The Story of Esperanza: Chapter 19

Chapter 19

After they were done in Houston, they came up to Austin. Before they entered the city they had stopped for lunch at a rest area just outside the metropolitan area. Philip was dismayed at the state of the world for they had been listening to the local National Public Radio station in his vehicle. Esperanza gathered her group together and told of the prophet Zechariah from the Hebrew Scriptures. She told of Darius and how the tribes were released from exile. She told of how even when times looked bleak that hope for the future still remained. They focused on the later half of his writing, which in English translations are divided into chapters 9-14. They saw hope in the work she was doing. They knew that despite how things may look now, they were working toward a better future. Esperanza comforted them and removed herself to freshen up in the rest area.

While Esperanza was in the rest area, the group gathered together. They decided to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah. Pedro had found a 1994 Dodge colt nearby which had never been driven. He purchased it over the phone while the others made arrangements. They wished to make this a reality for who else would be a ruler to bring about peace to her people than Esperanza. Pedro left to pick up the vehicle with Iago. The others kept Esperanza busy until they returned. When they arrived to purchase the vehicle the owner asked why they needed this particular car. Pedro just smiled and said, “Our leader has need of it.”

When Pedro returned with the vehicle in tow behind his truck he presented it as a gift to Esperanza. They told Esperanza of the new path into the city which they would take. It was off of the interstate but a main road into the heart of downtown. They told her the route and had her drive in the lead of the caravan. As they came near the city they saw a whole host of people who supported and followed Esperanza lining the street entering the city. They all cheered and lifted banners and signs. They shouted out loud, “We love you Esperanza! We follow your lead! Bring us peace!” When the religious leaders caught wind of what was going on with the impromptu parade, they called the police. The police pulled over the parade, and said to Esperanza, “Teacher, tell them to stop, we can’t have this here.” She with tear-stained eyes looked at the officer,” I can’t tell them to stop. Even if I could, the very streets would cry out in celebration for them.” The Police then escorted the parade the rest of the planned route.

Esperanza was scheduled to speak at the large temple in Austin, which some referred to as a “Mega-Church”. She was part of a panel that weekend on religion and ethics. When she arrived she looked around at everything. She saw the other speakers had set up tables and were selling books and wares with their names and pictures all over them. Rage burned brightly behind her eyes. She saw a coffee roaster franchise had been set up inside the temple. There was even a rock climbing wall for recreation. This was not acceptable in the slightest. Esperanza began to turn over the tables and drive the speakers and their assistance out of the temple. She said to them, “Have you not read the Torah? It says,’My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you made it a den of thieves!” She sat in the temple entryway and cried softly.

The other speakers, who were priests and rabbi themselves, were a ways off. They talked together and sought to destroy her. They could not find something they could do to her, because the crowds loved her. She remained in the panel but she spoke against all who would make it into a show for themselves. Each night she and her group would return to the rest area to sleep and talk about the days events.

One day, as she was speaking and teaching in the temple, the other speakers challenged her, “Tell us by what ‘authority’ you do these things, or who died and made you the Divine?” She answered calmly, “Answer this first, was Juan, my cousin, ordained by the Divine or by men?” They spoke among themselves and then answered, “If we say from the Divine you will say why didn’t we believe him? But if we say from men the people here will hate us and not listen to us because they believe Juan was a prophet. So to answer we will just say we do not know.” Esperanza smiled slyly and said,”Then neither will I tell you who gave me authority, or who died and made me Divine.” She then turned to the audience and told them a story, “A man owned a farm. He tilled the land, built a house, a barn, and even a silo. He was called back to his home country to take care of business. So he rented out the farm to tenants. When the time came he sent an assistant to check on the farm and gather the share of the crops laid out in the contract. The tenants lied and threatened the assistant. They said that there were no crops to be had and he couldn’t possibly be sent from the landlord. This troubled the landlord so he sent another assistant. This one they played head games with and wouldn’t let them onto the land. The landlord sent yet another assistant. This one discovered the crops that had been grown and all that was done on the land, for the tenants were not present. When they arrived, they murdered him and hid the body. The landlord sent all that he could to the land, never receiving a favorable report or even word of the one assistant that had gone missing. He decided it was time to send his child. Surely, they would respect the family of the landlord. The tenants beat, tortured, and killed the landlord’s son. They hid the body off the farmland. What do you think the landlord would then do? Would he not call the authorities and have the tenants taken off the land and brought to justice? Have you not read this part of the Torah: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the sure foundation’?” The other speakers got up in a fury and stormed off the stage. They contacted the organizers to have Esperanza removed, but the organizers said she was the one bringing in the crowd, they couldn’t fire her. They knew the story was about them and their treatment of the Divine’s people for so long.

<  Chapter 18  |  Chapter 20  >

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The Story of Esperanza: Chapter 18

Chapter 18

Shortly before they were in Austin, they were in Houston preparing to give lessons there. While walking around the city one day, they encountered a blind beggar sitting downtown along side of a popular coffee shop. When they came near he heard the group and asked who they were. A passer by told him it was Esperanza of the Texas Hill Country. He began to cry out and say, “Esperanza, daughter of the Divine, please see me!” Other passers-by tried to quiet him and became concerned with how loud he was getting. He just started calling out louder, “Daughter of the Divine! See me!” Esperanza came up next to him and sat with him. She asked him, “What do you want from me?” He turned his face toward where he heard her voice. “I want to be able to see your face.” She turned to him and placed a hand on his cheek. She said, “See me, and know my message.” He blinked and when his eyes opened again he saw her face and those around. He got up and joined the group following her.

A short while later, there was a CEO of a major bank based in Houston named Zack. He had heard of Esperanza and wanted to see her for himself. There was a large crowd gathered around her as she was walking by so he was unable to see this woman he had heard so much about, as he was short. He ran ahead of the crowd and found a mesquite tree along the path. Even though he was wearing an expensive suit and shoes, he just had to see her. He climbed up in the mesquite tree and waited. When the crowd passed by below, Esperanza stopped and looked up at this well dressed man up in the tree looking at her. “Zack?” she asked as she had read articles about this man before, “What are you doing up there come down!” He immediately scrambled down and stood before her. He said, “I had to see the person they said could cure addiction and heal the mind.” She smiled, “Let’s have lunch.” When the crowd saw this they murmured to each other, “He’s going to a banker’s house? Doesn’t she know how poorly he treats his employees and customers?” While at lunch they had a conversation. She discovered that he had become addicted to a certain drug due to the stresses of his job. He had spent a lot of money on it and covering it up. She healed him and shared her message of hope and love. At the end of the meal, he stood in the place they had eaten and declared, “My name is Zack, I am the CEO of a large banking corporation. I hereby declare that half of all that I have will be given to the poor. If I have defrauded anyone, or my company has, I will pay them back four times as much.” Esperanza smiled at him, “Today, you have been saved.”

“This reminds me of a story.” Esperanza told them. “A rich young man went on a  campaign to be elected to a seat of power within congress. In order to judge their ability to help in his new status he called his assistants together. To one he gave $1000, another he gave $500, and yet another he gave $100. He instructed them to invest his money and he would determine what had been done when he returned from Washington. There were those in his district that did not like him for all manner of rumor was set against him on the Internet. He loved his people, however, and was, for the most part, a good man. He returned from his campaign victorious. He had won the votes to become the next representative of that district. He called his assistants together again. The first came to him and said,’ I was able to invest in a new start up in our district, which grew tremendously. I doubled your money in the time that you were campaigning.’ The young man said to him, ‘Well done! You’ve been faithful to me and I will trust you with my finances while I’m in office.’ The second assistant came to him saying, ‘I invested in a dairy farm in your district, it wasn’t much but we were able to get a cow and it has since produced enough milk to make back the money spent on it and then some.’ The young man said to him,’Excellent! Good job, I can trust you to be my right hand man here in the district listen to what my constituents have to say, and ensure that I know what they need.’ The last assistant came to him, ‘Here is your money. I put it under my mattress for safe keeping. I was afraid I’d lose it if I invested it for you, because I know you are shrewd business man. I am not.’ The young man looked at his assistant disappointedly,’I’m sorry, that was not what I asked you to do. You knew I was a shrewd business man, why didn’t you just put it in a savings account where at least I could have gotten a few cents interest in this time. Give me the money. I’m going to give it as a bonus to the assistant I can trust with my finances. You should have invested the money like I had asked. I’m sorry, but I cannot trust you with even a little bit. Collect your things, you are fired.’ He then put together a press conference to  speak to his constituency. He assured them he would make sure to represent them well. He introduced the second assistant who would be his go to person in the district to ensure that he heard the voices of the people. He also introduced the first assistant who would be in charge of the finances to ensure that those in his district who needed investing in would be invested in. This helped to solidify that he did care about his people.”

<  Chapter 17  |  Chapter 19  >

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The Story of Esperanza: Chapter 17

Chapter 17

While Esperanza and her group were traveling through Austin, one day, they walked under an overpass. This overpass happened to be a popular place for the homeless to “camp”. As they were moving through one of the homeless men recognized her. “Esperanza, teacher, please help us.” he called. When the groups eyes adjusted to the shade, she saw the skin lesions. She asked about them. The man who called out answered, “We cannot afford care, most of us have cancer of varying types. We are forced to choose between room and board, or treatment. Most of us chose treatment and go when we have enough for one of us to go.” Esperanza whispered to Pedro. Pedro pulled out his phone and began fiddling with it. She spoke to the man. “Gather all in your group, go and see the nearest oncologist. When you have you all will have room and board for as long as needed until you get back on your feet.” The homeless gathered their things and set out as a group as soon as they walked into the sunlight beyond the overpass those with skin lesions discovered they were gone. Those with pain felt none. The left to see the doctor. One of them when he saw that he was healed turned back. He ran and fell at Esperanza’s feet, thanking her. Now he was a trans person from female to male, which had him shunned by most in their group. Esperanza said to him, “Weren’t there more of you? Where are the others? Go, here is the address that you shall receive room and board, it will all be taken care of.” She motioned to Pedro who handed her his phone. She jotted down an address and handed a slip of paper to the man. She smiled and continued on her way.

As they walked on, Esperanza told her group a story. “There once was a judge. This judge was selfish and couldn’t care less about humanity. There lived a widow in the same city. This widow was constantly filing a motion for a restraining order against a man she claimed was stalking her. For a while this judge refused. One day he thought to himself, ‘I should just grant this filing so that I can have some peace around here, or else she will keep coming.’ Notice what the selfish judge says. The Divine hears your cries, and does not wait to answer them and give you what it is you need. When all is said and done, will you be selfish and not give to those who ask of you? How about this? Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Priest, and the other a banker. The priest stood and prayed aloud so that all may hear him. ‘Divine, I just, Lord, I thank you that I’m not like those sinners over there. I’m not gay, or trans, or a molester, or greedy, or even like this banker over here. I go to church every day, and I tithe 10%.’ But the banker, standing in the back corner, wouldn’t look up. He just stood looking at his feet. He prayed quietly in his mind, ‘Divine, have mercy on me a sinner!’ I tell you, the banker was more justified than the priest; for he asked and was given forgiveness.”

The group arrived at the convention center in Austin that Esperanza was teaching at. While getting things prepared, a senator for the state of Texas arrived at the convention center to speak with her. “My good lady, what must I do to have this life you tell your people about so often?” he said with an almost fake sounding southern drawl. Esperanza stopped what she was doing and looked him dead in the eye, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but the divine. You know the laws: don’t sleep around, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t commit perjury against a neighbor, and honor your parents.” He said to her with greasy smile, “Why, of course, my lady. I have grown up in a Jesuit church. I’ve followed those laws since I was little boy.” Esperanza never broke her stare, “One thing you lack, however, sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and then you will have the life you seek. When you do, come and follow me.” The fake smile he gave to the media and crowds broke. He now looked stern and woeful. He said with a bit of a quiver, “Thank you for your time, miss.” He turned and hurriedly retreated for he was very rich. Esperanza went back to what she was doing. As soon as the Senator left the area she said to her group, “How hard it is for the rich to enter into life! It is easier for a rocket scientist to perform brain surgery than it is for a rich person to discover life.” Philip asked, “Then who can be saved?” She said to Philip, “What you think impossible is the simplest thing for the divine.” Pedro turned, “But, we left everything for you.” Esperanza looked at them and smiled, ” You stayed with me through everything. You’ve discovered life. You will give others life. People now look to you for life. There is not one of you who has given up everything for this message that will not receive life in return for what you have given up.”

She continued, “For life is like a vineyard owner who went out early in the morning to hire day laborers. After he was out purchasing supplies, he spotted some more laborers and hired them as well. After lunch he found more and hired them as well. Later in the afternoon after a meeting with his distributors he found more and hired them as well. When the sun was setting the vineyard owner went out to his fields. He called all the workers in. He paid all of them the same wage for the day, even the ones he hired early in the morning. Those who were hired earlier complained. He said to them, ‘Didn’t we agree on this price this morning? I’m giving you more than a fair wage, I choose to give them the same wage. What I do with my money is my decision. Or would you rather begrudge my generosity?’ Life is generous and completely counter to what many would believe. The last will be first, and the first will be last.”

<  Chapter 16 Chapter 18  >

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The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 16

Chapter 16:

Esperanza spoke on, “From long before the time of Yeshua Ben-Yoseph people have been trying to create the Kingdom of the Divine by force. You have tried to force the message of peace by violence and fear. That is not how this works. The law was given so that you may understand how to treat one another. That is a message of peace not of violence and fear.”

The Priests and Rabbi decided to fire back and trip her up on the law, “What about divorce? Is that lawful?” Exasperated, Esperanza turns to them again, “What does the earliest record of the law state?” The religious leaders returned with, “It says to give a certificate of divorce if requested.” She again looked hard at them. “This law was written for humans to act civilly together. If someone requests a divorce and means it shouldn’t it be given so that they can live peaceably in society? Laws are written for us to live together peacefully, not for us to be enslaved to them. This seems to be the one law you and people like you excuse the most. Why not the others?”

“Let me put it this way, there once was a very rich man. Outside of this man’s gated community was a poor woman who often liked to camp outside the gates as the lawn was well maintained and the walls provided shelter from the harsh wind. She also knew there were good scraps of food in the dumpster as the rich people within the community threw away large amounts of unspoiled food. Coincidentally, both the rich man and the poor woman died on the same day. The poor woman arrived in the Kingdom of the Divine, the rich man, however, saw only a desolate apocalyptic hell-scape. He turned and, as if looking through a frosted window, saw the poor woman and another figure with her. He called out to them, ‘Please! Help me! I only want just a bit of water. I don’t see any, how am I to survive in this?’ The figure spoke, ‘Don’t you remember all the wonderful things you had in life? Do you remember that this woman beside me had none of those things. Now she has all the good things she could want, and you have none. For the measure of a man is not in what he has, but in how he shares it.’ He then said, ‘Well if I cannot have those things now, send someone to tell my family so they will not end  up like this.’ The figure spoke again,’ They have the law and those who taught on the law for centuries. Why would they need another?’ The rich man spoke again,’ But they don’t listen to those things, I didn’t. If someone who was dead comes back and tells them though, maybe they will listen. ‘ The figure spoke again,’ If they don’t treat other people with love and kindness, they wouldn’t be convinced to do so even if someone from the dead were to tell them to.'”

On the other side of the park where they were gathered was a playground. Esperanza motioned to the children playing there. “Would you want to keep them from the Divine? Would you tell a child not to treat someone else with kindness and love because of ‘The Law’? No! You would let the children run to the Divine. For they know full well that all are loved, all are human. Unless someone comes to the Divine with a heart like that, they are doing it wrong. You would rather hinder that, however. I tell you whoever stops one like them from coming to the Divine,… Well, it would be better for them to shut their mouths and lock themselves away. Woe to them who do such! There is forgiveness though. Listen to the voices of those who tell you that you are doing such, if you do you will be forgiven.” One of her friends, Pedro, shouted, “How many times should we forgive these creeps?” Esperanza smiled with a reproving, but humorous smile. She spoke loudly enough for all to listen. “You should never stop forgiving. When you stop forgiving you’ve become just like them. You would close the gates to the Kingdom to even just one, you have become just like those who would keep children from the Divine.” Pedro blushed and got lost in the group of friends. The teachers could say nothing. They burned with rage and stormed away.

When she returned to her friends, they lauded her. They asked her, “Can you teach us more of the Kingdom, so that we can speak like you?” She said to them kindly. “You already know of the Kingdom. With a little bit of work, kindness, and love you can change the world into the Kingdom. The world doesn’t change suddenly. It doesn’t happen with signs and fanfare. You wouldn’t be able to point and say, ‘Oh, look there’s the Kingdom.’ It’s already here, you are making right here, right now. This gathering is the Kingdom. Things may get bad. They always do, but never stop loving and being kind to one another. Don’t stop accepting people for who they are. You are going to encounter all sorts of people like these. People who worship power and wealth above all else. They will say they are followers of the Divine, but they only lead people away from the Divine. This message is dangerous. People will despise you for this message of love and kindness. Don’t go back to how you were. If you want an easy life, you can have it, but you would never be happy. Instead, never stop forgiving, never stop loving, and never stop treating others with kindness. If you do, you will be filled with life.”

<  Chapter 15  |  Chapter 17  >

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The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 15

Chapter 15

Esperanza’s popularity grew with each tale of her healing. One day she posted to social media this statement, “If you want to be my follower if you truly want to learn from me, you must consider this cause more important than all you have. The cause of love is more important than your family, your life, and even your own wellbeing. You must be willing to suffer and possibly even die for other people. Consider what it will cost you to follow me. Who goes out to buy a sports car but cannot afford the payments? They are laughed at and made fun of. What person when planning a party does not consider their guests when planning snacks and meals? If you hold tightly to what you have in the here and now, you will eventually lose it. Instead give freely, love freely, and know that this is dangerous work. What good is a car without gas? Or a fountain without water? If you say you follow me and my teachings but do not actually do them you are without purpose.”

A short time later, Esperanza had met with her friends and there was a larger group of people gathered around her. This was a gathering of people many would consider being outcasts and ‘sinners’. A group of rabbi and priests were passing the gathering. They murmured rather loudly for people to hear, “She hangs around sinners and outcasts? She eats and has gatherings with them?” The crowd grew silent and split so that Esperanza could speak to the group of teachers. “Tell me which one of you if your dog runs away will not go out and put up missing posters? How about when the dog is found would you not celebrate that your family member has returned home? These are my family members. This party is an image of what the Divine’s kingdom will be like. We found each other, you are welcome to join us. Or how about this, if you lost your wallet, do you not tear your house apart looking for it? Once you have found it would you not breathe a sigh of relief? These people are looking for a place to call home. Here together, we are building home.

There once was a man who had two sons; the youngest said to the father, ‘I know we are a wealthy family. I’d like my share of things to try to get started on my own ideas and company.’ The father considered this and wondered what his son would do with the investment. He gave it to him. Not much later the son went out and got distracted buying himself all manner of frivolous thing. He bought clear toilets with money in them just for show. He bought the most expensive beverages and food. But did not get started on his business ideas. When he discovered he had spent all that he had, he panicked. He was evicted from his penthouse and all of his stuff was repossessed. He started to work at a fast food restaurant because it was the only job that he could get. He couldn’t even afford to eat. He would have gladly eaten any of the food he served up every day, but the company had strict rules against that. He thought to himself, ‘How many people work for my father? Don’t they have enough to eat? They get paid well enough. They have enough, yet I am dying out here on minimum wage. I’ll go to him and say that I’m sorry, I’m not worthy to be called his son. I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up.’ He took what little he had earned after months at the fast food place and bought a bus ticket. When he was still far from the house, his father spotted him. He knew it was his son. His heart welled up and he ran to meet him. The son stopped and could not make eye contact. Through the tears, he said to his father, ‘Dad, I’m so sorry. I’m not worthy to be your son.’ The father interrupted him and said, ‘Stop. You are my son, you will always be my son. You made a mistake. We’ll work it out. Come inside get cleaned up and put on good clothes for we are going to celebrate tonight.’ The eldest son caught his dad on his way back inside. ‘Dad, I’ve been here the entire time. I’ve worked hard for you, you’ve never given me a party.’ The father smiled and put an arm around his eldest son, ‘Son, your brother has come home. You are always with me, everything I’ve had is yours. Your brother has come home to the place where he belongs.’

There also was a businesswoman who owned many franchises. One day one of her advisors informed her that there was a franchise manager who was skimming money from the business. She called the manager in for a meeting. ‘You have been accused of skimming money from the business, what do you have to say for yourself?’ While the manager was trying to explain, he thought to himself,’What am I going to do? If I’m fired I have no marketable skills. I know, I will lessen my take so that other people will take care of me.’ The businesswoman fired him. He was given to the end of the week to settle up any accounts with a close eye. He settled up the accounts cutting his portion of the commission out of the bills, on some they amounted to 50% on others it was 20%. The businesswoman was informed by those who kept a close eye on the man. She was impressed at his thoughtfulness for his own position, and his attempt to make some things right. For those of you who do not follow me are quite shrewd in the way you conduct your business. Maybe you should take a look at those you do business with and make friends with them and see they are just like those who have gathered. For with your mind on your money, you worship only Mammon.

Those who are faithful with little will also be faithful with a lot. But, also, those who lie about a little will certainly lie about a lot. So when you lie about a little with your business dealings and worship of mammon, who will gather around you to help you? If you have lied about other’s business as well, who will give you what is your own? Nobody can serve two desires; either they will hate one and love the other, or they will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both the Divine and Mammon.”

Those who were scornful at the beginning scoffed at this. But she said to them, “You are those who make yourselves look good in front of people, but the Divine knows your hearts; those who are praised for their good appearances before others look horrific to the Divine.”

<  Chapter 14 Chapter 16  >

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The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 14

Chapter 14

As she was teaching in a church one Sunday morning, A woman who had suffered from near-crippling arthritis for eighteen years approached her. When Esperanza saw her she called to her, “Ma’am, may you feel healing in your bones.” She rested her hand on the woman’s shoulder. The woman straightened out for the first time in years. Life seemed to pour into her. The priest was infuriated, for Esperanza had healed his congregation member, in his church, on a Sunday, in front of his congregation no less. He turned to his congregation, “If you want healing from this woman, you can do it on your own time, in your own houses! I will not have this done on a Sunday!” Esperanza turned to him shaking her head, “You hypocrite! Don’t you read on a Sunday? Do you turn on your television on a Sunday? Do you cook for your family on a Sunday? Do you walk your dog and feed it on a Sunday? Why should this woman not seek healing on a ‘Sunday’?” At this, the congregation stood and applauded. The priest turned bright red in anger and stormed off to his office.

Esperanza turned to the congregation. “What is the kingdom of the Divine like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a small spark set to kindling. When it comes off the flint it is so very small, but when it catches it can set fire to the largest bonfire. All who are near can feel it’s warmth. It is like a baker adding a bit of sourdough to the fresh dough in order to make a magnificent loaf of sourdough bread. Just a little bit can go a very long way.”

After this teaching, she continued on her way through cities and towns. In one town there was a person who asked her, believing in a shortly coming apocalyptic future, “Are there a lot of people who will be saved?” She said to him, “Don’t worry about how many will be ‘saved’. Instead, focus on the work that I have taught you to do. That will certainly save your life. Love your neighbor, love your enemies, and live your life fully. There will be those who do not do this, and only worry about the numbers of the ‘saved’. They will come to the end of life and say, ‘Look at all we did in your name!’ when all they cared for was themselves. They will understand that life was not about themselves, but others. There is room at the table for everyone. All are welcome. You need not worry about how much room there is, just that you show all to the table. Sometimes you may be the one who needs to be shown, other times you may be the one showing.” It turned out that this man was a priest. He invited her over for dinner that very evening.

On the way to dinner, he confided in her. He was part of a larger committee that had been discussing her for a few months. He said to her, “The government isn’t happy about the things you have been saying. Even the president wants to silence you.” She said to him, “You can tell this committee that I’m doing the work the Divine has for me. I will continue doing what I’m doing until the day I die. If they don’t like it, they can come speak with me themselves. The government has always had a problem with people who speak the truth. I understand your concern for me, but when the time comes I will suffer and even die for the truth if the Government wills.” They continued on their way.

When they arrived at the priest’s house, one of his friends with extreme swelling and edema. Since many of the priest’s friends who had gathered were lawyers, priests, and rabbi, Esperanza turned to them and asked, “One of you said to me earlier today that it was unlawful to heal or seek healing on a Sunday. Is it unlawful to heal on a Sunday?” They just looked at her in silence. She placed a hand on his shoulder keeping her eyes on the crowd. He had a relieved look and then surprised look immediately followed. He excused himself and rushed off to the bathroom. When he returned his body had shrunk back to a normal size. She smiled at him and said, “If your child falls into a well, would you not go immediately try to get him out on a Sunday?” They just remained silent and stared at her. The man who had edema hugged her thankfully.

When it came time for dinner they were trying to figure out where each of them would sit. Since it was the priest’s house they thought he should sit at the head of the table. Esperanza took the opportunity to tell a story to them. “When you are invited to a wedding do you go and sit at the head table? No! You probably would take the seat nearest the back of the room unless someone comes and points you to a place of honor set for you. Then you would be honored by those who are at your table. You shouldn’t be seeking honor, honor is given to those who do not seek it. When you hold a dinner party you shouldn’t invite your friends and neighbors just to be repaid. You should invite all who need to eat so they can truly appreciate the food that is given to them.” One of the Rabbi who was sitting near her said, “Well that I can agree with!” She smiled and toasted the meal for all who were gathered. She then told an ancient story about a king who was having a wedding feast for his son. Many were invited, but all those invited gave excuses as to why they could not attend. The king heard this and asked his servants to invite even the lowest of the low to the meal. They did so until the room and tables were filled. The king found favor with these. Those who did not show up lost places of honor. When those who had gathered at the dinner heard this they contemplated the meaning of it.

 

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The Honest Faith: Context

Okay, let’s play a game. I’m going to reference a couple of pieces of pop culture and you try to guess where they are from before reading on where I’ll post an answer key below. Okay, you ready?

  1. Chaka when the walls fell
  2. Winter is coming
  3. Don’t have a cow, man!
  4. I’m in a glass case of emotion!
  5. Alonsi!
  6. Blessed be the fruit! Praise be!
  7. (said while arms spread) EAGLE!
  8. The only thing better than a cow is a human! Unless you need milk. Then you really need a cow.
  9. May the Force be with you!
  10. Bah! Humbug!
  11. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
  12. I have been, and shall always be your friend.
  13. Ye’r a wizard, Harry!
  14. faster than a speeding bullet, Stronger than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
  15. With great power comes great responsibility.

These pieces are pictures of our culture. I started off with a hard one, and if you got it extra points to you because that is the one I want to discuss. There is an episode of Star Trek the next generation that delves into language, story, and analogy. The crew of the Enterprise D is out to broker a deal with a race that only speaks in analogy. They only use stories to speak to one another. The actions taken in those stories are what they mean and how they wish others to act. I really wanted to do a full study on this episode with most church groups that I worked with.

I think one of the biggest things I took away from this particular episode is how when we only speak in Churchenese that people never really fully understand what we are saying. I wanted to have that discussion with other Christians at the time. This was until this past year when I started to strip down my beliefs and find out what really was worth keeping. I have to be honest, since college, I never have seen the Bible as a literal and historically accurate book. I love the Bible. I believe that it is completely true about the nature and character of the Divine when taken as story, narrative, poetry, and speeches. Though when I started out on this new journey of Honest Faith. I started to take a deeper look at the man Jesus. I wanted to find out who this historical person was outside of all the myth.

I did a lot of study on this in college, I even had roommates who sort of worshipped John Dominic Crossan. But I never went fully into this study of who the real man was. I knew that there were popular stories at the time of Ceasar’s being born of god and called the son of god. Even the Egyptians said that of their Pharaohs. There were other god men at the time. The Pagans and Jewish people all believed that Divine beings could become human and humans could become Divine. I also even learned that the Jewish people were all monotheistic. That was until recently. Recently I’ve been listening to an audiobook called “How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee” by Bart D. Ehrman. There is a ton of information in this book and it’s probably better read than listed to as I keep having to pause to digest the information I was taking in.

In the Book Ehrman within the first two chapters talks about what the Pagans and Jewish people believed and were sort of like during the time of Jesus. I say sort of because it’s all from archeology and writings from the time period and we can probably never truly know what life was like for them unless we somehow invent a time machine. Ehrman starts by talking about Apollonius of Tyana who was a contemporary and also rival story to that of Yeshua. (What’s funny is he’s also quoted on the wiki page I linked) He also talks about how Apollonius was, according to his myth, born of a virgin who was chosen by the divine, performed miracles, and even resurrected from the dead. He uses this to emphasize that the pagans also believed in divine beings becoming human. He goes on to talk about how the Jewish people were not Monotheistic but rather Henotheistic. They believed that there were many gods but only one who deserved honor and worship. His book illuminated a lot of things for me thus far, but I want to focus on the one big point of this all, CONTEXT.

In his book, Ehrman describes some of the contexts on how to use the gospels as source materials to find the historical man Jesus. He doesn’t delve too much into it and he points out to other source materials for people to go further into that study. His most important point of it all, however, is context is everything. This is the reason why I bring up modern pop culture and the reason for writing this week. Have you ever noticed that when taken out of context people can use quotes, words, passages, and even verses to mean whatever they want them to mean? Let’s take number 8 from above. The show (hint) did not receive great ratings while it was on the air, even though in my opinion it was one of the most awesome tv shows. Out of context, it doesn’t mean much. It seems like someone is comparing humans and cows. Out of context I could say that the speaker was standing on a farm and looking at a heard of cows. Since it’s on tv you could probably picture that. You probably even pictured maybe a whole police crew at a crime scene next to a herd of cows, because in our modern context procedural crime dramas dominate our pop culture landscape. If you know where the quote came from, however, you know that none of that is accurate at all. The same is true with how we read the Bible.

If you have been lucky enough to live in a cave and never had any preconceived idea spoken to you or given to you about the Christian Bible, and were given a copy without chapter markings, verse numbers, book titles, and footnotes. How do you think it would read? Besides probably giving up at the whole “Begats” part, what would you think this person would take from it? A story of a people who were slaves first to death, then to the gods of their fathers, and then to the ancient Egyptians (and more) who are constantly saved and redeemed by this Divine being working through humans. Finally, after about midway through, you come to this shift. There are four similar but different stories about this preacher in Isreal about 300 to 400 years after the last thing you read. One of those stories is way-way out there in abstractness. The message seems to remain the same only instead of physical slavery items this preacher guy brings up abstract slavery of the mind to something called sin. You know from the context of the past reading that it is mostly those things that separate a person from God. Yet, this preacher doesn’t seem too concerned about those rules or laws. He seems more concerned about love for everybody. There is an immediateness of what he has to say because as you read the end is near and is coming. After his stories, there are stories of his followers. Everything after is letters from those followers and a weird story of a vision that someone had that is sort of in a letter. Have you ever thought objectively about the Bible in this context? Have you ever read it without someone giving you context beforehand? Have you taken it out of context yourself?

One of the things that I’m finding as I’m searching for Honest Faith is that context is everything. Through my writing, podcasting, and social media-ing I’m finding that context is key to almost everything. You can’t really understand what someone posts unless you know where they are and what they are doing. You can’t really understand people unless you know the context of their lives. How are we 2000 years after even the writing of the Gospels, which by the way the first was written about 30 to 40 years after Jesus’ death, supposed to really understand this man? None of us grew up in rural Isreal around the beginning of the Common or Christian Era. None of us really have a full context even for the rest of the Bible.

The reason I write this today is not to get all thoroughly intellectual on you. I write today because recently I’ve seen a lot of people using the Christian Bible to harm other people. They take verses and passages way out of context and use it as a sword. It was never intended to be a weapon. In fact, as I’ve been searching for this historical Jesus guy, I’m finding that he probably would have very much disliked that. I write because I feel deeply that we have lost the plot completely while reading and studying this book. That we need to find better and more historical context to gather what the writers were really trying to convey. Not just with the Bible, but with almost anything that can happen. The point of my post today is this “Context is EVERYTHING”. Thank you for indulging my intellectual aside for this weeks post. You are not alone, You matter.

 

ANSWER KEY

  1. Star Trek- The Next generation
  2. Game of Thrones
  3. The Simpsons
  4. Anchorman
  5. Doctor Who
  6. The Handmaid’s Tale
  7. Scrubs
  8. Fringe
  9. Star Wars
  10. A Christmas Carol
  11. Romeo and Juliet
  12. Star Trek- Original series second movie “the wrath of khan”
  13. Harry Potter
  14. Superman
  15. Spiderman
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The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Esperanza was again teaching a large crowd. One of the many who were gathered asked her to settle a dispute. He asked, “Miss if you would, my brother will not share the inheritance with me.” Esperanza laughed a bit at this, “Who made me judge or divider of wealth? Listen, don’t measure your life with golden rulers. You cannot truly live if you measure your life with wealth or stuff.” She then saw that there was some misunderstanding at this so she told them a story. “Imagine a wealthy wall street banker. This man is single and has no immediate family. He buys all the most wonderful things that money can buy. He has a nice penthouse apartment overlooking the city. He has all that he could possibly want, but he still felt uneasy because he was alone. One night he has a heart attack. As the pain subsides and he contemplates his own mortality he realizes how fruitless his life must be. He has stored up so much wealth, but who would gain from it all when he passes? Shouldn’t he have used that wealth to help others?”

She continued teaching, “So again, why worry so much about those things? Does worry put food on your plate, or clothes on your back? I know there is so much anxiety that is built up for you by our society; to have more, or be more. I know, believe me. But think about the wild animals. Do they worry about planting or where they are going to find food? No, they go looking for it and most find what they need. How much more do you think the Divine cares for you. Not that it will magically appear, but if you go looking for it. If you work for it, you will find it. So may wealth and riches not add to your worry. There are other things to worry about. Worry instead if your neighbor has enough to eat. Worry instead that your friends have the clothes they need. Instead, seek the Kingdom of the Divine. By worrying about those things you seek that kingdom. The Divine will be present with those who use what they have to provide for those in need. Instead of storing up wealth, store up experiences, love, friendship, and charity. Keep doing these things we have talked about. If you give and give and give of yourself until you can give no more, you will be ready for when you are in need. Those you have given to would happily give back to you in kind. Always be ready to help those in need, as you have been given much, much is needed from you. It is like a store owner who leaves his employees in charge while he is on vacation. The store owner did not tell the employees when the vacation would end. Would the employees just slack off and leave the store unlocked after hours? Do you think the store owner would be happy? What if they did what was expected of them and more? What if they gave the extra to those in need? Would the store owner return happily? Of course! For with great power comes great responsibility. If you have been given much, much will be expected of you. So do it. Give what you have. This message is dangerous because it flies in the face of those of power. I have not come to comfort the power structures. I’ve come to light the fire of rebellion. I’ve come to tear down the walls.”

She said this with unease as she could tell that those in power knew this. She was dangerous to their power and they would do what they needed to stop her. She saw the signs of this as more and more came to her lessons. They often would stand in the back or on the outskirts of the crowd with scowls. Not once would they participate or listen. She knew this message was one that would catch fire. She spoke anyway.

She continued, “You know what is right. You know how to treat your fellow man. Why do you pretend not to know? I’m telling you the time is coming that you will have to answer for how you treated one another. You have heard about how the Governor has imprisoned and even deported those who have protested? Some are being executed for crimes they did not commit. Do you think these people are worse than those who say nothing? I tell you unless you stand up and treat each other with love you will suffer the same fate. What about those who were working on “The Wall” between the USA and Mexico who died when it fell on them? Do you think they were worse people than anybody else? No, they weren’t. All people are worthy of love. It’s like an orange tree planted in a yard. If the person who planted the orange tree sees that it does not produce oranges wouldn’t he cut it down and dig it out? Unless you love your fellow man, regardless, you are like the orange tree. Unless you give of yourself without agenda, you are like so many unfruitful trees.”

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The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 12

Chapter 12

She was meditating in the morning. When she had looked up, one of her friends asked her, “Can you teach us to meet with the Divine?” She thought for a moment and said, “When you meditate quiet your mind and think on these things, Divine, who is both outside and within. May I love as you are love. May your love fill me so that all I need is provided for. Teach me to love like you do so that I may not harm any other. May I even love those who harmed me. I know it is easy to forget to love, may I not grow lazy or weary of loving. Which of you would turn away a friend in need? Even in the middle of the night? None of you would because they are your friends. It is like that with the Divine. The Divine is not a cosmic slot machine. Instead, the Divine is more like a parent. If your child asks you for a fish would you give a snake instead? Or what if your child asks for something to eat, would you give them rocks to eat? Though not all is within the Divine to supply. Meeting with the Divine is for you. It is for you to think about all your needs and questions, and quiet your mind for a possible answer.”

One day as she was curing a man who had an addiction, the crowd had been so impressed by her. There were some from the synagogue and the churches. They were terrified by her. “She must be from the devil. No one can just cure addictions! This power must come from hell.” She turned to them. “How can I be from the devil? Can the devil cast out the devil? A house divided against itself will tear itself apart. If the devil is divided against the devil how can he stand? If I cure things from hell, how can I do it in the name of the devil? What if you are wrong and I’m from the Divine? Wouldn’t that mean you are calling what is of the Divine, evil? I’m not doing this just as a parlor trick. I’m also looking to get to the reason he turned to drugs in the first place. If I just cure his addiction, he will eventually go back, because there is something that caused this to happen. So instead maybe if you asked how you could help this man stay clean and cure the deeper pains, maybe you would see the Divine in what I do.” Those who called her the devil, became angry. “Give us a sign then, to show us that you are from the Divine.” She rolled her eyes and sighed heavily. “Why do all of you place the burden of proof upon me? You are the ones who called me the devil. Maybe you are the ones who need to prove what you say.” She took the opportunity to teach a lesson about Jonah. “The people of Nineveh were despised and said to be of the devil, yet they ended up listening and understanding the error of their ways. How would you believe you were wrong even if I show you a sign? Would you purposely hide good things, just so that you would be right? Be careful when you deny the good that you not fall farther into evil yourself. You pretend very well to be good, but even as the prophet Isaiah said ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ You deny the love of the Divine in order to look good in front of other people. You may keep your traditions. I’ll follow love. These people from the synagogues and churches are the type of people who are all about looking good in front of others. That’s like washing the outsides of dishes, but not the inside. Seriously, You tithe your money, but you completely neglect the justice and love of the Divine. Those were the important things that you forgot about in order to look good.  You love the best seats in the synagogues and churches, woe to you. You are like makeup on a pig, woe to you.” A lawyer stopped her to point out, “Teacher, by saying this aren’t you also judging us?” But she went on, “Woe to you lawyers also! You and those like you load men with burdens hard to bear, yet don’t help one iota with those burdens at all. You, the priests, and rabbi all hold fast to these rules and regulations that cause nothing but anxiety and pain for people. You didn’t listen to those who came before me. Instead you killed and silenced all who spoke against your evil, greed, and corruption. You have taken away the key of knowledge and treat those who follow you like idiots. Yet you do not know anything about that which you proclaim to know either!” As she said this she walked out of the venue in which she was teaching. From that point on those she spoke against conspired to silence her.

She met during this time with her friends. “Beware of these lawyers, priests, and rabbi they are going to lead many away from the Divine with their words, but it is just so much hypocrisy. The truth will always come to light though. Nothing that is hidden will stay that way for long. They may want to kill or silence you in other ways, but the ideas the truths will come out. Do not worry about them, because the Divine will not forget about you. The Divine knows that you know and speak the truth. You are special in the Divine’s eyes. People can say what they want about me, but those who speak against what the Divine is doing in you, they better watch out. The Divine will be with you, even when they try to kill or silence you.”

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The Story Of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 11

Chapter 11

One day, an argument arose amove her friends as to which one was the greatest among them. As soon as Esperanza arrived, they suddenly fell quiet. She asked them, “What were you discussing before I got here?” She sat with them. They avoided eye contact and didn’t say anything. She shook her head sadly and said, “If you want to be the greatest, you have to be willing to be the worst and help all.” As they were gathered in a park there were children playing on a playground nearby. “See how they play together? They don’t hate. They don’t discriminate. They play with each other because they see each other for what they are, other kids. Unless you see your fellow human being as human, it will be difficult to bring about the Kingdom. If you love others like a child loves others, you have truly seen the Kingdom.”

John spoke up, “Teacher, we saw a man on YouTube curing addiction in your name, we left several comments telling him that it was your thing.” Esperanza turned to him with a twinkle in her eye and a small smile. “Don’t stop him. If he is doing good things in my name he wouldn’t be able to say bad things about me, would he? Those who aren’t actively fighting against us is for us. Really, if anyone gives you even a glass of water in my name they will be rewarded.

As they were walking through town one day a man said to her, “I will follow you wherever you go.” and Esperanza said to him,” Birds have nests, Foxes have holes, but I have no place to call my home. Suddenly crestfallen the man said, “Let me first go and bury my father.” She looked at him softly, “Let the dead bury their dead. I’ve come to give life and give it for the living.” After this, there was a gathering of new followers that was seemingly innumerable and quite diverse. They represented almost every nation, and every single label imaginable. She commissioned them and sent them out in groups of 2 to the cities of Texas so that all may hear that the Divine has not given up on them. She said to them. “Many are ready to hear that the Divine is here and loves without condition, but not many are ready to speak it. Go and share with people that love, by being that love. But be careful as many revel in the hate they claim to be against. They will disguise that hate as love, but it is not. I send you out as lambs among wolves. Be wise, be careful, and don’t let the bastards grind you down. Don’t take anything with you. Let those who greet you and take care of you, take care of you. Be a gracious guest in the places that welcome you. Show them love and kindness, as they are showing to you. Share the love of the Divine with them as they are doing so with you. When you come to a place that does not welcome you, let them know that Love is on its way. They should know that the Divine waits for them to realize this. You have planted a seed, but move on as they are suffering. Those that hear you, hear the Divine. Those that reject you reject the Divine.”

After Esperanza sent out the groups, she was approached by a lawyer. This lawyer was looking to trip her up as he was sent by the Jesuit priests and rabbis. He asked her, “Ms. Reyes, I was wondering, what do you believe to be the greatest law of all?” Esperanza looked at him and smiled. She said simply, “Love.” He asked her to explain. She said to him, “Love the Divine with all that you are and all that is within you. You do so by also showing love to those around you, and even yourself.” The lawyer said to her, “I see that you are correct.” She placed a hand on his shoulder and said, “Do this, and you will have life.” He, regaining his mental footing, asked, “Who are those around me that I should love?” Esperanza smiled yet again and replied, “Suppose a man was hitchhiking from Austin to Dallas. Let’s say he got into the wrong car and was mugged and left on the side of the interstate. Most drivers would not stop and would just pretend not to see the man beaten and bloody by the side of the road. Let’s suppose a priest was driving up that interstate, he would stop to help, but he was wearing his vestments and was late for a service so he changes lanes and drives on. How about a professor of law? Normally, he would stop and help, but this could be a trap. So he sends his thoughts and prayers to the man in case it is and changes lanes to drive on. But an illegal immigrant is driving up the interstate and spots the man. He pulls his vehicle over and gets out to help the man. He finds some towels in his truck and gives first aid the best that he is able to. He puts him in the passenger seat and drives him to the nearest hospital. Now, where the priest and professor this would only cost them some time, this man risks all that he has, even imprisonment to get this man help. At the hospital, he gives all the money that is in his wallet and gives his phone number for when the bill comes due. Which of these three displayed love of the Divine, do you imagine?” The lawyer said, “The one who showed mercy and kindness.” She again smiled and said, “Go and be like the immigrant.”

Esperanza was exhausted and went to stay with Mary and her sister Martha. Mary sat with Esperanza joking and laughing while Martha was preparing a meal and getting the house ready. Martha came into the room in a huff, “Mary! Do you not care that we have a guest and I’m doing all of this by myself? Esperanza, tell her to help me!” Esperanza bit back a laugh, got up and hugged Martha. “My dear friend, it’s okay. Really! I’m exhausted and I don’t need much. I don’t care about how something looks, I’m just happy to be with friends.” Martha calmed down and apologized, Mary got up and helped finish the meal. They all sat and ate and laughed that night.

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