarming in my eye. For all the earth’s history of professed religions which have torn apart the words of pages retranslated and wrested a million ways, it is yet phenomenal that none are preaching the proverb of “God Himself will do His own work”.
Through whatever lens you view it, the idea of the ‘second coming’ is a zenith of human experience never to this point experienced in the earths existence of space-time. It is a story that has been building since the first page to this final point. A climax is coming of epic proportions, no matter the tradition we adhere too. IF there is any work being done, then the ‘last days’ are the fulfillment. Which brings us to the point that if a chess match began with the pushing of pawns in eden (regardless of Eden’s position in the societies of that day), then at the end a pair of Kings and Queens must do final battle in some form. And yet all in the classification we discuss, rarely if ever do humanity’s thoughts on the subject have the God of this world on the scene to do battle, relegating them to a puppet master doing his work from the sides and top of the stage. We readily say he showed up briefly to pontificate and “save” us in the meridian only to leave us bereft of his direct intercession in the end. This is incredibly categorical in nature of a nation that purports to be it’s converse!
Our definitive boxes do us disservice; the prophecies of his literal walking with us hand in hand through these moments are emphatic and constant and worthy of discussion. They are spread throughout the sacred canon, ignored by Christianity’s incestuous sects that claim their eminence , including Mormonism. The traditions of most creeds outside that prevue too have similar ideals of a ‘last days’ paradigm. I would think that at the very least, to those who seek to see eye to eye, these stories would be discussed with an eye of open contemplation. Those boxes have built walls that include delineation of such language eternal in scope like “eternal life”, “truth” and even “god”; to such a degree that the one idea that is most prevalent throughout the words of true and living prophets, that of God doing His own work, is completely brushed over as semantics! Take nearly any chapter that deals with this work and you will find remnants of light to illuminate this presence. You will find a body of God eternal in experience, we who partake of Her goodness to varying degrees of approval, and you will see the feet of the poor coming to our aid while the hands of God as Saviors appear in our presence to tie the knots and impart the endless spirit of power to the work. On plain face value without the need of periphrasis these words are astounding on their own (even in english) and yet entirely ignored. Isaiah 25 and 26 for example (please read all in context on your own):
O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth…For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall…He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation…And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands… Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength: For he bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low; he layeth it low, even to the ground; he bringeth it even to the dust…Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.
Those verses are astounding in their clarity, and even more so in context to the rest of these chapters. So clear, so literal, so plain and yet wrested by the world, pushed aside as a topic not even worth considering. They delineate His presence, they discuss signs of earthquakes and storms, of mountains of peace and clouds of understanding in very literal terms. But even when written as plain as word can be, it won’t be seen. Though it isn’t seen or comprehended by the world, the checkmate in its brilliant obfuscation will be experienced by the diversity of the world.
Emphasizing the point Im currently pondering, 26:11:
Lord, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see:
but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people;
yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them
In the end, breaking down walls, destroying temples and killing sacred cows will leave only love, agape, to be found with understanding to be sung eye to eye for all those who still see that we are one in the Body of Christ.