And forgive us our trespasses…
(Removing Our Hindrances Part II)
We’ve just described our journey toward a life in Christ as a rising. But the act of “rising” (such as rising above petty arguments and concerns) can sometimes get us into trouble, especially we Christians. The reason is that when we rise toward our divinity, we often look down on others with a misguided sense of superiority.1 Jesus condones none of that. He knocks us off our pedestals by insisting that we wash the feet of others if we are to have any part of him.2
To keep us grounded Jesus also teaches that our rebirth in Christ is owed to both spirit and water.3 This lesson is one that’s largely been forgotten. Most Christians today see water simply as an accoutrement to the ritual of baptism, forgetting that the performance of rituals was something that Jesus only grudgingly accepted—for he knew how often they become codified into new forms of idolatry.
We can see such idolatry in the way the Pharisees rigidly held to their laws of the Sabbath.4 When it came to baptism, Jesus saw it as something which needed to be done for the sake of the community, rather than for himself—telling John the Baptist they must suffer the task so as to “satisfy every claim of religion.”5 In other words, Jesus allowed himself to be baptized to fulfill the religious expectations of Israel, so that their minds would remain open to receiving the gospel of Christ.
That the heavens are said to have literally opened up during Jesus’s baptism, with the Holy Spirit descending on his head like a dove,6 does not mean that we are magically turned into Christians during this ritual. Instead, these metaphors are used to illustrate water’s essential role in our spiritual transformation.
To understand why Jesus says that our rebirth in Christ is owed to water, we must look at water as a parable, or character in a story. Water’s narrative is that it likes to follow the path of least resistance. Likewise, the Holy Spirit seeks the path of least resistance as we remove the hindrances7 that block Christ from entering our lives.
Throughout Christendom this teaching has been driven under ground by a litany of ignoble wars, fire and brimstone preachers, and overzealous missionaries. But no person has ever been led to Christ through violence, threats, or intimidation, only by experiencing the Holy Spirit as it flows effortlessly from the souls of others.
How easily we forget Jesus’s admonition to turn the other cheek; to not resist wrongs; to give our possessions to those who want to sue us; and walk two miles with those who compel us to go but one.8 In other words, to pass through this life like water.
Rather than accept the path of least resistance, we often strike out on the course of greatest resistance, confusing the lesser path with one of weakness. What we fail to recognize (but what Jesus was well aware of) is that water has another defining characteristic. It has the dammed up potential to flow forward with great force, when its hindrances are pulled away, forever altering the landscape below the break. Likewise, the Holy Spirit has tremendous power to transform lives, to create a holy current that will carry along others and make us true “fishers of men,” As Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew—casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 “Come and follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 The two men left their nets at once and followed him.9 if we but remove the obstacles in its path.
When we pray “forgive us our trespasses” we are beginning…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- Speaking to people who were satisfied that they were religious, and who regarded everyone else with scorn, Jesus told this parable. – Luke 18:9 [↩]
- If I, then—‘the Master’ and ‘the Teacher’—have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet; 15 For I have given you an example, so that you may do just as I have done to you. – John 13:14-15 [↩]
- “In truth I tell you,” answered Jesus, “unless you owe your birth to water and spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. – John 3:5 [↩]
- Jesus walked through the corn-fields one Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and began to pick some ears of wheat and eat them. 2 But, when the Pharisees saw this, they said: “Look! your disciples are doing what it is not allowable to do on a Sabbath!” 3 “Have not you read,” replied Jesus, “what David did, when he and his companions were hungry. 4 How he went into the house of God, and how they ate the consecrated bread, though it was not allowable for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests? 5 And have not you read in the law that, on the Sabbath, the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and yet are not guilty? 6 Here, however, I tell you, there is something greater than the temple! 7 And had you learned the meaning of the words: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned those who are not guilty. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:1–8 [↩]
- Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to see John and be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent him. “It is I,” he said, “who need to be baptized by you; and yet you come to me?” 15 “Suffer it be so for the present,” Jesus answered, “since it is fitting for us thus to satisfy every claim of religion.” – Mark 3:1315 [↩]
- Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens rent apart, and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. – Mark 1:9-10 [↩]
- Blessed are those who find no hindrance in me. – Luke 7:23 [↩]
- I, however, say to you that you must not resist wrongs; but, if others should strike you on the right cheek, turn the other to them also; 40 And, when people want to go to law with you to take your coat, let them have your cloak as well; 41 And, if anyone compels you to go one mile, go two miles with them. – Matthew 5:39–41 [↩]
- Matthew 4:18-20 [↩]
The 14th century German vicar Meister Eckhart was in many ways a 21st century Progressive Christian. Although highly educated and an admirer of Thomas Aquinus, Eckhart also realized the limits of formal education, once telling the Paris elite that not one person among them could conceive with all their learning what God was in the meanest creature, not even in a fly.
An indomitable spirit, with seemingly limitless energy and passion, Meister Eckhart’s entire life can be seen as a personification of his realization of the living God. Eckhart wrote:
Life is a boiling up and pouring out of itself, scalding and melting and bubbling within itself, light penetrating light. For life is as it were a gushing up, a thing welling up in itself, pouring a part of itself into another part, as it runs forth and bubbles over beyond itself.
Today our lives, all too often, run contrary to the boiling life. We’ve set the heat down low and covered the pot to gentle simmer, so that nothing escapes, nothing gushes forth and bubbles beyond itself. The living God finds no home there, but in those uncovered souls that joyfully turn up the heat.1
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- From everyone to whom much has been given much will be expected, and to those whom much has been entrusted the more will be demanded. I came to cast fire upon the earth; and what more can I wish, if it is already kindled? – Luke 12:48-49 [↩]
Gospel of Mark 3
On another occasion Jesus went in to a synagogue, where there was a man whose hand was withered. 2 And they watched Jesus closely, to see if he would cure the man on the Sabbath, so that they might have a charge to bring against him.
3 “Stand out in the middle,” Jesus said to the man with the withered hand; 4 And to the people he said: “Is it allowable to do good on the Sabbath? Or harm? To save a life, or destroy it?” 5 As they remained silent, Jesus looked round at them in anger, grieving at the hardness of their hearts, and said to the man: “Stretch out your hand.” The man stretched it out; and his hand had become sound. 6 Immediately on leaving the Synagogue, the Pharisees and the Herodians united in laying a plot against Jesus, to put him to death.
7 Then Jesus went away with his disciples to the sea, followed by a great number of people from Galilee. 8 And a great number, hearing of all that he was doing, came to him from Judea, from Jerusalem, from Edom, from beyond the Jordan, and from the country round Tyre and Sidon. 9 So Jesus told his disciples to keep a small boat close by, for fear the crowd should crush him. 10 For he had cured many of them, and so people kept crowding upon him, that all who were afflicted might touch him.
11 The foul spirits, too, whenever they caught sight of him, flung themselves down before him, and screamed out: “You are the Son of God”! 12 But he repeatedly warned them not to make him known. 13 And Jesus made his way up the hill, and called those whom he wished; and they went to him. 14 And he appointed twelve, whom he also named ‘apostles,’ that they might be with him, and that he might send them out as his messengers, to preach, 15 And with power to drive out demons.
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16 So he appointed the twelve: Peter (which was the name that Jesus gave to Simon), 17 James, the son of Zebediah, and his brother John (whom he surnamed Boanerges, meaning the sons of thunder), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, 19 And Judas Iscariot, the man that betrayed him. 20 Jesus went into a house; and again a crowd collected, so that they were not able even to eat their food.
21 When his relations heard of it, they went to take charge of him, for they said that he was out of his mind. 22 And the teachers of the law, who had come down from Jerusalem, said: “He has the devil in him, and he drives the demons out by the help of Beelzebub, their chief.” 23 So Jesus called them to him, and answered them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 When a kingdom is divided against itself, it cannot last; 25 And a house divided against itself will not last. 26 So, if Satan is in revolt against himself and is divided, he cannot last; his end has come!
27 No one who has got into a strong man’s house can carry off his goods, without first securing him; and not till then will they plunder his house. 28 I tell you that men will be forgiven everything: their sins, and all the slanders that they utter; 29 but whoever slanders the Holy Spirit remains unforgiven to the end; he has to answer for an enduring sin.” 30 This was said in reply to the charge that he had a foul spirit in him.
31 And his mother and his brothers came, and stood outside, and sent to ask him to come to them. 32 There was a crowd sitting round Jesus, and some of them said to him: “Look, your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” 33 “Who is my mother? and my brothers?” was his reply. 34 Then he looked around on the people sitting in a circle round him, and said: “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
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To read Chapter 4 of the Book of Mark, please go to: The Kingdom of God is Like
Browse the entire Book of Mark here: Gospel of Mark
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who was a leading man among the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night, and said to him: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one could give such signs as you are giving, unless God were with him.”
3 “In truth I tell you,” exclaimed Jesus, “unless you are reborn, you cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 “How can someone,” asked Nicodemus, “be born when they are old? Can we be born a second time?” 5 “In truth I tell you,” answered Jesus, “unless you owe your birth to water and spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6 All that owes its birth to human nature is human, and all that owes its birth to the spirit is spiritual. 7 Do not wonder at my telling you that you all need to be reborn. 8 The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes, or where it goes; it is the same with everyone that owes his birth to the spirit.” 9 “How can that be?” asked Nicodemus.
10 “What! You a teacher of Israel,” exclaimed Jesus, “and yet do not understand this! 11 In truth I tell you that we speak of what we know, and state what we have seen; and yet you do not accept our statements. 12 If, when I tell you earthly things, you do not believe me, how will you believe me when I tell you of heavenly things?”
13 “None have ascended to heaven, except those who descended from heaven—the Son of Man himself. 14 And, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 That everyone who believes in him may have everlasting life.”
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that everyone who believes in him may not be lost, but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him escape condemnation, while those who do not believe in him are already condemned, because they have not believed in the only Son of God.”
19 “The ground of their condemnation is this: that though light has come into the world, they preferred the darkness to light, because their actions were wicked. 20 For those who live an evil life hate the light, and will not come to it because they fear that their actions will be exposed; 21 But those who act upon the truth come to the light, that their actions born in God may be made manifest.”
22 After this, Jesus went with his disciples into the country parts of Judea; and there he stayed with them, and baptized. 23 John, also, was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there were many streams there; and people were constantly coming and being baptized 24 (For John had not yet been imprisoned).
25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew on the subject of ‘purification;’ 26 And the disciples came to John and said: “Rabbi, the man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan, and to whom you have yourself borne testimony, he also is baptizing, and everybody is going to him.” 27 John’s answer was: “We can gain nothing but what is given to us from heaven.
28 You are yourselves witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but ‘I have been sent before him as a messenger.’ 29 It is the bridegroom who has the bride; but the bridegroom’s friend, who stands by and listens to him, is filled with joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This joy I have felt to the full. 30 He must become greater, and I less. 31 He who comes from above is above all others; but a child of earth is earthly, and his teaching is earthly, too. He who comes from heaven is above all others.”
32 “He states what he has seen and what he heard, and yet no one accepts his statement. 33 They who did accept his statement attested the fact that God is true. 34 For he whom God sent as his messenger gives us God’s own teaching, for God does not limit the gift of the spirit. 35 The Father loves his Son, and has put everything in his hands. 36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life, while he who rejects the Son will not even see that life, but remains under God’s displeasure.”
To read the next chapter of the Book of John, please go to The Gospel of John – 4.
This Online New Testament Gospel of John is excerpted from the book The Living Hour: The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life (with New Century Gospels). Including over 200 bookmarked citations from the canonical Gospels, this Progressive Christian book appeals to the Unitarian spirit at the heart of all faiths.
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