A voicehearer’s path ~

Archive for the ‘Paul’ Category

Timelessness ~

Those who know me, know that I am not a great fan of the Apostle Paul. The canonization of his letters has resulted in folks treating his words as though they were “gospel”( at least as it suits them). I see him as an Evangelist, and quite flawed human being. He was quite spiritual, so some of his teachings have value, but, just because he wrote something does not mean that is the view a person should have regarding anything within the church. He was extremely human!

That being said, I would like to look at one of his teachings that holds a beauty for me and for all who read it. He wrote; “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, teachability and self-control.” There are many teachings on the web regarding this passage, but it still seems to get ignored by those who would have you take a more aggressive perspective of your faith. Yet, it is here, in this passage, that Paul seems to have utterly been in obedience to the Holy Spirit whose work can be seen the world over.

This passage would fit well in a Buddhist monastery, in an Ashram, in a shul, anywhere one is taught to honor the Highest and Best. It is simply stated, yet encompasses all the “virtues” needed to show that the Holy Spirit is at work in your life. It is when I see this “fruit” growing in any life, no matter what faith, that I know I am interacting with one truly walking the Path set out by my teacher, Y’shua. It is true, he was not the only one to teach this path, nor was he the first, but it is through him that I learned of the path, so I honor him as my Master Teacher.

Getting back to Paul for a minute, much of what he taught was for that time only, and not of the timeless nature of Y’shua’s teachings.It is in that vein that I see Paul’s words on homosexuality, on the submission of women to men, and on the manner of dress a person should follow. You do not see these things addressed in Y’shua’s teachings, he was mindful that centuries beyond his earthly walk, there would be those seeking a path to holy living, therefore keeping his teachings succinct and to the point of addressing the work of the Holy Spirit throughout time. Paul’s words sometimes held that sense of timelessness, as with this passage, yet, he spoke also of the needs in that time of the churches he founded, very anchored in that time and space, and therefore, simply a reference to us 2,000 years hence: good to study, but not a guide for living.

It is in my studies of other faiths that I realized the difference between the timeless teachings, good for all of us on the Path, and the timely teachings, good only for the time in which they were written. It is here, rather than in any “Sunday school” or church that I began to see the extreme value of Y’shua’s teachings on Love. And to belabor a point, he was not teaching about romantic love, but about the deep, from the very depths of your being caring for the plight of others you would meet on the journey. We are to be compassionate toward all souls, not just those who happen to agree with us, or share a moment of epiphany with us. We are here to learn how to truly love.

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The Vine and the Branches ~

I have long believed that when Y’shua is quoted as saying, “I Am” he was actually saying “The I Am” an easy misinterpretation, as the jot that indicates the word “the” is small, and easily missed. However, that changes much of the gist of what he was saying. Looking at one of his best remembered teachings, let’s look at what that little jot would do.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

If you read that as, “The I Am is the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in the vine and the vine remains in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from the vine, you can do nothing. If you do not remain in the Vine, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in the vine, and the Vine’s teachings remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be disciples of the I Am.”

Yes, that took a fair amount of rewording, but makes more sense in a world where to claim to be God would get you stoned. There are other factors that have made me wonder if this was the gist of so many of Y’shua’s teachings. The I Am is the very now, very here presence of God Very God, in Jewish teachings. This makes the “I Am” a very powerful, very present force in the life of the individual. We must remember that Y’shua was not talking to Gentiles like most of us, he was talking to the faithful of the Nation of Israel. The thrust of his ministry was, from the very outset, to make the individual aware of the very real presence of God the Father in their lives.

It is not my belief that he was teaching his followers to disobey the laws of Moses, for he said to them that not one jot or tittle would pass away from the law until all had been fulfilled. I actually believe that he was teaching that the law was written for humans to learn to get along with one another, and show compassion at every turn, rather than taking a legalistic approach to their faith. I believe he also taught that humans were not created to fulfill the law, but to live wonderful, dynamic lives within the framework of a body of law brought forth to guide and direct them in their day to day living. If that is the case, it may be incumbent upon those of us who were not born Jewish to abide by the Noachide laws.

This is a set of laws within the entire body of Jewish law that guides us in living in a fashion that honors God in all of creation. These are also easily fulfilled if we live by Y’shua’s Law of Love. It may be that the mitzvot are all easily obeyed once we live by the Law of Love. I realize this makes me one of those who feels that the Jewish roots of the Christian faith are more important than have been observed in past history, and therefore at odds with much of the current thinking on Y’shua’s teaching, but one of the things I have found in my exploration of  Jewish faith, is that many of Y’shua’s comments and stories make sense only from this vantage point.

Separating him from his Jewish roots, and setting him on top of the monument Paul used in Athens, has so paganized the church and it’s teachings as to make Paul’s letters more important than all that is recorded of Y’shua’s words. It is this that has distressed me in my journey toward finding a way to live with the voices. There are too many places in the New Testament where Paul and those who wrote letters in his name prove their humanness. Paul did not understand the lack of choice faced by most homosexuals, society lacked the science to explain it, which is why I believe Y’shua left that aspect of life alone. Paul could not admit openly that he was wrong in listening to rumors regarding the church at Corinth. A letter attributed to Paul, but probably written by another places women once again in the position where their usefulness is only as mules to carry the unborn. “GACK!” ( BTW, it’s an honor to be a baby carrier myself, glad for the job, just not my only point of usefulness)  Y’shua’s treatment of women was much more compassionate than that!

The scholars cannot agree as to the true roots of most faiths, as much has been lost in the generations since the original teachers.It is basically for this reason that I consider all who practice compassion, what amounts to obedience to the Law of Love, as my brothers and sisters in this walk of life, no matter their perspective. I realize this leaves room for those who follow a humanist perspective, I am not sure it matters. I am sure it matters very much that we live compassionately, beyond that, it may be that we must let God sort it out.

Just say NO!

To Fundamentalism of any stripe. I spent 10 years in the Fundamentalist movement. Pentecostal to be exact, there were many things I loved about the fellowship, and many things I absolutely hated about the positions my fellow “fundies” would take regarding others and and the command to love. I read articles by “fundies” every once in a while, just to remind myself of what I walked away from. One of their most common comments is that every other stance regarding Biblical or other references is that anything that isn’t of their thinking is “watered down”. I have to laugh at that, it’s a painful laugh, but it is definitely a laugh.

I often quote First John, chapter 4, verses 7 & 8 as my favorite verse in the New Testament. {Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He who does not love does not know God.} It is the gospel of compassion that most fundamentalists consider “watered down”. Yet, it is the command to love that is the very hardest command, in any faith, that most humans find to obey. Me included. Genuine love is not for the weak minded, it requires caring about your fellow humans on a level that sees no stranger in an unknown face.

I get frustrated with the constant quoting of Paul’s comments in Romans on sin, that were meant to simply point out our frailties, but are used to hammer others more often than to take a scorching moral inventory of one’s own faults. Yet, I must remind myself that it was Paul that wrote one of the loveliest passages anywhere in sacred writings, i.e. First Corinthians, Chapter 13.

1 Corinthians 13

Love

1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

That entire passage speaks to what love requires of each of us who would practice the path of compassion. If you think it’s a watered down, “namby pamby” way to live, try it for a couple of months, it will be anything but easy. When you have lived with that as your goal for many years, it is then you can talk to me about “watered down” scripture.

I do want to point out that Paul went too far in his inventory of sin, making it easy for those who follow most of that list to disparage folks who live alternative lifestyles. He touched on things the original teacher he professes left alone. If your finger is not pointing at yourself with most of that list, you have no right to quote it to others who do not live your way. Romans Chapter 8 begins with “There is no condemnation now, for those who live in Christ Jesus, (or for other faiths, the spirit of compassion) for the law of love has set me free from the law of sin and death.” I am well aware that it is much easier to expound on the “law of sin and death” when working with others than it is to live by the “Law of Love”. Until you can live by the “Law of Love”, to profess that you know God may, indeed, be an exaggeration.

Meekness ~

1raspberryThis is another one of those fruits that Paul listed that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention. To my notion, first of all, this is not necessarily the willingness to stand still and be whipped, though that has been known to happen, it is by no means all that this concept entails. When I look at those who insist that they know G-d better than their brother, I look for a couple of things.

One of them is that a person filled with the love of the Holy Spirit will seldom insist they know G-d better than you, for there are only a few souls privy to the workings of your inner being, and they seldom have that kind of pride. The next thing I look at is whether they show the marks of having learned from the Holy Spirit. This will include Compassion, of course, but it will also include a sense of Joy, a strong peacefulness, and a willingness to learn from all other humans, and from all of their environs.

That doesn’t mean that I expect to see the kind of compassion shown by one as developed as HH Tenzin Gyatso, but it does mean I expect to see the buds of each of these holy fruits the_dalai_lamalargebeginning to appear, or that this person is in that stage of winnowing when Spirit first gets hold of us and starts clearing out the gunk we have a tendency to accrue in our lives. All of these things are included in the concept of teachability.

This is not something that is forced upon us from the outside of our souls, this is a working of Spirit deep within us that is, for lack of a better way to express it, a softening of our hearts. As we grow in the Spirit of Holy Love, we find we develop better ears, eyes, touch and taste, yes I know, you are going, WHAT?

But, most of the time, the Holy Spirit does not teach even those of us who do hear voices through that one capacity.  Much of the time, we are taught by hearing what others have to say; by the leaf that scuds across the road in front of us; and by the sharpening of our senses so that we begin to undedoveyrstand that though life doesn’t always make sense from our lowly point of view, life is always communicating with us if we are willing to take the time to pay attention. This talent for learning is something that seems to come with the touch of the Holy One.

This is why there are those who follow a path of discipline, such as one finds in Buddhism, which brings about this teachability, and there are those on other paths toward the Light that find that the teacher within is bringing about the lessons, sometimes all at once, and sometimes gently, one at a time. Each of us learning at the pace our own Spirit chooses from within, aka the touch of Spirit.

Paulism ~

11A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

These are Paul’s words to Timothy in his First letter to him. This was the first time I had become aware that the man to whom so many looked upon with veneration, was essentially a chauvanist pig.

Now, I am aware that those schooled in the church would tell me that these words and others from Paul that have so completely held the church back from progressing with the times, were uttered not out of chauvanism, but because of the times in which he operated. I was told that at the time I first asked the questions.

So, I went searching through the four gospels looking to see what Y’shua had to say about women. Interesting, he was an egalitarian, more than his upbringing would have even lead him to be. So, I don’t buy the excuses, except that the men giving them, liked what Paul had to say better than they liked Y’shua’s teachings. That is, in large part why I am not a Paulist.

There’s another incident that made me stop and think about this man whom so many adulate. In 1st Corinthians, Paul laid into the church like there was no tomorrow because they were reportedly tolerating the fellowship of a man and his two lovers, a mother and daughter, making sure that the church reckoned with the idea the even the “Pagans” did not tolerate such behavior. Yeah, I like that one. He taught a Helenized Gospel, after the pagans of Rome, not the chaste faith of the Jews, and would have folks despise the very people whose attitudes he would have them adopt in all but name when it came in fact to the traditions of his forbears.

Well, back to the story at hand, in 2nd Corinthians, after that diatribe that went on forever in the 1st letter there is a tiny phrase of half apology for being wrong, justifying the harangue as having been for their own good.

Now then, let’s discuss this “soldier for the cross” who, when walking through Athens jumped up on top of a monument raised the the unknown God and like a hawker in a circus yelled to the people “Come one come all to the greatest show on earth”. Quite different impression, the painting from the real thing, eh?

Ok, now I am sure you have the drift of why I am not a fan of Saint Paul. Of Paul a human being with many frailties, I have nothing but compassion and sympathy. He also wrote some pretty fine stuff on love, read that same book I fussed at him about above, and you will come across one of the finest passages on Godly love in existence.He wrote a lot about love throughout his letters, yet his behavior did not back up his words. I believe this is why so many Christians feel it’s OK to speak love out of one side of their mouths while torturing others out of the other side. This man was not a model of balanced humanity.

EDIT; 9.16.08

I have wondered if Paul’s intense rant against gentiles converting to Judaism in order to follow the “Christ” was that then he would lose his audience. If a gentile were to learn the Mosaic Law, he would actually learn that most of those laws had to do with living a compassionate life. The other laws that seem so harsh to us today had to do with keeping a strong sense of purity among the people of G-d.

These studies would also make the Gentiles realize that Y’shua’s teachings were actually intended to bring a mature, mystical perspective to the walk of the pilgrim. This was so that one who chose to walk such a path would see that joyful, humble service to Hashem was not so much a matter of obeying the behavioral laws, though Y’shua said and meant his listeners to understand that they were important as well, but he was teaching an inner obedience of the heart. If the gentiles Paul was preaching to had realized the main points of Y’shua’s teachings, they would not have needed Paul, and would have realized he was a lot of hot air.

He was a an ambitious and dedicated itinerant preacher, and as long as he and his teachings are treated as those of a human being, not some God appointed spokesman for all of mankind, I can tolerate his foolishness, but when you start acting as though I should model my life and my faith after his pattern, well, not this life time, and, perhaps, none in the future, either.

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