Tear Down Those Prison Walls

Tear Down Those Prison Walls and Run Free

By Jane Tawel

August 18, 2018

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Meister Eckhart

As long as we look for some kind of pay for what we do, as long as we want to get something from God in some kind of exchange, we are like the merchants. If you want to be rid of the commercial spirit, then by all means do all you can in the way of good works, but do so solely for the praise of God. Live as if you did not exist. Expect and ask nothing in return. Then the merchant inside you will be driven out of the temple God has made. Then God alone dwells there. See! This is how the temple is cleared: when a person thinks only of God and honors him alone. Only such a person is free and genuine.

 

This quote by Meister Eckhart expresses well what has been on my mind as I look at American Christianity in particular, and The Church in the world in 2018. In my own country, it seems that the curtain has been suddenly and violently pulled back revealing the underbelly of a monstrous misunderstanding of what many of us claim is the truth of God in Christ’s revelations and the words of Holy Scripture.

 

We have gone so far into making Christianity a capitalistic individualistic religion that most of us can’t really see at all how to live The Jesus Way anymore.  We have sold Christ’s Kingdom for paid ministry.  We have justified our gains by calling them blessings. We have shared what we can afford to share and assumed that Christ died for us without any need for us to die to ourselves and live for the love of our enemies. We have disagreed with each other without any purpose higher than our own self-satisfied viewpoint. We have condemned the sinner and refused to condemn the sin of our own pride, greed, and smallness. The speck in our own eye has blinded us to the needs of a dying planet’s planks of rainforest proportion. We have found idols without names and joined cults of personalities without souls. The broad path is Walmart-sized while the narrow path is being littered with the trash of the world’s super-economies.  We are lost and we do not know it, because the marketplace is thriving. And we think that what we do in churches can make up for what we have done to God’s Temple.

 

It may be time to stop calling ourselves “little Christs” until we relearn what that means in this time, in this place, in this trial, in this suffering, in this mammoth Babylon made of paper money, security cameras, and nightly numbing entertainments. Perhaps it is time we stopped training pastors and priests and paying them at all; instead listening to the sidewalk prophets lying homeless on our streets. Perhaps no one should accept money for publishing a devotional Bible. Perhaps evangelism should be as free as the Salvation Jesus offers us. Perhaps instead of moaning about cakes and billboards and carpets and even cancer, we should meditate long and hard on what is profiting our souls as we continue to gain the world.

 

Maybe we should worship in parks and living rooms and share what we bring  — of our goods and of our goodness –to be together in spirit and in truth. Perhaps my job should be just that – my job –and my ministry, my religion, my image bearing should be just that – something wild, something free, something communal, something out of my control, something healing, and lonesome, something humble and meek and bold and crazy – just like Jesus’s ministry was. And is. Or could be, anyway.

 

When is it “Time’s up” for me – for us – to understand that the path is narrow, and almost impossible to walk on. The Jesus Way means I must separate my need to live from my need to live in Him. I must be willing to work to feed myself and work to feed others; to provide fish for my table must be separated from being a fisher of men.  This is actually the opposite of the Gnosticism that we now embrace as Christians, thinking that my daily body life can be sanctified if somehow I have “Jesus in my heart”. I must find a way out of thinking that there is no struggle in the dichotomy of this world now and this world as it was meant to be and as we are meant in God to recreate it. I must let my left hand serve my human needs without knowing what my right hand is doing serving the needs of souls. We must see how far we have fallen into the Solomonic way of thinking that we can have it all and still have Eternity in Christ. I must give up any personal gain that I can fathom, if I want something on earth, as it is in heaven.

 

Perhaps it is time for a temple cleansing. If Christ came to tear the curtain between the Holy One and the sinful ones; then perhaps it is time for us sinful ones to rip apart the curtains of our earthly mansions and looking through the dusty windows of our humbled souls, see the world as God sees it.  Janis Joplin sang it well: “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” Or as Jesus said, “What is all your profit really worth, if in the end, all you get to keep is what remains of the God-likeness in you?”  Jesus came to set us free but we have to walk through the prison doors to enjoy that freedom.

 

Perhaps it is time for us to see the prison bars of capitalism and self-serving individualism that we have constructed and  falsely called “Christianity”. Perhaps it is time to tear down those bars and then start setting other prisoners free. Perhaps it is time to tear down the walls of the churches, to stop selling in the temples, and to with fear and trepidation seek the freedom that comes from true worship and true servant-hood.

 

As Jesus said, “It can all be summed up like this:  Love a God Who is not you.  And also –Love others in exactly the same measurements and judgments in which you love yourself.”

 

Maybe it is time to rip apart the walls of our hearts with no apparent protection from the onslaught of freedom. Perhaps it is time to repent from our foolish self-blinding way of seeing our world, and see through the eyes of Christ. And with the eyes of Christ, we can run free indeed.

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free.”  — Jesus, The Christ (as quoted in Luke 4:18)

Today in the newspaper, I read about a woman who was imprisoned for seventeen years because a false witness lied to the police and no one cared enough to find out the truth. We want to say that we are following the path set out by Jesus but instead we are reclining at our tables while a whole world is imprisoned by lies from the Father of Lies. The oppression of greed goes hand in hand with the oppression of need. Do we care enough to find out the Truth? Do we care enough to find out the truth about The Truth, The Way, and The Life — Messiah? Can I get a witness?

But on “That Day”, The Lord will separate the greedy from the needy. No matter where or when we live, how much we have or don’t have, we are not at all worthy. That is a lie of Satan from the time of Adam and Eve. Yet many in  The Church are fond of telling us that in this cheap grace era but expensive Christian era; that somehow we are worthy. We have stolen  the dross of wealth instead of giving up all for the solid gold crown of eternal worthiness. We are all sinners, guilty as charged. There is only One Witness who is True and who can set us free. Jesus. The Witness, who is The King, who is the Judge, will one day ask me if I lived as a witness for Him.  God will one day ask me as a hard trial lawyer or a judge would, if I own enough to pay to get out of jail. And none of us will be able to say, yes, — not even Mr. Amazon himself.  Will The Church continue to think it is about what we own and not what we are? Should those who want to be like Jesus, claim any freedom to “practice their religion in freedom”? No, we have no freedom except the freedom to give up everything, and take up the cross of Christ. If we who are guilty die with He Who was not guilty, then we will live in resurrected freedom forever.

Jesus has our get out of jail card and the right directions on the path to eternal freedom. Above this world’s prison bars is this message: “If you want true freedom, even the ultimate freedom from death, then give up everything, and follow God.” And this is absolutely impossible to do. And yet, Christ did it. And Christ offers to do it for, in and through us.

Perhaps it is time, we let Him set us free.

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Independence Day: Get Out There and Have Some Fun!

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A Fun Day of Freedom

By Jane Tawel

July 3, 2015

So I’m thinking about the 4th of July and similar holidays back round the bend like Memorial Day and up round the bend, like Veterans Day. They are serious holidays about serious things, and that is absolutely rightly so. But when I think of my many past Independence Days and hopefully my future ones, like tomorrow, I think of fun. I think of happiness, family, friends, food, fireworks, and sunburns. And fun.

So the equation seems to be something like:

People die for my freedom = I get to live a life of fun.

And in case you think I’m being sarcastic, I’m really not. Soldiers went to various wars for our country, many gave their lives on the battlefield, many are giving their lives daily here on the streets as unemployed vets, and I get to celebrate the days they earned by having fun.

Of course as Christians, this is an easy peasy addition problem, right?

Jesus died for my freedom = I get to live a life of fun.

See, this only really makes sense I think when you think about all the countries where people will not be having fun tomorrow because their citizens are not free. And then, of course, our religion, only makes sense when you think of all the other religions whose practitioners are not free who don’t ever really understand how fun it is to worship the God of Jesus. The God whose Son said, “my yoke is light”. And the God of the apostle who said, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1) Don’t get me wrong, sin is never really as fun as non-sin, so know your options and live a life of goodness and light, but that’s another blog for another day. Today is the day before the day we celebrate our nation’s independence.

So why as my particular nation and why as my particular religious group, do we keep enslaving ourselves? My friend Denise shared this picture on face book today:

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Why as fellow Americans and fellow Judeo-Christians are we sitting so often in the third row? Do we as that Jewish prophetess sang, see freedom as “nothing left to lose” or do we as Christ said, see freedom as “everything to gain” if we do not lose our soul in the process?

I like to play around with this vision of my gathering together all the leaders in the world. I bring them together on a beautiful sun-soaked day, about seventy-five degrees perfect. No one is allowed to send regrets or back out, not even McConnell. All the world’s Top Dogs, have to show up, in their bathing suits (no speedos, no bikinis please especially if you are from Italy or France). I take all of the world leaders in their trunks and tank suits to the beach. And they all have to sit with each other and build sand castles. I provide kosher hotdogs and vegan potato salad; they bring the desserts (except Kim Jong-un, we just want him to show up). And they can’t say anything to each other except fun stuff, like “Ooooh, Angela, I love that beach wrap, where did you buy it?” Or, “hey, Ernest B.K., wanna go jump in the waves?” “Francis, care for another wine cooler?”

And at the end of this glorious day, we all celebrate a new Independence Day by watching Jinping’s amazing firework display. (He spent a lot of money on them but he did get a good deal because they were made in China. —- bah, dum-dum.)

And in my vision I never once have to point out that they have lived too long in a world that builds houses on the sand. But that today, God calls them to build houses on The Rock with foundations of mercy, and justice, and love and freedom – foundations of a Nation that will last forever.

When they go home tonight, they will be changed forever because they celebrated a day of fun with new friends.

What if Christians threw an Independence Day like the Bible used to suggest? (without much luck I’m afraid in being actually executed, but…..) Let’s not even aim big for a whole year of Jubilee, a time of “emancipation and restoration” –how about just one day – come as you are, take it or leave it true “Freedom Day”.

What about a day of Jubilee where all debts are cancelled, every one in bankruptcy gets their house back, and student loans are paid by our defense budget. What about a day when any thing extra is shared with any one who doesn’t have enough? What if we had a day of Jubilee when we celebrated everyone’s marriage, no divorces were allowed, and all the nursing home folk were let out and got to come home? What if every one is given the day off, even the store clerks because no one wants to go shopping any way? What if all the prisoners got freed, either to their families or some solid therapeutic living conditions? What if all the homeless folk got a little trailer to park in Walmart parking lots, and were given a part time job? What if all the doctors got a bonus for every new patient they took who couldn’t pay? What if all the pastors and priests and rabbis had to get a day job? What if all the illegal immigrants didn’t have to get a second job to make ends meet? What if all the farmers were given back their own land with the understanding no more nasty chemicals allowed? What if all the sweat shop workers and housecleaners got free pedi-manis? What if all the teachers got a golden parachute and congress didn’t? What if every one just laid down their weapons and took up their surfboards?

Wouldn’t we have FUN?!

Wouldn’t that be a world worthy of a rainbow flag? A rainbow that celebrates no more floods, no more earth destroying wickedness, no more hate? A world God can celebrate because He is the Leader?

Freedom is not free. It costs somebody something. It is costing me something today as well but it should cost something different maybe. Freedom should cost us our respect for others and our empathy for others. It should cost us something especially for those in this world who do not have enough to eat, or do not have safety, respect, love or freedom. And that does include people in These United States, by the way.

Freedom should cost me my extra dollars, no really it should cost me some of my “needed” dollars. It should cost me my empathy, no it should cost me tears and sleepless nights in prayer. It should cost me my free time to learn more, work more and serve more for others. Freedom should cost me my stress and worry and anger because I was freed to have fun. And it should cost me my pride because I have had to do very, very little for my freedom. People willing to die for my freedom in this country did it all. Jesus, willing to die for all the world, did it all.

So here are your questions to answer for the day before Independence Day.

  1. Fill in the blank:

Wouldn’t it be fun if the world ____________________________.

  1. Who could I stop being prejudiced against if I spent a fun day with

them at the beach?

  1. Who do I owe my freedom to and how can I bless him / her today? How do I bless my elders? How do I bless my God?
  1. Multiple Choice: What could I give up in order to have more fun?
    1.  Greed
    2. Stress
    3. Worry
    4. Hate
    5. All of the Above
  1. Please write a short essay on:

What does it profit me, if I gain the world, but lose my soul in the process?

Now, you can take off tomorrow to celebrate Independence Day and get out there and enjoy good food, good family and good friends! But Remember: Jesus flew no one’s flag, but he waved a banner every day – “His banner over us is Love”. So have some fun for God’s sake!

That’s an order, Soldier.