After nearly two thousand years of religious practice I find myself asking "has Christianity brought us the peace and compassion it promised?" If not, has its message somehow become distorted? Or have we simply failed to grasp the root of its message? Why does the world continue to experience and spread so much pain and suffering? Has God given up on us as some would have us believe? Or have we simply failed an angry Creator and must now 'pay the price'? Perhaps, according to some we are reaching that time in history when the final battle between 'good' and 'evil' will take place? Still others believe that only through the strict interpretation of scripture and worship can we hope to avoid the further wrath of God. Different religious observers believe that God will only come to our rescue when we have finally 'cleansed' the world from the last heretic, unbeliever, terrorist, wrongdoer, abortionist, homosexual, etc. etc. On the eve of Christmas 2009 peace and harmony seem ever so elusive as no doubt it was for Mary and Joseph 2000 years ago. So, just exactly what was that message of hope that their son shared so many years ago? Where is that Kingdom that this Prince of Peace instituted during his all to brief life?
Recently while searching in my favourite discount bookstore I came across 'The Secret Message of Jesus – Uncovering the Truth Could Change Everything' (2006) by Brian D. McLaren. Of course the message wasn't a secret at all. Its just that our ego's have quietly and effectively veiled its contents for all those years. Some grasped the message immediately, while others, like myself were blinded by our ego. The intent of this blog is not to reveal the secret but rather let the reader obtain a copy of McClaren's book themselves. However, to give you a slight inkling of the 'secret' I want to share the following story the author wrote as follows:
My friend Tony Campolo tells a true story that also serves as a great parable in this regard. He was in another time zone and couldn't sleep, so well after midnight he wandered down to a doughnut shop where, it turned out, local hookers also came at the end of a night of turning tricks. There, he overheard a conversation between two of them. One, named Agnes, said, "You know what? Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm gonna be thirty-nine." Her friend snapped back, "So what d'ya want from me? A birthday party? Huh? You want me to get a cake and sing happy birthday to you?" The first woman replied, "Aw, come on, why do you have to be so mean? Why do you have to put me down? I'm just sayin' it's my birthday. I don't want anything from you. I mean, why should I have a birthday party? I've never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?"
When they left, Tony got an idea. He asked the shop owner if Agnes came in every night, and when he replied in the affirmative, Tony invited him into a surprise party conspiracy. The shop owner's wife even got involved. Together they arranged for a cake, candles, and typical party decorations for Agnes, who was, to Tony, a complete stranger. The next night when she came in, they shouted, "Surprise!"—and Agnes couldn't believe her eyes. The doughnut shop patrons sang, and she began to cry so hard she could barely blow out the candles. When the time came to cut the cake, she asked if they'd mind if she didn't cut it, if she could bring it home—just to keep it for a while and savor the moment. So she left, carrying her cake like a treasure.
Tony led the guests in a prayer for Agnes, after which the shop owner told Tony he didn't realize Tony was a preacher. He asked what kind of church Tony came from, and Tony replied, "I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning." The shop owner couldn't believe him. "No you don't. There ain't no church like that. If there was, I'd join it. Yep, I'd join a church like that." Sadly, there are too few churches like that, but if more of us understand the secret message of Jesus, there will be lots more.