Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Fruit - A Sermon, Brought To You By Your Friendly Neighborhood Heathen

*This post will contain my personal thoughts and views on Jesus and the Bible. They may differ from yours. You are entitled to your beliefs as I am entitled to mine. If you find it offensive, please stop reading. I will not try to change your beliefs. Do not try to change mine.* LENGTH WARNING Last night I was chatting and during the course of the conversation I re-enacted a scene from my childhood. Its hard over chat to set the mood for a stormy Baptist sermon. It is though, one of my favorite childhood memories, which I will share with you tomorrow. It was the memory that pushed me today to find the scripture which the sermon was based on. That scripture is John 15: 1-17. For non-Bible scholars, such as myself, this particular group of scripture relates the words of Jesus following what is called among many, The Last Supper. So called because of Leonardo de Vinci’s famous painting by that name. It was actually Passover Feast. I do not believe that Jesus was the son of God. I do not believe that Mary was a virgin. I do not believe that the Bible should be used as a weapon to oppress others. Yet it is. I believe whatever true meaning the Bible held at one time has been lost among those hungry for power and control. It is no secret, I hope, that the Bible today, is surely not 100% indicative of what the original meaning was. King James I, after other attempts by notable individuals (John Wycliffe - William Tyndale), assembled 54 scholars to restate each chapter and page of the Bible in the clearest, most objective translation possible. Then it took seven years for them all to agree on it and print it. If you want me to believe that those 54 scholars didn’t flavor their translations and disagree and change things, I got some nice flat land in West Virginia for sale. The story of Jesus, his birth, life, and death are not new. My namesake, Inanna, as well as others from Ancient Sumer, pre-date Jesus up to 3800 years. Especially the story of Dumuzi, the shepherd king of Uruk, and husband of Inanna, richly parallels that of Jesus. Dumuzi was killed and then rose again. The same thing happened to Inanna... slain, hung around like a slab of beef in a meat freezer for three days and then is restored by the Bread and Water of Life. There are other parallels from ancient cultures. (Just so you know... Sumerian cuneiform was the earliest written language.) I do believe Jesus was a real man and perhaps those parallels were drawn to put him on the same level as the "deities" that came before him. The Bible is full of parables, stories of morality, and metaphors. The Gospel of John relating to the last hours of Jesus’ life is very detailed and doesn’t speak in continued parable or metaphor, although it does contain some of that, otherwise, I think it speaks very plainly. Plus, frankly, why disavow the greatest humanitarian to ever walk on this Earth... and on water *wink*. That’s what the scripture of John 15:1-17 shows me. Taken globally, which I try to do with all sermons I hear, the words of Jesus sum up, what I believe to be, his true purpose on Earth. The things he would want us to learn and to follow. I do have several Bibles in my house. I figure some people may believe I should read them and learn that unless I repent I’m going to burn forever in hell. To each their own. For this though, I will use The New International Version of The Student Bible. I think the difference in how I read the scripture is that I relate the teachings as being from one highly evolved spiritual human to another, or humanity as a whole, as opposed to the relationship between Jesus, God, the church, and the people. Chapter 15 begins, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (Verses 1,2) Reading this today, I was overcome with the sense of "cleaning house" and letting go of things which are no longer healthy for me. Picking up in verse 4, he says, "No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine." On a humanitarian level, that says that we’re all connected. We belong to the same vine and that is reiterated in verse 5 - "I am the vine; you are the branches..." We are smaller parts of a greater whole. Continuing from verse 5 up to the end of verse 6 - "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." The thing that comes to mind here is the Nazis’ during WWII. They stepped away from humanity. Many have followed in their footsteps to equal ends. Some have not yet paid the price for stepping outside of humanity. Yet, they will. Their "branches" will wither and they will die and be burned. That is the warning. The command comes in verse 12 - "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (Yes, I skipped some verses - short version below) As I said, I do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, rather a highly evolved spiritual man who loved all. Regardless of their afflictions, station in life, and shortcomings. He loved them all and he was willing to lay his life down for them. To make the ultimate sacrifice based on his love for his fellow man. Not necessarily to perpetuate everlasting life in the kingdom of Heaven, but on the simplest of terms of loving others and realizing that we are all a part of one another. Jesus speaks a lot of commands from him and the Father and following those commands. Jesus’s way of showing, if you only listen and learn, realize you are a part of the whole of humanity, you will experience great joy and will remain a part of that whole, instead of the branch which has been thrown away. Verses 16 and 17 - "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other." Some believe that the soul is reincarnated over many lifetimes in order to learn lessons and it is the soul that makes the determination of what life is next based on the lessons that still need to be learned. However, we can all agree that at times in our lives we may think that we did not choose to be born. Yet, you were chosen to be born. Now, this fruit thing. The bearing of fruit. What is your fruit? Ahhh yes grasshoppers... what is your fruit? The question asked in the sermon so many years ago as I sat in the front pew of the Tinney’s Branch Freewill Baptist Church was, "What is the fruit of a Christian?" Their simple answer was: Another Christian. The inference drawn from that is if you live a Christian life as an example, then others will follow. If you teach the word of God, others will come. Problem is, defining a "Christian life" is a simple as missing mud puddles in a downpour. You know what I mean. For some, living a Christian life entails (in addition to the catch-all - one who lives according to the teachings of Jesus) being a missionary. For others, its snake-handling and speaking in tongues or not receiving blood products, not cutting your hair or wearing pants. Christianity varies as much with each religion as it does with each congregation. Each of them missing, perhaps, the simplicity of Jesus and his teachings. Its summed up in verse 17 - "This is my command - love each other." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines "Christian" in its fifth definition as "a loving concern for others; humane." No mention of Jesus. Yet if Jesus were to walk the Earth today, would he prefer that Christianity be defined as a religion founded of his teachings or a state of mind founded on loving one another? So again I ask... what is your fruit? Yes, I am aware that I just took one set of verses from the Bible and spun them with my own interpretation of humanitarianism and my personal beliefs of what the scripture says and who Jesus was. I’ve done nothing more than people around the world have done for centuries, beginning with those 54 scholars in England. Perhaps they enhanced the many fine qualities that Jesus had. Maybe he was fine enough, they didn’t have to. Regardless of who you believe Jesus was... I wish we could all agree on how important his message was... love each other. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give it to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid - Jesus - John 14:27 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first - Jesus - John 15:18 Love never fails - 1 Corinthians 13:8
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