Oh Comma, Where Art Thou?

Oh, Comma, Where Art Thou?

Life changing decisions can be made as a result of how one reads texts. At least it was, in my case….

Christians are to derive joy from their association with and walk with Christ, but as a Christian, or non-Christian, for that matter, who is one spiritually grounded, one eventually realizes that the trek in this life can suffer from challenges and pain.

So it is with a Christian’s walk with Jesus, which includes a walk to the cross, which includes carrying the cross, which includes suffering with those we love, as well as joy with those we love, including Jesus.

I am reminded of my formational period of Christian conversion, a time around 18 or 19 years old when my belief system was being changed and formed into the person I eventually became. At that time, I was attending Samford University, a private Baptist college in Birmingham, AL. This was in 1967 or 1968, soon after the Civil Rights Movement was active in that city. It was also during the time of the Vietnam War, and my foundational beliefs in Peace and Nonviolence, which I hold to this day, were being formed as a part of my conversion experience.

One of the classes I was taking was, I believe, a survey of the New Testament taught by Dr. Aubrey Lunsford, if I recall his name correctly. It came time to talk about Heaven and Hell, the cross, and such subjects. Dr. Lunsford believed that upon death one immediately goes to heaven, into the presence of God. At that time I was beginning to believe in a doctrine called “Soul Sleep,” which essentially states that at death, the soul returns to God, and is resurrected at a future time along with everyone else who has died, then some go to live with God in his Kingdom, and some go to Hell, which was in my view at that time, to suffer annihilation, not to cruelly suffer for all eternity, as was the predominate belief then.

Dr. Lunsford and I were discussing such matters in class one day, and as proof of his belief that one goes immediately to heaven when one dies, he presented the Scripture, Luke 23: 39-43:

39.)”And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If you be Christ, save yourself and us. 40.) But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Do not you fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation? 41.) And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man has done nothing amiss. 42.) And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. 43And Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you, Today shall you be with me in paradise.”

I knew exactly where he was going with this, and piped up in class that there were no commas in the original Greek text and the Scripture should actually be read as “Truly I say to you today, you shall be with me in paradise.” Dr. Lunsford knew there were no commas in the original text, and it seemed he had never heard such reasoning back then, in 1967 or 1968. My reading at that time would put the resurrection of the body at some time in the future, which it may be, but what about the Spirit that returns to God at death? What about the Soul, and when it returns to God? Will it be awake, or will it be asleep? Dr. Lunsford did not know what to say back then, and my opinion was not changed, nor was his. Nowadays, one can easily research the comma matter using the internet and make one’s own decision.

In conjunction with how one reads this verse, and where on places the comma, I would like to bring up this question, “When does the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Jesus, begin?”. Did it begin immediately after Jesus’ death on the cross? Does it begin when Jesus returns? Is the Kingdom in us now, or among us now, or in the future, or both?

How we read things and were we put commas can drastically change our lives. When do we want to enter God’s Kingdom, and to be with Jesus? Do we want it to be today? Do we want it to be immediately after we die? Do we just want to sleep for some intermediate number of years, a thousand or so? Do we not want any of this and say there is no God, no resurrection, no Kingdom, no hell, no way to be with Jesus, not today, tomorrow, at death, after death, and just leave me alone, thank you?

Oh comma, where art thou?

Grace and Peace,

John Cooper

Bare Feet


On my trip back to Illinois this week, “purportedly” to celebrate the fourth of July, 2015, which would be better spent celebrating the Kingdom of God, Wink, my aunt Joan McCulley, and I trekked to the Amish country in Arthur, Illinois, as is our habit on trips up north, where I was born and raised. We went to shop at Beachy’s, an Amish grocery store, and at another Amish Salvage Store, and I purchased some tools at an Amish tool store to help replace some that were stolen…etc.

This reflection is not about buying things, food, tools, or whatever one needs. This reflection is about bare feet. Bare feet, lightning bugs, corn and soybeans growing silently, horses hooves clock, clocking along the road, Amish believers in peace and nonviolence, and a God who loves. That is what this reflection is about, a portrayal of the Kingdom of God…..and bare feet.

It is about little girls, young women, little boys, all in touch with God’s beautiful creation, dressed in pale blue, a peaceful color, silently walking on God’s earth with bare feet. I see no reason men cannot participate in bare feet, shod in the Gospel of Peace…

When is the last time you saw people walking with bare feet? When is the last time you walked with bare feet, with mud and perhaps horse or cow manure squishing up between your toes? Bare feet….. I used to do it. You can do it too….. Bare feet touching God’s green earth, bare feet touching the bicycle pedal as I witnessed today a young Amish girl of 8 or 9 years old, riding her bicycle to the Amish grocery store with a little wagon behind to purchase some needed goods from the store for her family an haul it back, in bare feet, we smiled at each other, knowingly, believing in my imagination, and hopefully in hers, that God is in us, in all creation, and the Kingdom of God is coming, hopefully soon, very soon.

Bare feet, a family in line at the grocery store, all excepting the male, (whom I am certain was working,) mother in shoes, four or five little girls in line behind her, all in bare feet.

Given that there is a God in heaven, a God who loves all mankind and all his creation, I really and truly believe we all need to get out of our fine clothes, suits and ties, military uniforms, shoes and such pretentious “adornment” and get down to bare feet with each other, touching each other, smiling at each other, looking each other in the eye, letting our bare feet feel the earth God gave us all to dress and to keep.

Do some walking together with each other, friends and enemies, in bare feet. It is good, it is good for the soul to walk on bare feet!



Grace & Peace,

John Cooper

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene

Today is Resurrection Sunday, Easter Sunday. Our St. Ignatius reflections today focused on John 20 and the resurrection event.
My personal focus today was on all of this in relationship to Mary Magdalene. What I write is mainly out of my imagination. I think when one dies it would be good to have at least one person who really loves you, more would be better. I imagine Mary Magdalene loved Jesus the most, perhaps even more than Jesus’ mother, Mary, or even more than the Apostle John. It was a different kind of love for each of these people.

Mary Magdalene is said to be a sinner, but we are all sinners and need to know how big of sinners we are, just like Mary Magdalene. Some say she was a prostitute, but there is no evidence of that being true that I know of. There are other ways to sin. Mary was rich. She gave lots of money to support Jesus. She loved Jesus. Jesus was broke. All He had worked for all his life physically was gone. He had some good years too, and had money at times in his life when some wealthy people around Capernaum would hire Him. One time Mary hired to make a chest of drawers for her clothing. She had some nice clothes. Some people said she should have worn more of them sometimes, but she wanted to look good to the men and be compelling to them. She was about 30 years old, a beautiful woman with long red hair. Oh, the chest Jesus built had dovetail drawer joints, hand cut ones too. The drawers opened smoothly on wood runners one would put a little wax on occasionally to make them slide easily. The air would whoosh out just right as one closed the drawers. Jesus always remembered making that chest for Mary. She paid him well and gave him a hug when delivered it to her home. Jesus loved Mary.

After Jesus died, Mary cried all night. It was the Sabbath and she knew she should be sleeping and resting, but she just couldn’t do it. All she had ever believed in Jesus and other “religious” stuff and how He said one should overcome the evil and sin she had done, and overcoming evil with good, which to her was the Goodness and presence of Jesus in her life had been taken away.

Mary did not know what to do. Mary was a “true believer”. It was cool that Sunday morning and Mary got up very early, having tossed and turned all night, and slid out one of the drawers in the chest Jesus built for her as she gently wept in the subdued light of the blood moon that year. There aren’t many years the moon looks like that, but the Jewish sages had talked about blood moons before and Mary wondered if maybe God had caused something to make the moon look that way, just because Jesus had died. She put on more clothes than normal, heavier ones, but not her best because she would be out in a garden area close to where the tomb was. Most everybody knows the story about Mary and how she went to the tomb and the angels were there and the tomb was empty. Jesus was not there. I read it again and I cried as Mary realized it was Jesus, really, alive again and she loved him so much and hugged him again, a long time, just like when Jesus built the chest of drawers. Jesus had to tell her to let loose, it was getting too emotional for both of them. But all of us who know Jesus want to cling to him too…

Most everybody knows about these things; her story has been told and retold for thousands of years. I am just filling in some details of how it could have been, how I imagine it and how Mary ran with long hair flowing, and danced as she skipped along the Judean hills to go to tell Peter. Mary was the very first Evangelist, telling this good and wonderful news. A woman was not supposed to be a witness back then, but she did it anyway because Jesus, whom she loved, told her to do it. “Go and tell” Jesus said.

Let us go and tell it too…


John Cooper

One Cup

One Cup

In asking for the grace to understand and appreciate the Eucharist’s as Jesus’ self-gift, my meditations today were on Matt. 26: 26-29.  This is where Jesus instituted the symbols that are elements of this observance.

“Take, eat, this is my body”. ..….

“Drink of it, all of you.”…..

Jesus stated “this is the blood of the covenant”.

I thought of ways people are remembered after they die, tombstones, pictures, stories, buildings, etc., but none of these things last like the living symbols and an ordinance or Sacrament Jesus gave us by which to remember Him.  I thought back to Psalm 22, which has been on my mind this week.  The Psalm which starts “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, this Psalm was on Jesus’ mind too as he died on the cross.  Some think, and I have heard Fr. Joseph Tetlow say, that Jesus recited the whole Psalm on the cross.


The final verses of this Psalm are (v. 30-31).

“Posterity shall serve Him;
men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation,

and proclaim His deliverance to a people yet unborn,

that He has wrought it.”

I do not think these symbols, the Eucharist; this Sacrament should be closed to anyone.  It should be shared with all who want and need Spirituality, and want to hear of this living story.  The Eucharist is exactly how Christians have told Jesus’ story as a living memorial for thousands of years to the coming generations.  Also I think there should be one cup, and we all drink out of it.  I am about tired of those little plastic Protestant types of cups :) :)      Oh, and for me, make that “real wine” :) :)


In addition to the above, which was a part of my St. Ignatius, 19th Annotation, Exercises today, I think these thoughts fit into the theme of Peace…  I understand that Islam is a religion of Peace, that it is really bad if a Muslim does not show hospitality to a stranger or a friend.  One of my Muslim friends, a Sunni, (one of those Pharisee types,) in fact, came with me to eat at a Hooligan’s , a Mediterranean restaurant here in Tuscaloosa, and brought his own tea, and cups, in a little kit with a thermos to keep it hot, and we drank together, and ate together.  He even attempted to evangelize me to the Muslim way.  I appreciated that he cared for me…    If it were up to me, which mostly it isn’t, but it used to be, and I were serving the Eucharist, I would offer the bread and the wine to him, but warn him first, if you take out of this One Cup, unworthily, you might die…  I think he would respect my beliefs, as I respected his, and we would continue to be friends, not enemies…


Love & Peace,


John Cooper

My Sin

My Sin

Before I get going on my reflections for this morning, day 166 of my St. Ignatius exercises, let me tell you about what happened to me last night when I woke up one time. I realized I had sinned. Let me tell you about it and confess it…..

It was on Monday, after I had gone to my Chiropractor, Dr. David Hitt, on a special visit because my back had been killing me and I had numbness in my right leg, and still do for that matter. I went into the post office to get my mail and on the way back to my truck noticed an older looking slightly blue, faded out car. I walked by it and suddenly the door popped open and a woman, perhaps a widow, or at least she had no husband with her, popped her head out in the cold air. I think I noticed a little child in a car seat in the back. Oh no, I immediately thought, I am about to be scammed, as she smiled a toothy smile that indicated she could use some dental work.

“Could I get a jump?” she asked with eyes looking up pleadingly. In my haste, thinking I was to be taking it easy according to my Chiropractor, I felt a sense of relief that it was not money she was asking for, but out of my mouth came the words, “I can’t do that”, as I continued to walk on. “Oh well, thanks anyway”, she politely said. I felt a little bad about it, hoping someone else would help her but I did not. I lied. I could have and probably would have if she had perhaps not surprised me, or had been a little more presentable, or perhaps had a lower cut in her dress or some other way. I sinned and will have more to say about it later.

Today in my Ignatian reflections I chose to meditate on Luke 21 verses 1 through 4, the text you will recognize about Jesus watching the poor widow give two copper coins into the Temple Treasury. That was all she had, Jesus said, and that had given more than all those rich folks who gave out of their plentitude.

Well, I got to thinking I had done something similar a couple of times in the past, but not really, because it was not really everything I had, but it was a sacrifice to me. Then “DING”, I realized the connection between my waking in the middle of the night in guilt, worried about my sin against the poor person in the car who only wanted a jump, not everything I had. Had she asked me for money too, as I suspected she would, I should have given her some. This woman was the Temple. Jesus was living in her and Jesus was watching me.

I was given a gift of repentance this morning as I confessed my sin and I confess it to you. Let me quote below:

“If you’re going to care about the fall of the sparrow, you can’t pick and choose who’s going to be the sparrow. It’s everybody.”

Madeleine L’Engle

Father, forgive me, for I have sinned. Also, I will be watching for this same person again. Maybe I can apologize, and listen to her story… Let me, let her, tell me, her story…

Most of my writings on this blog site are promoting Peace and Nonviolence. Actually, this one does too. Confession and self-purification is a principle of Peace with ourselves and others, of not doing violence to ourselves and others in that we should confess our sins to one another. We should do it as Nations, as people groups, religious systems, and as individuals to set ourselves free of the interior black holes in our lives that close in on themselves if we do not.


Grace & Peace,


John Cooper

A Christian Response to Beheading

“A Christian Response to Beheading”

What have I done to you?

I love you…

I believe there is good in you…

Eli, Eli, Allah, Abba, Father, what have I done to this person..

Please forgive their sin…

We will meet again…

I am just a seed that will grow,

My blood, out of the ground, again…


My Yoke

My Yoke

Today, as I come to understand Christ’s way of living for and in me, and to discern what I am to do in the face of a life transition, my prayers were focused upon Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentile and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.”

As a former Sabbath keeper, on the 7th day of the week, Saturday, that is, for many years, I finally came about 20 years ago, to understand the spiritual meaning of this text from a New Covenant perspective. In my St. Ignatian spiritual exercises today, I believe I understand even more of its spiritual meaning. I do not criticize anyone who is a literal Sabbath keeper but I find deep meaning in this text and deeper meaning for those trying to discern God’s will for our lives.

I feel it is not so much that we select Saturday, the Sabbath, as a day in which to rest only for ourselves,,, but that we actually come to Jesus to find our rest from the burdens and desolations placed upon us by this world’s system, not to do just nothing for a particular 24 hour period of time, but to put on a light yoke, which is meant for us to work with, not rest and do nothing with for the sake of the Kingdom of God. From Jesus’ example we do actual work on the Sabbath, good works, as we do every day of our lives. For that matter, doing bad works is never prescribed for us to do at any time.

A part of pouring out our lives is to discern what Jesus is teaching us, what Jesus wants us to learn from him for the purpose of becoming his disciple and becoming his apprentice, meaning we are actually to practice and to exercise in the work he calls us to do. We find Jesus is gentile, and Jesus is humble in spirit. I think as we discern spirits we should expect to work in the parameters of this gentleness, nonviolence, and peacefulness which is a part of our rest in Jesus. I think we should expect to have some of Jesus’ humility also rub upon us, so to speak, as we do our work in companionship on the other side of the yoke; that is, Jesus on one side of the yoke, working with us, and we on the other side, working with him.

I think each of us working together are working in a double yoke, not a single yoke. As we figuratively go down the field, plowing just a small furrow, not necessarily any great and wonderful work, others with less spiritual eyes can see us on just one side of this yoke, while the other side stays, against the laws of physics, at 90 degrees, perpendicular to the path in which we walk. I think the reason for this, as we do what is humanly impossible in our lives as we work in the Kingdom of God and the fields of that Kingdom in which we are given the Grace of discernment to plow, is that there is an invisible man on the other side of our yoke, a hidden man, that physical eyes cannot see, that can be seen only with spiritual eyes of Faith. It is Jesus on the other side who keeps our yokes straight. It is that hidden man in us, Jesus, who lives in us, the king of that Kingdom within us. Wherever Jesus lives, there is a Kingdom, but not of this world. Not a Kingdom that can be seen…. Yet…. But that Kingdom can be discerned, felt, experienced, and enjoyed today.

It is not the great things we are to that would wear us out, but the light loads, maybe just looking up into the eyes of another, in place of looking down, as we walk along the paths we are called to walk in our lives, looking into the eyes of a downcast person, a poor person, a mourning person, a person who is poor in spirit, and perhaps adding just words, like Good Morning, or I love you… That is enough of a load to carry sometimes….

Grace and Peace,

John Cooper


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