UNITY OF VANCOUVER
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The Jewish Jesus and the Lost Heart of Judaism: Part 1
Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
March 7, 2021
All Rights Reserved
I invite you to redirect the power of your attention toward the actual experience of the air flowing in and out of your nose as you breathe. Doing this will instantly shift you from thoughts of the past or future to the present moment. As you do that, the focus your attention on the actual experience of the air flowing in and feel the sensation of the air flowing in and out of your nose as you breathe. Now expand your mind’s attention to include along with the sensations in your nose while breathing, the sensations of movement in your chest and belly being generated by your inhalations and exhalations. Consciously choose to shift from thinking to experiencing. This is where you encounter the Divine. Right here, right now, right in the middle of your breathing experience. As you tune into your own breathing experience, you will also naturally tune into the air around you that you are breathing, expanding your consciousness beyond your personal awareness bubble, out into the atmosphere that surrounds our entire planet as one continuous whole gaseous ocean. This atmospheric ocean is made up of the same molecules of air that existed thousands, millions, even billions of years ago. There is nothing gained or lost in the universe and the oxygen you bring into your lungs and bloodstream and then use to light your inner fire consists of the exact same oxygen molecules people were breathing long ago.
Jesus most surely breathed some of the same air molecules you are breathing right now – so you have an actual physiological link with Jesus right here, right now in the midst of this breath meditation. Aware of your own breathing, your own heartbeat, your whole body here in the present moment expands your awareness to also include Jesus’ presence. Feel him breathing within you, hear his heart beating within yours, his mind filling your mind with the inspired thought, “Consider the lilies, they toil not, yet their heavenly Father provides for them.” Many people tend to push and force their way through life, provoked by inherited attitudes and old beliefs that generate inner anxieties, worries, fears and outer struggles, tensions and fear-based aggression. In this moment, breathe with Jesus and “Consider the lilies, they toil not, yet their heavenly Father provides for them” and experience your life in harmony with God’s creation.
Focus your attention on your breath and exhale all the way to empty, then hold empty for a count of 5 and make contact with that powerful inner force that keeps you breathing and silently hear the words, “Be still and know that I am God.”
When you hunger for air, let that next beautiful inhale come rushing into your lungs. On your next exhale hold empty until you “hunger and thirst for the kingdom of God,” and then inhale entirely without effort. You are now living like the lilies, making zero effort to breathe. You are letting God breathe you and you are breathing God. Bring this experience fully to mind by affirming with your next inhale: “God is breathing me.”
The past is nothing, but a memory and the future is nothing but a dream. Love, insight and inspiration manifest in your heart and mind only in the present moment. Bring this truth fully into your experience by affirming: “I let go of the past and future. I embrace this eternal moment.”
Inhale and as you exhale affirm: “I let go of the past and future.” Hold empty until you hunger and thirst for breath and then inhale affirming: “I embrace this eternal moment.” Let these words resonate through your entire being and take you deeper and deeper into the eternal now. Exhale affirming: “I let go of the past and future.” Hold empty until you hunger and thirst for breath. Inhale affirming: “I embrace this eternal moment.”
In this eternal moment you are plugged directly into the entirety of life. You are not separate from the infinite. You are not separate from Jesus. You are not separate for anything you need. You are in the Kingdom of Heaven that never ends and where you don’t notice the movement of time at all, for you are part of it all. In the days and weeks ahead, this sense of eternal time will come to you and deepen every time you say to yourself, “I let go of the past and the future. I embrace this eternal moment.”
Let us bring this very special experience in prayer to a close by giving Jesus the gift of our prayers. In your mind’s eye, see yourself standing before Jesus as you imagine Him to look. See Him holding your hands in His. See yourself looking deeply into His loving and compassionate eyes. Now offer Him the gift of your prayer by speaking Unity’s Prayer of Protection. “The Light of God surrounds us; the love of God enfolds us; the power of God protects us; the presence of God watches over us. Wherever we are God is, and all is well. For God is eternally breathing us and we are eternally breathing God.”
Father/Mother God, we know, in our joyful gratitude for what has just occurred, that we are forever linked with You and blessed by the activity of Your Grace. Amen.
THE LOST TEACHINGS OF JESUS AND JUDAISM SERIES
THE JEWISH JESUS – LESSON 1 – Parts 1 & 2 and Discussion Questions
Many people think of Jesus as the founder of Christianity, but this just isn’t true. Jesus didn’t preach dissolving Judaism in the name of a more universal religion. He was deeply Jewish and remained so all of his life. He saw himself as having a mission within Judaism. He spoke as a Jewish Rabbi to other Jews and all of His early followers were Jewish. Jesus was dedicated to restoring Judaism to what was originally taught by Moses before the return of those who had been taken away as part of the Babylonian Exile. Jesus’ primary concern was for the salvation of the unique Monotheistic viewpoint of the Jewish spiritual world which was in crisis and being threatened more from within by wrong teachers, wrong teachings and the lying pens of the Scribes than by the Romans.
(I introduced this idea several weeks ago in a lesson entitled, “Sandcastles.” It is available to you on our WEB PAGE: www.unityofvancouver.com )
Jesus taught that purity was internal rather than external, that the temple of God wasn’t just an outer building located in Jerusalem but a secret, sacred place within the individual who then acts as the Mediator or Expresser of the gracious and compassionate presence of God. The heart of Jesus’ message was the ‘Good News’ (the Greek meaning of the word Gospel) of the arrival of God among men and women. He said, ‘’The Kingdom of God is here, now. God has arrived and is within you and living through you in every act of compassion you render.”
In essence, in everything Jesus did and said, he announced the end of the need for organized religion insofar as he proclaimed the fulfillment of what religion (a Greek word meaning ‘a path to God and a better life’) had always claimed to be about, which was seeking and finding God. Jesus’ words, “Our Father, which art in Heaven” meant the end of the mistaken idea of separation existing between God and man, between men and women and between everything and everyone appearing separate in the entire created world. There is only One, “Father”, and as “Our Father” we are all equal members of the family of God. Jesus created a unique traveling spiritual community of men, women and children, grounded in Spirit and structured around compassion, inclusiveness, acceptance, love, non-violence and peace which was in dramatic contrast to how people lived in his time. Today’s Bible scholars call it the Jesus Movement but Jesus’ referred to it simply as “The Way.” His passion for his mission involved him in a radical criticism of his culture religious and secular leaders in Jerusalem and resulted in his death.
The odyssey of Jesus of Nazareth from a Jewish Prophet crucified by the Roman government for the crime of insurrection against Rome to divine ruler of the cosmos is an extraordinary event in Western history. Given the current state of Biblical scholarship, it remains one of the best documented and least taught and thus the least understood by the general population. Question: So, why don’t you and I know more about how Jesus lived and what he actually taught? The primary reason that what Jesus was like as an actual historical figure is not widely known is because what he was really like is seriously obscured by two dominant and historically incorrect, images of Jesus constructed by the early Christian Church. In traditional Christianity, people are taught to worship the image and go no further. Each of these images attempts to answer three important questions about the historical Jesus, which became the basis for Traditional Christianity as most people know it. As we explore these, perhaps you’ll discover which ‘image’ of Jesus you were taught as a child. If you do, write it down so that you can compare how your worldview on this topic has changed.
These 3 questions are:
1. Jesus’ identity. What was he? God or man? What were you taught as a child?
2. What was his message or central teaching?
3. What was his mission? What did he hope to accomplish.
1. The first image many of us were exposed to is called the ‘Popular Image’ and identifies or sees Jesus as the ‘only divinely begotten Son of God.’ In this image, Jesus’ message and teachings were all about himself; about his own special identity as ‘the only’ Son of God, the saving purpose of his own death and the importance of believing ‘in him.’ In this image, His mission was to die on the cross for the sins of the world as a means of reconciliation between God and humankind. His life and death open up the possibility of eternal life for ‘true believers.’
The Popular image has its roots in the Greek language of the New Testament, especially the Gospel of John, which says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And where Jesus allegedly speaks of himself as "The light of the world, the bread of life, the resurrection and the life the way, the truth, and the life.” The Creeds of the Christian church grew out of this image. For example: The Apostles' Creed proclaims that Jesus was "God's only son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried and on the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God from which He shall come to judge the living and the dead." In the Nicene Creed, Jesus is spoken of as "The only begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all the world, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made (meaning not created) being one substance with the Father.”
Many true believers who have been taught these prayers and say them faithfully would be surprised to learn that these creeds aren’t original to the Christian Church. They are actually part of a much older prayer to the Greek God Dionysus. In fact, many cherished Christian customs (which I will point out in upcoming lessons) like communion, genuflecting, blessing yourself with Holy Water, and baptism are much older customs borrowed from other religions because the founders of Christianity understood that people don’t change their habits and customs easily or quickly. Like other domination cultures before them, the Egyptians, Greeks and the Romans understood that it’s much easier to shift people’s beliefs to what you want them to believe IF you leave their cherished habits alone. In fact, if you are converting Romans who are accustomed to many gods, they might not even care that they’re no longer celebrating the Feast of Mythris or the Winter Solstice if their tradition of gift giving and partying is left alone. Give the people a God to appeal to for justice and give them festival days off and they won’t care if their God is called Osiris, Dionysus, Theos or Jesus.
The Popular Image is the most familiar image of Jesus to both Christian and non-Christian. We’ve all seen this image reflected on Billboards: "Jesus died for your sins.” The celebration of major Christian festivals reinforces this image. Christmas, wise men, shepherds, angels, the manger, the star, the virgin, wondrous birth, all call attention to His divine identity. Easter focuses on His triumph over death.
For centuries, Christians, trusted their religious leaders and took for granted that this image accurately depicted what Jesus was really like as an actual historical figure. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern period, the image of Jesus as the Divine Savior dominated Western worship and thought. In fact, Christians and non-Christians, like believers in Islam shared this view. What separated them then and now isn’t ‘the image’ but whether or not they ‘believed’ the image was true. Mohammad taught that Jesus was a ‘great prophet and that the Bible is a Holy Book.’ What Islam doesn’t agree with is that ‘Jesus is the only Son of God and the Bible the only true word of God.’ Religious extremists of all kinds teach a ‘religion of exclusion not inclusion.’
The Popular Image began to collapse with the invention of the printing press and the meticulous study of the New Testament documents by Bible Scholars over the past two centuries. There are major differences between the portraits of Jesus in John's Gospel and Mathew, Mark and Luke, collectively known as the Synoptic Gospels. According to Mark’s gospel, Jesus never proclaimed his exalted identity. It wasn’t part of his public image or preaching. In Mark, only on two occasions (both private) did Jesus allegedly talk about who he was, both near the end of his ministry. In John's Gospel, Jesus continually proclaims his divine identity and saving purpose.
2. The second image is of Jesus as an Eschatological prophet. Eschatology is the branch of theology that concerns the ‘end of the world, last judgment and the dawning of the Everlasting Kingdom’. You many even be familiar with some disastrous ‘end times religions’ that have self destructed in your lifetime. The image of Jesus as a prophet who announces the end of the world answers the three basic questions this way.
1. His identity: Jesus was an End Time Prophet who lived at a particular moment in history.
2. His central teaching was: Announcing the coming of the end of the world, (He actually talked about the coming of the end of an age; the age of domination by external powers. This was an unfortunate mistranslation from his language of Aramaic.) the Last Judgment and the dawning of the Everlasting Kingdom where the faithful would dwell.
3. His mission: Jesus’ mission was to convince people of the urgency of repentance and to get them to repent before it was too late. Though this image surfaced early in Jewish and Gentile Christianity, today, most scholars no longer believe that Jesus expected the world to end. Recent discoveries like the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hamadhi Scrolls and Texts and developments in New Testament studies have paved the way for a new image of Jesus.
Today we absolutely know that the Gospels aren’t a factual record of history written by Jesus’ disciples. The Gospels are the developing traditions of the early Christian movement put into written form in the mid to last third of the first century to the formalization of the Bible in 324-325 A.D. We also now know that even though we can never be certain that we have an exact quotation of Jesus, we can be relatively sure of the main themes of His teachings, the kinds of things He said and did and the result of His actions which included: healings, association and Table Fellowship with outcasts, the deliberate calling of twelve disciples, a mission directed to Israel and a historically documented final journey to Jerusalem that resulted in his death on the cross for the crime of insurrection to Rome. From what we know today, we can form a much more accurate image of the kind of person he was and the very real dangers he faced in trying to change the status quo. He was a Charismatic Leader; a Healer, Sage and Prophet whose mission was to revitalize Judaism. He sought to free people not from Rome but from the corrupt political power brokers that enslaved his people to ignorance and poverty through fear and religious and political persecution.
By shifting the focus of our attention away from blind belief, superstition and the question of whether Jesus said exactly the words attributed to him, a completely new image of Jesus based on his two primary commandments can evolve.
1. His first commandment was to love God above all else. This means that He saw His relationship to the world of Spirit or God as a relationship of eternal Oneness. He taught that we are first and foremost Spiritual Beings having a physical experience in contrast to flawed or sinful physical beings trying to become more spiritual.
2. His second commandment to love your neighbor as yourself defines how he saw his relationship to the physical or world of matter as his neighbor also as a relationship of Oneness with the One. This shift dramatically changes the answers to the three questions.
1. Identity: Jesus was not either a Son of God or simply a human being, he saw himself as both, simultaneously. The world of Spirit was an active experience for him. It was the Source of his power, the Source of his teachings, the Source of his freedom, the Source of his spiritual authority, the Source of his courage and the Source of his compassion. As he so often said, “It is not I but the Father within that does the work.”
2. His central teaching: Jesus’ central teaching was the Great Commandment which is to “love God and your neighbor as yourself.” This commandment describes our relationship to God as a relationship of oneness. In other words, there is only one presence and one power, but that presence and power has the intrinsic ability to exist eternally as invisible Spirit or life energy or it can slow its molecular essence and exist in temporal forms. Mystics have taught this for thousands of years and today science has confirmed it as truth. Everything seen and unseen is made from the same substance. Even if something appears solid, physics tells us it is more space than matter.
3. His purpose: Jesus said his purpose was to teach that the ‘Kingdom of God is at hand.’ In other words, the two appearing realities of Spirit and Matter, which traditional Christians have frequently separated and been taught to view as good and bad, are actually one. In other words, we are in a dynamic, co-creative relationship of oneness with Spirit that out pictures as ‘our neighbor’ – ‘the outer world of form’. The foundation Law of Creation also called the Law of Mind Action is: “Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind.” An affirmation you can use to identify with this Truth is: “God is breathing me and I am breathing out the goodness of God.”
Jesus taught that in order to learn and grow spiritually each individual must have their own deeply personal actual spiritual experiences which result in God’s breathing good into and through each individual life. Upon close observation, religion is often nothing more than a set of particular beliefs, that a group of people, over time, have decided to hold as sacred, indisputable and unchangeable. Traditionally, churches are places where these beliefs are taught, maintained, reinforced and often forced on members.
And what are these beliefs on which religions are built?
They are nothing more than thoughts. They are just intellectual concepts created and maintained by the logical mental function of the mind. Put bluntly, a belief is something we hope is true, even though we don’t really know if it is true. When we actually experience something to be true, we no longer need to believe it’s true. We know it is true because it has become our very own personal experience. We have experienced God as wisdom by coming up with a new idea. We have experienced God as Life by experiencing our own healing or as Divine Love by experiencing God as prosperity. It is through direct contact with God and personal experience with God that we come to know God and our Oneness with God. We know that a prayer need or demand is the other side of answered prayer or supply. One cannot exist without the other because they are two sides of the same presence and power. If we experience God as desire then the mechanism for God to fulfill that desire with itself is also present. This is the meaning of ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Our beliefs or intellectual or mental concepts don’t connect us with God. Our direct experience of God living and breathing through us as us is what brings us to God.
But as Jesus taught, our beliefs do matter. He said, “As you believe so it is done unto (through) you”. For example: Many Christians are taught to believe, that they’re born as hopeless sinners. ‘Original Sin’ is a mental concept; a belief; a seriously negative attitude, which was added to the doctrine of Christianity by St. Augustine in about the 3rd century that conditions us to fear God, to hate ourselves and to turn blindly to someone or something ‘outside ourselves’ like ‘the right church’ to save us. Likewise, believing in Heaven as a physical place where true believers go after the death of the physical body, is just that- another ‘belief’ created by men to control others. We don’t know if it is true – we just hope it is. What we do know is that it ‘excludes’ those who don’t believe labeling them Godless, wrong and eternally damned. Unity actually teaches what Jesus taught and that is that Heaven and Hell are states of consciousness that we create and experience as life. We create our own Heaven and Hell by the thoughts we think, the emotions we feel and the actions we take.
Question: The new information we have about the life and teachings of Jesus offer us a choice: “Do you want to spend your spiritual life focusing on someone’s theological concept of Jesus or or do you want to actually experience God as a living spiritual presence in your heart and life?”
Psychological Fact: You can’t hold your focus of attention at the same time on an idea or thought and have an experience. Ask yourself, “In my religion and spiritual practices, am I aiming my mind’s attention toward experiencing God or just thinking and holding mental concepts?” By choosing to focus on spiritual experience you begin to shift your image of Jesus.
Historically, a Hebrew Prophet was called out by God when the Jewish people had lost their way spiritually and they were in imminent danger of losing something vitally important like their freedom, their prosperity, their holy city of Jerusalem, their identity, or their country and way of life. (Many believe that we are in this state of affairs at the present time. How you see it makes this series either just interesting or important for your own transformation.) It is how you see it and what you believe that matters but in order to make choices you need the most up to date and true information available. In this series, I will do my best to give you what it has taken me over 40 years to unravel and then you can decide what to believe and what works in your life.
In the beginning, it is simply a fact that Jesus and all of his followers were Jews. It is also a fact that the church that formed allegedly from Jesus and His teachings, ended up condemning all the Jews and Jewish Christians as heretics; including the remaining family members of Jesus. Until we resolve this paradox, we can’t hope to understand Jesus or Christianity because this shift in how the relationship between Judaism and Christianity was perceived shaped everything that was to follow. The first and greatest division in the evolution of Christianity addressed the question: “What is the relationship if any between the followers of Jesus as Christians and Judaism?” This question reoccurs throughout the Book of Acts.
St. Jerome’s celebrated 4th century comment summarizes the evolving Christian Church's’ complete rejection of Jewish Christianity. “As long they seek to be both Jews and Christians they are neither Jews nor Christians.” This statement totally misses the mark and the heart of Jesus’ teachings and what He saw as His purpose. Jesus wasn’t trying to save your eternal soul or prepare you for the end of the world. He was trying to save the spirit-filled heart of Judaism before it became lost for all time.
DISCUSSION POINTS TO PONDER
“You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.” – Jesus of Nazareth
“Good luck finding the Truth.” – Bernadette of the Church
Add your own comment here:
Every child faces the same challenge of being programmed by parents, community, and culture from birth to think and behave within a traditional worldview complete with a set of core beliefs and values. This is not right or wrong. It just is something we consciously and unconsciously do to help our children ‘fit in,’ believing it will make their lives easier. We want our children to be successful. But Jesus taught people to be more than just successful in this physical world. He taught that true success was grounded in Spirit. Life is a gift from God and you are meant to live your gift of life as a free spiritual being. You are too: “Be in this world but not of it.”
Jesus said, “Whatsoever you have seen me do, you too can do and even greater things shall you do.” He also said, “Be of good cheer for I have overcome the limits this world.”
In light of this lesson, reflect and respond with your insights to the following questions.
1. What attitudes, judgments and worldview have your elders tried to pass on to you?
2. What attitudes, judgments and worldview of theirs if any, have you resisted or rejected?
3. Did that cause you any heartache?
4. How have you benefited or been hindered by their experiences and approach to life.
5. Have you changed your ‘worldview’ since ‘growing up’ and like the Prodigal Son, leaving your Father’s house (Parents traditions or religion) to make your way in the world?
6. Have you ever been rejected or expelled from a group for being true to your convictions?
7. In your experience is there a difference between Faith as a matter of head and Faith as a matter of heart?
8. Do you set aside regular times devoted to quieting the mind, calming the emotions and letting go of the past and the future in order to connect with a deeper and higher wisdom, inspiration and guidance?
9. How do you maintain your inner life? Is this more difficult with the temporary closure of our Church and unavailability of your spiritual support groups?
10. What does this Unity idea mean to you? “Spirit does not push itself into our lives or force changes in our beliefs and attitudes. Spirit flows into our hearts and minds to the extent we allow it.”
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