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UnRavelings… J. Wayne Yawn

  • November 14, 2017
Saturday was the Veterans Day holiday. It is about military patriotism as NEEDS and WANTS. The two can get confused. We are each born NEEDING certain things. Then we learn to WANT certain things. Ice cream as food is a NEED but a flavor is a WANT.

Veteran military patriotism is about NEEDS but can easily become about WANTS; as when a president WANTS Congress to declare war—or more common these days just makes an executive decision to go to war. It is said to be in the name of national security, but when examined closely it is to acquire a WANTED resource or financial advantage in the name of the populous.


But military patriotism is about meeting the NEED of a threat to the U.S. Mission Statement called the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these Truths to be self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The U.S. Constitution is our Operating Manual. It is how we go about achieving our Mission Statement. A military is needed to defend the ideals of our Mission Statement against external foreign threats. Our Constitution operating manual is how we defend against internal threats to our Mission Statement. For external threats a military draft is typically used.


Assuring lasting peace from within and hopefully from outsiders is thought to be accomplished with the attitude that soldiers display toward one another. It might be called Compassionate Companionship. They are willing to do anything, even die, to save a buddy. It is often indicated by surviving buddies getting together after a war to “check in” and be WITH one another. Likewise, survivors often find themselves at buddies’ gravesites or at Memorials for their deceased buddies. It is a show of Compassionate Companionship as the Divine way of relating assumed in our Mission Statement.


But such patriotism shouldn’t be limited to military veterans. It should include those whom our founding fathers called one another: “Citizen”! They assumed citizens constantly struggle against only preferring individual WANTS over the NEEDS that their Mission Statement identified. This struggle is for the NEEDS that result in human integrity and authenticity as individuals and as a society. We go to war when the NEEDS of our Mission Statement are externally threatened because it threatens our integrity both individually and as a society. Since we are willing to die for these, doesn’t that mean the way of life in our Mission Statement is stronger than physical death? Isn’t this why Jesus lived and died? These are some “unraveling” thoughts so we can all be patriotic veterans. Join me! Well?


  • November 7, 2017

Terrorism either brings out the arrogance as in the terrorist OR it brings out humility, compassion (i.e. REAL existence or authenticity) in people. At least one politician and one police authority promised “we will fix this!” I’m sorry, but that is arrogance that breeds suspicion not confidence! People well know that all such violent events can’t be completely stopped. Such paradise ended with the Garden of Eden and God making intimacy possible by creating humans as FREE to choose!


But we need HOPE in the midst of horror! It comes from people, one-on-one deciding to use compassion as their self-controlling faithful Holy Spirit attitudes of patience, kindness, generosity and gentleness (our current Pentecost Season theme) rather than one-on-one competition. Which of the two attitudes lead to the most humane and thus socially just and free existence?


I love competition! But as “Bobby” Kennedy was heard to say: “Just because you love something doesn’t make it right!” Just because you love your current interpretation of God doesn’t make it right! Just because you love having a rifle, handgun or assault weapon doesn’t make it right or good for you to have. The goodness of any weapon (for that matter, anything) that you love depends on whether you choose to use it with the above attitudes of compassion.


Compassion was the attitude recently chosen by many New Yorkers immediately after the truck attack. One man trying to find his own son “scooped up” children being let out of school to get back inside; yes, even the policeman using a gun to incapacitated the terrorist; then New Yorkers took children “trick or treating” instead of hiding. Life is stronger than death and its arrogant victimizers.


You see, the Exodus writer was correct about God at the BURNING BUSH when he had God answer Moses’ request for God’s name, with “I AM” existence (being itself) that makes possible your dreams. Dreams are like a form of fire that warms, but does not consume that which fuels it. This is unlike the fire of human material and emotional WANTS that can consume an individual! Likewise, the WANTS of greed and power consumed the New York and the Texas church killer. But is existence like the “fire” of meeting human NEEDS that doesn’t consume you (unless you meet NEEDS only for the external reward)? “Fire” that warms and nurtures you internally makes you feel authentic, that which the Bible calls Eternal in quality of life! 


But we say, “I am just one!” But you ARE one! And you can choose self-control by compassionate attitudes even in competition with others and with yourself. Jesus was just one! And, well, you know what he did! So?


  • October 31, 2017

Sunday, I reminded all that we are born NEEDY, but quickly learn to rely on WANTS. We are born to cry to signal our NEED for air, food, nurture, cleaning, etc. But we soon learn to WANT or prefer particular air (smells), food (taste), touching, and degree of cleanliness. From then on we struggle as we walk through life’s grocery store being tempted by what we NEED versus what we WANT that we imagine would be better. Jesus picked up on this in his conversations about the WANT of material things to make a life versus spiritual NEEDS to make a life—the eternal quality of life.


Our fellow congregant Sally Norris has made news of late by raising funds for Church World Service’s Crop Walk to address the NEED of world hunger. She has been asking for funds for nine years. Recently Sally has shared her surprise and joy about how people have been generous. People have been calling her to make gifts because they had not heard from her this year and even increasing their usual donation. She is excited and wants to share her amazement at people’s generosity and self initiative to give without being asked.


Something seems to be motivating people to give to meet the NEED of hunger without her calling or pleading. She still does that, but more are calling her. She is amazed and wondering what is changing to make people initiate the contact. I wondered with her if it has anything to do with people learning and remembering over the years of her soliciting, the inner feeling of satisfaction of doing the “right” or “most humane” thing. And they miss that feeling and want to experience it again. Could it be a matter of personal experience?


The NEED to feel authentic as a human being is a powerful draw. The Bible teaches we are “wired” with that need from birth. It is what we cry for from the very first breath. But, our society of mostly adopted WANTS begins to silence the dominance of our NEEDS. And life becomes less fulfilling, genuine and less authentic. Not that all WANTS and at every level are bad. I WANT ice cream! But we tend to live on WANTS basis rather than on NEEDS basis. And real life gets turned upside down.


It was about our fulfilling our NEEDS that Jesus was all about! He wasn’t about creating an institution called a church or temple, but about people living to fill NEEDS and thus creating a society of church. The motivation wasn’t a better afterlife, but an authentic feeling from being a real human being here and now. “I am the God not of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:32) Could it be that Sally’s amazement is at the resurrection of the original way of living by NEEDS rather than by WANTS: wants that corrupted Temple leaders who crucified Jesus? Are people choosing resurrection? Well?


  • October 24, 2017

Lately, there seems to have been more requests for prayer because of mass tragedies. This stimulated my thinking about prayer. I wonder, is prayer to alert God or to alert humans? Since God already knows our NEEDS.


Examine the model Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Jesus established a new non-competitive prayer model of prayer. It is a model not to get God to do FOR humans (as if God and Man are in opposition), but as a way of being collaboratively WITH God in both mind and spirit where God is always located, IN human NEEDS! So, look behind the words of the Prayer and you will find human NEEDS. First, the NEED of the designed way of relating to one another (God’s kingdom order); then of food; then of forgiveness because of the NEED created by humans acting “less than” as designed; in times of trial, the NEED to be rescued from un-Holy Spirit ATTITUDES. As in our relationship with God, we humans also tend to relate initially with competition rather than with collaboration. After all, we are descendants of Adam and Eve who initially related with God and with each other, competitively!


If Jesus’ Modeled Prayer is on basic human NEEDS, let us consider thinking of prayer collaboratively as God demonstrated by coming as a human to be WITH humans collaboratively, rather than competitively with humans. God came in Jesus to be WITH us, rather than be seen as DO FOR us. So, let us try thinking of prayer as mentally and verbally (or thinking “out loud”) about human NEEDS, instead of prayer being a list of human WANTS like on a Santa Clause Christmas WANT list. I’m suggesting that prayer be thought of as a listening to God, as in Jesus, about the subject of human NEEDS, just as Jesus hinted in the Model Prayer. In order that we might also let God speak to us (or clear our busy minds) to think of how to most humanely address basic human NEEDS of people in current, or so called, “Real Time”.


The “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) is even organized to be commentary on each of the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes (5:1-13) are summary statements describing the authentic, eternal-quality life. The commentary on the Beatitude in 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see (experience) God” is 6:1-18, which includes the Model Prayer. The “pure in heart” are those who relate to one another and to God WITH hearts of collaboration rather than hearts of competition as Adam and Eve, and all humans since, have tended to initially relate with God. What we want versus God’s wants! So, wouldn’t prayer as pondering human NEEDS, verbally and silently, with God be more consistent with a pure, unpolluted heart than is begging for what one WANTS, like a child on Santa’s knee? Wouldn’t Jesus’ model for prayer be more listening silently and verbally (thinking “out loud”) to God over NEEDS? Just unraveling! Well?


  • October 17, 2017

Walking from my car to the gathering site on Lake Accotink for the annual Crop Walk for World Hunger, a gentleman from a sister church assumed walking in step with me. Recognizing me as a pastor he asked “right out of the blue” the question I have heard too many times to count: “How’s your church attendance?”


Feeling a bit playful but also theological from the week’s study for the next day’s sermon on Jesus’ comment to the Temple leaders who were soon to kill him: “Many are the called, but few are the ‘chosen’” (like you Temple Leaders think yourself to be ‘chosen’). I responded deadpan “We have hundreds!” Then I added, “At least we have more than I can personally convince to routinely be aware and admit that they regularly act Holy. For the ‘many called’ are those they encounter daily addressing human NEEDS at work, with family, neighbors and with strangers; that they, too, meet the needs of all. Those, too, are ‘in’ church! Then I returned to the present: “Just as that same NEEDINESS of hunger brings us here for this Crop Walk. And since God is Biblically characterized by the NEED “triggered” attitude of Agape-type love, it is our spiritual reason for being here to awaken the hundreds in church to Jesus’ Divine spirit motivating them.” As we kept walking toward our destination, he graciously said, “Good answer, thanks!” But I already felt thanked and fulfilled inside, because it was Jesus’ answer and my joy of fulfillment!


Suddenly, I thought I had the spiritual answer to the question I’ve heard since before I entered seminary in the 1960’s when I accompanied the pastor of the church I served as Youth Pastor, to the weekly Jacksonville, Florida Baptist Pastor’s breakfast every Monday morning. The repeated question of most pastors to one another was, “How many attended your church yesterday?” The atmosphere was like a corporate meeting with success determined by the number of bodies as potential sales. The size of the crowd determined their high or low esteem and competition!


It was the size of the Jesus crowds that interested the Hebrew religious leaders. The Jesus crowds intimidated and made them jealous. But to Jesus, the crowds that followed him were because of his compassion to meet their physical and spiritual NEEDS. But most of the Temple leaders only “saw” the numbers and not the compassion to which God called them, world-wide (Ex 19:5-6). We too tend to be attracted to the magic of multiplying seven loaves and two fish for 5,000, rather than to the compassion Jesus taught to use the food they each brought with them. The size of church attendance was those who met NEEDS with compassion, rather than just the measly number of bodies in the Temple! Jesus met NEEDS, he didn’t count heads! Will this awaken us to the true church attendance? Let us repent and awaken! Well? 

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