Mystical/Religious Thoughts

                       Jesus the Sufi                                  By Bev. G

 

                                     As I read Gnostic and Sufi material the words of Ephesians 4: 13-15 keep coming to mind…” This will continue until we all                                          come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and                                      complete standard of Christ.

                                     14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching.                                        We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak                                         the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” 

                                      We need to keep searching, keep discovering and keep growing.  We no longer can just accept and live by what we have                                           been taught in the past, we need to explore, study, understand and grow in the knowledge of who we are in relationship                                           to Abba, and strive to attain our highest potential becoming more and more like Jesus in every way!

 

  • It was interesting to me to find that there is a misunderstanding of the Greek term metanoia which was wrongly translated as ‘repentance’ in the Gospels, but which in fact means ‘change or transformation of consciousness’, from meta change, towards ‘beyondness’ – and noia- consciousness- from nous, the faculty of inner perception.

 

 So Jesus did not want us to beat ourselves to death when we slip and fall but to “engage in an adventure of consciousness”.  We need to know, truly know, ourselves.

I’m thinking that this would be particularly difficult concept for many denominations to embrace as so much of what they teach seems to me to make their followers feel sinful some requiring them to confess and not to Jesus or Abba but to a priest as intermediary.  There is a constant reminder that they are sinful and not redeemed.

 

I totally loved Robin Amis way of describing metonia as a ‘change in the gravity of the intelligence’—that is intelligence in the fullest, deepest sense.  ‘the nous is the knowing power of the inmost heart, known as the eye of the soul: and metanoia, the change of nous, is a change of heart”  

 

This is beautiful.  I think a change of consciousness causes us to turn away from sin so in a sense perhaps it is a form of repentance as well. 

Perhaps it's a conspiracy to translate it in a very limited way.

 

There is a lot of focus in chapter two in finding the “kingdom of heaven” and to understand that it is not somewhere distant but within ourselves and that Jesus use of the term was really to achieve a higher sense of consciousness. That we are incomplete and to achieve the kingdom within us we need to discover ourselves with the help of a teacher.  I found it very interesting that the writers of the Bible left out the very important message given by Jesus in the papyrus found in Egypt in 1897 which clearly states that the “Kingdom of Heaven in within you and whosoever  knoweth himself shall find it”.    This is why for me it is so important to read other material such as the Gnostic Gospels in particular the Gospel of Thomas to continue to grow.    How sad that this crucial fact is omitted from our Gospels.  We go about looking up to the skies to find the kingdom don’t we?

Regarding the kingdom, majority of the modern translations say Kingdom among/midst, but as you see a few translate it Kingdom within. One of my books says (John Sanford) we need to translate it: Kingdom of God is within and without you, because the Greek word means both.

 

King James Bible

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you

New King James Version

nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Good News Translation

No one will say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!'; because the Kingdom of God is within you."

I believe that the kingdom of heaven is both without and within, because we are children of God and where we are there also surely is the Kingdom.

 

 In Chapter Three is talks about “the help of the ‘initiator’ who is the superior being or teacher responsible, who not only guides the student or seeker ….but also actually elevates the seeker’s very being and consciousness by some kind of direct spiritual transmission called Baraka by the Sufi’s.    Can this initiator then be Jesus or is it someone who is further along the path we are travelling on than ourselves?

Sufi literature sees Jesus as one of the main spiritual teachers, or sometimes the main (the Sufis had to be careful) Morshed, pir, ghotb, or sheykh...all the words mean the spiritual teacher/the liberated one/ the mentor. What is the role of the spiritual teacher? he or she will become a channel of God's grace/favor upon the seeker. Baraka means the grace of the Lord. Sufi masters (the Initiator) do their best to guide the seeker, and the seeker needs to stay with their teacher and obey him/her heartily and devotedly in order to receive the grace, barakah.

Sufi literature sees Jesus as one of the main spiritual teachers, or sometimes the main (the Sufis had to be careful) Morshed, pir, ghotb, or sheykh...all the words mean the spiritual teacher/the liberated one/ the mentor. What is the role of the spiritual teacher? he or she will become a channel of God's grace/favor upon the seeker. Baraka means the grace of the Lord. Sufi masters do their best to guide the seeker towards liberation, and the seeker needs to stay with his/her teacher and obeys him/her heartily and devotedly in order to receive the grace, and the blessing of the Lord , feyz and barakah. Both Baraka and Feyz, in Sufi literature,  mean the favour and blessing of the Lord / the grace.

 

The four elements are mentioned (Earth) water, fire and air.  The idea of the four elements goes back to pre -Socratic philosophers in ancient Greece around 400 B.C. and later adopted by Aristotle. The idea continues to exist until now.

 

The baptism of fire is defined as “the high state of being which connects man with the Divine, which enables him  to enter the kingdom of consciousness and makes him a citizen of Heaven”   This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it requires total surrender something that is easy to say but not easy to do, I believe that surrender needs to happen daily because our human nature fights against it.

This is the core of Christian theology (for Christ-centered people of course) and Sufi teachings. 

“Verily I say unto you, he who has not been born twice will not see the kingdoms of the heaven and the earth.  The first birth is the birth of nature, the second birth is the birth of the spirit in the heaven of knowledge.” 

For so many years the church has been asleep, knowledge has given way to apathy and the routine of taking an easy road. No one ever asked me if I had a personal relationship with Jesus and if not if I wanted that relationship.   I was never told how exciting and important that relationship would be, how it would totally change my life and perspective.  Perhaps if questions were asked, then answers needed to be given.  Perhaps there was the fear of not having the answers??  Sadly, it seemed that sometimes the clergy didn’t seem to know Jesus all that well.  Don’t get me wrong, they knew all about him, but didn’t know him personally. There is a huge difference!! The church became a comfortable habit, not a place of worship, challenge and growth, simply a pretty place with nice people who couldn’t wait until the sermon was over so they could go for coffee.  We were never encouraged to speak to each other about Jesus however most of this came from within the congregations itself.  The church switched it’s focus from Jesus to issues.   What prayer book should we use?   Are we speaking inclusive language?  What time should we meet?  And because the people were not growing closer to Jesus and each other, they became bored and became excited by division and in-house fighting.  At the same time, secular society decided to have stores open and sport events on Sundays.  Church became a club, a nice club, but just a club, but one that could easily be replaced by shopping or sports.  No commitment necessary.

  Jesus warned us not to fall asleep! 1 Thessalonians 5:6 6 “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.”

 “Christianity as it is generally understood- or misunderstood- has settled for belief rather than knowledge”

We have been told to just believe blindly, never think outside of the box or you are not a true Christian, how dare you ask questions, and never ask why or say this does not make sense to me? Everything in me wants to say Satan is responsible for this and in fact I am sure it he, but we need to take some responsibility too.   Our church leaders need to raise of Christ Centered clergy, fearless, committed warriors for Christ.  It is only then that the people at church will become the Church, the Bride of Christ. We can dump it all on Satan, but we have freewill, our community of believers, and our hope, therefore we can challenge Satan through and by Christ.

This is the reason that there are so many atheists and agnostics in the world.   If we look at our own children when they are little they are always asking “why” followed by another “why”.  This is how we need to be with Abba so that we can grow to maturity in him.  There is no graduation, just constant searching, discovery, growth and joy!          

In this day and age especially, our children and young people will not settle for “just believe”.  We, each of us, need to enter into a vital, and energizing quest to find the true meaning to Jesus words.  We need to enter into a deep and intimate relationship with him.  It is only then that we will be able to encourage others.   Jesus never said, “just believe what everyone tells you and do good things” How is that any different than adhering to the law in the Old Testament.  Jesus wants us to truly know him and to know ourselves. He doesn’t desire blind faith…he gave sight to the physically blind he now gives sight to the spiritually blind.

 

In 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 Paul says that he preaches the Wisdom of God, mysterious and hidden.  “6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen,   what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”[b]— the things God has prepared for those who love him— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.’”  

This is not blind faith, this is actively seeking the way and I believe that this must be experienced, it cannot be taught, but the quest for truth can be guided and encouraged. And I believe that Jesus always acts as a true/divine teacher, a teacher who loves to see his follower find out the truth by themselves… through HIS support, presence, and inspiration.  I also believe that he raises up teachers to show us the way.  Teachers who are his voice, hands, feet, compassion and love.   Teachers who reflect his likeness. Teachers who encourage free dialogue.  Teachers who are humble enough to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”. 

 In my entire life there have only been four clergy that have touch and changed my life.   The first was a Baptist minister when I was a child who made Jesus real for me.   He encouraged me to pray and expect Jesus to hear and above all else that Jesus truly loved me.  There are three Anglican Priests, who also changed my spiritual life, one introduced me to the Charismatic Movement and opened me up to the working of the Spirit and the other introduced me Celtic Worship which I found totally beautiful and wasn’t condemned for loving and the fourth totally an amazing teacher and mentor encouraged me to stretch sometimes beyond my comfort zone but always with the love, patience and guidance of Jesus.  Always reflecting the love, joy, and presence of Jesus.   For this I am forever thankful.

Looking back over the years I realize that these four Christ centered teachers followed each other just as they should in the proper order so that I could be where I am now.   Still on an exciting journey back to Abba.

 

Ghali says this  “the baptist is the person charged with the task, and capable of it, the task to raise higher the consciousness so that it may be able to amalgamate with the consciousness of divine truth at its lowest level”  This made me wonder at what age the Sufi’s  baptize?   Qalimi says, “water cannot truly purify without the deliberate effort of the person to be cleansed.  This would require the person being baptized to be older than an infant.  Baptism and ablution have the same connotation in Sufism; and  is  not regarded as a necessary initiation ceremony, but at the same time the ablution (washing the whole body in the name of God and for the sake of gaining a new direction in life) is always been a sign for the novice/seeker towards a new life in God.

I totally love the symbolism of air and fire as being the infilling of the Holy Spirit and Gnosis.  I often wondered why fire because I always linked the Holy Spirit with both wind and fire.   Now, fire being Gnosis makes more sense to me.  It is waking up from a deep sleep to remembrance  “knock and the door (of remembrance) will be opened unto you, seek (beyond your present understanding)  and ye shall find”  Fire is also capable of transforming the old into a new. The air/wind/ breeze brings the inspiring message of the holy for the seeker ...and the fire continues with transformation. Like fire purifying and strengthening metal for the purpose for which it is being fashioned.

 

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:6-9  “Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. 7No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 9That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”   Surely this refers to Gnosis.  We must diligently search and claim our birthright.  We can never be lulled back to sleep! Praise the Lord, Yes!

 

The bible points to the Kingdom of God and where to find it but sometimes the translators of the bible have made it confusing.  For instance in Luke 17:21 some translations read, “the kingdom of God is among you” which points then to Jesus while in other translations it says “the kingdom of God is within you”  there is a huge difference here.   It is interesting to me that the KJV says “within” while the NLT (which I love) says “among” you.    I guess I believe that for the disciples both were true, they had Jesus among them but the kingdom of God was also within them.   For us it’s exactly the same but we sometimes forget to look for the kingdom within ourselves don’t we.  Is it because we feel unworthy or is it just easier, a lot less work and a lot more comfortable not to look within ourselves?  The word translates into both within and among, why shouldn’t we have both? Within, individual journey and among living in the community and for the community. They need to work together. Sufis emphasize on both.

 

The Sufi’s stress the importance of humility.  I somehow feel that humility is learned and not necessarily a gift given.   Sometimes life’s experiences make us come to the realization that we really are not all that important in the vast scheme of things.  We are here only for a short part of our journey and then we move on.   Once we are able to recognize this then we can easily empty ourselves of pride and the need for recognition and replace it with servanthood to our first Love.  It is only there, as we raise Him up, that we can find fullness of joy. 

Sometimes I believe people confuse humility with weakness and I think they make this connection with Jesus as well.   He is often portrayed as being overly gentle, sullen and meek when the opposite is true, yes he is both meek and humble, but he was also strong, happy and fearless.

Meekness is the power and strength we possess  to retaliate, to hit back, but we consciously decide not to do so, and instead we open a door for understanding, teaching, and reconciliation. In short , meekness means putting an end to violence and replace it with Christ-like attitudes and solutions. In this way we WILL inherit the earth.

Humility is the source of our strength which enables us to make a difference for Jesus in the world, as we become his invisible mouth, hands and feet.  When everything we do has his name stamped on it, not ours.

“Strike on this spot”  How true this teaching story by Idries Shah taken from Tales of the Dervishes is.   We often are in too much of a hurry to accept as truth what everyone before us has accepted and passed on.  We need to rest and meditate on what is truly meant.  We need to take time which means searching for ourselves and not acting upon what others claim to be truth or understanding.   Here, in this story,  for so long people were just taking a glance and excepting what they saw as being what would point them to the treasure, not so.  They didn’t even realize the futility in it all.   It took someone to go beyond the immediate, to take time and ponder and divorce themselves from preconceived ideas for the treasure to be revealed.  We need to be that person.

Love this statement by Samarkandi Amini, “pass from time and place, to timelessness and placelessness—to the other world, to our origin.  I experience this strongly during our Service of Taize, at other times as well, but most strongly and intimately at Taize.  This abandonment of all that is in everyday life in exchange for the joy of what also exists for us, not distant, but ever present is amazing.

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The story says that Zohak as a youth lived an entirely blameless life which was probably because of the influence of his father who was said to be both generous and kind. 

When we are born, we leave behind the safety and security of Abba to come into a world that is ruled and governed by the Evil one who in this story is named Iblis. I believe this fairy tale is about the need to know, to distinguish what it right.  To have spiritual discernment.  The desire to serve over being served, the desire to overcome fear with pure love.  The need for oneness with God.

Zohak was driven by what he wanted to believe, he had itching ears and believed that Iblis was a holy man.  He virtually sold his soul to the devil.   How many times in todays world have people been seduced into following cults or false teaching?   Sadly, even through the established church which sometimes disguises itself as the one true way, the question is the way to where?  Where are the masses being led?  If not into relationship with Jesus…then where?

I think that there is still within Zohak a sense of what is right because it is not he but Iblis that kills Zohak’s father.  Here we have Satan’s biggest tool taking over…I will give you the whole world!  The Iblis’ promise to make Zohak the king of the whole world reminded me of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness….same offer.  Satan is very transparent.

I believe the kissing of the shoulder shows an intimate relationship that has developed between Zohak and the Evil one.  The extreme opposite to the strong intimate relationship that we develop with Jesus.  And the snakes are the manifestation of this relationship, an outward sign of inward evil.  Sort of the opposite of sacrament.

None of the doctors, magicians and astrologers could cure Zohak because this is a personal journey, we ourselves decide who’s we are, no one can do that for us.  Zohak has chosen the Evil one even though he must realize he is wrong because of his early years.   I have to believe that those years are not totally lost, that the memory must linger.  Perhaps that’s why he dreams.   It says that the Iblis alone could remove the spell, but I believe that Zohak has the power to defeat the Iblis within him.

Once again, the Iblis disguises himself as a holy man and visits Zohak but everything that he says proves that he is anything but holy.  Zohak should realize this!

Zohak’s dream I believe represents the Trinity the youngest member is Jesus who will ultimately defeat the Iblis.   And now the story sounds much like King Herod looking for the baby Jesus.   It speaks of human kindness in the form of the herdsman and protection from evil by love.

Feridun, the boy who knew no fear wandered on the mountain and heard the voice of God, this is like the voice of Abba at Jesus’ baptism but taking place on a mountain like Moses😊

And then we hear those familiar words, “Fear not”, angelic words.  Genius is the Holy Spirit, comforter, counselor, advocate, protector, guide, wisdom, still small voice.

Feridun, unlike Jesus’, arrives just as the Jews of Jesus time would have liked to have seen Jesus arrive in magnificent splendor, as a warrior, with a great following.

The blacksmith says the words that we must all say at some point in our lives if we wish to find our way back to Abba, “Let us find Feridun (Jesus) the Deliverer.”  Find and follow.  Search and discover.  Never give up.  Hunger and thirst for truth, for the way home.

It says that the crowds prostrated themselves before the youth, and hailed him as their monarch with loud acclamations, marching in his wake, as he proudly rode through the fine gateway, confident of victory.   This reminds me of Palm Sunday.  But instead of a beautiful horse, our Jesus rode a simple donkey. The reaction of the people present was the same.  Even on his humble donkey Jesus was magnificent!

Then comes the journey to find Zohak, this reminded me a little bit of the conference of the birds but instead of a perilous journey the journey here was made easy.

The crossing of the Tigris reminded me of the crossing of the Reed Sea.

Jesus defeated Satan on the cross and Feridun defeated Zohak.  Just like Feridun, Jesus remains our King and Satan has no power over us.  Hallelujah!!

The Story of the Evil King Zohak  By B. Groombridge

 

 

                                    Simurgh                 By B. Groombridge

 

This story is based on the poem “The Conference of the Birds” written in the 12th century by a Persian Sufi.

It is the tale of our journey home to Abba.

I believe the story begins soon after creation because in the beginning it speaks of few people and crystal-clear waters and I think it culminates today when the birds are afraid of extinction due to poachers and pollution.  So, the same conditions for the journey began at creation and still exist today.

Hoopoe is the main character in this story and for me represents Jesus.

Thousands of birds gather in a vast meadow to speak to Hoopoe.   They are concerned that all the other animals and insects have a king and they do not.  They want to find their true king and ask for Hoopoe’s help in doing so.

People have many gods, money, power, self-importance, superiority but they need to have the desire to truly take the spiritual journey to find Abba regardless of how that changes their understanding and life situation.  This can be extremely difficult and yet easy.

Thousands of birds meet in the meadow to address Hoopoe telling her why they are likely candidates to make this journey.   Hoopoe warns them that the journey will not be easy and will cover seven continents over the course of seven years.

Some of the birds willing offer to give up everything, their families, nests, all that they have in order to make the journey.   Others make excuses why they cannot or will not.   Some are indecisive, maybe later, let me think about it a bit.

The book gives a beautiful description of the habitat, plumage and characteristics of thirty birds.  It is at times humorous and an easy read.

After three days of meetings the thousands of birds are reduced to only 3,000 who are willing to make the journey.  Three is a holy number, it represents the Trinity.

The birds wait anxiously to find out who Hoopoe will choose among them to make the journey but she simply asks them to decide.

The journey takes them across seven continents over the course of seven years.  They travel through deserts.

Sometimes our spiritual journey feels like a desert.  We need to be close to the Living Water that is Jesus as we explore and move ahead. 

Their journey takes them to the Arctic and Antarctica where it is very cold and harsh and yet some people thrive in this space.  The penguin is right at home.   I chuckled when I read about the Penguin when they visited Antarctica.  The author says that she looked like she was wearing a tuxedo but for me she looks like a nun. I sort of related to the Penguin, kind of chubby, unable to fly but willing to make the journey, however; I was totally disappointed with her when she disregarded the needs of her companions for food until Hoopoe reprimanded her.   We need always to listen to the voice of Jesus.  Everything we are and everything we have needs to be shared with others.  Sometimes we are so filled with the joy of discovery that we fail to see that others are still searching.  We always need to share.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we are not accepted, or misunderstood for what we believe.   We are given a cold reception.   We need to wrap ourselves in the warmth of Jesus’ love.  Love will melt the ice.

They visited a beautiful lake in Europe and were totally enjoying themselves until a great sea monster appeared.   We cannot become unaware of the enemy’s presence.   We cannot be caught off guard.  Our focus must always be on reaching Abba.  Sometimes life is difficult and sometimes it is easy.   I think when it is easy, we are easily lulled away from our journey if we don’t stay focused.

The journey took them to Asia and they become lost in a huge forest.  They panic and try to do it on their own.   Can’t be done.   They need to listen to the calm, wise, soothing voice of Hoopoe (Jesus) Hoopoe leads them safely through the forest but not without losing many who try to find their own way.

They also visited a deserted volcanic island off the coast of Australia.  Violence, heat, destruction are all tools of Satan.  Hoopoe warned them to run, fly, get away but some did not listen and were consumed.  Satan has a way of freezing us dead in our tracks if we do not know Jesus.   In the midst of the most difficult times in our lives he will whisper in our ears, “Why has Jesus abandoned you, where is He now”?   He is the great deceiver.   Jesus is always with us, just as Hoopoe was always with them, travelling through the same horrific conditions, encouraging, pointing the way to safety and showing love.

Finally, the birds arrived broken, bruised and malnourished at the base of Mount Qua.   Hoopoe encourages them to make the journey up the mountain to find their true King but the birds start to rebel.   They complain about the journey that has brought them there, they want to simply go home. 

I found this to be the most difficult part of the story, why, after travelling so far and through such horrific conditions did, they want to go home when they were right there.  They only had one more obstacle to overcome to meet their king.  It reminded me of the children of Israel when they were crossing the desert saying, “We want to go back to Egypt”.  They had come so far everything in me kept saying complete the journey!!!

Finally, they once again listen Hoopoe who helps them to reestablish their faith.   They are told they will have to cross a bridge that is only as thick as a hair.  They wonder how in the world they can ever do that but they follow Hoopoe and as they step on the very narrow bridge it expands to accommodate them.  Their faith is restored and they travel on.

Where is their King they cried?   Hoopoe tells them to touch wings and as they do, they are lifted up to the top of the mountain.  Mountain top experiences are few but always wonderful! But they cannot find Simurgh.   Hoopoe produces a special feather and lights it.  The birds are shown a mirror and in the mirror is another bird with thirty heads.  This is the great Simurgh, they are part of Him.  They have come from the essence of God and have now returned to him.  They have completed their journey home.   It hasn’t been an easy journey but it has totally been worthwhile.   They now see their King reflected in the lives of each other.   Simurgh is Persian for “Thirty Birds”.

In Sufism it is believed that God alone exists and everything is merely a reflection of Him.  

 

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                                                                    The Gospel of Judas                                         By B. Groombridge

The Gospel of Judas, is a Gnostic Gospel believed to have been written in the second century which tells the story of Judas Iscariot in a totally different light from the account given in the Bible.  It was discovered in Egypt in the 1970s in a cave.

I could not read the first few verses of this gospel without realizing how much Judas loved and admired Jesus and of his devotion to him.   Judas tells of a week-long encounter with Jesus in which Jesus revealed many things, from the creation of the heavens, angels, the earth and humans.  He speaks about the calling of the disciples of which he was one and of Jesus’ teachings about the unseen, unknown mysteries beyond our comprehension.

In The Gospel of Judas, unlike the biblical gospels, Judas mentions that Jesus sometimes appeared to the disciples in different forms, often as a child.   Perhaps this explains the puzzling passages where the disciples don’t recognize Jesus i.e.   Mary in the Garden, Jesus walking on the water etc.  And there are several passages where Judas said, Jesus laughed.   I like this very much.   Jesus was/is full of joy!  I believe that Jesus laughed a lot!

In this Gospel Judas is the disciple who says, “I know who you truly are! And from where you emerge………….and Jesus recognized that Judas did indeed know this to be true.   He told Judas to leave the other disciples because he wanted to reveal to him more secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Jesus revealed to Judas that he will be replaced by Matthias and become the 13th disciple and that he would be cursed by humanity.  We have all been taught down through the ages that Judas was an evil, thieving, betrayer, this is the curse Jesus was speaking of.  In this gospel we hear Jesus referring to Judas’ role in redeeming humanity.  Why then do we curse him?

The disciples, with the exception of Judas, all had the same dream and Jesus interpreted that dream.  In the dream the disciples saw priests and Levites, making sacrifices and it tells something about the character of these priest.  When Jesus interpreted the dream for them, he told the disciples that they were the priests in the dream and referred to them as priests of falsehood.  They were told that they were leading many people astray by inadvertently paying homage to the harsh, vindictive God portrayed in the Old Testament and by following the many rules and regulations laid out for them to follow.  The God that they are worshipping falsely disguises himself as Abba whose character is shown in and through Jesus.    In John 14:9 we read, "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father’?  So, there is a distinction given between the God of the Old Testament and Abba who is Jesus Father. Jesus tells his disciples to stop making sacrifices and leading people astray.

 

Judas also had a dream; in his dream the disciples were treating him badly and stoning him.  Jesus told him, “You’ll become my thirteenth disciple, but you’ll be cursed by humanity, yet eventually reign over them and ascend to my holy generation.”  He also told him, “for it’s your destiny to sacrifice this body which bears me!”  Wow, according to this Gospel Judas was willing to give up everything to fulfill scripture fully understanding that he would be cursed by all of us for the role he was destined to play.   He was chosen to be the instrument by which we would receive salvation.   In John 17:12 it says, “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.”  So, it was predestined that one of the disciples had to hand Jesus over to fulfill scripture Jesus told Judas that this was his role.

It is my belief that Judas loved Jesus very much and that he was an instrument in the hand of God which brought about the redemption of the world.  And I wonder if he actually committed suicide, even the accounts of his death vary, could it be that he came to a more sinister end?   

One day we will know for sure, but for now perhaps we should listen to Jesus words once again, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2).

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   Judas Iscariot Betrayer or Instrument of God          B. Groombridge

 

Have you ever heard or perhaps read about someone and formed an impression of what that person ‘s character was like only to find out when you actually met them, or someone who was close the them,  that what you had come to believe about them was false or distorted? 

Today I am going to share with you some thoughts I have about the disciple we all love to hate, Judas Iscariot.  The disciple we have all have been taught was a betrayer and a thief, someone totally evil and to be forever despised. 

Those of you who attend Bible Study will have come to understand that sometimes the translators of the Scriptures have, with the best of intentions, added their own thoughts to try to explain or enhance situations. 

For instance, I discovered recently that Judas' surname “Iscariot” is probably a corruption of the Latin sicarius meaning murderer and I wondered if Iscariot was actually his last name or something that was ascribed to him centuries ago by early Biblical translators?   

So please just for a few moments, try to empty your minds of any preconceived ideas you have developed about Judas over the years.   Keep in mind that the Jewish people were looking for a military leader as their Messiah, one who would deliver them by force from the Romans, and consider with me the  “What if”

 

  • What if Judas admired, loved and believe in Jesus so much that he wanted to force him to reveal himself as the great military leader the Jewish people were looking for in their Messiah.

 

  • What if the last thing he wanted to do was to bring about the death of his teacher and friend.

 

  • Let’s take a minute and look at some scripture involving Judas in a different way than we are accustomed to looking at it.  With..what if eyes.

 

In John 12:3-6 we read, “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” 

 

  • Now let’s take a moment and think about that passage..

 

  • I’m sure that Jim, Jean and I, as warden’s of this church, are all guilty of asking that very same question.   “Is this the best place that we can spend this money”   So, in that way, I can personally relate to the question Judas asked, after all he was keeper of the purse. 

 

  • What if Judas didn’t mean any insult to Mary or Jesus but, in fact, was thinking about where the money might be better spent.  

 

  • What benefit would it be to Judas to steal from the purse anyway?

 

  • surely the disciples would have known where the money was being spent and would have recognized if the purse was being stolen from; after all, they were together all of the time,   and maybe more importantly, what would Judas spend it on?

 

  • What if just perhaps this accusation of Judas being a thief was added by Bible Translators eons ago to defame his character making us hate Judas even more and make him the hated scape goat.  As humans, it seems we always need to have someone to blame don’t we.

 

  • I think it is important to recognize that Jesus did not reprimand Judas because he was stealing from the purse, and Jesus wasn’t shy about confronting people when they were doing wrong,  instead he said, "Leave her alone,' 'It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial."   

 

  • Jesus never accused Judas of being a thief. It was Judas’ understanding that Jesus was addressing here.

 

  • It is important for us to remember that when we read these passages that we are reading them with an understanding that the disciples did not yet have.   We are reading post resurrection.  We know that Jesus is the son of God and the promised Messiah.  The disciples were still struggling to understand who Jesus really was.

 

 

If Judas wanted the 30 pieces of silver that betraying Jesus would bring him, and we must assume then that if he was willing to betray Jesus to this type of brutality that he hated him,  then why  are we told in Matthew 26:5 that he threw the money back at those who gave it to him and then commit suicide.  

  • What if, His remorse was unbearable! 

 

  • What if, He couldn’t face life without Jesus

 

  • What if, His plan had gone so terribly wrong that it resulted in the brutal death of his best friend.   

 

  • What if, It was all too much for him to handle.

In the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke we are told that Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.  

  • A kiss demonstrates affection, he could have simply pointed him out but instead he kissed him.   This also makes us hate Judas even more, how could he betray our Jesus with a kiss?

 

BUT DID HE??

 

In the Gospel of John, there is no betrayal kiss.   When we get to the scene of Jesus' arrest in John 18:1-13a, Judas himself does not actually hand Jesus over to the authorities.  In John's Gospel, there is no kiss, no identification at all of Jesus. We know only that "Judas was standing with them," presumably with the Jewish police representing the chief priests and Pharisees and the Roman soldiers. Jesus came forward out of the garden, of his own accord, and willingly gave himself up to the authorities.

  • Could Jesus have been trying to protect Judas from self condemnation by asking the guards who they were looking for and by acknowledging that he was Jesus. 

 

Let’s go back just a little bit.  At the last supper, Jesus said, “I am not speaking about all of you. I know the ones I have chosen. What is written in the Holy Writings must happen. It says, ‘The man who eats bread with Me has turned against Me.’   "For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him" (John 6:64 NRSV). One of the disciples had to be the betrayer to fulfill scripture.  .   John 13:18  NLV

And again at the table in Matthew 26:50, Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”

  • Jesus didn’t say get out of here you traitor but “My friend” and could “what you have come for” mean what he was destined to do?

 

In Mark 14:21  we read “For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” 

  • We read this as though Judas is evil and damned; a thief and betrayer, condemned to everlasting torment but…could it refer to  the way in which Judas would be thought of down through the generations, not as part of God’s plan for the salvation for the world, but as the man who betrayed the Son of God.   For ever hated and despised.

Remember Jesus own words when the woman was caught in adultery and brought to him,  “They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 

 

  • We all betray Jesus everyday when we fail to love as he has commanded

 

  • When we fail to acknowledge publicly that our lives belong to Him and without Him we are nothing.  

 

  • When we are ashamed to speak his name outside of a church setting for fear of people making fun of us,

 

  •  When we put our wants and desires first and Him last. 

 

  • When we see injustice and prejudice and walk away.

 

Why are we so intent on demonizing Judas?   How is Judas really any worse than  any one of us?

 

I’m not trying to say Judas was a hero or a great man, the truth is that we don’t know what he was really like.

We do know this

  • that he was human, just like us,

  • that he loved Jesus enough to follow him,  

  • and that in the end he let his own thoughts, motifs and desires rule his actions.    

So, I guess, the question for me as I think about Judas is this, was Judas a devious thief and betrayer as I have been taught to believe throughout my entire life or, perhaps,  was he an instrument in the hand of God and a scape goat for humanity?  Amen

 

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What is Santeria?

Santeria is a Spanish word which roughly translated means, “worship of saints”.  There is a strong connection, on the surface, with Catholicism.  In this religion it is believed that the deities actually descend to earth to help and console their followers.

Santeria is a religion of initiation.  There are three levels that a person must pass through before they can become a santero.  The high priest is called a Babalawo.

The deities or saints in Santeria are called orishas.  Santeria has one god with many orishas.  These orishas cover every aspect of human behavior and nature and have distinct areas of control.

On rare occasions there is animal sacrifice, usually chickens, which are eaten by the Santero following the ceremony.  

With the slave trade coming to the new world came the orishas.   Slaves brought them with their gods, customs, music, language and other traditions.  These slaves were primarily concentrated in the Caribbean and South America.   The slaves were mostly from western Africa, todays Nigeria and from a tribe called the Yoruba.  The Yoruba were called Lucumi in Cuba and Macumba in Brazil.  Being slaves, they were expected to adopt the customs and traditions of their Spanish masters.  This extended not just to the Spanish language but also to Catholicism but this caused a problem because the Yoruba insisted on following their own traditions.  The Spanish forced them to worship Catholic Saints and a Catholic God.   It did not take the Yoruba long to realize the similarities between the saints and the orishas.  So they assigned Catholic saint names to the orishas.    So when the Spaniards saw them worshipping St. Barbara they were actually worshipping Chango, the god of thunder. The need to disguise their orishas in the Catholic faith is why the religion has so many images of Catholic Saints. 

When a santero is seen praying to an image of St. Anthony, he is actually praying to Eleggua the Lord of crossroads.  The Yoruba’s belief system is a complex system of orishas and God.  Each orisha has its own legend as to how it came to be, these legends are called Pataki.   The Pataki are beautiful illustrations into the culture of the Yoruba people.    The Pataki tells of how the earth was created, how humans came to be and of course how the orishas came into being as well.

While there are many orishas, seven are most commonly worshipped and they are called the seven African Powers or Siete Potencias.   It is generally one of these orishas that one receives when they becomes a Santero.

Some of the Orishas:

Obatala:  Catholic Saint..Our Lady of Mercy

According to legend, Obatala was the first orisha created.  He is the god of peace and purity and aids all doctors and lawyers.

Eluggua:  Catholic Saint..St. Antony of Padua

Eluggua is the messanger of the gods and lord of all crossroads.  Next to Obatala he is the most powerful orisha.  His blessing is required before any magic spell and he must be fed or offered sacrifice before any other orisha.  He is a master magician and his spells can not be broken.  He judges as only he sees fit.  He is fond of children and is often portrayed as a child himself.  He plays tricks and is quite mischievious.  He is often represented as a stone head with eyes, ears and mouth made out of cowrie shells and is usually kept behind the front door to guard the household.  All orishas need his permission in order to help any of their children or carry out any of their magic.

Chango:  Catholic Saint…St. Barbara

Chango rules over fire, lightening and thunder.  He is a master dancer and drummer.  He carries a mortar with him with which he mixes his spells.  Legend says the Chango traded his gift of divination which was originally his with Orunla who had the gift of dance.  Chango embodies passion, virility and power.  He also symbolizes war and dance.   Chango is also the only orisha worshipped by the mayomberos or evil practitioners from the Congo.   Chango is used to dominate a person or overcome ones enemies.

 

Oggun:  Catholic Saint…St. Peter

Oggun symbolizes raw energy, violence and brute force.  He is the orisha of the working man.  He lives in the woods and is constantly at war.  He works with iron.  He is the patron orisha of policemen, farmers and surgeons.  All metals come under his domain and he protects against accidents which he causes and aids in surgeries.   His wife is Oya who has and continues to have an affair with Chango.  Oggun eats first when an animal is sacrificed and he is the knife used in killing.

Orunla:  Catholic Saint… St.  Francis of Asisi

He defines the future.  He does not allow women to be his priestesses and only allows men to be initiated into his mysteries.   He is also called Orunmila and Ifa and aids in cursing and mental illness. 

From the Cuban Revolution of 1959 to the early 21st century, nearly one million Cubans left the island, bringing Orisha religion to cities throughout the Americas, particularly Miami and New York. The tradition also spread to other Latino communities, African Americans, and white Americans. Although census data are lacking, it is likely that initiated devotees number in the tens of thousands and that those who consult an orisha at one time or another may be counted in the millions.   by Bev. G

 

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Mystical Interpretation of the Creation Story and the book "Gnostic Paul"

I’ve spent some time thinking and wondering about why so much in the Bible appears to be symbolic.   Why is the Truth spoken in a symbolic language one that has to be searched out and discovered to be understood?  I guess it's sort of like finding a precious stone,  they are not usually found just lying on top of the ground are they.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the creation story with the demiurge as the creator.  And I started to wonder why he would create only Adam making Eve an afterthought.   Then I wondered what if Abba created Eve?  This would account for Eve giving Adam the forbidden fruit, because she would want Adam to have the knowledge of good and evil to find his way to Abba. Please believe me, I am far from being a feminist, I believe we are all equal and if Adam was created second I would feel the exact same way about him.

I believe it was Abba who walked in the garden with them and it was the demiurge that they hid themselves from.  Love and fear present in their lives at the same time, they must choose love.

If Abba created Eve, then Adam and Eve's two children, Caine and Abel, would each inherit the character traits of one of the two creators.  Caine, the demiurge, and Abel, Abba.  This would also explain why Abel instinctively knew what sacrifice would be acceptable to God and Caine did not.   It would also explain Caine’s jealousy and hatred ultimately resulting in the death of Abel.   Here we have the child of Adam who was created by the demiurge, trying to eliminate the child born from Eve who was created by Abba. These two-character traits are shown throughout the entire old testament. 

In Genesis 24:3 Abraham asks his servant to swear by the Lord “the God of Heaven and the God of Earth” regarding a wife for Isaac.  Although “Lord” is shown as singular, why mention two Gods, the God of Heaven and the God of earth, if he was referring to one God would he not simply say “the God of Heaven and Earth”?? 

 

 In the Gnostic Paul:

Why does Paul address these two groups in two different ways?  Why are some chosen to understand deeper secrets of the scriptures and others not?  Why would Paul not want the “Jews”, those living according to the law, to fully understand as well???  Obviously living under the law with its many rules and sacrifices was not working.   Through sacrifice they were not turning from those things separating them from Abba but simply offering sacrifice.  Repentance requires confession and a turning away from the sin.  Not merely a routine of sin and sacrifice and sin again.   Paul speaks of the law being written on the hearts of the “Gentiles”, could it be that some are born with the inherited nature of Abba within them, as Paul states, the law written on their hearts, and others born under the bondage of the demiurge seeking God through adherence to the written law, rules and routine, making understanding the symbolism more difficult and less desirable for them?    This would give reason to why people who have never heard of Jesus in remote parts of the world or who worship God through different faiths,  show Jesus’ love, kindness, compassion and joy in their lives in such a  beautiful way.

Jesus came to not only overthrow Satan but also to overthrow the power of the demiurge and his captivity over Abba’s children.   Jesus also spoke in parables which cause us to  dig deep and search in order to understand.   Jesus wants us to find the pathway back to his Father, Abba.    That’s what he came for.  That’s what he died for. He loves us that much!

Jesus brought the love that the demiurge was incapable of giving and showed us the way back to Abba.    Written by Bev. G

© 2023 Chuirch of Our Savior the Redeemer by TPF

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