Wednesday, January 16, 2008

post 201: jesus


Well, here it is -- the Jesus post. Aaack! Obviously this is impossible to cover in one blog entry, but I'll throw out a few thoughts...

I must admit I've generally been fine with God as Creator and Ground of Being. And as long as you say Holy Spirit instead of Holy Ghost (which for some reason makes me think of Casper the Friendly), I'm fine with that too. But over the years Jesus has given me a whole lot of trouble. In fact my last pastor will corroborate the fact that I confessed to her with some exasperation: "I really just don't 'get' Jesus." And it's not like I was a newbie to the whole church scene. But I think that was a big part of the problem. Jesus was buried beneath so many layers of STUFF. Just to point out the words of one hymn from childhood (and beyond):

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.


I mean, what does one make of all that?!

Enter Marcus Borg. His book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time was very helpful in terms of stripping off the layers to get to a new understanding of Jesus.

Borg talks about the distinction between the historical Jesus (pre-Easter Jesus) and the Jesus of Christian tradition and experience (post-Easter Jesus). Borg develops the point that the historical Jesus is different than the 'popular' image of Jesus. Borg writes:

His own self-understanding did not include thinking and speaking of himself as the Son of God whose historical intention or purpose was to die for the sins of the world, and his message was not about believing in him. Rather, he was a spirit person, subversive sage, social prophet, and movement founder who invited his followers and hearers into a transforming relationship with the same Spirit that he himself knew, and into a community whose social vision was shaped by the core value of compassion.

Reading about this Jesus is compelling -- e.g. his alternative vision of community, his challenging the social order of the day, etc. There was obviously something exceptional about him, and I would say that God was somehow uniquely present in him.

Borg states that at Easter, "the early movement continued to experience Jesus as a living reality after his death, but in a radically new way. After Easter, his followers experienced him as a spiritual reality, no longer as a person of flesh and blood, limited in time and space, as Jesus of Nazareth had been."

So, I think all of the layers began as people reflected on who Jesus was -- and also as more and more people "experienced" him. However, I don't have the "personal Jesus relationship" people talk about. (He's not helping me bat as in the above picture.) But that's fine. I'm ok with just having the confusing layers stripped.

Yep, it's a journey, and this is my present view from the road...

31 comments:

David said...

Interesting. I like the last sentence.

So following what you said: Jesus was a social reformer who wanted to implement society with morality. You think God was uniquely present in him.

How can God be uniquely present in someone? how can you believe that God can be present in someone else when you haven't had the experience yourself?

After Easter, I don't see the evidence to believe what people say about experiencing Jesus. What is it to experience Jesus? Is he a guiding force in your life? Is he actually telling you what to do? I find it hard to believe anyone who says that Jesus tells them what to do. I even have a hard time believing people who say that he "guides them". If it is in the sense that it is your moral conscience, and your conscience is influenced by Jesus, then I can sort of see what they're saying. But if that is the case, your conscience is doing the guiding, not Jesus.


It seems to me that Jesus was an important teacher of morals a long time ago, and that people try to live their lives in accordance to his morals.

Do you think he was divine? I guess I just would like more of a clear definition of God being present in him.

Sounds like an interesting book though - I never know that you read that stuff

Barbara B. said...

david, BIG topic and little blog, huh?! I'll have to ponder how to better articulate the "uniquely present" thing... Of course it would probably be best to continue this discussion over starbucks some time... although maybe some commenters will help out here too (hint, hint)

and, wow david -- haven't you noticed what's in my book case?! :)

Rev SS said...

Yes, I will corroborate the "I just don't get Jesus!" declaration.

But, have to decline the invitation to comment further, other than to say getting to know him through studying the Gospels, and trying to follow him, is what is helping me to "get him"

David said...

Yeah it's a lot to get into on here isn't it? Anytime anyone brings up something as big as this it's bound to get messy with what if details, yeah we'll have to talk more in a non internet setting.

Serena - I understand that trying to live your life like Jesus would give you a connection to him - because that's what he did... But why BELIEVE in him? He's a prophet, spoke of morality etc. I see no reason to "worship".

Barbara B. said...

Hmm... I think david is going to get the Borg book for his upcoming birthday :)

David said...

Haha

I think you'd like my Moral Issues class, it's pretty interesting

dust bunny said...

Barb...you are quite the theo-babe. And David is following in your 'seeker' footsteps. (a MAJOR compliment, Dave) I'm sooo over my head this time around...doesn't anyone just wanna play ball???? :)
Oh, my...that sounded a tiny bit like the Wicked Witch of the West.

David said...

Thanks Marie :)

Maybe that's why like philosophy, I ask "why" too much

Rev SS said...

Okay, re Jesus: I did a brief reflection on big topic at my place

In answer to your question about worship, David ...

Excerpt from New International Dictionary of the Bible's definition of worship: English word means "worthship" and denotes worthiness of individual receiving honor due his worth. That would be why I worship God. I only worship Jesus as one person of the Trinitarian God.

dust bunny said...

When considering Philosophy, theology and ways a 5 year old can drive his or her mother crazy, there are never too many "whys".

Jiff said...

Big topic- little blog!
LOL, Barbara-- so true.

David, I think it's generous to give people room to belive that they've had any kind of experience, even if we have not had that experience ourselves.

As Barbara so rightly says, faith is a journey, and a journey with Jesus, in all the forms that takes, isn't necessarily private, but can be very personal.

David said...

Serena - I'll have to check out your blog in a bit, thanks for the definition. So by that definition are you calling God a He? I have a hard time giving God a sex.

Jiff - I don't deny people may have had "experiences". However, Muhammad had a religious experience with Allah. Many, many others have had different experiences with a God other than the monotheistic God. Are all of these experiences misguided and they are all really hearing the "real God". And when I say "real God" I mean the Christian God, because that is what Christians think (at least the bulk of them). Or do a lot of people hear things or look at the way events unfold because the way their brain works. I don't deny a person having an experience, but they may be misguided. And all the details I have heard about peoples experiences just haven't resonated with me. But you are right, I believe something is going on with people, I just don't know what.

RevDrKate said...

Wonderful post and discussion! "Big topic and little blog," very good!

Diane said...

great conversation, mind if I link to you? I don't like to use the cliche "personal relationship" (or Jesus is my coach) but I do feel that Jesus is a guiding force in my life.

I have a cold, so my thoughts today are not the most profound. but, this is a great start!

I particularly like the book the Borg and NT WRight wrote together, called The Meaning of Jesus. It's a great dialogue between a more traditional (but open-minded)believer and a less orthodox one.

Barbara B. said...

diane, yes, that would be cool if you linked to here.

I have read the Borg/Wright book--it's great. Although, not surprisingly, I liked Borg's chapters best! :)

Hope your cold is better soon!

Counselor in Process said...

I'm with you on this. And I'm really tired of this "Jesus as my personal savior" which got flung at me at my partners synagogue retreat by the rabbi. Did I ever say that? Never! She's been watching too much fundamentalist TV!

Rev SS said...

Great discussion indeed.

And no, David I'm not saying God is a He ... Jesus was a He ...

And, as I read scripture, Jesus, and all humans who have reached the other side, are now all spirits without gender.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

i think the 'pop-culture' language of personal relationship with jesus is confusing to many. for some it is helpful... in a very traditional environment like mine... not so much. partly because who jesus asks us to be as his followers is not a private (personal) matter. living our faith is very public...

i agree with revss the 'getting to know' or diving deeper into who jesus is, is found in scripture. and takes time.

being baptized, a child of God, called into the culture (kingdom)of God... the water of baptism helps me "see" in this world. kinda like the solution that keeps my contacts centered on my eyes in order for me to see... the water of baptism keeps my eyes on who jesus asks me to be.

Offspring #1 said...

Ok, can I please just point out that that Jesus decoration is probably the tackiest thing I have ever seen? Why has no one mentioned this?!

Just a reminder: my birthday's coming up... Sure would be nice to have something as precious as that in my apartment. *Hint hint*

Barbara B. said...

counselor in process: LOL re: the 'fundamentalist tv'!

hot cup: "living our faith is very public" -- excellent point. And, as an optometrist of course I love your contact lens analogy!

offspring #1: Haha! Thank you for noticing the tacky nature of the Jesus figurine! :) Ah, birthday present idea indeed.

Diane said...

re: offspring #1: I was being "nice" about the figurine!

I don't believe God is a He.

mompriest said...

oh my my my....what a conversation to just jump into!

Let me say: I have always had a "complicated" relationship with Jesus...sigh...

and

I have always been a believer in God...

How does a Christian, let alone a priest,reconcile these two realities?

I'm working on it. It's a process...and well, I think one of the reasons I am a priest is because in God's good sense of humor God knew how to get my attention and get me working...'cuz God knows I am not exactly a Jesus groupie...and yet I now have to talk about, preach about, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Yeah, it makes me think.

A lot.

And, yeah, I'm ok when I think of Jesus as God in human form, a temporary earthly expression of a timeless mystery...

Cecilia said...

Barbara, this is great, and I am late to the discussion.

The thing I love about Borg's book is that the "personal relationship with Jesus" ends up being something we can get to the other way around... we can "meet him" (as I think you have through the book) as the Spirit person he was, the one with a direct line to the holy... Borg goes full circle, and "personal relationship" folks and seekers such as you and I get to that place too.

Does that make sense?

Pax, C.

Barbara B. said...

mompriest: "not exactly a Jesus groupie" -- I hear you! :)

Your last sentence is thought provoking...

Barbara B. said...

Cecilia: Wow, that is a really interesting perspective and one that had not occurred to me at all!!

offspring #1 said...

http://bp2.blogger.com/_o9_5WIf14kg/RaOF4KCZVKI/AAAAAAAAADk/9ZygQJVBFfo/s1600-h/jesus_football.jpg

http://bp0.blogger.com/_rGtJ-FbxUog/Rstjsw1MsOI/AAAAAAAAACQ/blNZ_57H9rA/s1600-h/jesus+football.jpg

I call these, "Spear Tackled by the Lamb of God."

If you tackle Jesus, do you go to hell?

offspring #1 said...

I don't think those links worked in my last post, so just click on "offspring #1."

Also, I think the kid with Jesus on his team has an unfair advantage. I mean, come on. Jesus is a grown man and he's playing against children. Jesus is kind of a cheater.

Barbara B. said...

LOL offspring #1! you do raise interesting points! :)

dust bunny said...

Oh, lordy, lordy, lordy....Can you tell the acorns don't fall far from the tree? (I say that with the UTMOST respect for acorns, oak trees and deep thinkers)

Seeker said...

David...

Your comment "However, Muhammad had a religious experience with Allah. Many, many others have had different experiences with a God other than the monotheistic God."

Allah is Arabic for "the God". It is the term used instead of the Germanic word "god" by Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Arabic speaking world. It is NOT a different god, because there is only one. The Quran talks about God sending messengers to all peoples in all places...but however different the messengers (Jesus, Moses, Buddhah) or the manifestation, (Krishna, the Holy Spirit, etc), the source is the same.

Your comment seems to suggest, if I am reading it correctly, that there are indeed other gods who exist. Else how could people have experiences with "them"?

That Allah (and I like that term, because is does not require a pronoun which gets into gender issues!) can speak to many people in many ways, or manifest the divine in many ways seems right to my soul. That other gods really exist does not.

David said...

Seeker: What I was basically saying is that many people have their own interpretation of God. Yes, I know Allah is the same God as ours, I know that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe in the same monotheistic God. My post probably wasn't clear enough. People interpret the teachings different. Muslims have different values, as do Jews, why are the Christians right? Because we accept Jesus as "the son of God" and they don't? Jesus was the son of Mary and Joseph, I don't believe Mary was mystically impregnated by the holy spirit.

Regarding other Gods. No, I don't think there is more than one God. People create the Gods. They're a creation by humans to explain things. And I don't have any evidence to prove that Jews, Christians, and Muslims didn't create their monotheistic God. -- I'm saying, people who believe in polytheism are misguided, their "experiences" whatever they may be bear no consequence on the existence of Gods. I had an experience that told me the earth is flat. Does that make it true? No. I had an experience that led me to believe there were many Gods. True? No.

It's hard to flush out all the points, but I think people, along with myself, are misguided about a lot of things. Everyone is so arrogantly confident that they're right about religion, they don't take the time to really think and ask questions.

What do I believe? I'm not entirely sure, maybe some sort of spiritual power, I don't know if I would call it God. Just some force connecting/binding everything in the universe, some one powerful thing.