Excerpt from The Matter of Life
He arrived purposely early for his one o’clock appointment. Pastor Mason had agreed to meet him and had no problem with the confidentiality requested by Lacker. Perhaps the pastor’s estrangement from a lifelong relationship with the Christian church made him receptive to another outcast.
Lacker paid the small fee at the entry gate, drove the long driveway called Fort Road and parked in the mostly empty lot in front of the massive fort. The structure had been built by the British but was easily captured by less than a hundred colonial militiamen on May 10, 1775 led by Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold. While many in Lacker’s beloved America believed him to be a traitor to the CIA and his country, he believed and imagined himself to be an Ethan Allen, taking back his country and his mind from those who desired to own both. He walked the long ramp to the public entrance and made his way to the museum in the central compound before heading to the designated rendezvous with Pastor Kevin up on the rampart amongst the cannon.
After enjoying the quiet and the view for five minutes he heard footsteps. “Mr. Lacker? Ah, yes, I recognize you now,” said the Pastor and Lacker turned around to face the man with his hand extended. “It’s a wonderful view, is it not?”
“Yes, even better than the old pictures I remember. Good afternoon, Pastor Mason. Thank you for indulging my request to meet here.”
“Oh, I love this place. A great example of how the best laid plans of mice and men can be washed away in a twinkling of an eye.”
“We’ve both experienced our share of that, I suppose,” offered Lacker. “Life is a puzzle isn’t it? We go along for years thinking we know who we are and then…”
“Whack! God knocks us up-side the head. Right?” said the Pastor.
“Yes!” laughed Lacker. “Mine came in the form of one Hokob Petrosyan in Azerbaijan three years ago. Does that name ring a bell?”
“Should it? Say again—“
“No, but tell me more about him.”
“Pastor, do you mind if I record our conversation? I don’t want to forget…”
“Why, are you writing a book?” he smiled.
“Ha. Good one. Actually, I’ve had enough of that. I’m writing my life.” Lacker pulled out his recorder and set it on the bench.
“Hokob Petrosyan was from an Armenian family who came to the states after the second world war. He was a kind of truth seeker. He mentioned you in some papers he left behind.”
“Yes, I was with him—in Baku, Azerbaijan—happiest dying man I have ever seen.”
“Tell me, Mr. Lacker, why do you and Mr. Petrosyan have an interest in me?”
“Knowing what I know about Hokob, I have to assume he believed you had a piece of his puzzle.” Answering the pastor’s quizzical look, Lacker added, “He apparently spent his life trying to piece together the truth—I mean he wanted to know, and seemed to have found true peace. Is that possible, or was he crazy?”
“And you are asking me because…?”
“Because, I believe, something caused you to turn away from what you had spent your life building. You voluntarily walked away from your church…didn’t you?”
“Well, yes. Like you, I suppose, I became aware that my beliefs were incompatible with the organization I led. Unlike you, I did not realize I had been part of something corrupt—I just realized I was being drawn beyond the teachings of the church—the religion.” I couldn’t in good faith continue to accept Jesus as a kind of material god who was only available to those who prayed to him. There’s more to his teaching than that. Does that make any sense to you, Mr. Lacker?”
“Maybe. Keep going.”
“Well, what I mean is…Jesus represented and came to demonstrate the truth of who we are and what God is—the universal truth. He didn’t come to establish a religion for some. I believe what he demonstrated is the truth and it’s available to anyone who believes what he taught. It’s exclusive only in the sense that Jesus taught the only truth that exists—it’s not a religion—it’s the truth. Are you a Christian, Mr. Lacker?”
Lacker had been listening intently while looking down the river. He turned back to the man standing next to him. “Pastor Mason—“
“Kevin, I’m not sure what I am. But from the little I know of Christianity it does sound like heresy. From what I have learned over the last three years I know this: I am beginning to see that there is truth in this world and it wants to be found…and it does seem to be available to anyone who seeks it.”
Pastor Mason responded. “John 8:32—Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
“Kevin, what did you find out that changed things for you?”
“Matt, my faith in Christ grew and still grows, deeper, but it left behind the limited religious belief that the man, Jesus—the worldly manifestation of the Christ—somehow came to establish the Christian religion. Christ presented himself to the physical world as the man, Jesus, to demonstrate the reality that we are in truth, spirit. Sin is the mistaken belief that we are separate from God. The church has grown over the millennia to view the man Jesus as God to be worshipped from a material perspective. I don’t believe that is what Jesus and scripture originally taught. Genesis chapter one says that we were created in God’s image. What does that really mean? It means we are not material beings at all. John 4:24—God is spirit. Those that worship Him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Matthew 10:28—Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul…”
“Exactly! Hokob said almost the same thing. He was not afraid of dying and he didn’t blame those that beat him to death.”
“John 6:35—It is spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. See? We have to ask as we read the bible, ‘what does that really mean?’ We can’t just gloss over it and accept it only as religious jargon. It is the truth. The spirit is the truth; the flesh is not. This changes everything. My congregation began to regard me as some kind of heretic, ‘assigning meanings which aren’t there.’ I had to leave, but I am at total peace with what I now understand.”
“But, Kevin, what does it mean…the flesh is not the truth? Our eyes, our ears, our memories—do they lie?”
“It’s hard for us to believe or understand. There is a true, documented event that took place at Oxford over a hundred years ago. A group of researchers was given permission to perform an experiment on a felon who had been sentenced to death. They told him they were his executioners. They bound him, blindfolded him and convinced him they had inserted a large needle in a vein in his arm. They hadn’t but they attached a tube with a continuous dripping liquid into a pan at his feet. Forty-five minutes later he died.”
“I don’t understand-- from what?”
“The man died of the belief that he was dying. He hadn’t been physically hurt in any way. Matt, we both know the world runs on lies. I know you know it—I read your book. From a Christian point of view, it means that sin is not ‘being naughty’—sin is any attachment to the material world. Accepting the material world as even real is sin. The word ‘sin’ from the original Greek meant ‘to miss the mark.’ The church has changed what it originally meant-- ‘to lose track of our spiritual reality’ into just ‘behaving badly.’ This ‘church’ –the organizational church—not Christ’s ‘church of believers’--also changed the meaning of what the Christ and the disciples called ‘repentance.’ They changed the original word in the Greek—‘metanoia,’ which means to ‘change the mind’ to a word from which we get repentance or to ‘feel sorry for our sins,’ totally changing the good news of the gospel into…bad news.”
“But, Kevin, what are we supposed to do with that? How is it going to change our behavior and our experience in life? In your words—‘what does it really mean?’”
“It means Christ’s message was really that God’s Kingdom is still all around us—we just have to shift our minds away from our false material senses to the awareness of the truth of our spiritual being. Many call it ‘slaying the old man.’