The Seed is Sown

The Seed is Sown

(Matthew 9:32-38)

2016 Translation

 

            Jesus went out to conduct an assessment of the state of religion in his domain.  He went to all the churches, knocked on their doors, the Jewish Synagogues, the Baptist ones, the Catholic ones, the non-denominational ones, and the Islamic Mosques too.  He went to all of them in every town he could and met great big crowds of people who were looking for someone to lead them and to be President, but they were uncomfortable with all the choices available.  Jesus talked to them about an entirely different type of governmental system, one where there is no support for military systems, all the swords have been put up excepting some relics in museums, and the money that used to be spent on war is used to take care of sick people, to heal them, and to feed the hungry, build up hospitals and day care centers.  In this Kingdom, they use bricks and stones from walls torn down that used to separate people one from another.  Another great thing about this new political system that Jesus taught about, which he called “The Kingdom of God,” is that money was spent caring for the refugees of the old types of governmental systems who had no home or food because their jobs in the country where they lived and worked in factories making weapons of war and destruction had been done demolished.

Jesus really cared about these crowds and the refugees that were going to church in the churches he visited.  Jesus’ idea was that these people had been troubled and abandoned by the entire religious systems where they went to church every Saturday.  Jesus taught they needed to be harvested, along with those who do not go to church, like one harvests wheat.  Jesus prayed that more Mexicans would come and help in the harvest.  The Mexicans could see with Hispanic eyes which are very good and picking out grain from the field and separating the wheat from the chaff.  Jesus liked the Mexicans and anyone else who wanted to be a part of his harvest.  Jesus often thought about his illegal alien cousin, Ruth, the Moabitist, who was very good help in the harvest too.  This was way back before Jesus was born, but he heard all about it from his family history which his mother, Mary told him.

I think part of what Jesus is telling us here is that these religious systems of all kinds, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and others, are not all that bad.  After all, Jesus is telling us to go to the “harvest” for the Kingdom, not to plant the seed.  The seed has already been planted in these churches, It just needs to grow and be fed, and then be harvested.  He asks us to do the harvesting, not the calling, not the sowing.

Because of this great need for the harvest, Jesus brought workers for the Kingdom from Africa too, because people in Africa do not have so many TVs and have time to study the Sacred Scriptures.  In some countries people watch more TV than they do praying for the harvest and praying for peace, as Jesus asked.  One has a tendency to pray more when it is a life and death situation.  So, Jesus brought in a bunch of black Catholic priests from Africa to help with the harvest, and He even sent them across the sea into the united States.  They are good Priests, and they did not mind going to little towns either.  I saw one in Greenville, IL this past weekend.  I also saw one in a big city, Birmingham, AL, not too long ago.  I think these black priests must be everywhere.  Also those Mexican workers are everywhere.  They are the nearly the only ones who want to work in the harvest.  The Amish want to work too and are very good people, believing in Jesus and all of that.  The Amish love peace and the Kingdom of God too and hate warfare and killing.  But Amish cannot do much in the world because they go about in horses and buggies and like keeping things simple.  But, isn’t that what Jesus is asking us to do?  To just keep it simple, that is, to love one another, and to get out into the fields and bring in the harvest?  After all, He has already sown the seed, his very image, in every man and woman, and he is the one who makes this seed grow, not us.

 

Let’s just do it.. It is just that simple…

 

Grace & Peace,

 

John Cooper

 

 

 

Little Boy

Luke 7: 11-17

2016 Version

A PRAYER OF IMAGINATION

Little Boy

After a little while, Jesus went to a town called Nain with His apprentices and a great big crowd following Him.  Nain is a town just off the beach in Greece and a little dead boy had just washed up on the beach.  There was a war going on in Syria and his mother and the little boy were fleeing the war because the father had been killed by a bombing raid on a hospital.  The little boy drowned but the mother just barely made it to the shore alive.  They were having a funeral for the little boy who was the woman’s only son.  The little boy was all she had left on earth.  She had spent every penny she had on having the little wood casket made.  She had no money for flowers.

Jesus saw the funeral procession and the woman crying and Jesus cried too.  It just is not right, Jesus muttered in between tears as He went up to the coffin and felt the smooth wood.  The coffin was 5/4” thick cypress.  Jesus was a carpenter and He had made some similar to this one before.  It had hand cut dovetail joints.  This was like the coffin Pope John Paul II was buried in, but a much smaller one and this one was square, not trapezoid.

Even though tears were coming out of Jesus eyes, He told the woman, “Don’t cry”, and as He opened up the lid of the coffin, He said, “Little Boy, get up, I tell you”.  The little boy got up and started talking and Jesus helped him get out of the coffin, holding his little body in His arms he and gave the little boy back to his mother.

Everybody was filled with awe and they praised God, even though not all of them were Christians.   Some of these refugees were Muslims and some were Christians too, but they all praised God, “A great prophet has appeared among us” they said.  “God has come to save His people”.

They put the whole story up on the internet, and someone recorded it with their cell phone and put it on You Tube for all to see just how much Jesus loved the little boy and all the refugees for that matter.  Because of this mystical and mighty event, the whole world sustained from war for 49 days.

 

John Cooper

 

Peaceful Thoughts

Peaceful Thoughts

As a matter partially of time and chance this past week, I stopped by Panera Bread at a time of the day I would not normally be there because I was on my home to pick up a check out of my home office. I noticed as I sat down a Muslim man in the back of the restaurant. I have had several conversations with this man and his friend, Sammy, also a Muslim, when I used to go by Starbucks on the way to work early in the morning. (Since we were given a Keurig coffee machine, my Starbucks visits are virtually nil.) I noticed him sitting in the back of the restaurant in what appeared to be deep thought or meditation, so I did not greet him. After several minutes he came by me on the way apparently back from getting a drink refill and he asked my, knowing my beliefs in Peace and Nonviolence, this question:

“Have you had any Peaceful thoughts lately?”

“Yes, I have,” I said, and invited him to sit down with me at my table. I got out my small Samsung tablet and opened my You Version Bible App up to the place already in the memory, which I reflected on just the day before. I quote it below from Philippians 4:

1 And so, my most beloved and most desired brothers, my joy and my crown: stand firm in this way, in the Lord, most beloved.
2 I ask Euodia, and I beg Syntyche, to have the same understanding in the Lord.
3 And I also ask you, as my genuine companion, to assist those women who have labored with me in the Gospel, with Clement and the rest of my assistants, whose names are in the Book of Life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, rejoice.
5 Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is near.
6 Be anxious about nothing. But in all things, with prayer and supplication, with acts of thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.
7 And so shall the peace of God, which exceeds all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Concerning the rest, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is chaste, whatever is just, whatever is holy, whatever is worthy to be loved, whatever is of good repute, if there is any virtue, if there is any praiseworthy discipline: meditate on these.
9 All the things that you have learned and accepted and heard and seen in me, do these. And so shall the God of peace be with you.
10 Now I rejoice in the Lord exceedingly, because finally, after some time, your feelings for me have flourished again, just as you formerly felt. For you had been preoccupied.
11 I am not saying this as if out of need. For I have learned that, in whatever state I am, it is sufficient.
12 I know how to be humbled, and I know how to abound. I am prepared for anything, anywhere: either to be full or to be hungry, either to have abundance or to endure scarcity.
13 Everything is possible in him who has strengthened me. (Emphasis is mine.)
The Muslim man studiously and respectfully silently read the text for several minutes in deep thought as I silently watched. After a while he looked up to me and said, “It is very Islamic, isn’t it?” “Yes, it is,” I agreed, and we started another long and mutually respectful and, by the way, Peaceful, conversation.

I told him about the Inter-Faith city wide Prayer Service I had attempted to activate a couple of months ago for the sake of the Refugees, both Christian and Muslim refugees and pointed him to my blog site, http://www.jcooperforpeace.org where I posted the Prayer Service. I told him my idea had already been shared with another of my Muslim friends, Mirza Beg, who was to forward it to the local Mosque, or Islamic Center as they call in here in Tuscaloosa. I asked him to talk it up and perhaps just a few of us could have a smaller event than the city wide event I had envisioned. Even though the Mayor of Tuscaloosa had agreed to help in any way he could, I could not garner support from the Christian churches I had contacted whom I was asking to host the event.

We continued our conversation and the Muslim man told me he had been looking into the Spirituality of the Native American Indians. One of the American Indian wise sayings, he said, is: “If God created you a crow, you do not have to become an Eagle.” I told him I liked that and many Indian Spiritual sayings and I had recently been through an 8 or 9 month St. Ignatian Spiritual Exercise Retreat. I told him of the many ways I personally think God can reveal himself to us humans, and concerning the Indians we were talking about, that God can reveal himself and to Indians as one walks in silence through the forest, even without a word written or spoken, God can do this, as one walks in Peace. I mentioned that to me, God has revealed himself sometimes as a Father, sometimes as a Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit, but still, I believe there is only one God. I shared my idea that one could take all the knowledge of the American Indians, and the Jewish religion, the Christian religion, and the Islamic religion, and all the knowledge of the Atheist religion, and put them all in a bucket, stir them all up and dump them into the ocean, and it would not be a drop in the ocean compared to the vast knowledge of an infinite God. He understood, and I mentioned again the Scripture we had just read, although I did not quote it again at that time. Here is a principle part of it below.

7 And so shall the peace of God, which exceeds all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

I don’t think he would have agreed exactly with the Jesus Christ part of it, but then, apparently many Christians do not believe it either, not understand it, in that many Christian folk like to be guarded by weapons, guns, and “Peacemaking” six-shooters, not by the Peace of God. It appears in America that the “tougher” and more one believes in guarding oneself, the better, especially in the Political realm.

I cannot share everything now, we talked about, this is already too long, but the point I want to highlight especially at this “season” of Christmas 2015 is this:

“Have you had any Peaceful thoughts lately?”

If you have not had any, I ask, why not? Could it be the Prince of the Power of the Air is getting through to us through the Media and the Political systems of this world? Why not turn off the Media for an hour or two a day and silently reflect upon your Scriptures, either your Hebrew ones, Christian ones, Islamic ones, or, even just take a silent walk in the woods, just like the Indians and reflect on the Peace God has very clearly said he came to give us, which goes beyond understanding. This Peace is a gift of Grace and Mercy. Yes, it does sound Islamic, but it sounded to Abraham, like a gracious and merciful God, before the Jewish people, before the Christian people, and before the Muslim people. It is a Grace that has extended to all Abraham’s offspring, which by extension is all mankind.

Have you had any Peaceful thoughts lately? Accept this gift, get some of it; Let this be the year of God’s favor for you…..

Grace and Peace,

John Cooper

Brother’s Blood

Brother’s Blood

In this terrible world of the past month and a half, let us not let Evil creep up on us and invite us to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…

Accepting what is evilly inspired…

Let us hear the cry of our brother’s blood rising up from the earth,

Let us be aware that a major culprit of the violence and killing of the past few weeks is religion…

Let us walk in the Garden with God, as did Adam, and Eve, before religion…

Let us believe in God, as did Abraham, before religion…

Religion is a temporary phenomenon in this world’s history…

Religion is created by man in his own image as a bridge to reach the One God whose Kingdom already lives in us, and we in Him…

Relationships with God, and each other, and the supernatural ability to hear our brother’s blood cry from the ground are primal gifts we should strive to possess….

Not to strive against each other,

I think we are our brother’s keeper, all of our brothers…

Listen to your brother’s blood, and the survivors of our brothers’ blood who have bled under the altar of Evil, and have gone before us…..

Grace & Peace,

John Cooper

Ukraine

Ukraine

I was grazing on the Internet today, spending a little downtime after a day of trying to play some golf, and taking a nap, and working some too… In the process I was thinking about just one of the current hot spots in the world that has the possibility to develop into a melting point, similar to the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown that was also in the Ukraine.

 

In the process, I looked into this web site, http://kubik.org/ukraine/03-02-14.html which is the web site of Victor Kubik, the President of the United Church of God, which is a split off of the Worldwide Church of God, now called Grace Communion International. I knew some of the founders of United Church of God personally, especially Ray Wooten, who recently died, as a personal friend. Victor Kubik is from the Ukraine, as you will see in checking the link out. I especially like the map he presented, and actually had forgotten Ukraine also adjoins Romania.

 

Ukraine is a historic Christian nation, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Christianity_in_Ukraine, as is Russia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_Russia. Valdimir Putin proclaims to be a Christian, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3d_yxJhmjk, and President Obama also claims to be a Christian, http://crossmap.christianpost.com/news/president-obama-affirms-jesus-as-his-savior-and-lord-stands-for-religious-freedom-at-the-62nd-national-prayer-breakfast-8829. I know all these links would take a long time to research, but I wanted to document this premise that the leaders of both nations are self proclaimed Christians. It is crucial to me that Christians recognize one another, and refuse to go to war with one another. It seems that every time there is a political disagreement since 325 AD that Christians as a whole line right up behind the Politics of this fallen world, and not the Politics of the Kingdom of God ruled by the Crucified and Risen Jesus.

 

Perhaps Putin and Obama are not Christians as some view themselves as Christians, and perhaps Russian Orthodoxy is not viewed as highly in America as Roman Catholicism in the West or various split offs of the two most ancient Christian religions mentioned, but I am reminded in consideration of our two predominately “Christian” nations again facing off for war of the dreams of Jesus. I believe that Jesus had dreams of his followers to actually love one another, and that the whole world would be a better place because of the shining light, the salt and light of his followers exuding their love for one another. To me, this love means we absolutely refuse to kill one another, or any other human, for that matter. (However, I am just a Pacifist.) I believe that Jesus dreamed of his followers even loving their enemies, even of other faith based traditions. I believe it is apparent that men are incapable of ruling one another based upon any other government principle than this love relationship, of ruling “under” and serving, not ruling “over” and abusing one another. I believe hatred and selfishness is why the world suffers so much and is in so much pain while awaiting a better Kingdom to come.

 

We all have dreams that do not work out so well in this life. Nations have dreams, people of all faiths have dreams of peace, and a better world for their children. I have had dreams too, which appear to have failed… One of the dreams I have, which has historically failed for thousands of years, is to dream of peace, as Jesus did, as Tolstoy and Rasputin of Russia, as Martin Luther King and Einstein and many others have dreamed. This Peace will never happen, in my view until those who call themselves “Christians” first give up hate and embrace the love for each other Jesus dreamed of.

 

The Christian season of Lent just began a few days ago in this year of 2014. This is the season some Christians give up things to help in their worship of Jesus and preparation of the celebration of Easter.

 

Why don’t Christians give up hate for Lent, at least? Why don’t Christians give up violence as a solution to their disagreements? And war, and threats of war, let’s give them up for Lent, at least. I need to do it too. Recently I have had bad thoughts about someone whom I think has taken advantage of me. I need to let go of these bitter thoughts and feelings. When we fail to love each other, it is hate. When nations of the world, whether Christian or not, but especially when they are Christian, line up their warships and nuclear warheads, it cannot be fulfilling the dreams of Jesus for a better Kingdom to come… Unless, we blast ourselves to kingdom come, that is…

 

You have just read my analysis of the situation in Ukraine, which would apply to other hotspots in the world too… Peace and love is the way, there is no other way…

 

John Cooper
http://www.jcooperforpeace.org

Bookworm

Bookworm

I recall that my brother, David Cooper, used to call me a “Bookworm” when we were growing up… I liked books, and read a lot, one reason I suppose, was that we grew up poor without a TV in the home until after I left for college. Books were my entertainment. I cannot recall studying that much, but I would check books out of the Marshall, IL Jr. High Library, reading Isaac Asimov science fiction books, about all the horse books, like Black Stallion, and nearly everything I could get my hands upon…

 
I really valued books… Recently, I think I may have valued them too highly, at least for monetary value, for the type of books I have. I have suffered some reversals the past few years, some of which are causing me to evaluate declaring Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. In Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, one has to put a value on things one wants to keep, and pay it back to the Bankruptcy Court in 5 years. In the paperwork I filled out, I used the value of $250 for “Books, mostly old, relating to woodworking, religious books given to me by the church I was a pastor in, etc.” I have hundreds of books, as Ben Talmage, to whom I gave some of my duplicates will tell you. I think I valued them much too highly… It is hard for me to even give away the duplicates I received when another pastor of the denomination I used to serve died and his family gave them to me, knowing I liked books.

 
Oh, that reminds me of another “book time.” This goes back to the time I was having a religious transformation experience while I was in college at Samford University. (Oh, I used to work in the Rare Book Library there.) I came to Alabama to attend Samford University, where my uncle, Dr. Everett Lemeron, taught accounting and other business related subjects. I lived with him, and my aunt (by blood) Gladys Lemeron in their home in Cahaba Heights, a city close to Birmingham and Samford University. This made it easier on me to pay my way through school in those days, where it never occurred to me to get a loan, if one could have back then… Anyway, after a year at Samford, I got this “buggy” idea (to my aunt) (a devout Nazarene who grew up in the Free Methodist tradition) to observe the 10 commandments. Now that entailed my ceasing to help out around the house on family work day, Saturday, which happens to be the Sabbath… Also, to exacerbate the conflict, I was beginning to understand some of Jesus’ ethics, such as to “Love your enemies, do good to those who despitefully use you,” etc. on the path I had been taking since my late teens of becoming a conscientious objector, which I am to this day, although I am no longer a Sabbitarian after practicing that law for about 25 years before coming to an understanding of the New Covenant.

 

This Spiritual transformation got me kicked out of the house in early 1969, I believe, by my aunt and I had to load up all my possessions in my 1959 VW. This is the VW that I used to drive around Samford University with a plastic sign on the front bumper, “Make Love, not War.” I had no one interested in the Love part at that school, and I had the sign stolen from me apparently by an irate Samford student concerned about the War part of it. :):) This is the VW I used to haul away my earthly possessions. It took only two trips to haul my possession away to a guest pool house I rented up on Alford Avenue on top of Shades Mountain. I acquired a new push button phone, a red one. The phone number was 205-822-8922. Don’t dial that! I mostly hauled away books….. I had lost of them back then too…

 
But I gave away most of the books at a another transition point in my life. I later moved into a home owned by the family of a Worldwide Church of God friend, Kay Kimbrough, at 305 Woodward Road, in Midfield, AL not with Kay, but several of us young Worldwide Church of God boys, including Larry Carter, and Donnie Parker. This was the Birmingham bachelor house for the young men in the church, including nearly all who passed though from all over the country. Everyone was welcome, and I shared everything I had with everyone who needed it, including fish for breakfast (just like Jesus???) because that is all I had on that day. The fish was steamed in my Wearever cookware I sold to single working girls back then, but that is a whole another story..?:):) Some of our guests did not like fish for breakfast, so they went to the local Shoney’s….

 

Back to the books…. Donnie Parker, apparently surmising how much I valued my books, kept bugging me to give up my books because they were secular, and not religious books… He wagered with me that I should throw away all my books because they were vanity… I wagered back that if I could do 100 pushups he would give me all his Bibles (he had quite a collection and all kinds of translations) I would throw away my books and his Bibles would be mine. I won, having grown up on the farm, working hard. I was strong back then.. Donnie was a couch potato and could barely do one push up back then. I disposed of my books, throwing them in the trash, all except three or four thick ones which were propping up the end of a used bed I had that had a broken leg.

 

I have never really planned on making another transition in life and giving up everything again, including my books, especially not at 65 years old, which I turned on January 15th, 2014. I have listed some things I would like to keep, like half the home Wink and I have completely paid for, and some personal hand tools, and a chest of drawers my Great Great Grandfather Alexander Hinkle, who was a cabinet maker too, and a farmer, and also a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and six chairs he made. The books, $250…I valued them too highly again, apparently… I already sold all my big woodworking equipment, and gave the money to a bank I owed to nearly pay off my line of credit, which they responded to by closing my line of credit, making my problems worse that before… Oh well… The idea I have in life is now to ask, Does it rust? If it rusts, don’t value it so highly… Don’t cling to it… I think Jesus had some things to say about that, even saying it about Silver and Gold, which according to Jesus, rusts… Scientists are apparently unaware of that idea, that Silver and Gold Rusts, but some scientists who do not know this may not know Jesus and may not know that everything has a radioactive half life and when viewed in the lenses of eternity, are not really worth keeping… Also, thieves can break in and steal them. It is loving one another that needs to be valued, even one’s enemies, according to this Jesus person… That is what will last… I have even been arguing with prestigious religious people who may not really understand such matters lately… It is hard on one to understand such things…. One has to give up ones prized possessions, and be willing to carry crosses around, and to die, and to bleed all under the altar at the foot of various punishing instruments, like the U.S. economy, greed, capitalism, rampant consumerism, and various military industrial complexes, and such things as crosses we agree to bear as we are transformed by Spiritual substances (homoousios) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/270595/homoousios which will never rust.

 
Back to the books… I am going to pick up about 20 books that I was unable to give away tomorrow, Sunday, one of the days I now worship God on, along with Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday too, the 7th day of the week.. I plan to offer them to Greg Rogers, another pastor friend of mine, and see if would like to have them.

 
I am thinking too about another book, the Book of Life, mentioned toward the back of another book I value, the New Testament. I think my name is written in it, and yours too… I think toward the end of this book, the Everlasting Grace and Love of God is also mentioned, where the City is mentioned, that has gates that are always open, and great big loudspeakers sounding out, Come… Come, even to the worst of our enemies, even to those not yet in the book of life, even perhaps to the fallen angels who may be able to be transformed… It is a city that values such things as Gold, which is used to pave streets until it rusts again and has to be reknewed….

 

Bookworms, as my brother David said of me… I hope to always be one… and listed in one, especially one…:):)

 

Love and Peace, Forever…

 

John Cooper
http://www.jcooperforpeace.org/

Another Face of Joy

Another Face of Joy

I recently read Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium,” his first Apostolic Letter. The letter may be viewed at http://www.vatican.va/phome_en.htm.

As a former Roman Catholic and Nondenominational Evangelical Christian I am overjoyed at Pope Francis’ ethics and in particular, this recent letter.  My hope is that Pope Francis will reknew (I know, deliberately wrong spelling) the Catholic Church. I even feel called to come back to the Catholic Church, at least part time, to see how all of this is unfolding among individual Catholic communities. It is all because of Pope Francis that I feel called to do this.

My view of the Gospel is that the Gospel is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ which results in Peace and Salvation for all who believe. Pope Francis in some cases refers to the Gospel in relationship to the Crucified and Risen Christ. I agree to this definition also. I quote a section of his letter below:

“The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded. That is what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people (Lk 2:10). The Book of Revelation speaks of “an eternal Gospel to pro¬claim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tongue and tribe and people (Rev 14:6).”i

I too, hear the Universal call of the Gospel as Pope Francis states, as a Gospel of joy for all, and none is excluded, but all are included in the message of the Gospel. I am excited that the leader of the world’s largest Christian system, of over a billion individuals would speak in these inclusive terms and physically and mentally demonstrate his compassion for all mankind, even those who are not of his particular fold, and also those of other religious systems and non religious people.

I will write a type of review of Pope Francis’ Exhortation following, along with my own free form comments.

Humans everywhere, of all beliefs are always looking for Joy. For Christians, Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit which is believed to be an internal gift, not something we merit of your own goodness. To put another face of joy into humanity is always good. The face Pope Francis is highlighting is the face of joy we can experience, as a result of following God’s will for us, that of going into the world, and sharing the Gospel, or Good News.
Pope Francis seems to put early emphasis on works of mercy that result from our joyfully sharing the Gospel. To me, these works are very good when they arise from the inner motivation of the gift of Grace freely given to us by the Holy Spirit and proceeding from the Father and the Son, who live in us all and we in him, One God.
I read Pope Francis as deploring violence in the cities of God, and later in his letter actually speaking of the Gospel of Peace.

“The Church proclaims “the Gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15) and she wishes to cooperate with all national and international authorities in safeguarding this immense universal good. By preaching Jesus Christ, who is himself peace (cf. Eph 2:14), the new evangelization calls on every baptized person to be a peacemaker and a credible witness to a reconciled life.”ii

It is very Good News to me to hear a leader of Christianity speaking out for the Gospel of Peace. I have long felt a calling to proclaim this Gospel of Peace, and regularly do so, but I have been rebuffed by Evangelical Christianity at nearly every point. I keep sharing, however, and also write about the Gospel of Peace on my blog site, http://www.jcooperforpeace.org. As a Body of Believers who deplores violence to the unborn, the Catholic Church, it is music to my ears to hear of the Gospel of Peace from the Christian leader of that system.
To me, it is a perfect time, today, for Pope Francis to set a vision of the Gospel of Peace, the Gospel of Salvation, and the Gospel of the Kingdom, one Gospel, as a Gospel that is to bring Peace to the world, as much as possible now, and certainly when Jesus returns, and always when Jesus comes to us now in this life. I cite in this regard:

Luke 2:8-15

8 That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! 11 The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others — the armies of heaven — praising God:

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to all whom God favors.”
NLT

Above we see the Good News of Joy for all mankind concerning the Peace God wishes for all whom he favors, which to me would be inclusive of all mankind, since Jesus came to suffer and die for all mankind’s sins. Whether all mankind will hear and understand this Good News and believe is another matter for discussion, but personally, I hope so, once they see the crucified and risen Christ, and it is a Joy to me to assist in sharing this Gospel.

In the setting of this vision of Peace and proclaiming the inclusiveness of the Gospel, I hope Pope Francis will provide even more confessions of Guilt of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the terrible sins of the Church, (It is not just the Catholic Church,) regarding the post Constantinian destruction of Sanctified human adult life in the Inquisition, the killings of Moslems, and Christians, and the lack of nonviolent actions concerning the killings of Jews and others in World War II, in Nazi Germany. The Church’s support of the Just War Theory, (although it is not a Doctrine of the Church,) needs to be disregarded in relationship to the Gospel, and other confessions as may be needed. Hopefully, Pope Francis will lead the Roman Catholic Church back to Early Roots Christianity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_early_Christianity It is a Joy that the Gospel proclaims the forgiveness of all sins, both our own individual sins, and those of corporate religious and national and political bodies. Some believe even the fallen Powers may be redeemed if they accept the Gospel. The author, Walter Wink, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Wink has written books concerning the possible redemption of the Powers which lie behind human systems.

As a Church that values human life, and life of every kind, I feel this is a perfect opportunity for the Roman Catholic Church, under the leadership of Pope Francis, to divest itself of all conjoining relationships with political Powers and return to its Early Roots. Likewise, all Christian churches should divest themselves of political alliances and concentrate on preaching the Gospel. Te Politics of the Kingdom of God is what the Church, (and all religious systems,) need to focus upon. In joyfully sharing the Gospel, no Catholic should ever want to take a human life in warfare. In response to the Gospel, the time to stop killing for all who believe and share the Gospel, is now. The visible and tangible expressions of Pope Francis and every Christian Believer’s love for one another, and our enemies, Catholic and non-Catholics is the way the seeds of the Gospel are joyously shared… It is these Joyful expressions of love by which others know the Gospel has been preached.

Speaking of Joy, I concur with Pope Francis’ vision of the Image of God being in all mankind, not just in Catholics, and not just in Christians or adherents to one’s own individual religious system. The Quakers, whom I am particularly fond of, believed that there is a spark of God in every man and that the proof of this is that if there is anything a person does, that he feels sorry for, it is proof of the indwelling spark of the Spirit. I quote Pope Francis:

“If we are to share our lives with others and generously give of ourselves, we also have to realize that every person is worthy of our giving. Not for their physical appearance, their abilities, their language, their way of thinking, or for any satisfaction that we might receive, but rather because they are God’s handiwork, his creation. God created that person in his image, and he or she reflects something of God’s glory. Every human being is the object of God’s infinite tenderness, and he himself is present in their lives. Jesus offered his precious blood on the cross for that person. Appearances notwithstanding, every person is immensely holy and deserves our love. Consequently, if I can help at least one per¬son to have a better life, that already justifies the offering of my life. It is a wonderful thing to be God’s faithful people. We achieve fulfilment when we break down walls and our heart is filled with faces and names!”iii

Challenging Catholics to take joy in Evangelicalism by Love and the Gospel of Peace, in place of the sword, is a very good challenge for all, in these days where the Myth of Redemptive Violence is still being believed even after millennia of proof that this method of “making peace” has never and will never ultimately work.

I also appreciate Pope Francis’ many references to the Grace of God. One instance is cited below:
“Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live “justified by the grace of God”,199 and thus be “associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ”.200 But due to the sacsacramental dimension of sanctifying grace, God’s working in them tends to produce signs and rites, sacred expressions which in turn bring others to a communitarian experience of journeying to¬wards God.201″iv

To me, Pope Francis comes very close to the Biblical text at the heart of Protestant Evangelicals’ beliefs,

Eph 2:6-10
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
NIV

I understand that our works are a response to Grace, not the cause of our Salvation, and I believe Pope Francis is quite Universally minded in his understanding of Grace, although he gives adequate expressions to the necessity of accompanying works. Perhaps St. Francis is thinking of the early Church Father, Origen, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origen. At any rate, Pope Francis seems to me very progressive in his thinking processes compared to recent Popes. He states:

“We know that “evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man’s concrete life, both personal and social”.146 This is the principle of universality intrinsic to the Gospel, for the Father desires the salvation of every man and woman, and his saving plan consists in “gathering up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10).”v

I agree here that Salvation is for every man. I cannot say that every man will be saved, and I do not say that Pope Francis is saying that here. I would like to believe that every man will be saved, and I hope once Jesus draws all men to himself, that the beauty and love of the Crucified and Risen Christ, as Pope Francis also explains the Gospel will result in many hearts turning to God. To me, the Joy of Evangelization rests in the saving Grace of God, and efforts of Evangelization are never over until Jesus has executed his “time” to draw all men to himself…

One of the concerns Pope Francis expresses in his Apostolic Letter is the relationship of the economy to Joyfully Evangelizing the world. To me, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God which is beyond political systems, should change political systems so that our economies look more and more like Jesus would have them look. To this end Pope Francis states:

“We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.
205.
I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world!”vi

I am reminded of the Mennonite teacher, John Howard Yoder, and his book, “The Politics of Jesus.” In a nutshell, according to my recollection from reading the book, the ethics of Jesus and the Kingdom of God in Early Roots Christianity radically changed the political systems of the world, including the Roman Empire. The radical changes so endangered the Empire, with all these Christians loving one another, which in itself is sharing the Gospel, and refusing to join the Powers’ ethics of Redemptive Violence, that the Powers offered the Church the sword, and the Church accepted, and began to use the sword to supposedly advance the Gospel, in many cases disregarding unconditional, self sacrificial love for all men. Apparently the Church of that time, the Roman Catholic Church, neglected to consider that Jesus had already refused the same ploy from Satan, when Satan offered Jesus rulership over the earth. Jesus refused. The Church accepted. Then, the Church began to use the sword to advance the Gospel, since it had been given the sword, and began to make up its own rules of “just” war, etc…

Therefore, when Pope Francis speaks of no longer trusting the unseen and invisible hand of the market, I can imagine that the Powers are really disturbed… Talk like that is Jesus talk like when Jesus began to proclaim the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, the release of prisoners, and the year of Jubilee… The Powers kill humans for speaking like that… They killed God, Jesus too, but Jesus rose again and has overcome these Powers. Pope Francis has already rattled the heads of both invisible Powers and human economic powers. They have squealed like stuck pigs… I pray for the protection of Pope Francis and that the Highest of all Powers, Allah, God, will protect him until his mission is done, which may be the radical changing of the Roman Catholic Church, including the economic wrongs involved with the Vatican economy.

Although my comments regarding Evangelii Gaudium have thus far been overwhelmingly positive, even though I was raised Catholic, I view Pope Francis’ ending of his letter and the inclusion of the Mother Mary as a “tack on” thought to Catholicize his letter…He states:
“With the Holy Spirit, Mary is always present in the midst of the people. She joined the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and thus made possible the missionary outburst which took place at Pentecost. She is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization.”vii
I cannot personally agree with this statement. To believe it would certainly stretch my envelope and my understanding of Theology all out of shape. That’s OK though, I am imagine my beliefs in Peace and Nonviolence also stretch Pope Francis’ envelope too, and certainly stretch the envelope of the historic Roman Catholic Church as a whole, with exceptions such as Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and other Catholic Pacifists excluded.

On the other hand, Pope Francis is stretching a lot of peoples’ envelopes all out of shape… Young people seem to love him, Moslems seem to love him, Atheists even seem to love him… I love him too and felt an immediate conjoining of Spirits as soon as I realized who he was and is. I pray for the continued advancement of the Gospel, and the reformation of the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of Pope Francis.

Grace & Peace,

John Cooper
http://www.jcooperforpeace.org/

i “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis, 2013 – Sect. 23
ii Ibid., 239
iii Ibid., 274
iv Ibid., 254
v Ibid., 181
vi Ibid., 204

vii Ibid., 284