I recently came across sermon notes from another church, one I often check on because they often plagiarize my work and then gaslight to blame it on someone else. I was called to check in on it again because of meeting someone acting in the very same behavior as the current lead pastor of the church, who has been under federal investigation for other issues. To my knowledge, he is still employed by the church and I'm not sure why at this point given the harm caused over the course of many years.
This particular time though, as I looked at the sermon notes, I noticed it was a regurgitated sermon from the past about what happens when others do not understand your faith. All along the sermon notes, there was consistent reference to religion and scripture, which really isn't what faith is about. Faith is about essence and trust. In this particular context (which often comes out of formula churches), the word faith was used in the wrong way, ie. faith was substituted for the word religion, or more truthfully why someone doesn't understand patriarchal religion. The sermon was about what it's like when someone doesn't understand your religion (not faith), and truth be told, many people don't understand patriarchal christians these days or their religion, and even more honestly, many people are afraid of them and don't want to....with good reason. They are often threatening and incite fear and manipulation.
Because of my work through Christian Middle Church, the essential ingredient that is different is that it's not about religion, which Christ did not create. Christ's thoughts and teachings were about love, trust, and relationship, especially when it's tough to establish it. It has nothing to do with religion and the bible is a beautiful place to show that because Christ worked with how people thought, felt, and believed about themselves so that they could understand the God within them.
The bible is a book where specific people got together to write things down, and then somewhere along the way, someone (another human) said that was all to the story and someone wrote that in the bible. Then other humans began to follow it, yet Christ didn't establish that. What we most remember about Christ is that he is a healer, that he died because specific humans hated him, and that Christ died to show an extreme form of God's love. Christianity bases its crux on this essence, while humans build christianity out of religion.
Yet, Christ's element of faith was specifically as a relationship to God, in trust with God, ie. he was essentially asked to do what even he didn't want to do, and what he prayed he would not have to do. It's not as if Christ wanted to die, it's that there was no elevation in the human race strong enough to save him at that time. No one got it yet, or not enough people acted on the fact that they got it. His disciples couldn't save him, not even those could walk on water. No amazing person was able to get to those who ultimately put him on the cross even though there were moments when it almost didn't happen, and that the powers that be even believed that Christ was innocent. Yet, no amazing person made a choice that Christ didn't have to die.
So, Christ struggled just like any other man with what to do because he knew what was coming if no one believed him or acted in a place of faith to stop the killing of Christ. Because of that mistake, it was his suffering that elevated Christ to such a degree that through death, God rose his soul. Is that about religion? No. I mean, what happened to his body?
The essence of Christ is about the deep and dark struggle with the lack of faith of those around him (disciples and those who didn't believe him) to be able to prevent the harm to his life. Christ wasn't alone, he did this suffering on display. If someone had told Christ that he would be revered for centuries because he rose from the dead instead of being able to perform miracles and changing the hearts and minds of those who lived in that time, do you think he would have chosen it? Do you still think that Christ wouldn't have been revered because he was allowed to live? Do you think that Christ had the freedom to chose? Was he under some chain or was it simply that he had no other option but to live out his name?
All of these options are hard to contemplate about because we didn't get any other outcome but his death. Then, we have humans scurrying around every day trying to remember how to stop killing, harming, and manipulating. What we are doing every day is dealing with the fact that we haven't addressed those specific people who made the choice at that time not save Christ, and then those people through the generations have created more of the same. Are the names of those people who killed Christ talked about and could any of those people who are part of those generation lines be around today? Where would they be?
Would we want to do something about the fact that no one did enough to save Christ, and would that be more truthful to the story about what faith is about? Quite possibly. That's exactly the story of our country right now. What are we doing to prevent the death of the innocent? What are we doing to stand up for what is right?
We have a segment of our country that tends to breed hate, greed, discrimination, and harm--could they be related to the people who killed Christ? Or, could it be people who just made a genuine mistake like everyone makes, and could they be someone who heads a christian church? Essentially, if you are going to have a conversation about faith, you have to talk about shame, disappointment, fear, and purpose. You can't really gloss it over with why someone isn't in the same religion as you. The highest law of God transcends religion and therefore transcends patriarchal christian thought. In reality, it could easily be that patriarchal thought put Christ on the cross, so when we get into conversation about faith, we need to be having conversation about the God, about Love, and about the fact that what this is all about is the degree of our ability to love verses hate, not whether your religion is different from someone elses.
What draws people to Christ is the state of love he showed, not the state of religion. He didn't have to die, and that was the fallacy of the lack of faith of those around him to save him when it wouldn't have taken much to do so. Someone just needed to change their mind. So, should we be so compassionate with people who don't change their mind about those who are innocent?
The day that Christ died seemed to be like any other day, and people went back to their own business, and the huge brunt of the effects were felt and noticed by those closest to him. Then other events ensued like a body that was no where to be found. We know there's more to the story because one book can't capture how big God is. We can only capture part of the essence of God through the bible, and I think many Christians will agree, and especially anyone who has needed to read other books to understand the bible or Christ. I love reading the bible and finding new ideas and scripture that relate to my life but I also find things in the bible that are no longer true, wouldn't be practiced today, are illegal, etc. That's the religion aspect of things.
So, when we have conversations about faith, let's make sure we're not attached to religion so much that it becomes the deterrent and it puts Christ back on the cross. If we do that, we haven't learned the lesson of Christ and we haven't broken the chain that put him there. Because essentially, after Christ did so much for people, in his time of need, people failed him.
Just some food for thought.