Christian Studies – Kirk Haas

March 20, 2012
Dr. of Christian Studies by Rev. Kirk Haas”I came to set the earth on fire, and what do I wish? That it were already ablaze! I have a bath to be bathed, and how can I rest easy till that is carried out? Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, I came to bring division: from now on there will be five in one house split three against two or two against three. Father will be turned against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother.”

- Luke Chapter 12, The Unvarnished Gospels, translated by Andy Gaus

This was the passage that moved me most. It disturbed me most. I stopped when I read “peace on earth”, and asked ‘isn’t this what I have believed, that Jesus was peace loving?’ I began to look at it from a different angle than that of the Christian driven trust in God. I began to question if there was a motivation of Jesus that is underneath what the religious ‘powers that be’ wanted us to believe. I stepped away from the purity of the message and looked at it as an historian. This had a profound change in how I read the four gospels. It was no longer written verification of what I believed. It had now become historic recollection of what might have been.

What if Jesus knew that his people needed a leader to stand up to the Jewish and Roman political/religious powers, and motivated them to turn away from the elders and live their lives in a new, rebellious religious way? What if Jesus orchestrated his martyrdom to create an end to the, what had become, hypocritical religious dogma? Jesus’ knowledge of the Holy Scriptures was beyond compare. Even today, elaborate hoaxes have been put on the public with full success. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I am now more curious than before. I am more open to look at it from a different point of view.

I started rereading the gospels to look for other examples. What I found is not important. What is important is that I looked. I questioned what I believed. Isn’t that what Jesus meant by bringing division? Questioning the existing practice, questioning the practices of our fathers that had gone away from what God taught? In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John we have four different views of Jesus and his thirty some years on this earth. We have many translations that differ slightly or seriously, and one thing remains true through all of this, there was no scribe writing Jesus’ words down. We have only recollections, years after the fact. We have what may be the truth, the Book of Thomas, and it was denied inclusion into the Bible? Was it because Jesus was a Gnostic?

“Don’t think I came to cast peace across the land. I didn’t come to cast peace, I came to wield a sword…. and to make a man’s servants his enemies.”
-Matthew Chapter 10

I deeply enjoyed this course, however after this course I have more questions than comfort. My belief has not been shaken, but it has been stirred.

Rev. Kirk Haas


Christian History

March 19, 2012
 
Dr. of Christian History Final Essay
By Rev. Patricia Buben
According to the course, Judaism gave us the most perfect system of moral philosophy in existence.  The Jews saw sin as a violation coming from an impure heart that resulted in external sinful actions. Salvation was viewed as being only from God, and not in human ethical works or subjective mystery cults.
Because of the location of Rome, at Christianity’s birth and in the first three centuries of its existence, conditions were more favorable for the spread of the Christian gospel throughout the Mediterranean world than at any other time in previous eras. Of all the religions and cults practiced in the Roman Empire at the time of Christ’s birth, only Judaism and Christianity have been able to successfully survive the changing course of world history and still be a major influence today.
The life, death and resurrection of Christ began the era of Christianity.  Unlike other traditions, Christ cannot be separated from Christianity.  Christ did not leave a structure—just the apostles and the Holy Spirit from which the apostles were instructed.  The entirety of the church structure came from the apostles with the Holy Spirit working through them and continues to this day.
The members of the original Christian church were Jewish.  It wasn’t until the apostle Paul went out to “all corners of the earth” that the Gentiles were invited to hear the gospel message.  This work is still not complete and is the continuing goal of the Christian church.  Although there was splintering of the church, it forced the creation of a canon, organizing the content of the doctrine and eliminating heresies created by those who wanted to wield authority.  All of these challenges served to strengthen, not weaken, the church.
Over the years, many errors entered into the church as a result of pagan influence, scholarly debates and other doctrines brought into the church by St. Augustine and others.  The Protestant Reformation was an attempt at bringing the church back to the purity of salvation by grace through faith alone.
It is interesting that the dogmas and doctrines that have further “defined” Christianity were mainly a result of specific people’s interpretations (personal opinions).  I always thought they were inspired by God, like the Bible.  This course gave a great overview of the historical events of Christianity giving timelines and putting everything into sequence—including how doctrines were formed, and who was involved in making these decisions.  It’s interesting because these doctrines have always been communicated as fact, not the result of consensus or opinion of the church fathers.
Putting all of this information into the right context can be a challenge because of differing opinions and rhetoric.  This course was very objective in its presentation and outlined the facts.  Therefore, one gets a good sense of how Christianity developed and why it is still viable today.
 

 


Four gospels

March 17, 2012
Four gospels Essay by Rev. Sue Bellworthy


There are challenging and deep parts of all four gospels which all benefit from frequent re reading, revealing small and new gems on each occasion. Like many I prefer the gospel of John for it flows easily and has the most beautiful sound. The course does not touch on the beginning verses “in the beginning was the word………” which is surely one of the most moving passages. 

John records many of the miracles of Jesus. Here we have the famous conversion of water into wine. It would almost seem in this passage that Jesus is “pushed” into this first miracle by His mother who recognised His potential by virtue of His birth and was encouraging Him to begin . Maybe she had received a divine message to this effect. Regardless, at this wedding we see the famous change of water into wine that is reported to be so sweet and flavoursome that the guests wondered why it was kept till last. The water to wine is also a metaphor. It may stand for the conversion of something ordinary into something special – the conversion of a non-believer to a believer perhaps, or a form of enlightenment. It may also link to the communion – converting plain water to the blood of Christ, perhaps also showing that we may receive Christ in all things. The lesson suggests that this miracle shows us the wine within the water, the pure heart hidden within everyone. 
It is interesting how many possible meanings can be drawn from this apparently simple act. Key to all is the uncovering of the true spirit. We are all like that water. Through the power of the word we may become as the wine. I find it interesting too that the miracle implies that there is a divine spark within us all – something that is actually stated later in the gospel. This is a pagan belief and has, in many respects, been “edited out” by the orthodox church. However it is a valid concept. We were made of God and therefore must contain His essence. Spiritual growth is finding and contacting that essence within as well as without. This miracle teaches us this.
This gospel is full of such deep and powerful truths and they are presented in such a beautiful way that they stay in the mind where they may be pondered slowly allowing the true meaning to emerge by the grace of God.

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St Paul

March 16, 2012
This is my first experience studying anyone particular St. in depth. I found the course easy to follow and understand.
Taking the time to look up each of the Bible versus outlined in each lesson was a wonderful experience for me. As I reflected back on my growing up years the lessons read at Church each Sunday took on a new meaning to me. Of course at the time I was growing up we did not dig as deeply into any Bible Study as I have been doing lately. As I prepared Messages for our Sunday Worship Services during the last twenty weeks I was able to use the Lessons sent each week from ULC Seminary to have a clearer understanding of the Epistles and then relate them to those attending our Services. I look forward to being able to continue this process throughout the rest of this year.
After completing this course I now understood why in the first lesson you would write that Paul was the ‘chief of saints’. The life St. Paul led was one devoted to living out the teachings of Christ. If we could all follow this Christian experience what a better world we would live in.
Thank you for the last few lessons particularly on What is Sin? And What is Grace?
My prayer is that I will be able to use these lessons in helping our congregation understand these to important lessons as we move forward in our church development.
Lesson nineteen Life’s Big Question added the scripture for that perfect healthy diet, agricultural and economic policy. Thank you for those enlightening versus.
It would not be right not to comment on Lesson Twenty Spiritual Gifts. One of the requirements for an individual joining our congregation is that they complete a Spiritual Gifts Questionnaire. This questionnaire consists of 168 questions to determine what gifts an individual will bring to the congregation. This is a great help in getting a new person volunteering in the area that they are best suited for at that time.
I look forward to continuing my education through ULC Seminary,
Rev. Don Eck
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The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.

The Four Gospels

March 15, 2012
A Reflection on the Parable of the Good Samaritan
The power, relevance and intense meaningfulness of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10, 25-37) has particular resonance at the present time as we reflect on some of the theological controversies tearing Christians apart and distracting from the fundamental message and impact of Christ’s legacy. In particular, a virtual schism in the Anglican Communion, as events are acted out in the United Kingdom, the USA and Africa, is threatening to tear that Church apart. Many of us in the Universal Life Church with its principles of tolerance and acceptance, will surely find it well-nigh impossible to comprehend the legalistic nature of this debate which concentrates upon minute points of interpretative exegesis at the expense of those virtues of understanding, outreach and brotherhood which would seem to be the way forward if contemporary religious bodies are to provide the guidance and spiritual counsel for which this age of uncertainty and shifting moral values cries out.
As a corrective, the parable of the Samaritan could be said to encapsulate, on a number of levels, the essential meaning and timeless appeal of the Christian message and outreach which should never be forgotten however intense the theological debate may become. Initially, it may seem to be just a lesson in social responsibility that is universally applicable (and, indeed, it can be seen as such) but it is crafted in such a way as to suggest a new beginning for followers of Christ and to underline the inadequacy of the pre-existing Law. The questioner (almost an interrogator) is a religious lawyer who seems to epitomise the genre; his in-depth knowledge of all 613 points of the Torah appears to afford him authority and certainty, but it can also be seen as a barrier to a true relationship with God. Instead of allowing easy access for those who wished to approach God, the system was obsessed with regulations and caveats which made communion with God more of an obstacle course than a spiritual journey designed to weed out and reject rather than welcome the sinner.
Jesus clearly has learned how to deal with this mindset; he answers the lawyer’s initial question (verse 25) with another question (verse 26) – a typical lawyer’s ploy, some would say – and when the lawyer responds by quoting from the Law (verse 27), Jesus applauds him and agrees that that is the proper way. The lawyer, however, is not satisfied with this and asks a supplementary question, perhaps hoping to disconcert or trick Jesus and this provides the trigger for the parable.
On a superficial level, the parable is a well-chosen example designed to appeal to his audience and drawn from the contemporary context. One long section of the Jerusalem-Jericho road, was so perilous and notorious for robberies and assaults on travelers, many of whom would be priests or temple-officers traveling back and forth, that it had been named The Way of Blood. Doubtless, as in contemporary British society, plagued by knife-crime, the received wisdom was not to ‘have a go’ but to pass discreetly ‘on the other side’ so as to avoid a similar fate. The priest and the Levite do just this, but the Samaritan, regarded by the Jews as an outcast and unbeliever, not only stops to administer first aid but gives generously of his time and money to help the victim to recover fully. Asked the ‘killer’ question by Jesus, the lawyer has no choice but to say, probably reluctantly, that the Samaritan was the good neighbour. This seems to convey the underlying meaning that the standards preached by Jesus apply to all communities and ethnic groups not merely to those whom God has allegedly chosen. The parable, in its entirety, also suggests that the Samaritan really represents Jesus, whose intervention is required if such rigorous standards are ever to be met; the implication is clear: that the priests, despite all their minute regulation, their continual sacrifices and almost obsessive compulsive attitude to religion, fall woefully short in this regard. It is Jesus who will safeguard the traveler on ‘the journey’ and sustain them in times of trial or flagging spirits.
Let us pray that this simple but powerful message may remain uppermost in the minds of those who are inclined towards controversy and schism at the expense of the spiritual needs of those to whom they minister.
From: Rev. Graham Louden (UK)
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Four Gospels

March 15, 2012
Contradictions and inconsistencies are numerous in the book of John, as many statements seem to negate the major theme and strengths of previous books, which emphasize love and nonjudgmental attitude toward others. Here, in parts of the book of John these major points are somewhat negatively modified.
In chapter 15 Jesus takes the glory for himself with the statement no one can bear any fruit without him. It is more about following the words of Jesus than following God’s words. By doing this in the writings he creates a separateness, divisive attitude among people in fact excluding those that may have a different point of view, a different belief system in place, a path that doesn’t include Jesus being the one and the only way to God.
The stories do seem to be written bluntly and in a more direct way. It is his (Jesus’) way or the highway. There is no room for questions or misinterpretations, or discussions. Freedom for a person to reflect on the words of Jesus and show their love for God is not possible if not through Jesus. You must and can only be granted a place in heaven by being a student and believer in Jesus. This is exclusionary and judgmental of other great religions that may share messages that are valid and very similar in many areas. With this divisive language it changes the focus of previous books to now the messenger IS the message.
There are other areas of the book that I feel are positive and supportive and that enhance positive growth for the followers. Why are there injustices in the world? Why is a person born with afflictions? This section brings insight to dispel thoughts of a curse by God but rather emphasizes that the person is an instrument to bring forth lessons to others that could not have been conveyed and achieved without their affliction. To learn all the lessons one needs to learn you must and will get different perspectives based on perhaps a series of incarnations. That may include different genders, races, physical handicaps, etc. Spirit lives on and is everlasting and this is what Jesus was showing people with the resurrection.
There is however inconsistencies here in John concerning judgmental attitudes. Though he espouses that “only through me” as previously discussed, here in chapter 12 he expresses how important people’s works and deeds will judge them. “What comes around goes around”, “Judge not lest ye be judged”. And in chapter 13 when Jesus washed the feet of other students he was basically supporting the idea that all people are equal and no man is above another; a symbol of equality.
The fact that there are so many obvious contradictions and inconsistencies supports the possibility that there were not only different authors but they were written during different times and circumstances reflecting such diverse interpretations.
Rev. Denise Ostopo-Gliozzi
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The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics, as well as courses in Mystical Christianity, Buddhism and Comparative Religion. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.

Life of St. Paul

March 14, 2012
When, I first heard about St. Paul, I didn’t want to know him, never mind study about him. The truth is, I felt something was not quite Kosher about the great St.Paul. I fought the idea of taking a course about him.
I do consider myself an honest and just person, so I decided that it was not fair to judge this man, simply because I didn’t like the cut of his chin.
St. Paul proved to be a very strong idealist and warrior for his beliefs, even if they may be wrong.
It takes a strong man to admit, not only to himself but the world that he has made a mistake.
He got up on his high horse a “Prosecutor” and fell off, only to get up a “Protector”
Once converted, St. Paul pursued his task with vehemence and stalwart dedication. He gave his all. No holding back for any reason.
It was written, that St. Paul came to interpret Christ’s teachings. At first, this really angered me. For, I felt that Christ needed no interpreter. Christ spoke plainly and in the language of the people. The fact that they did not accept His teachings or misunderstood them, was to do with their own limitations. After reading and researching St. Paul’s interpretations, I understood what he was trying to do.
There were many people out there saying and teaching some wild and crazy ideas and calling it Christ’s teachings. St. Paul was not so much interpreting, as correcting the teachings that were being spread by others.
The other thing that bothered me, is when St. Paul spoke of the women in the church. That they should be SILENT. 1 COR 14:34-35 That if they have any questions, they should wait to ask their husbands when they have returned to their homes. That’s when I almost put the book down and walked away.
But I began to think of St. Paul……..
Paul = Hebrew =Hebrew upbringing = ancient times = belief women are property and not even allowed to have an education =male chauvinism at it’s peak = Paul didn’t know any better.
Paul, as always, used what he knew. It was what it was. The world was run this way at the time. I would hope that if St. Paul showed up now, he would have a different view.
After all, God did not knock down Joseph and take a rib from his side and create, Jesus. God chose a woman. A woman was at the center of this most sacred act. Somehow, I feel God does not think of women as such low creatures. The vessel of womanhood held the Son of God.
THE MEN OF THE WORLD HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.
Thank you for this course. I have learned a great deal about St. Paul and I have learned to respect him. I have also been made stronger and prouder in my own Sacred Feminism.
+Peace of Christ to all.

Wedding Stories

March 13, 2012
Facing away from the audience?
By Marilyn Tenney
I do have a comment and suggestion about performing a wedding: I recently attended a wedding in a small country church where the minister had the couple stand up on the first step at the front of the church facing the congregation, and the minister stood down below (with a cordless mic on her lapel). This way the couple were seen by all in attendance. It was very nice!
(note from Amy: I have done that a couple of times and it feels very weird to me to talk with my back to people. I usually just have the couple facing each other and talk through them, but I’d be interested to see how it works for others.)
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The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.

The Universal Life Church offers hand-fasting ceremonies, funeral ceremonies and free minister training.

As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site to help train our ministers. We also have a huge selection of Universal Life Church  minister supplies. Since being ordained with the Universal Life Church for so many years and it’s Seminary since the beginning, I’ve watch the huge change and growth that has continued to happen.

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Four Gospels

March 12, 2012
Four Gospels Essay
Differing visions of Jesus by Luke and Matthew
By Rev. Peggy
In the discussion of the works of Luke the point is made that Matthew and Luke differed somewhat in their perspectives of Jesus. The difference discussed in one lesson states that Matthew who apparently had real time contact with Jesus saw Him acting and or reacting as most of us would. In other words he shows signs of losing his temper, suffering pangs of hunger as well as appreciating things of beauty.
Luke on the other hand did not see this regular human side of Jesus. He apparently has a differing view of the nature of Christ. He seems to believe that Jesus acted in a less human but more godlike manner in his dealings with people and situations.
This is understandable if one agrees with the idea that people want to see their heroes as Superheroes and their villains as really vile and terrible entities. And because this is so, this may explain why Luke did not want to see Jesus with any foibles or flaws. So perhaps he tried to erase any quirks or mannerisms that he felt did not suit his vision of Jesus Christ. Did he do this deliberately? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
History has been written and rewritten so many times that we do not know the truth of what really happened, when it happened, why it happened or where it happened. This seems a logical explanation of Luke’s vision of Christ. It appears that Luke may have needed a more spiritual, less human type of Savior.
Again, we must remember that the human psyche does play a role in how one accepts Jesus; how one tends to envision his
personality and how we then use that acceptance, that vision in our daily life and how we use it in the practice of our spiritual life.
Therefore whether we want a more earthy type of Savior or a more angelic, ethereal personage will influence which of these two gospels we are more apt to believe and in which we put our faith .
So does it really matter to each of us in our quest for salvation that there seems to be differences of opinion among those earlier followers of Jesus of Nazareth? If it really does matter, then does that not tell us more about our own beliefs and our own needs for understanding Jesus according to those needs? No, it does not matter one iota. What really matters is that we do believe in Jesus Christ the Savior.
By Peggy

 


Buddhism

March 8, 2012
Universal Life Church Buddhism Course
I have been very interested in this course for many months and decided to get my “Master of Buddhist Studies” as I am a practicing Buddhist and have been for many years.
Buddhism week 1
Total enlightenment is release from the constant rebirth and suffering of samsara. Enlightenment means that I would be completely able to help others attain complete release from suffering and the causes of suffering and that they too would be able to achieve enlightenment. 
There are similarities in all major religions, as there is a being who is perceived to be either God or a prophet of God who comes forth and teaches compassion and loving kindness and whose words are written down by their followers and studied for centuries to come. In some instances the prophet is worshiped as though he himself is god (as in the case of the Christ) although none proclaim themselves to be God. And although all major religions preach love and compassion, Buddhism is the only totally non-violent religion on this planet. Similarities between the major religions have a lot to do with the prophesies of the end of times, the Bible, the Native Americans and the Buddhists have very similar prophesies of the coming of the “end times.”
Of course total enlightenment is possible, Siddhartha did it and there are several Lakota medicine men who were enlightened beings, Fools Crow and Black Elk were men of incredible spiritual depth and knowledge. Enlightenment does not require education or genius IQ, it only requires a total commitment on the part of the spiritual aspirant…when Buddha sat down, he committed himself to enlightenment and vowed not to move from his seat under the Bodhi tree until he achieved it. It is only the commitment to enlightenment that is difficult, it is within us all to become awakened beings.
For everyone, the way to enlightenment is different.
Meditation and reading the words of the Buddha, hearing his voice explaining how He became awakened is part of my path.
Also by connecting with the All That Is, the source of all consciousness in the Universe and tuning into that energy.
Studying the Ancients (the Mayans, the Egyptians) and connecting with that source.
I believe that everyone has the opportunity to become an awakened being; it is part of what we are here for. It is the Alpha and the Omega of why we choose to be born into this world of suffering again and again. And once released from suffering and the constant pain of rebirth, we are free to choose to resume rebirth in hopes of aiding those who have not achieved enlightenment.
Sincerely,
Rev. Vicki A Bennett D.D.
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The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.

The Universal Life Church offers hand-fasting ceremonies, funeral ceremonies and free minister training.

As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site to help train our ministers. We also have a huge selection of Universal Life Church  minister supplies. Since being ordained with the Universal Life Church for so many years and it’s Seminary since the beginning, I’ve watch the huge change and growth that has continued to happen.

Try our new free toolbar at: ULC Toolbar