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~ A Follow Up to "A Response to Weeping with Jesus" ~

[This Reflection continues an unexpected thread that began with “Weeping with Jesus” followed by “A Response to Weeping with Jesus”.]

Anything I write certainly is not the “last word” on the chosen subject. This is Weekly Reflection #262. Regardless of where I was and the conditions surrounding me, by the grace of God and our ministry team, the Weekly Reflections were not interrupted. We never re-published any of them. I do confess my consideration of re-writing a few of those early ones that I myself no longer agree with in totality. I probably will sometime. This should not be a surprise to anyone. What should be a surprise is if I still stuck to them today. That would mean I have not grown in my experience and study.

What I write today I may well want to revise next year when I am a bit wiser, as I am not an infallible prophet of truth. Rather, as I have said before, I am a beggar showing others where spiritual nourishment may be found.

That brings me to another interesting experience that holds lessons for all who call themselves Christian. Most of the subscribers to these Weekly Reflections remained loyal and in receipt since 1998. We enjoyed personal dialog and meeting of the hearts. You are not privy, however, to the “behind the scenes” drama, so let me tell you about some of them.

There are weeks when there is a massive subscriber request. Sometimes I can tell why, such as a university professor assigning the Weekly Reflections as an academic study. Most of the time I cannot tell why, for instance, why the majority of our US subscribers live within the area of Vienna, Virginia.

Then there are the times we had a number of unsubscribe requests (some made it clear it was a demand.) One such time is when I published “Christ and Karma”. If you review that Reflection, you will see it is a mainstream Christian exploration of what happened during the crucifixion of Christ, going a bit deeper behind the usual explanation of “God pouring His wrath on His Son instead of us.” The day after its publication we had several unsubscribe requests. Only one of them offered a reason, but I suspect she spoke for many: “Karma and Christianity have nothing to do with one another; Karma is of the occult.” I wonder if she read past the title.

Review that Reflection and see if you agree. Its context doesn’t delve into the occult at all, but the mere mention of “karma” (which indeed is biblically supported) provoked an unthinking emotional response in many. I anticipated such a response from some subscribers, yet I kept the title anyway. I was truly curious how many would reflect as opposed to how many would react.

Another instance just happened last week upon the publishing of the guest Reflection by Teresa S. Redder, SFO. The Reflection was not a “Roman Catholic Response”. It was Teresa’s, who cannot and should not separate her faith and spirituality from her Catholic roots and practice, anymore than any others can or are willing concerning their denominational persuasions.

What she had to say merited respectful reflection from all seekers of the Truth. Teresa is more grounded in biblical truth and knowledge than many people I know and lives her faith in acts of works as St. James admonished in his letter.

Yet her reflection was followed by several unsubscribe requests/demands within 8 hours of its publication. I thought that might happen but hoped readers would transcend affiliations in favor of learning. Overall, the readers did.

I listen to a lot of Christian radio, mostly at night as I wait for sleep to overcome me. I am truly astounded at one thing: I hear the same stuff over and over…the same sermons about Jonah, about David and his sin, about Christ multiplying food to feed the thousands. I learn very little and I wonder why these radio preachers cannot come up with anything new, a more substantial insight into the deep and virtually unexplored mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

I think I know why, at least part of the reason. If they did speak of the mysteries, as Jesus did, their ratings would fall and they would not have enough sponsors to keep broadcasting. Unfortunately, religion is a business.

From 1998 to 2000, Prayergear.com had a business aspect to it. We were an Internet retail distributor of all kinds of Christian products. “Prayergear” reflected that orientation, providing customers with “gear” in the name of prayer. Some of you may remember those days and have bought products from us. God obviously showed us through “rude interruptions” and “rude awakenings” this was not to be a business.

It is now a ministry, supported only by our own funds. We are most content and happy with the way the Holy Spirit transformed us from a business to a ministry. As a business, we expected to be shunned by many who did not agree with our product offerings. As a ministry, we provide you with no products, just reflections and biblical studies. Yet, there is still that “rejection dimension.”

As a ministry, we pray for your respectful dialog, rather than rejection. Please consider posting your agreements and disagreements on our message board, rather than limit them to private emails. As St. Augustine stated, in essentials we must be in unity, in non-essentials we must dialog, and in all things we must engage charitably.

What I write here is quite relevant today as well as rooted in antiquity. Just a couple of decades after Christ’s resurrection, St. Paul lamented, “My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another ‘I follow Cephas’; still another ‘I follow Christ’. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” (1Corinthians 1:11-13, NIV).

Can you sense the weeping aspect in Paul’s frustration? Dialog over such matters occurred slowly, without the instantaneous worldwide network of the Internet. We have a distinct advantage over that of the early church fathers. Yet we often do not use it.

In those nations where Christians are intensely persecuted, Internet capabilities are not very accessible, especially among the poor who still draw water from village wells. While we have the luxury of worldwide community dialog, that gift is too often taken for granted and not used wisely.

The Old Testament paradigm of a tribal God and chosen people served many vital reasons. Christ presented a new covenant, that of all inclusiveness, so that “all may be saved” and participate in the kingdom of God.

Those who call themselves Christian began serious contentions within that covenant, notably beginning with the Jewish-Christians insisting the Gentile converts be circumcised and follow Mosaic law. That issue was resolved by Paul’s personal appeal to the apostolic council in Jerusalem. More councils were needed to keep the growing church vital and within God’s will.

Persecuted Christians tend not to squabble about non-essentials. Persecuted Christians don’t know or care about the over 2000 denominations. Scripture instructs is to suffer with them. This should move us into solidarity and unity.

You may have heard of the book titled, “Your God Is Too Small.” I like the implications of that. How big is your perception of God? He is not a tribal or village God. That would make Him much too small. Nor is He a national God, no more a champion of the US Republican Party than of the Muslim insurgents against the US occupation of Iraq. Thinking in such ways in paganism, wherein gods do align themselves with tribes, villages and nations.

To relegate Yahweh to that role, no doubt makes our Jesus weep as profoundly as He did in Gethsamane. He was crying for our sins and His mission to take them on. Don’t think that the garden of Gethsamane is only a tourist park now.

The Garden of Eden is now a war zone, on the borders of Iraq and Iran. Is this not cause for weeping, no matter who wins?

Jesus declared, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted [with the gifts of the kingdom].” How can we expect such comfort and blessing unless we first mourn with Him? If we do not recognize our Lover’s pain, then we really do not love Him with all of our strength, heart and soul. “…Because to their loss they are crucifying the Son God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (Hebrews 6:6b).

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
   in the Christian Faith ~

Spiritual Resource Services  September 17, 2004

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