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Problems and Promises



It extends well beyond Judaism and Christianity and Islam into less-expected traditions such as Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Taoism and even Vedantic faiths. It’s something we might refer to as the messianic mind. And for those of us with roots in the Christian faith tradition, the messianic mind is pretty specific to that first century Jewish teacher, itinerant healer, social agitator and change instigator we call Jesus.


The messianic mind in the Christian tradition can be roughly reduced to the belief that Jesus will return. And this messianic mind brings both promises and problems.


This messianic mind brings promises for, wherever we find the messianic mind, we find a people who believe we can do better. We find a people reaching beyond the limitations of history, reaching beyond the limitations of probability, reaching beyond the limitations of believability toward a higher idea.


Where we might encounter injustice, for example – where we might come into the sobering (even painful) realization that we are living in the subtle wake of ancient systems which were designed to the advantage of one people over another, that we are the unwitting inheritors of a lingering inequity in education, a lingering inequity in housing, a lingering inequity in income (the women among us may well nod when I suggest that equity in compensation isn’t a universal norm, even today) – where we might find injustice, we are certain to find a people who believe we can do better.


Where we find that, we are certain to find the Gandhi’s and the King’s, their voices raised in harmony, “This is not as good as it gets. Our best days are before us.” And that is a beautiful promise.


And where we might encounter violence, whether it’s a violence perpetuated through hands, through words, through lies, through neglect – where we encounter animals raised in squalor and executed in fear, where we encounter people killing people due (at least in part) to their own abandonment, where we encounter youth (any youth) living on the streets for some misdirected self-righteousness within the family, where we encounter the violence of endless waste, the violence of unchecked expansion, the violence of unconscious overpopulation, the violence of rampant accumulation, the violence of religious negligence – where we might find violence, we are certain to find a people who believe we can do better.


Where we find that, we are certain to find the Lennon’s and the Malala’s, their voices raised in harmony, “This is not as good as it gets. Our best days are before us.” And that is a beautiful promise.


And where we might encounter selfishness, where we might encounter people who imagine themselves to be living on some cosmic island of total independence, people who imagine their choices to have no impact beyond themselves worthy of their consideration, people who imagine their appetites to have no impact beyond themselves worthy of their consideration, people who imagine their actions to have no impact beyond themselves worthy of their consideration – where we might find selfishness, we are certain to find a people who believe we can do better.


Where we find that, we are certain to find the Jesus’ and the Theresa’s, their voices raised in harmony, “This is not as good as it gets. Our best days are before us.”


And where we might encounter limitation, where we might find ourselves at the edges of our technologies, where we might find ourselves at the ends of our imaginings, where we might find ourselves at the last of our resources; when the doctor has issued a prognosis, when the account has landed at zero, when the relationship has fallen apart, where we might find limitation – we are certain to find a people who believe we can do better.


Where we find that, we are certain to find the Emerson’s and the Held’s, their voices raised in harmony, “This is not as good as it gets. Our best days are before us.” Your best days are yet before you. And that’s a beautiful promise.


The messianic mind knows that there’s always another chapter to be written.


The messianic mind knows that there’s always a new potential to be realized.


The messianic mind knows that there’s always a higher possibility to be revealed.


The messianic mind knows that it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. And that until it’s over, it ain’t over.

In this sense, may we all adopt this messianic mind – this mind that refuses to reduce itself to the lowest of fears but seeks to lift itself toward the highest of ideals.


And yet, there’s this thing that happens. And religion is brimming with it.


The beautiful promise of the messianic mind gives rise to a problem and it goes something like this: “This is not as good as it gets. Our best days are before us. And I can’t wait for someone to make that happen.”


Maybe I should have titled this conversations Promises, Projections and Problems.


This is not as good as it gets. Our best days are before us. And I can’t wait for someone out there to make that happen.


And, of course, in the Christian tradition, the role of “someone to make that happen” was assigned to Jesus himself. And that’s a problem. It’s a problem because such a projection, if you will, leaves people in the throes of injustice saying, “This is not as good as it gets,” yes, but then saying, “I can’t wait for Jesus to come fix it.”


Such projection leaves people in the throes of violence saying, “This is not as good as it gets. I can’t wait for Jesus to come fix it.”


Such projection leaves people in the throes of selfishness saying, “This is not as good as it gets. I can’t wait for Jesus to come fix it.”


Such projection leaves people in the throes of limitation saying, “This is not as good as it gets. I can’t wait for Jesus to come fix it.”


Such projection leaves people giving their good thoughts but keeping their helpful hands busy, giving their best wishes but keeping their ample cupboards closed, giving their healing energies but keeping their personal calendars full. This is not as good as it gets. I can’t wait for Jesus to come fix it.


It’s a problem. It’s a problem because I think Jesus, as an eternally unfolding soul, is still learning and growing and exploring and expanding into the highest truths of his being. Jesus is doing what Jesus always did: Jesus is going before us – side by side with other avatars and seers and enlightened beings – challenging partial truths and low standards – ever shining the light of individual and collective potentiality for all who have eyes to see.


“This is not as good as it gets and I can’t wait for Jesus to come fix it” is a problem because the second coming of Christ isn’t about the physical return of Jesus.


Many years past I wrote the following:

“Jesus might be the most misunderstood person in all of history. Let’s start with the tough stuff.

  1. “First, the only thing Jesus possessed that you don’t is an awareness of the power available to him and the discipline to learn how to use it. That’s all. Now, toying with the possibility that you and Jesus are spiritual equals, at least in potential, doesn’t mean Jesus wasn’t holy. It means you are. And there’s nothing noble or spiritual about worshiping his power while you deny your own. It’s like worshiping your math teacher instead of learning how to add.

  2. “Second, he didn’t die for you. He didn’t die for your sins. We made that up. And if his death must carry a spiritual message to us, let it be that we, in partnership with God, are capable of overcoming all circumstances of this world.

  3. “Third, Jesus won’t be coming back. Not in any literal sense. That’s not what the second coming of Christ really means. Again, in our irresponsibility, we made that up. The true second coming of Christ isn’t about the life Jesus lives. It’s about the life you live. It’s about the life I live. The second coming of Christ is about the spiritual awakening of an entire people. You see, we think we’re waiting for the second coming of something really profound when, in fact, something really profound is waiting for us.

“Finally, understand that all great people who come into this world ultimately leave the same plea. It goes something like this. ‘There is a power that is greater. I have access to this power and so do you. So stand up. Claim your rightful place as a co-creator in this world. You were never meant to cower in my shadow but to stand instead upon my shoulder and to reach further in your lifetime than I have been able to reach in mine.’”


I have to believe that this is what Jesus meant when he said, “I go before you to create a place.”

  • Jesus went before us as the pioneer of a more just world ready to emerge.

  • Jesus went before us as the pioneer of a more peaceful world ready to emerge.

  • Jesus went before us as the pioneer of a more compassionate world ready to emerge.

  • Jesus went before us as a pioneer of a greater wholeness, as a pioneer of a greater sufficiency, as a pioneer of a greater power, as a pioneer of all manner of latent capacities ready to emerge.

  • Jesus went before to establish a consciousness of justice, a consciousness of peace, a consciousness of compassion, a consciousness of possibility not that we might worship him, but that we might join him.

  • Jesus went before to establish a consciousness that it might be easier for us to follow in his wake, that it might be easier for us to accomplish the things he did and even greater.

  • Jesus went before to create a place. That was his job. And I like to think he’s still doing his job.

And our job is to follow, not to stare into the heavens and wait.


The second coming isn’t about the return of the physical Jesus to earth. The second coming is about the awakening of the universal Christ in you – it’s about the cultivation and emancipation of that highest within you; that highest that’s within all of humanity. And so it is that we come to realize that we would do better to pray less for Jesus’ return and to pray more for Jesus’ courage.


Where we find ourselves in the throes of injustice, ours may be to say, “This is not as good as it gets.” But instead of saying, “I can’t wait for Jesus to come fix it,” ours is to say, “Here I am. Use me.” Maybe you can find a simple way to further justice today.


And where we find ourselves in the throes of violence, ours is to say, “Here I am. Use me.” Maybe you can find a simple way to demonstrate peace today.