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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Lecture on Jesus to Stanford Medical Students


May 15, 2014    (a draft)

Your Patients have a wide variety of religious and spiritual values. I am going to give you some ideas about what some Christian ones are.

The doctor is pastor sometimes just listening to the patients. That is basically what I do as a priest and pastor. I listen. Help them make their own decisions.

I had a small stroke earlier this year. Neurologist and internist lead my wife and me through a decision making process about whether or not I be given the stroke preventer – TPA. 6%. They were presenting us a values examination. Since the stroke symptoms had subsided they mentioned that there is a 6% chance the TPA could cause another stroke or death. The doctors listened and watched me. We decided not to take the drug. I am fine now.

Attitudes toward religion include people who say, “Religion is bunk” are not making a responsible statement. He/she does not know enough about religion to say that.

“I” think religion is bunk is responsible statement. Here the person takes responsibility for her or her statement.


Jesus

Sometimes I cringe when I say his name. The ignorance and superstition that surrounds his name is often embarrassing to me.

“Have you found Jesus?”
“Is Jesus in your heart?”
“Have you had a personal experience of Jesus?”

“What would Jesus Do”

Jesus as a rabbit’s foot. I’ll pray to Jesus that this plane won’t go down or that the Giants will win.

Jesus is the butt of many jokes. On Easter there is hunky Jesus contest in SF’s Dolores Park.

Jesus on the cross. Jesus is “hung up.”

Jokes about Jesus walking on the water, having sex with Mary Magdalene and scoffing at the myth of the Jesus’ mother being a virgin.

Then there are the followers of Jesus, who have distilled his teachings into:

No birth control
No abortions
Homosexuality is evil

Who is Jesus???

John Dominic Crossan, Biblical Scholar has said of conservative Christians and many non-believers:

“What bothers me is not that ancient people told literal stories and we are smart enough to take the symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and now we are dumb enough to take them literally.”

Jesus was the illegitimate child of a Jewish teen girl who married Joseph her betrothed. The story is that he lived with his parents; perhaps trained as a carpenter or cabinetmaker. In about 30 AD he began an itinerant life, homeless, no visible means of support. Preached about helping the poor and needy and talked about the Kingdom of God. The Roman rulers in Jerusalem abetted by the Jewish temple leaders, crucified him because he appeared to be a threat to Roman rule that they were the only kingdom. After his death and burial, his followers said that he had risen from the dead.

The earliest writing about Jesus was by St. Paul who told some of the Jesus story in the 50s AD. Twenty years after his death. The biographical writings about Jesus began in about 60 AD, thirty years after Jesus’s death in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the 90s A.D.

The only outside historical record of Jesus was a mention by the Josephus, a first century Jewish scholar and historian. The mention is fleeting and much argued about his significance.

Jesus was a storyteller – The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son are two great many layered stories of compassion and forgiveness. Many other parables-mustard seed, unjust ruler.

The story is that Jesus was a healer. Blind were made too see, the lame walk and the dead raised.

The story is that Jesus was a social prophet. He called for the hungry to be fed, peace to the world, healing to those that were sick. Matthew 5 and 6.

Jesus inspired people to follow him. Paul organized the church and led the followers to bring the message of Jesus throughout the Mediterranean world.

The liberal branches of Christianity have taken the words of Jesus for healing, social justice and peace. I can say I am a follower of Jesus because I want to dedicate my life to working with the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised, the homeless and the social outcasts.

Martin Luther King, Jr. A follower of Jesus excited the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and the laws discriminating against people of color were erased from the law books.

As a follower of Jesus, I worked for the Civil Rights movement and marched in Selma, Alabama in 1964. I helped found the Council on Religion and the Homosexual also in 1964. In the 1980s Trinity Church where I was rector, we ministered to the gay men sick with the then unknown disease of AIDS. We held 72 funerals for young men from 1984-1990. Friends, lover, family, children, grandparents of men who died of HIV disease. Our church was first host to project Open Hand, which provided thousands of meals for sick gay men. Since I retired I have been on a Thursday Vigil outside SF’s Federal Building against war.

The new Pope Francis chiding his church to emphasize caring for the poor and the hungry and work for peace heartens us liberal followers of Jesus.

Social Worker vs. Follower of Jesus.
 The difference between the most honorable professions is that followers of Jesus gather for worship. We pray, sing and take bread and wine together as a remembrance of Jesus.

We go to churches where all people are welcome. No one can be turned away. We do not get to vote on who are our members. It is not a private club.

We worship means we give our ultimate worth and value to God in the name of Jesus.

The mass is the most honored command of Jesus. He said eat and drink this bread and wine whenever you gather together. He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

At every minute of every hour of every day somewhere in the world a Christian priest is saying mass or the Holy Communion. It is Jesus’ most obeyed commandment.

We Christians are called to service in obedience to the will of God. That is our purpose in life.

How did Jesus become the Christ or God in the flesh?

The early church battled for four hundred years arguing as to the nature of Jesus.

One groups said he was not really a man, but a spirit
Another said he was half man and half God
Another said he was mostly God and but a small part was a man.
Some said he was a great prophet only.

In 325 AD, The Emperor Constantine got the Christian Bishops and scholars together. Constantine hoped Christianity would unify the decaying Roman Empire. The Bishops came up with the formula that Jesus was truly God and truly man. This is the doctrine of the INCARNATION.

Now of course that is a paradox, which the Christian churches have wrestled with ever since.

I am not here to convert you. In fact I don’t care what you think or believe. But, I do hope I have put the man Jesus in an historical perspective that will help you think past stereotypes and clichés, jokes and sentimentality. Like it or not Christians are here to stay and many of us see that the Jesus we follow led us to be concerned for justice, poverty, healing and peace.

Christians certainly differ tremendously.  Roman Catholic Representatives Boehner and Ryan don’t thin the government should be in the business of health care.  Protestant liberals like President Obama; the Clintons believe like I do, that only the government can be rich enough and strong enough to care for all the people in our country in need of health care. In this case the leaders say they are Christians and followers of Jesus.

Compassion and forgiveness were a basic message of Jesus. Forgiveness. A compassionate person forgives those who have hurt or maligned them. Forgiving one’s self is the hardest thing to do. One can forgive one’s self but, the guilt may remain forever.

A Woman can commit adultery and finally be forgiven by her spouse. She may even forgive herself. But, the guilt persists, perhaps for life. Learn to live with it, as my doctor said to me thirty years ago about the pain in my neck.
Doctors – and chaplains “need to help the dying to review their achievements as well as resolve their failures, to suture again with those they have loved, to realize they have tried.” (Zaroff?)

This what we in religion call confession and forgiveness.

All of us are spiritual. Spirituality is very popular today.
I am spiritual but not religious is an expression that a great many people use.

I chatted with a woman at an airport recently and she told me she was Spiritual by not religious. I asked her to tell me what she meant by spiritual. She said she was a journalist and thus inquisitive:

Ecology
Civil Rights and social justice
A sense of the transcendence in life.
Healing – She was pregnant.
Science

These values are in fact the same values of most Christian Churches – at their best. Judaism and Islam. Of course there are some people in all religions that eschew some of these values, like science, birth control, abortion and the creation of the earth.

All people worship something. Worship is the activity in which you place the things that are worth the most to you. We all have those basic values or ideas of what is most important, most worthwhile.

Money, Science, Medicine, Family, God, power, work, Law  – what else? Combinations of all these are what people worship. I choose the God as expressed in the teachings of Jesus.








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