As we know from
many of the late George Carlin's comedy routines, coming into contact with
organized religion is part of almost every person's experience.
the matter with that, as long as the organized religion we encounter helps us
accomplish what it supposedly was created to do: to have an experience of God
working in our daily lives.
arise, as Carlin frequently pointed out, when organized religion provides us
only with an experience of organized religion.
don't have that problem when we listen to Sunday's three readings. Each of
the authors deftly cuts through organized religion and presents us with a
picture of God acting in our lives -- for better or for worse.
the readings (Jeremiah 20: 7-9) by referring to Yahweh in the most insulting
terms used in all Scripture. Though most translators render the passage's
first words in rather innocuous terms like "You duped me," or
"You tricked me," scholars have reminded us that this specific
Hebrew verb is often employed in the context of rape.
Jeremiah is so
angry and frustrated with Yahweh's treatment of him that he can only fall
back on the warning all parents give their young children as they send them
off to school alone: "Don't ever get into a car with a stranger!"
regrets not heeding that advice. He got into Yahweh's car, was overpowered
and has never been the same again. Once he agreed to be Yahweh's prophet,
Jeremiah's life turned into a nightmare.
The worst part
of his experience was that he could not reverse the process: "I say to
myself, I will not mention Him, I will speak in His name no more. But then it
becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary
holding it in; I cannot endure it."
relationship with Yahweh entrapped him for the rest of his life.
Paul certainly identified
with some of Jeremiah's God-experience, especially the part about it being an
open, lifetime commitment (Romans 12:1-2). One's life was totally changed by
it: "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,...do
not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your
mind, that you may discern what is the will of God."
will our will every day of our lives is both the most rewarding and
frustratingly painful experience of those lives.
St. Paul was doing nothing but following the
example of Matthew's Jesus (Matthew 16:21-27). No one reaches the life Jesus
offered without going through the death He demanded.
Sunday's narrative from Mark, following his three-fold pattern of a
prediction of Jesus' passion, death and resurrection, followed by a
misunderstanding, and then a clarification.
In this series,
Peter is granted the privilege of the misunderstanding. Along with the famous
"Get behind me, Satan" command, he is also reminded, "You are
thinking not as God does but as human beings do."
When one thinks
as God, one accepts His value system, no matter how different and painful
that is from our own.
surprise me that many people prefer organized religion over actual
experiences of God. There is a lot less pain and none of the pitfalls that
come from a personal commitment to a real person.