Yes, I am a Catholic!

Yes, I am a Catholic!

 

I had intended to do some other things today, these thoughts have come upon me…..

 

Per my regular routine, I rose early, today just after 5 AM, to enter into my morning meditations.  I have been using the Catholic Liturgical Calendar as a basis for my morning meditations.  There is an App for that, there are Apps for nearly everything.  The one I use is on my tablet and phone, but here is a link to another: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/022116.cfm, except this one is computer based.  You can look up the name, CatholicApp.org on your tablet, I believe.

 

Today’s Liturgy and my meditations were about God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants, and also about our imitation of Christ, in so many words, when the heritage of those who have imitated him before us is passed down to us, until the end of time.  Moses and Elijah, even appeared to the Apostles, and God advised them that Jesus is God’s Son, listen to him.  The Apostle Paul wanted his followers to imitate him as he, Paul, followed and imitated Jesus.  In view of my morning meditations, and my admiration of Pope Francis’ comments about Mr. Trump, if he believed in building walls to keep the immigrants out of the United States, not being a Christian, (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/19/world/americas/pope-francis-donald-trump-christian.html?_r=0) I decided to go to the local Catholic Church.  I happen to be out of town, in Wetumpka, AL and the local Pastor, Fr. Albert Kelly, does not know me.

 

It was a wonderful worship time, and the music was wonderful.  They have a praise and worship band signing the traditional Catholic hymns with a live choir too!  The Homily was great too, and very meaningful, an exposition on the Liturgy for the day, which I just mentioned having meditated and prayed with this morning.  The Homily was about how parents pass on their genes and teaching to their children, just as Abraham’s heritage and genes have been passed down according to God’s promise for generation after generation, until the end of time.  Also mentioned was even if one does not have children, how one’s character and belief is passed down to others who are affected by it.  During the mass, I regularly thought of how I grew up Catholic, and I am in many ways still Catholic, due to my upbringing.  I regularly attended the Catholic Church, receiving all the rites of passage, until I was 18 and began attending another church because of my beliefs at that time in observing the Sabbath on the 7th Day of the week and my beliefs in peace and non-violence, which I did not know were accepted at that time in the late 1960’s to my knowledge. (There were some beliefs in non-violence in Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker Movement, and Thomas Merton was a kindred Spirit to me, but I did not know of these things until much later.)

Being there today, at this mass, even though I do not regularly attend the Catholic Church, I went right up to receive communion.  I was in a little state of contemplation, and apparently I was not holding my hands just quite right, although I know how to, when one receives communion.  Fr. Albert Kelly asked me, “Are you Catholic?”  I realized I was not doing it quite right, too late though, and I said “Yes, I am a Catholic.”  So, he gave me the host, and I drank the wine.  You may say, “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” but I say, in the context of the situation, and the liturgy of the day, “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.”  It is in the genes.  It is in the heritage of my soul and being.  In many ways, although I also believe in and have a heritage in other sides of the Christian family too, Yes, I am a Catholic.  This happens to be the week I already wrote about our common heritage as human beings created in the image of God, an article, “Cooper White – Cooper Black” which some loved, and some did not appreciate so much…..  https://jcooperforpeace.org/.  I don’t mind a bit if my physical makeup is a little mixed, or my religious heritage somewhat mixed, or if some of my family members were crazy, just like me…  I am who I am!

 

So, after mass, in place of eating doughnuts and coffee, as I have done before when I have been to this church, I spoke to a few people, and left to go about what I had planned to do, which was not to write this article, but I ran directly into Fr. Kelly, having changed his cloths and coming back into the Sanctuary.  I shook his hand and told him I wanted to explain something to him I did not have time to in the communion line.  I told him I grew up Catholic, and this year, for the first time in 49 years, I was observing Lent and that I sometimes do attend a Catholic Church. (This year for Lent I am giving up one drink per day, limiting my lunches to about $5, giving up meat, except for fish on Fridays, and sending the savings to help the refugees, which is the important thing to me, what I can give, not give up.  Also, I am trying to give up more of my conceit and vanity and pride, and other sins…, although I did not tell him all of that.)  He was very kind.  He asked who the priest was in my town when I told him I was not from Wetumpka.  I told him it was Father Deasy, whom he knew and had gone to school with, along with Fr. Deasy’s brother.

 

Anyway, it is good to be a part of one big worldwide family, the human race, or still have in my being the heritage of the Catholic Church, or the Worldwide Church of God, or Grace Church, where I now mostly attend.  It is good to be an American, to be a Christian, but it is not so good, in my view, to build up our walls and exclude the needy from fellowship with us, just because they are different.  Yes, I know the Vatican has a wall around it, but I don’t think Pope Francis built it, it has been there many years before.  Maybe we can tear it down, if it matters so much, which it doesn’t.  Yes, I am Catholic.  It came to me today, just how Catholic I still am..

 

Peace,

 

John Cooper

 

 

 

Cooper White – Cooper Black

Cooper White – Cooper Black

 

For me it has been a day of Desolations and Consolations…

The consolations came at the end of the day and this is what I want to tell you about…

 

Wink called, asking me to pick up some food for supper on the way home. I was in West End, where our business is located, and she mentioned Long John Silver’s/Taco Bell restaurant. I mentioned I did not know if it was Long John Silver’s anymore. I went by and the sign said Taco Bell, not a combination of restaurants as I do believe was once there.

 

I went in and asked the girl behind the counter, a light skinned black girl, if this was a Long John Silver’s too anymore. She said no, but offered to look one up for me. I noticed she had a Silver Christian cross hanging from her neck and sensed a common Spirit between us. I said that is OK, I will just order something here. I finally figured out what we needed, with her assistance, and she asked for a name to place on the order. I said Cooper… (BTW., I am writing this in Cooper Black type set…) [This is not showing in this font on WordPress] She said, I am a Cooper too, and explained that that is her name now or that she is related to Coopers in South Alabama and Jacksonville, Florida. I said, “Good, we may be related.” I told her my Great Great Grandfather was a conductor on the underground railroad, and asked her about her family history, but she did not know much about it..

 

I mentioned that I did not recall any of my ancestors having slaves, because we were from up North in Illinois, but that we could be related in some way. I offered her my hand and said, that it was good to meet her and we may be related.

 

When the order came up, she brought it out to me and we struck up another conversation about the family name. She told me about her second cousin in Jacksonville, FL and thought of his name. I asked her if he was fully white or partially white, and she said fully white. I said we may be related, and told her about a Genealogical book my Brother, Joe had written, about our ancestry going back to the Mayflower. I gave her my business card and asked her to email me and I could share it with her. We hugged each other, and I told her my shop was right down the street, just over the viaduct, and asked her to come down to see me one day.

 

I was thinking on the way home with our Taco Bell food, how the day had been cycles of desolations and consolations, and how this was a wonderful consolation to share one’s inner spirit with another created in
God’s image. I still do not understand why we cannot all get along in the world….

 

I think we are all related; all of us brothers and sisters, and we should all love one another… I know I am naïve, but I hope to die that way…. What is it we cannot understand about the unconditional love of God, which is supposed to be in us, if we wear the cross around our necks, or symbolically carry the cross, or even if we are not Christians at all, that we do not understand about this love of God?

 

Cooper White, – Cooper Black… What is the difference? I just can’t see any difference….

 

Grace & Peace,

 

John Cooper (White)

 

 

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

Holy Huddles

Holy Huddles

This Saturday, as I write, the Alabama football team has just barely defeated Tennessee, who had previously lost 8 games in a row.

I have been thinking about football, and whether it is more important than God and religion here in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

I see various religious traditions getting together in “Holy Huddles.” It is just like they do in football. It is the Jews in their own “Holy Huddles” against the Palestinian Muslims and The Palestinian Christians in their “Holy Huddles.” It is the Islamic Shiites against the Islamic Sunnis, against each other in their own “Holy Huddles.” There are Roman Catholic “Holy Huddles.” There Eastern Orthodox “Holy Huddles.” There are Protestant “Holy Huddles” against one another, Evangelical “Holy Huddles,” and “Mainstream” Protestant “Holy Huddles.” Everyone seems to be against everyone else, and each “Holy Huddle” is against the other…

I was thinking about those who are already defeated, those who have lost their homes, their nations, and who can no longer participate in “Holy Huddles.’ They just do not have time, except to walk hundreds of miles to find the Paradise they seek, whether it is today, or in the future… There seem to be very few “Holy Huddles to support these refugees. There is fortunately UNICEF and the Red Cross, Germany, and Maybe Samaritan’s Purse to support these people some, Thank God.

But, where are all those religious folks who reside in their “Holy Huddles?” Where are those “rights to life” folk who have their own “Holy Huddles?” Is there something we can all do now to promote human life? Is there something we can do now to promote loving one’s enemies? Is there something we can do now to promote the image of God in every man? Not so much…, If we stay in our own “Holy Huddles….”

I would like to call us back to the Faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who had personal knowledge of the Great “I AM,” who called mankind to know him by Faith outside the parameters of the “Holy Huddles” of religion, when there was “Just” Belief… It was way back when Cain seemed to think he was not supposed to be his Brother’s Keeper…. It was a long time ago.. I could go on and on about what I am speaking of in reference to Matthew 25 and ALL the nations who will appear before the Judgment, but I will not now do that, except to hope that mankind, at least some of us who are called to do so, can get out of out “Holy Huddles,” and get into the business of loving each other, friends and enemies, of eating the same bread, and drinking the same wine…., or, the same Milk and Dates, or smoking Peace pipes with Indians, those who are left, and we have not already killed…

Oh well…

John Cooper

Just One

Just One

I am putting the Agenda for an Interfaith Prayer Service, entitled, “Just One,” up for viewing on my blog site. For well over one month, I have been promoting this idea in my local community, but so far nothing all that substantial has occurred. It is my understanding that for some the idea is too radical. I have sent it to a couple of international organizations also, whom I thought may be interested. So far, I have no response, and it is getting cold for the refugees who are still homeless and moving in mass across Europe. I thought if I would share it on the internet, someone might want to pick up all or part of the ideas and use them, even to help Just One refugee family.

From my point of view, all the wars, nationalism, and military solutions to the world’s problems have failed and now is the time to consider a kinder and gentler solution to Evil, that of loving one’s enemies, of doing good to those who despitefully use us, and sitting down together at the same table in the presence of our enemies.

I know I am just an activist radical, to think like this, but if it is beneficial to just one homeless refugee family, that is enough. Please feel free to take any or all of what I have written, and use it with or without permission for human good and decency’s sake.

Below is some background concerning the process of trying to get this implemented, which has not yet happened, then the Agenda for the Interfaith Prayer event itself. If you would like a Word formatted document with color highlighting, please contact me via commenting on this document on WordPress.

Thanks,

John Cooper

Hello _____________________________

Thanks for asking me to further explain my plans for Tuscaloosans FOR Refugees. I capitalize FOR because that is the acronym which the Fellowship of Reconciliation goes by. I am a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest Interfaith Peace and Nonviolent organization in the world, which is this year celebrating its 100th anniversary. This action is an action I am proposing partially stemming from my association with FOR, and also my long time, since 1969, beliefs in Peace and Nonviolence and social justice for all.

I proposed this event to be hosted by ______________Church, where I attend. Although the Elders at _______________ Church decided it was beyond the mission and vision of _______________ Church, as I proposed it, ________________ Church was moved to action from my suggestions and prepared a video and commentary, and had corporate prayer at ______________ Church for the refugee crisis. It is possible some of this preparation from _______________Church could be helpful in this proposal.

I realize what I am proposing is a pretty big plan, even for _____________________, but I remind you of Pope Francis’ call for every European Catholic parish to host one refugee family. What if every city in the United States and the world took in just one family? What if every faith based organization in the United States, and the world, including Christians of all persuasions, the Jewish Synagogues, and the Moslem temples, took in just one family… Just one, and Just one, starts with each of us, where we are, in our Faith based Trek. Notice that I deliberately capitalized “Just.” It is a matter of Justice, which all believers in the three great faiths care for the stranger, and the texts of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, and if one believes “just” in humanitarianism, which I have quoted in the proposed prayer service, indicate this very thing.

I envision this as just not a Silent Prayer service, but as a seed that could grow into other cities, communities, and nations. I believe that Mercedes Benz, especially, as a major corporate presence in our community, whose Motherland is so graciously hosting many of the refugees, should participate eagerly, asking to bring in at least One refugee family and providing a job for the head of that household, even if the family cannot yet speak English, or German, even if it is just washing windows at Mercedes, cleaning bathrooms, or mowing the lawn. I believe that the University of Alabama should do the same, Just one family. I believe that the City of Tuscaloosa should do the same, Just one. I believe that ___________________ Church may wish to do the same, Just one. Other churches in Tuscaloosa may have the financial or Spiritual resources to do the same Just one. In fact, due to ___________________ asking me to clarify my request, my Vision of this is growing even greater. I believe our slogan should be “Just one.” I believe there is a “Just” God who is watching us to see if we have a heart for those for whom he had a heart, the wayfaring stranger, coming out of Egypt, the early displaced Christians, and millions and millions of poor, rat upon, sat upon, spat upon refugees who were at one time welcomed into this nation, the United States, who cried out to the world to “give us your poor.” What has happened to us? Can mankind repent of the hatred, war, and injustices which have never worked, and realize mankind’s mission is to care for the earth, to dress and keep it, in terms of the book of Genesis, and to be our Brother’s Keeper, also a concept from the book of Genesis?
My prompting is to assemble a team of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims, and humanitarians, to plan this event. Perhaps _______________ who is pretty good at putting together teams, might want to lend his expertise and name to this event. I believe it absolutely crucial for Mayor _______________ to be a part of this event. I have already been in communications with him and he has asked what time it would occur. I believe Mayor __________________will do this. If so, what an example that would be to the world, especially considering how our community was devastated by the tornado a few years ago, and how many came to help us in our crisis. We could also have a Sister City in Germany, who is hosting refugees.

Here is the proposed Mission and Vision:
We believe that to bring Thankfulness for what has been done for us in the community of Tuscaloosa after our devastation, and to share our prayers and concerns as a community for the refugees, and to garner funds to donate for those actually doing the ground work of providing for the refugees, that we as Just one city, Just one Person, should take this action, to pray and share our resources as we are prompted, even if it is to Just one.

Please let me know when you both would like to discuss this proposal. The proposed Agenda is below:

Agenda

Mayor’s Welcome:
Mayor __________________________welcomes all Faith’s and even non faiths to our humanitarian event in his own words and explains the Agenda.

Formational Jewish Testamentary readings:

Ex 12:37-42

37 The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 Many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 With the dough they had brought from Egypt, they baked cakes of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.

40 Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt. 42 Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the LORD for the generations to come.
NIV
Reader: “This is the Word of God.”
Audience, in unison: “Thanks be to God.”

Interlude: Three minutes of silent Prayers by audience.

Second Formational Testamentary Reading:
Jer 7:1-8
7:1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Stand at the gate of the LORD’s house and there proclaim this message:

“‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. 3 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.
NIV

Reader: “This is the Word of God.”
Audience, in unison: “Thanks be to God.”

Interlude: Three minutes of silent Prayers by audience.
Deut 10:12-11:1

12 And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

14 To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. 20 Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.
NIV
Reader: “This is the Word of God.”
Audience, in unison: “Thanks be to God.”

Interlude: Three minutes of silent Prayers by audience.

Third Formational Testamentary Reading:

Deut 26:12-13

12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.
NIV
Reader: “This is the Word of God.”
Audience, in unison: “Thanks be to God.”

Interlude: Three minutes of silent Prayers by audience.
Offertory with Musical interlude: (Pianist or violinist, or both. A woman Dressed in Blue with long dress and headscarf brings bushel basket to front and each participant brings their own and their organization’s gifts…
Woman: “These are the gifts to God!”
Audience, in unison: “Thanks be to God.”
Interlude: Three minutes of silent Prayers by audience.
Formational Christian Testamentary Readings:
Matt 25:31-46
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
NIV

Reader: “This is the Word of God.”
Audience, in unison: “Thanks be to God.”

Interlude: Three minutes of silent Prayers by audience.
Formational Islamic Quaranic Readings:

59:9. And (in this wealth there is also a share) for those (Ansâr, the Helpers) who had settled in the city (of Madînah) and had embraced the Faith before these (Refugees arrived there). They love those who migrated to them for refuge and (who) even though poverty be their own lot, found no desire in their hearts for that which is given to them (- Refugees) but they gave them (- Refugees) preference over themselves. And (bear in mind that) those saved from the covetousness of their souls are the ones to achieve the goal.

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كَيْ لَا يَكُونَ دُولَةً بَيْنَ الْأَغْنِيَاءِ مِنكُمْ

59:7-10 The statement: “That (wealth) should not circulate among your rich people” lays down the basic principle of social economics and justice. The less privileged groups of a society are described in this and the following four verses. The wealth is in the hands of few, but this wealth has been created through the labour of both the rich and the poor, therefore the less privileged should also benefit from the wealth of the rich. This social justice was introduced by Islam in the teachings of the Holy Qur’ân and not by any western revolutionary like Marx, or Lenin, who taught corrupted forms of this basic principle. It is significant to note that the wealth of the rich is neither condemned nor are any limitations laid on them.

Reader: “This is the Word of God.”
Audience, in unison: “Thanks be to God.”

Interlude: Three minutes of silent Prayers by audience.

Formational Humanitarian Readings:

There are many challenges facing the international community today but few, in my mind, are more pressing than those of finding humanitarian solutions to refugee problems. We talk of regional conflicts, of economic and social crises, of political instability, of abuses of human rights, of racism, religious intolerance, inequalities between rich and poor, hunger, over-population, under-development and. I could go on and on. Each and every one of these impediments to humanity’s pursuit of well-being are also among the root causes of refugee problems.
Reader: Quoted From: — Poul Hartling, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 1978-1985
Audience, in unison: “Thanks to all who Love and care for the world and each other.”

Interlude: Three minutes of thought and reflection audience.

Benediction: (Mayor) “Let us go out into our community, with love, peace, and good will for all!”

Announcement of Fellowship Meal: (Host Pastor_________________)
[Tables in front containing 5 loaves of bread in a basket, and 5 fishes, One Cup with wine, and One Cup with Grape Juice, One cup with Milk, a plate of dates, and a plate of Matzos]
All are welcome to come to the table row by row and eat and drink from common food and common cup, each taking a small sip and breaking off a small piece of the food.
[This will take volunteer cup hearers, and others to replenish supplies – young men and women of different Faiths recommended…]
People are welcomed to stay to fellowship as long as desired, or to come back to the table if food is left.

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

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