[Springboard] The Reign of Being
Ellen and David Rebstock
grapevin at comcast.net
Wed Nov 28 15:32:56 EST 2007
I am not exactly due for a witness but I've been ruminating on this for quite some time so here it is.
The Reign of Being
I just discovered a folder in my ICA/OE files that I have been searching for for some time. Back in the spring of 1978 in Chicago I was assigned to work with a team in Research to build a series of talks for the summer GRA entitled "Forcing the Kingdom". On reflection at the time I thought that it was quite audacious to think that we could force much of anything. I sure didn't think at the time that I was in any way qualified to contribute much in such an undertaking.
The idea for the talks came out of a Nexus Collegium in April called "Reflections on the Kingdom of God". I'm not sure but I think it was presented by Joe Slicker. I have a transcript and four by four for the collegium attached and a four by four entitled RS-l Transparentized on the back.
You may recall that at that time we had just colored in the last county yellow on the US town meeting map, were busy in doing the USA 12, and setting out to do replication in India and in other places around the world, that is, we were heavily engaged in the DOING part of the NRM.
Anyway, I pretty much watched and listened as Justin, David Lasear, David Morton and several others proceed to build an outline of the four talks, an overall four by four and four by fours for each of talks. I think the only thing I contributed in the process was to ask Betty Pesek if there was anything in Joe's files about Forcing the Kingdom. She came back with a hand written list of eleven points under the heading of Forcing the Kingdom of God. As best as I can read the faded writing the list it is as follows:
Who was Jesus functionally - not guru, not saint, not H/W (?) and not general.
- Virgin birth - we were born as one quite separately
- K of G is a group reality - not individual
- Forcing the K of G - (critics saw but were not focused - our focus can't be seen)
- Come at it many ways- All at once and we must always be doing more than we can do
- Walking in the Tao
- He stuck disciples nose into the suffering of humanity
- You don't enter and don't allow the poor to enter
- All of history must be taken on
- He forced the K of G - Christianity arose
- Forstall death
To quote the April transcript of "Reflections on the Kingdom of God"
"The Kingdom of god is something like the dimension of experienced
reality in which ultimate being takes over. We need to clear out the
underbrush around the image "The Kingdom of God". It has gone into
The Reign of God - p 2
disrepute in the last generation, for very good reasons. It was cut off
from its roots in reality and taken to mean something disrelated to
life. When you look back at the way it was used by our fathers,
the "Kingdom of God" does not mean something wholly future, wholly
personal, wholly supernatural and especially did not mean private pie-in-the-sky.
It never has to do with a reality that is present as well as future..
Why in the world would we even consider that image? We have
been working on Profound Humanness and Primal Community about
two years. And the most amazing thing about those images is not
what we say about them, it is that we can talk about them at all and
know what we are talking about. You have people giving spins
on Primal Community and Profound Humanness, and even we don't
understand them at all, we know what we are talking about. Now when
you get Profound Humanness and Primal Community going on at the
same time, the reality that comes out is the reality being pointed to by
the phrase "The Kingdom of God". When you say those two things are
going on in our midst, "The Kingdom of God" is the theological category"..
"We are talking about being the Corporate Jesus and identifying
with the Jesus figure. The strange thing is that Jesus didn't talk
about Jesus, Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God. That was
the content of his preaching. It wasn't about theology. It wasn't
about being the Church. It wasn't about the meaning of the
resurrection, Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God."
Ten years after Ellen and I left the Order, in 1998, we ran into the Westar Institute and their Jesus Seminar On The Road in Cincinnati. After we moved to California I started going to the Spring and Fall Jesus Seminars in Santa Rosa where I observed the work of the Fellows in the seminar and heard many great speakers including Bishop Spong, Karen Armstrong, Elaine Pagels, Marcus Borg , Bob Funk who was the Dean of the Institute, and many others all of whom have been speaking primarily about the historical Jesus. The mission of the Seminar is the Renewal of Biblical Scholarship. They started out 20 years ago trying to analyze the Synoptic Gospels plus the Gospel of Thomas to assess what they thought Jesus either said or might have said in a book called The Five Gospels. They also went on to analyze what they thought Jesus actually did or might have done in a book called The Acts of Jesus and more recently have been studying writings from the first 100 years after the crucifixion to further document the historical Jesus. At the same time they are doing what they can to bring the historical Jesus into the more Progressive faith communities in the world.
The few things that they think are probably the actual words of Jesus are either parables or short aphorisms. I have always been fascinated by the number of parables that start out with the words, "the kingdom of God is like" and then tell a short story or a one or two sentence parable. Reading them has always brought me back to the assignment to
The Reign of Being p. 3
write talks about Forcing the Kingdom in 1978. This has lead me to read up on and try to interpret what was being said in the parables and aphorisms.
In Bernard Brandon Scott,s book Re-imagine the World Scott encourages one to Re-imagine in reading the parables what the Economic, Political, and Social Culture was like 2000 years ago in order to interpret what Jesus was trying to say. (Scott is one of the Fellows in the Seminar and has been with it since the beginning). He sets up a screen to look at the parables in the context of the culture of those times. Scott says,
"The parables have remained riddles or mysteries almost from
the very beginning. Mark seems to represent the position of many.
To you is given the secret of the kingdom of God,
but for those outside, everything comes in parables.
This saying in Mark indicates that from a very early time Jesus'
parables have mystified. Allegory and metaphor has trod this
path attempting to sort out those on the inside who understand
from those on the outside who don't. Yet for many others, the
parables are simple stories, illustrations for the common people."
Scott says that he has never found Jesus' parables simple. The arrogance of modernity sees the ancients as simple and ourselves as complex and sophisticated. He finds that the opposite is true. I agree, every time I re-read a parable I see something different. Jesus speech is often filled with irony, humor and the unexpected. It sometimes supports the world and sometimes subverts the world. It has struck me that much of what the Jesus Seminar has been saying is so similar to what is in the above paper on the Reflections on the Kingdom of God and what we were saying 30 or more years ago.
In Scott's book he categorizes some of the parables into three groupings. After studying the parables I have attempted below to define what the Reign of God is and is not like.
The four groupings (I added one) are:
1. God as Unclean Or The Loss of the Received World and searching for the divine in the world --The Parable of the Leaven and The Parable of the Mustard Seed. These two parables push over against the Purity Code of that time. Leaven was not to be used to make bread and in the Parable of the Leaven a woman made a very large amount of leavened bread to feed a large number of people. In the Parable of the Mustard seed in essence a weed takes over and becomes a large bush. This makes no sense that the Realm of God is like leaven in bread or a weed in a field unless it is to be interpreted as a metaphor for something else.
The Reign of God p. 4
THE REIGN OF GOD IS --
Clean and Not Clean - It
IS IS NOT
- Large - The Highest, Greatest like Caesar
- Across the World - Hierarchical Rule
- Permeates All - Divine Intervention
- Available to All - Like Subject to the Rule of Rome
2.. Revealing the Presence or Absence of God - From the parable of The Empty Jar
in the Gospel of Thomas, The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Rich Farmer
THE REIGN OF GOD IS
Present but Not Present - It
IS IS NOT
- Present - Observable
- Everywhere - Divine Intervention
- Compassionate Reign - Authoritarian Reign
3. Cooperation not Competition is the basis for human Social Structure in the Realm of
God - The Prodigal Son and Vineyard Laborers
THE REIGN OF GOD IS -
Cooperation Not Contest - It
IS IS NOT
- Cooperation - Contest (Patron/Client)
- Protagonistic - Antagonistic
- Unconditional Love - Dishonor
4. Unmasking the World of Oppression-The Good Samaritan, and The Wicked Tenants
THE REIGN OF GOD IS -
Non Violence Not Cycle of Violence
IS IS NOT
- Non Violent - A Cycle of Violence
- Renewing - Apocalyptic
The Reign of God p. 5
As one might Re-Imagine Jesus situation as being caught between the temple authorities and the Romans we can see that he might use riddles, parables and indirection to communicate with others and ground what he was saying with stories and aphorisms.
It is not too difficult to translate that situation and culture in many respects to what we are looking at today. That brings me back to the 1978 talks on Forcing the Kingdom or the Reign of Being.
Much of what is outlined in these talks has to do with what was going on at that time, however it does point toward what has happened in the last thirty years, especially as it has to do with Globalization in all aspects of the Social milieu especially in the economic and Political.
The Reflections on the Kingdom of God and the four by four attached became the basis for the four talks we worked on. The overall title of the four GRA talks was changed to "The Reign of Being" and the titles assigned were:
1. The Signs of the Times
2. Those who have eyes
3. Come Walk with Being
4. When the World Picks up the Sign
Several drafts were prepared and the final draft had titles:
1. A New Day is at Hand
2. Living in the Way
3. Wisdom of the Profound Deeps
4. Maneuvers of the Void
Much of what is in Joe's list is contained in the talks. It is interesting to me that at the bottom of the fourth column of this four by four for the talk on the Maneuvers of the Void in a box for The Profound Human Invention it says Parable-Teller.
I can't possibly communicate everything else that is in these four talks but I will see that the four by fours that I have, the Reflections transcript, one other transcript that I have of one of the eventual talks by Bob Schropshire, and a brief outline of the four talks get into the Repository.
Ellen and David Rebstock were in the Order from 1976 to 1988 in Chicago, Singapore, San Francisco, Los Angelos and in the Human Development project in Jamaica.
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