Posted in Inspiration, Jesus, Oneness with God, teachers

John 3:16

Today’s blog explores John 3:16, the scripture passage oft-quoted at sporting events and the focus of yesterday’s Gospel.  Is there a way to view this reading that eliminates the walls of separation and exclusion? 

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

John 3: 16

The Trouble With 3:16

At first glance, this reading may seem harmless enough, but if we take the reading at face value, and listen to the typical interpretation of this reading (and its surrounding text), it kind of says, If you don’t proclaim Jesus Christ to be your personal Lord and Savior, you will perish and spend an eternity in hell.  I never really believed in this kind of exclusive arrangement anyway – that there is only room in eternity for Christians….specifically those in “good standing,” but after 20+ years of contemplation of scripture and study of not only Catholic theology, but of the teachings and practices of our Jewish, Moslim, Pagan, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American and Yogic brothers and sisters, I really have a problem believing that there is only room in “heaven” for those who proclaim Jesus Christ to be their personal Lord and Savior.    (For you Catholics out there, it might interest you to know that the Vatican II Documents support the possibility of heaven for everyone. So apparently this concept of exclusivity was problematic to the Vatican II Fathers as well.  YAY Vatican II!)  So in the past several years when John 3:16 would show up in the cycle of readings, I would either cringe or just close my ears and write it off as irrelevant.  That was until I discovered the work of Neil Douglas-Klotz.

Enlightment Through Translations

Among other things, Neil Douglas-Klotz is an author – specifically on the topic of bridging the gaps between Christianity, Islam and Judaism.  His work centers on a prayerful and more accurate translation of ancient texts which helps us to better understand the teacher/author’s intentions.  Two of his works especially have had a HUGE impact on my own spiritual journey and my relationship to Christian scripture:  Prayers of the Cosmos and The Hidden GospelThanks to these works, I have a broader and deeper perspective on The Lord’s Prayer, The Beatitudes and many of Jesus’ reported sayings and teachings.  I am grateful for the way in which Douglas-Klotz’s work has eliminated the separation and tension that I have often felt in the traditional viewings of scripture.  So, without further ado…..I offer to you today a different perspective on John 3:16 that arose out of my prayer and was supported by Douglas-Klotz’s work.  I hope that if you too have struggled with the separation often caused by the traditional interpretation of this reading that this new perspective will give you room to breathe.

John 3:16 – a New Perspective

 For God so loved the world that God planted within all of humanity a spark of Divine truth and the restlessness that compels them to seek this truth.

And God so loved the world that God made it such that all of humanity would have the ability to rediscover, cultivate and fully embrace this truth and come to the realization of their wholeness and their Oneness with God.

And God so loved the world that God called all of humanity Sons and Daughters of God and knew that some would discover this spark of truth before others. Those that discover and embody this truth would find relief from the suffering of the human condition; suffering that is the natural consequence of forgetting this truth.  Those that discover and embody this truth are called prophets and come from all walks of life, all cultures, races, genders, ethnicities, religious beliefs and sexual orientations.  Those who through this truth come to self-realization and self-actualization are then compelled to share this truth with others so that they too may be saved.

God so loved the world that God gave humanity the gift of free will so that they could decide if and when they are ready to discover and embrace this truth.  Those who are not yet ready to embrace this truth are no less saved than the rest, they are merely unripe.  For those who are not yet ready to embrace this truth, God lovingly and patiently awaits their ripening.  For those that believe in this truth in the same way that the prophets believe in this truth, experience heaven on earth – a life of abundant joy, peace, compassion and bliss.

God so loved the world that God gave humanity each other that they might remember this truth……and this truth is LOVE.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

Remember the Love That You Are!

Posted in Jesus, Spiritual Practices

Praying the Lord’s Prayer when we no longer believe in “the old man in the sky”

The Lord’s Prayer is one of the foundational prayers of the Christian tradition and a central part of most Christian worship.  How do we participate in this prayer when we no longer believe in God as only “the old man in the sky?” 

As a Catholic Christian, one of the first prayers I learned was The Lord’s Prayer, otherwise known to me as The Our Father.  I was taught to say the Lord’s Prayer as part of my bedtime prayers.  I was taught to say it when praying the rosary, and The Lord’s Prayer was central to the Catholic Mass (and to other Christian worship services as I later learned), which I attended weekly with my family and on Fridays with my classmates at St. Alphonsus Catholic day school. 

For all of my childhood and a fair portion of my adulthood, the Lord’s Prayer was something I said by rote memorization, out of a sense of obligation and with little thought to its meaning or my own intention for saying this prayer.  Praying the Lord’s Prayer felt like me asking God for something….but I was never really sure what I was asking for.  I just knew I was supposed to say this prayer, so I did and it never seemed to give me any trouble, so why not say it?  But then….something changed.

Somewhere in my spiritual journey…and I cannot tell you exactly when this happened, I started to question the whole “Our Father” thing.  Was God really the old man in the sky and should I be calling him Father?  As I explored the writings of feminist theologians, I began to find validation for my questions.  How could God be just a man?  This no longer made sense to me.  Then, as I learned how to pray and reflect on scripture and when prayer became an interaction between myself and God (rather than me simply going “blah blah blah”) I came to experience a God that was much more than just father.  While I had never really had any problems with thinking of God as father-like, I also came to experience God as much more than this….God was even more than mother….God was Spirit, Energy, Movement, Presence, Action, Creative Expression, etc. etc. etc.  For me, God could no longer be contained within any of the traditional labels.  Suddenly, The Lord’s Prayer became a problem.  How could I pray this prayer if I no longer believed in God as only the old man in the sky?  Neil Douglas-Klotz to the rescue.

A few years back, I attended a spiritual dance retreat at the Christine Center in Willard, Wisconsin.  The retreat consisted of learning sacred chant from several world traditions, then dancing to these chants.  The chant we learned and participated in on Sunday was the Lord’s Prayer, reinterpreted from the original Aramaic, the language most likely to have been spoken by Jesus, and the language through which he most likely taught his disciples and followers.  This was a profoundly moving experience to learn the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic and then to pray it with movement and gestures, but it was the reinterpretation of this prayer that was the most moving for me.  Through the work of modern-day scriptural translation and with the added benefit of Neil Douglas-Klotz’s meditative reflection on these translations, the problem of the old man in the sky God was suddenly solved!  As I said before, Neil Douglas-Klotz to the rescue! 

You would either  need to read Prayer of the Cosmos by Neil Douglas-Klotz or attend my class, Deepening Freedom (see the classes section of my website for details….this class starts November 10th!) to comprehend the full depth of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic….but let me give you at least the solution to the old man in the sky problem.  In the traditional translation of the Lord’s Prayer, the first line goes something like this:

Our Father Who Art in Heaven

In Aramaic, the first line is:

Abwoon d’bwashmaya

When we translate the first line from the Aramaic, directly into English, it says something like this:

O Thou From Whom the breath of life flows and is present in all forms of vibration and light…

Pause for a moment and read that phrase again.  HOLY COW!  God is no longer JUST the old man in the sky.  God is suddenly vibration, light, the source of breath, the source of life…not just the old man in the sky.  Problem solved.   So, thanks to Neil Douglas-Klotz and other Aramaic scholars, I am once again able to find meaning and resonance with the prayer that Jesus taught us.  And….if you want to learn more about this and my own personal belief that Jesus gave us this prayer for much more than simply rote recitation – but as a powerful tool for healing and transformation, you will just have to come to my class!  😉

What has been your experience with The Lord’s Prayer?

What are your images of God?  Father? Mother? Spirit? Lover?

How are you being invited to deepen your experience of Christian prayer?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries/YourSpiritualTruth