Deep River Washing

This month’s Realistic Living Pointers contains excerpts from my commentary on the Gospel of Mark. It is about my understanding of the meaning to Mark of John the Baptist and his baptism of Jesus.

In these verses of Mark’s narrative about a Jewish peasant from Nazareth named “Jesus” rising from John’s washing from the corruptions of that era of history is prelude to the disciples of Jesus rising from their own deep-water dying experienced when their mentor was crucified. Mark is going lead us from this resurrection in the life of Jesus to the resurrection of Jesus’ life in the lives of the disciples.

If you want the read this whole commentary on the Gospel of Mark, it is published on the Realistic Living blog site for a mere $10 plus your name, your address, and your e-mail address. Just put those four things in the mail to Gene Marshall, 3578 N. State Highway 78, Bonham, TX 7418, and I will e-mail you the password that allows you to download as many copies of this commentary as you want to use for yourself or in your local ministries.

To see more clearly what this commentary contains, you can go to:

https://realisticliving.org/blog/mark-commentary/

Following is an early part of that commentary:

Continue reading Deep River Washing

Spirit Sickness

For my Realistic Living Pointers this month I am sharing a portion of my recently published book: Radical Gifts: Living the Full Christian Life in Troubled Times.

I now have copies in my house that I can mail to you or to your friends and relatives as Christmas gifts. Each book is $20, postage free in the US. I only have 17 copies left.

Or you can order this book from the Canadian publisher www.woodlakebooks.com. The price for one print copy is $19.95 plus $17 shipping to the US. For 7 or more books, shipping from Canada is free. If you live in Canada your best deal is to order your books directly from Wood Lake. If you want an e-book or kindle, you can order it from Wood Lake for $9.96.

Contact me, ( jgmarshall@cableone.net ), and I will put a $20 book on its way to the person whose address you send me. You can mail your check to Gene Marshall; 3578 N. State Highway; Bonham TX, 75418 You can also order this book on Amazon.com

Most important, please read the following and share it with others.

Chapter 2
What Is Spirit Sickness and How Is It Healed?

Spirit sickness is not the same as the dread we identified in the previous chapter. Dread in the midst of an oblivion experience is normal, healthy, spirit life. So is the dread we experience in resurgence periods – the dread in our struggles to build a new and unfamiliar life. Dread, fascination, and the courage to embrace these intensities are all factors of healthy spirit life.

“Despair” is the key concept for understanding the sickness of the spirit. For example, leaving childhood is an oblivion experience for an adolescent. Being in despair over leaving childhood, however, is something else. Despair would be the result of refusing to grow up. Despair is spirit sickness. The opposite of despair is trust in the goodness of one’s real situation – in this example, it means trusting in the goodness of leaving childhood. The adolescent might also despair over taking up the roles of adulthood. In this case, he or she would be despairing over a resurgence experience. Here, the opposite of despair would be trust in the goodness of growing up.

As adults, we might be in despair over having to leave the familiar patterns of declining aspects of our society. Or we might be in despair over having to learn new styles of social life. The opposite of despair would be a trust in the goodness of living in the midst of this awesome social change.

Continue reading Spirit Sickness

Radical Gifts

For this month’s Realistic Living Pointers I am going to share with you the preface and table of contents of my new book just published by Wood Lake Publishers. The title is:

Radical Gifts: Living the Full Christian Life in Troubled Times.

In 1963, two years before his death, Paul Tillich gave three lectures on “The Irrelevance and Relevance of the Christian Message.” These lectures were published in 2007 in a book by that title. Tillich’s conclusions clarified our awareness that the Christian message can only be relevant when it is shaped for our times. This core challenge has remained all these years.

In 1984, I offered the initial version of Radical Gifts under the title A Primer on Radical Christianity. This update for Wood Lake Publishing now stands on the shoulders of not only the great 19th- and 20th-century Christian theologians, but also on the shoulders of Christian and secular writers in these early decades of century 21. In this 2018 publication, I continue the effort to envision for the general reader the radical gifts of the Christian revelation for the tasks of realistic living in our contemporary settings. This current book contains some updating, yet the core challenges for Christianity have endured.

We are living in the midst of a turning point in the history of Christianity that is more radical than the Reformation period, perhaps as radical as the birth of Christianity itself. This emerging form of Christianity is so new that it does not seem to be Christianity at all to many people.

Such a topic deserves an elaborate book, but this is a simple book written for you no matter who you are or what relationship you now have to a Christian practice. By “radical gifts” I mean both a recovery and a going forward. I intend a recovery of the full New Testament witness, and a moving beyond both the intellectual and social forms that have defined the term “Christian” for hundreds of years.

I see this work as a useful study book, but also as a condensed pull-together for Christians who are willing to continue, or to begin now to build new forms of Christian-life-together that both nurture Christians and reach out to challenge the spirit confusions that characterize our global societies. I see this as more than a theology book and more than an outline for action; it is a program for living our whole lives in relevant and vital interaction with the times in which we have shown up.

Having a fresh Christian practice is not the only way to make a deep difference, but I am sure it is one way. And it is a way to enter into the needed interreligious dialogue with something to say, and with something to do together with other faiths for the healing of persons and for the justice of societies within these interreligious times. We are all facing these same troubled times together. This book outlines the Christian gifts to these discussions and these actions.

The first six chapters of this book contain theological poetry that still speaks to our times. Chapter 7 on ethics is printed in its original form and updated in an appendix. Similarly, Chapter 8 on Christian community has been updated in another appendix.

Following is the table of contents and how order this book:

1. What is Spirit?

2. What is Spirit Sickness?
and How is it Healed?

3. What Does Spirit Health Include?

4. What Reality in Human Experience
Do We Point to with the Word, “God”?

5. What Does All This Have To Do
with Jesus Christ?

6. What is Commitment to God,
to Christ, to Holy Spirit?

7. What Consequences Does this Commitment
Have for Ethical Thinking?

8. What Will Be the Coming Social Shape
of the Community of the Committed?

Appendix A: Prayer and the
House Church Meeting

Appendix B: Reality, God, and
Liturgical Language

Appendix C: Immortality, Reincarnation
and the Spirit Self

Appendix D: A Chapter 7 Update on the
Commitment to Ethical Thinking

Appendix E: A Chapter 8 Update on the
Community of the Committed

You can order this book from www.woodlakebooks.com. A print copy is $15.96 plus shipping; e-book or kindle $9.96. Shipping costs to the United States for 1-6 books is $17. For 7 or more books, shipping is free. To Canada shipping costs for 1-6 books is $12. For 7 or more books shipping is free. Contact Gene Marshall for other options.( jgmarshall@cableone.net ).

Interpreting Scripture

For my Realistic Living Pointers this month, I am sharing with you the last half of the introduction to a new book that I am publishing on our Realistic Living blog site.

The Creator of Christianity
a commentary on the Gospel of Mark
by Gene W. Marshall

The entire book can be purchased for $10 on this site:

https://realisticliving.org/blog/

While you are there, look around. We are also publishing the 8 spirit talks that Gene gave at the June 2018 Realistic Living Summer Program, plus a Study Outline for the above book, and Study Outlines for The Unbelievable Happiness of What Is by Jon Bernie, and Dangerous Years by David W. Orr. All this is in addition to the monthly Realistic Living Pointers.

Following is the second half of the Introduction to the Mark Commentary.

Interpreting Scripture Today

Today, Christian theologians, who want to go to the roots of the first century Christian “revelation,” face the reality that people in the first century used the now obsolete two-tier, story-telling metaphor. That old manner of talking about ultimate matters had been the way of talking about ultimate matters for as long as anyone could remember.
In spite of the fact that their way of talking is no longer adequate for us today, we cannot claim to be Christians if we fail to interpret our scriptures. Therefore, to do scriptural interpretation adequately, we must translate for our era of culture what those early writers meant in their own lives when they used that old form of metaphorical talk that is now basically meaningless to us. Throughout this commentary, I will be illustrating what such metaphorical translation looks like.

Christian theologians today also face a second challenge. Within our current culture we tend to overlook metaphorical meanings altogether. We tend to view all statements literally. We learned to be literal from the current prominence of the scientific mode of truth. In the scientific style of thinking, words mean something only if words point to something in the realm of facts, observable by the human senses. Influenced by this overemphasis on facts, both religious agnostics and religious literalists fail to see the poetic or contemplative type of truth that is contained in the wild stories of the Bible. The agnostics are right to see that many stories of the Bible are preposterous when viewed literally. And religious literalists, who think they are defending Biblical truth with their literalism, are actually ignoring the profound truth that is hidden in these wildly creative stories.

Continue reading Interpreting Scripture

The Creator of Christianity

For my Realistic Living Pointers this month, I am using part of the introduction to a new book that I am publishing on our Realistic Living blog site.

The Creator of Christianity
a commentary on the Gospel of Mark
by Gene W. Marshall

The entire book can be purchased for $10 on this site:

https://realisticliving.org/blog/

While you are there, look around. We are also publishing the 8 spirit talks that Gene gave at the June 2018 Realistic Living Summer Program, plus Study Outlines for the above book, The Unbelievable Happiness of What Is by Jon Bernie, and Dangerous Years by David W. Orr. All this is in addition to the recent Realistic Living Pointers posts.

So here is the first part of the

Introduction

to the Mark Commentary.

Living in Aramaic-speaking Galilee twenty-one centuries ago, Jesus and his first companions constituted the event of revelation that birthed the Christian faith. But without Paul’s interpretation of the meaning of cross and resurrection for the Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jewish culture, we might never have heard of Christian faith.

Mark, whoever he was, lived during the lifetime of Paul and was deeply influenced by Paul. In about 70 CE, Mark, like Paul, was a major turning point in the development of the Christian religion. Mark invented the literary form we know as “the Gospel.” This remarkable literary form was then copied and elaborated by the authors Matthew and Luke, and then revolutionized by John. These four writings, not Paul’s letters, are the opening books of the New Testament that Christians count as their Bible (along with the Old Testament). “Gospel” (Good News) has become a name for the whole Christian revelation.

We might say that Mark was the theologian who gave us the Christianity that has survived in history. The Markian shift in Christian imagination was important enough that we might even claim that Mark, rather than Paul or Jesus, was the founder of Christianity. However that may be, Mark’s gospel is a very important piece of writing. And this writing is more profound and wondrous than is commonly appreciated.

Of first importance for understanding my viewpoint in the following commentary is this: I see the figure of “Jesus” in Mark’s narrative as a fictitious character—based, I firmly believe, on a real historical figure. I do not want to confuse Mark’s “Jesus” with what we can know through our best recent scientific research about the historical Jesus of Nazareth. For our best understanding of Mark, we need to view Mark’s “Jesus” with the same fun and sensibility we have toward Harry Potter when we read J. K. Rowling’s novels about this unusual character.

Continue reading The Creator of Christianity

Being Buddha

A number of Buddhist teachers insist that everyone is already a Buddha (The Awake One.) Underneath, we might say, all the falsifications about who we think we are, there exits our Buddha-hood. I believe that something similar can be said about being “in Christ Jesus.” If Jesus, as the Christ (Messiah), is understood as a revelation of our profound humanness, then all of us are already “in Christ.” Our profound humanness has never been missing, and it is still there. We simply have to get our alien self-images out of the way. That is a serious business, for we are sociologically conditioned to a human build world that is a far approximation of what is really real.

Continue reading Being Buddha

When Total Obedience is Perfect Freedom

Realism means obedience to reality. Such obedience entails giving up building mind-castles of false realities to take the place of Reality with a capital “R.” This capitalization assumes that there IS a really real Reality that is not made up by human beings. However the capitalized word “Reality” is capable of misunderstandings. For some it can mean a second realm that stands over-against the ordinary realm of existence. If we are inclined to a more down-to-Earth view of Reality, it can mean those parts of our experience that are pleasant, excluding those parts that are unpleasant, horrific, challenging, grim, or perhaps boring.

But the “total obedience” I want to describe is a devotion to the mysterious all-powerful encounter that includes everything that happens to us in every event we face. Such realism means taking in what is actually happening to each of us and to us as societies. This includes possibilities as well as limitations. It includes the consequences of human choices as well as the processes of nature over which humans have no control. It includes the horrific as well as the glorious. In addition to our everyday content, the Reality we actually face includes the Abyss of No-thing-ness from which each thing, including our own lives, have come and to which each thing, including our own lives,will return. Reality also includes the Every-thing-ness of that Expansive Sea of Mystery within which each identifiable thing exists for now. Reality includes the Awesome Otherness that we encounter as well as the Awe that the Awesome occasions in our inner being.

Continue reading When Total Obedience is Perfect Freedom

Power

Many authors today have often contrasted the power-to do things for people with power-over other people. Indeed, there is deep contrast between the use of our power in service of others and the use of our power to gain status for our selves or as a means of oppressing others for our own benefit and sense of worth.

Nevertheless, power-over is not in itself evil. Parents have power-over their children. This benefits the children, if such power is well used. Our political leaders (however they are selected) are granted power-over a wide scope of citizen life. Such political power can also be used in service of the citizenry, and such power can be misused very badly.

Power is an important factor in all social actions. As Paul Tillich spelled out in one of his most creative books, there is no Justice without Power and there is no Justice building Power or empowered Justice without Love (Tillich, Paul; Love, Power, and Justice).

Continue reading Power

The Good Shepherd Lives

Here is a much mistreated passage from the Fourth Gospel about shepherds and sheep.

I have come that human beings may have life and may have it is all its fullness. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hireling, when he sees the wolf coming, abandons the sheep and runs away, because he is no shepherd and the sheep are not his. John 10 :10-12

Those who give sermons on the good shepherd often assume that this ancient image applies to a contemporary pastor who tells his flock what they should believe and how they should act. Such a view also assumes that most people are sheep in the sense of being gullible, go-along, authority-addicted dumbbells.

I do not believe this was the meaning intended by the original author of these verses. The original shepherd image was grounded in the experience of noticing highly dedicated persons working on a hillside with a flock of sheep, providing them grass and water and protecting them from wolves. Being a follower of Jesus means being such a leader.

So where can we actually experience this Good Shepherd in our lives today? Let me answer this with a fictitious story—a story made out of my own experiences. In my story, Sally McGillicutty teaches an adult class in the Sunflower room of the Umpity Ump Christian Church. Sally trusts the Ultimate Message that the Infinite Silence we meet in every event of our lives loves Sally and every other person (and creature) on this planet or any other planet. Because of her trust in that Eternal Wholeness that is faced by Sally and by us, Sally is thereby an embodiment of the Ultimate Message from Eternity.

Continue reading The Good Shepherd Lives

Giving Back our Gifts

The traditional model of Christian sainthood goes all the way back to Abraham. Actually, it goes all the way back to the stories of Abraham and Sarah. The fragment of historical truth beneath those stories refers to ancient migrations from what is now Iraq to Palestine—events that happened centuries before these biblical stories were written down.

Central within the Abraham and Sarah stories is a story about Abraham’s journey to the top of a mountain to sacrifice Isaac—his only son, the son miraculously given to him and Sarah in their advanced age. In this strange story, Abraham is giving back the gift of Isaac, who was Abraham’s only evidence for a promise made to Abraham by the Giver of Isaac—a promise to make the descendants of Abraham and Sarah as numerous as the sands on the sea shore.

Centuries after the Exodus from Egypt, when these stories were being widely told, written, and read, this promise to Abraham was still not realized. The Hebraic people who claimed Abraham as their forefather were not yet numerous. Today, we might assume that all the Jewish people, all the Christian people, and all the Islamic people are somehow descendants of Abraham. If so, then Abraham’s descendants are indeed in the billions. All these people are not biological descendants, but they are at least people who remember Abraham and Sarah and Hagar. Only a few of these billions, however, embody Abraham’s model of sainthood.

Why should we honor the Abraham stories or his model of sainthood? These stories are fiction after all, and rather gross fiction as well. And especially, why all the fuss over this strange story about human sacrifice? Why did a fully sane and renowned 19th century philosopher and theologian, Søren Kierkegaard, write a whole book about this story?

This essay will be much simpler than Kiekegaard’s book. I am going to reflect on one idea: “Giving back to Reality all that Reality has given to us.”

Continue reading Giving Back our Gifts