Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Praying Like Jesus

Prayed the Lord’s Prayer when I woke this morning.*

“Our Father”: Jesus teaches a way of prayer that emphasizes God is OUR's, not mainly the Father of ME, but OUR communion.

“Father” emphasizes in contrast to the non-theists—whether militant secularists or religious humanists—that the Ultimate Reality of the Cosmos is personal, loving, guiding, disciplining, and generating.

“in Heaven” seems a strong contradiction to the theologizing of so many who now emphasize the omnipresence of God. My understanding of this difficulty is Jesus thinks of God as mainly transcendent, beyond this present physical reality.

How then is God immanent? By his Spirit. For instance, in John 14:20, Jesus says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” And in Luke 3:22, Scripture states, “and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.”

Here, again, God speaks from heaven (as in Jesus’ Prayer), but his Spirit is pictured metaphorically like a dove coming “down” into this immanent world. And in Luke 4:14, the text says, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee…”

We see this reference to “spirit” on the human level as well when Paul writes to the Colossians at 2:5, “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit…”

The Bible in John 4:24 states, “God is Spirit." So I suppose, if we want to get into abstract theorizing, then God in his transcendence is “in heaven,” God in his immanence “descends on earth,” and God incarnates into humankind, present in "the Chosen One," Jesus.

But, remember, there has been 2,000 years of tempestuous, violent Christian-infighting over theological theorizing, so to me as a Friend, it seems better to speak experientially and pictorially. Besides, the abstractions almost always make Jewish and Islamic people think we are talking about 3 gods, weakening the central truth of monotheism.

Is it not better to stay with the descriptive focus of Scripture such as in the last book? Revelation speaks of “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him…and from the seven spirits (“seven-fold Spirit”).”

In most of the Bible, Ultimate Reality is described this way:

__________________________Transcendent Eternal God_______________________________

God’s Spirit


/ \

/ \

/ \

Then in the “fullness of kairos (the right or opportune time)


Into Humanity
Through Jesus
(“The Chosen One”)

/ \

/ \

By God’s Spirit into each of us,
and into our communities of individuals

This is just a pictorial of the New Testament descriptions, not any claim to ultimate invisible Truth. But it seems to make more sense than the Trinitarian creedal explanations which were esoterically theoretical and didn’t use biblical language but argued over abstract points such as whether Jesus had two natures, etc. All of that gets so complicated, confusing, and contradictory, and makes no sense in human terms.

Besides, of what practical ethical difference did it (does it) make whether Jesus was (is) essentially one Greek term or another, terms most people can’t even pronounce, let alone understand?!

Terms that many scholars can't even agree as to what they originally meant. And for which Christians in the past slaughtered other Christians! And for which Christians still verbally attack each other. Terms so confusing that Jewish and Islamic people think we aren’t monotheistic. Terms at the popular level of Christianity that have led to superstition contrary to Scriptural descriptions.

Back to Jesus’ model prayer:-)

Isn’t it odd that Jesus hasn’t taught his committed followers to pray? Instead one of them speaks up when Jesus himself finishes praying and asks to be taught to pray like John the Baptist has already taught his committed followers.

Why didn't Jesus start out at the very beginning to teach his disciples how to pray? Did he assume they already knew how? Or was he intentionally waiting for them to ask?

Or did he want their prayers to God to be made spontaneously like his own? Maybe he intentionally, at first, modeled how to pray.

* Meaningful in a way that openness praying and meditation haven’t been in the past few months, and definitely more meaningful than my daily, nearly, constant petitionary crying out to God. I admit I feel much more like the Psalmist in Psalms 88 than George Fox or John Woolman or John Wesley…though such leaders, also, had their “dark nights of the soul.”

Fox spoke of “an ocean of darkness” that covered him. At one point in his life he lay in bed for days, oppressed! And late in his life, during a despairing time, Wesley wrote in a private letter that he had never truly loved God!!

But God loves us even in our doubts and our despairing…

In the Light of God,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Nature of God's Glory versus Some Protestant Theologies

Not that this brief reflection on God's glory summarizes the whole nature of God (What finite being could do that except some theologians?), but surely this meditation brings out the heart of God as our father, our friend, our lover, our savior…*

God is patient, is kind; God is not jealous; God does not brag and is not puffed up, does not act unbecomingly, does not seek God’s own, is not provoked, does not take into account wrong suffered, rejoices not over wrong, but rejoices as the Truth—covers, trusts, endures:

God never falls.

*A welcome alternative to the wrong emphasis by many famous Christians proclaiming that all human evil actions, natural disasters, sickness and suffering are all planned for the glory and pleasure of God, etc., as if God is a self-centered, jealous tyrant.

Nothing could be further from the Truth.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, December 9, 2011

All is not calm, all is not bright...

All is not calm, all is not bright…
One of my favorite hymns from childhood is “Silent Night” by the German priest Josef Mohr written in (or maybe before) 1816.

Needless to say, northern Europe in the early 1800’s was neither calm nor bright, nor holy, nor at peace, nor filled with love’s pure light, nor redeemed by grace.
There was a high infant mortality rate, crop failures, ravaging disease, and horrendous slaughter. Europe had had almost continuous, calamitous war for 25 years! No “calm” there.

Napoleonic troops and anti-French troops had ravaged back and forth. 558,000 French-lead soldiers died during the campaign into Russia. In 1813, over 600,000 soldiers fought in one battle alone at Leipzig, Saxony. As many as 110,000 were killed or wounded.

Approximately 1 million or more civilian died from the war. Total war deaths reached between 3 to 6 million! Then Germany as a confederation was created from parts of the former Holy Roman Empire, however, German nationalists assassinated leaders…

Speaking of assassinations, that takes us back to the time of Jesus’s birth in Roman Palestine under Herod the Great in about 4-3 B.C..

Not a time of love, peace and light either.

Nor was Britain at the birth of the Quaker movement (so dear to my heart). Strangely, not even the early Quakers waged peace, contrary to Friends histories and popular understanding! Many of the Quakers fought in the great slaughter of the English Civil War.

George Fox, who would later emphasize the peaceful way of Jesus, at one point urged the Puritan killer Oliver Cromwell to carry forth his holy war all the way to Rome!! “Let thy soldiers go forth…that thou may rock the nations as a cradle.”

Not at all like the cradled-manger of Jesus.

So much for “silent night, holy night”…

Instead, even with the Friends of Jesus, the Children of Light, we have an "ocean of darkness" at first…

Nor was America peaceful in the time of my own childhood, when in a small Nebraska village, we sang this beautiful carol, shining the God’s light out into the overwhelming darkness of fighting and killing…

Consider this powerful “Silent Night” meditative song by Simon and Garfunkel:


What a paradoxical contrast between the way of Jesus and the, too often, horrific way of us.

May we truly witness of the love and peace of God in this often Christ-less, unholy season.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox