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The meaning of God and Religion in Modern Christian Thought - Sunday Sermon

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

Fools despise wisdom and instruction

Proverbs 1:7

 

One of my favorite movies is Forest Gump and , as in great literature, there is always a quote or a line that adds meaning to what is being conveyed. The lines that I will always remember in Forest Gump is when Lt. Dan, who is filled with anger and contempt, asks Forest if he found Jesus yet. And Gump replies, “I didn't know I was suppose to be looking for him.” Now, although this line is funny, there is an important message here regarding the simplicity of Gump and the complexities of Lt. Dan. Gump, who didn't have the IQ to go to school with “normal” children, understood the world in a very simple way which enabled him to not only get through life but monetarily prosper. As for Lt. Dan, well let's just say that it takes some intelligence to be a good officer and he met his fate in a totally unexpected way.

 

Now all of us here are more like Lt. Dan than we are Forest Gump - although some of you may have ancestors that belonged to the same “clubs” as Forest's uncle. We are able to learn without much difficulty or the Army would have denied us the pleasure of being one of its members. Most of us would have preferred Forest's life as he was a war hero, met three Presidents and became filthy rich. We would never want to end up like Lt. Dan and live a life without our limbs or to remain in a hell of drunken depravity. We all know this is only a movie meant to entertain. But the concepts presented in life, as in this film, regarding things like knowledge, ignorance, fate, hope, prosperity, hopelessness, simplicity and religion play an important role in how we understand ourselves and the world we live in.

 

Many “Christian” religions today understand the Old and New Testament in is literal meaning only. I am afraid it is just not that “simple” and this approach fails to add any real meaning to the stories that are so important to this literature. Emanuel Swedenborg in his Arcana Celestia explains:

 

“That the Word of the Old Testament includes arcana of heaven, and that all its contents, to every particular, regarding the Lord, his heaven, the church, faith and the things relating to faith, no man can conceive who views it from the letter.” “For if this is denied, how can it be called the Word of the Lord, or said to have any life in it?” and “Without such a living principle, the Word as to the letter, is dead.”

 

“Religion”, as we know it today, fails to answer some important question regarding what is expected of us and what, if any, part do we play in creation. It seemingly has failed in putting together a world of peace and justice for which its teachings are responsible. To this day the Prophets, the Wise or the Learned are regarded as fools and are to be shunned or even persecuted.

 

Mordecai M. Kaplan in his book, The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion, attempt to confront these questions and sees a “connection between the Sabbath and the creation of the Universe”. And he believes “We become holy (whole) to the extent that we express that creative urge. We are the creative life of the universe to the degree that we transcend our self-centeredness. As long as we remained self-absorbed we cannot be creative in any meaningful sense”.

 

“The essence of Kaplan's theology is understanding that God is neither a being nor a philosophical abstraction. 'We have to identify as godhood, or the divine quality of universal being, all the relationships, tendencies and agencies which in their totality go to make human life worthwhile in the deepest and most abiding sense'”.

 

Regarding religion for Kaplan - “The essence of religion was not in belief, but in the “living energy which exists in all social groups”.

 

The energy Kaplan refers to can only be produced when “religion” serves the good for all humanity. The question becomes, what God do I serve or what God does my religion serve? If it does not serve the good of all human kind then it does not serve the God of Abraham nor the God of the “living” Christ.

 

The Commandment my friends is “Thou shall not kill” not thou shall not kill unless my leader or country tells me it's okay - especially today when phrases like “in interest of national security” lacks any meaning what so ever. To serve God is to serve humanity. When Christ was asked “what is the greatest of all the laws (commandments) he replied:

 

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 

“And the second is like it”, reveals the true nature of the “Word of the Lord.” Go no further to understand what is required of us. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 

I began by quoting Proverbs as this is what I understand as the heart of the Old Testament so here it is again:

 

“A wise man will hear and increase in learning,

A man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,

To understand a proverb and a figure,

The words of the wise and their riddles.”

 

“Hear, my son, your father's (God) instruction,

And do not forsake your mother's (the true Church) teaching;

Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head,

An ornament about you neck.”

 

Now in the end of the movie (Forest Gump) Forest tells us that Lt. Dan finally found his peace with God. After Gump tells us this we see Lt. Dan happily in love as he is going to get married. Symbolic?

 

"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who made a marriage feast for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast, but they would not come. Again he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, "Behold, I have made ready my dinner. My oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the marriage feast!"‘ But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his merchandise, and the rest grabbed his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them. When the king heard that, he was angry, and he sent his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. "Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited weren’t worthy. Go therefore to the intersections of the highways, and as many as you may find, invite to the marriage feast.’ Those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together as many as they found, both bad and good. The wedding was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man who didn’t have on wedding clothing, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here not wearing wedding clothing?’ He was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and throw him into the outer darkness; there is where the weeping and grinding of teeth will be.’ For many are called, but few chosen."



The “marriage” here is the sacred union of God and His Church. When a “religion” or Church becomes one with the living God there is cause for much celebration. Question is will you be there to enjoy the festivities? God bless you all this Sunday morning and may peace be with you.



Bob Lavoie


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Comment by Robert M. Lavoie on September 25, 2011 at 12:32pm

tom·fool·er·y

[tom-foo-luh-ree] Show IPA
noun, plural -er·ies.
1.
foolish or silly behavior; tomfoolishness.
2.
a silly act, matter, or thing.
Comment by Robert M. Lavoie on September 25, 2011 at 12:20pm

Gene

As Forest Gump might say - Simple is what simple does.

 

Thank you Jesse and thank you  Dave Gettman.

Comment by Dave Gettman on September 25, 2011 at 11:12am
I knew you weren't scolding Jesse. I misunderstood the Religious Retreats group. Thought it was to discuss religious retreats in Europe, not for religious discussion in general. That's why the guys started the 'Politics, Religion, Fist Fights, and other Tom Foolery' discussion.
Comment by Jesse Kelley on September 25, 2011 at 11:00am

Dave,

I was not scolding, just trying to keep organized and uniform. I guess it is a perfectionist thing, that came from my Father and the Army.

Comment by Jesse Kelley on September 25, 2011 at 10:52am
I also want to say Thank You, it is a good sermon, the driving point being Lt. Dan finding happiness.
Comment by Dave Gettman on September 25, 2011 at 10:43am

Jesse,

Anything goes in your blog. That's what it is for, your personal space for whatever is on your mind, brother.

He also posted in 'Politics, Religion, Fist Fights, and other Tom Foolery'

All ligit....

Comment by Jesse Kelley on September 25, 2011 at 10:29am

Dear Robert,

Did you know that there is a Group for your sermons, it is called Religious Retreats.

Thank you

 

 

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