Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Back From The [Almost] Dead

I am coming up for air finally, after a long haul with being sick and having at the same time a lot going on. Yup, I'm still dragging around with this cold or viral thingy or whatever. Eventually it turned into a sinus infection. I went to the doc yesterday morning and have been given the gift of antibiotics. I'm not sure if it's in my head but even after one day I feel a little better. I actually slept most of the night last night. Interrupted only by having to pee, having a big needy kitty wanting to purr and snuggle under the covers with me, and the patter of raindrops on the window. Blessed SLEEP! I woke up 3 minutes before a friend was supposed to arrive for coffee.

So, the silent retreat - was great. Had a lot of time to do nothing. I couldn't hear very well for a few days either, due to the mutant cold packing my ears solid, so the first day I felt as if in a cocoon, silent and somehow safe and protected. It initially seemed like bad timing to go on a retreat since I've already had so much quiet in my life, but as it turned out I forgot how just being in an environment where nothing is calling out for doing is very peaceful. Entering into the retreat I expected to get a little bored, and the time stretched out before me looking like a long long road. But the time went fast, and that surprised me.

I met with The Oracle once each day. The meditation she invited me into the first day was to read Mark and try (as best I could) to experience Jesus as if meeting him for the first time. She also loaned me a book called Who do You Say that I Am? by William Barry. What would I think of this guy if I met him on the street? Who would he be to me?

Now, please do keep in mind that I know just as well as you might the Sunday School answers to these questions. I know the "right" answers, but it's another thing to think about this from outside of that context, and not all that easy to do for a former "conservative, fundamental, evangelical" Christian. (whatever that even means anymore) So please don't go blasting my "theology", because I'm just thinking through things here, wrestling and questioning, not instating a new cosmos or anything like that. Also, I'd like you to keep in mind I generally keep these things to myself because I realize I have not yet learned how to verbalize what I think in a way that is not scattered and incomplete. But I am going to go out on a limb a little and trust that you who are reading this will be patient with my sometimes incoherence.

So anyway, it struck me I might have been both drawn to Jesus and his message and I might have also avoided him. I think today he'd have dreds and wear Birkenstocks, but I've thought that for some time now. I think he'd be very cool but unnerving. He probably didn't smell all that great. I would like that he hung out with the "rough crowd", and slammed the hypocritical religious folks of the day - the people who took advantage of their position and lorded it over the "little people". I would have been freaked out by his directness, his ability to "heal". I like it that Jesus was reluctant for the folks to put him too high too soon on the Messiah pedestal because he knew they did not know what that even meant, but he was always gentle to the folks who came to him. He was full of paradox and made no bones about it. He didn't try to resolve all the mysteries of the world for us, and that would have frustrated the crap out of me. All this talking in Parables??! Cut it out with the storytelling and give it to me straight!!

But the biggest new thought for me was that if Jesus was both God and Human, which I have always believed, then there are some aspects of his humanity that perhaps I have sadly disregarded given my need to maintain Jesus as deity. In fact, I somehow perceived I should DEFEND this position. Ironically, this belief for me made most of his life not as remarkable, just part of the story. In fact it made it fairly acedemic really, that of course he made no mistakes, wouldn't have been confused about anything, couldn't have gotten it wrong about returning very soon, couldn't have done wrong, etc... because he was GOD, for crying out loud. We must have just misunderstood or interpreted wrong, or something like that.

In discussion with the Oracle, we discussed the possibility that IF Jesus was fully human and fully God then the Fully God could limit Himself. This makes the pondering of his humanity all the more remarkable and meaningful and mysterious to me.

He didn't usher in world peace. Did he think he was going to? It reads in the Gospel of Mark like maybe he did. Did he even know EXACTLY what the Kingdom of God was supposed to look like? He was left alone in the end - his disciples, his family - they didn't understand him. If he didn't think there could be any other way for his death but crucifixion, then why did he ask God to change the circumstances for him? I am chewin on questions like these. Because it changes the face of Jesus altogether in my mind.

In addition, It doesn't take anything away from my faith to say that perhaps the writer of the Gospel of Mark (who was writing this all 3rd hand and many years after the life of Jesus) might have embellished some, might have gotten a few facts mixed up here and there. This used to offend me when people would suggest things like "error in scripture" because I was afraid that it took away from the Bible in some way as The Word Of GOD. (which I also felt responsible for defending) Now, I don't have as hard of a time with that. I'm coming more to the opinion that the guys writing the things we read now in the bible were human, they weren't maybe even aware that what they were writing was going to be picked apart someday and analyzed to death, they were just trying to get a message across, writing in a historical and cultural context what was burning in their hearts to get out on the paper. They probably wrote for the same reasons we write today. Only in retrospect did anyone call what they wrote "The Inspired Word of God". So there is no need for me to defend the Deity of Jesus anymore. I don't need to defend the Bible. I believe Jesus was who he said he was. I believe the life of Jesus really happened in some order or another very similar to how it is stated in the New Testament. I believe there is a great deal of value in the Bible and that God speaks to us through it if we let Him. I believe this stuff, and I'll "preach it" if the moment seems right for the preaching. However, people will either come to the same conclusions I have or they won't, and that is not up to me because truly those who seek will find. And those who are not seeking, well I don't have to make them do that, either. What a blessed relief! (especially for them)

But I digress.... back to the humanity thing: If Jesus was fully human, perhaps he didn't know what was going to happen 100% of the time. We can't deny that different gospel writers have written what he said sometimes in 3 different ways in 3 different places. But if 5 people wrote a biography of Alexander the Great, there would be discrepancies and no one would think anything of it. It doesn't change who he was and what he did, in general. I wish that Joseph and Mary had the ability to read and write and kept a good baby journal or something - a written account of their family and the life and times of their kid(s). That would clear a lot of stuff up for me I think.

The thing I hang on to in the end is that the heart of Jesus' message was not simply about heaven and hell and how to get there (or not). Not to take anything away from that but to say that He was way more rounded than that. He was compassionate toward the people that no one liked. He showed mercy to the one the religious people wanted to stone, he turned the social expectations upside down and those with no voice had a place in his heart. He had no patience for hypocrisy in religious folks who pretended to be perfect and disregarded the hearts of the people they should have been leading. These are not things that much of the world has a problem with. Ghandi liked the message of Jesus, he just didn't like Christians. The message of Jesus - the Truth that winds its way through the Gospel message remains no matter the historical evidence. No matter who one says that Jesus was/is, it doesn't eventually come to empirical data. Going Jesus has a T shirt on her site that says "Jesus died to take away your sins not your mind." I want to be a Christian who thinks, but I don't want to be intellectualized into spiritual imbecility, either.

I read recently someone's opinion that some scientists are better theologians than many of the so called theologians, because they're always looking. Maybe if we approached theology more that way it would be better in some ways. Not ever feeling we've arrived at The Answer. Collectively, we used to think The Earth Was Flat. What do I/we believe about God or Jesus or what it means to be a Christian that corresponds to such a colossal mistake? We'll never know if we sit here thinking we've got it all nailed down.

So again, I am left with just a little more mystery. The older I get the less I know - for sure at least - and the more OK I get with that. What will it be like when I'm 70?


  • I think you did a darn good job on this post....head cold and all....!! Thanks for stopping by and I am having a special post for you next week (mondays thought for the week) so blow by and say hey....I've been sitting on it since I heard you were expecting..:)

    By Blogger Ayekah, at 1/17/2006 4:53 PM  

  • Powerful stuff, my friend. Imagine if you weren't sick! I wonder if it can be thought of like Jesus being a mirror--held up to man to show man where he lacked compassion, etc.

    Anyway, I hope you feel better soon!

    By Blogger Running2Ks, at 1/17/2006 8:41 PM  

  • I think it was good that you were sick. That sounds wierd, but when your weak and not on your "game", you abandon yourself to all that happens around you- in this case, 3 days of silence and meditation. I am glad you're back tho, and like where your thots are taking you!

    By Blogger Janet & Seth, at 1/18/2006 8:42 AM  

  • I hope you are feeling better. You already know I liked this post (I sent an email). Right now, I am checking to see if I can post a comment!

    By Blogger annie, at 1/18/2006 9:27 PM  

  • I enjoyed this post a lot, wowser.

    By Blogger Steve, at 1/19/2006 8:56 AM  

  • I add my accolades for an honest penetrating post. Thank you for expressing yourself where the rest of us could see it.

    By Blogger little david, at 1/19/2006 11:13 PM  

  • Ya Ya Sista'!!!

    So I was thinking about the "Jesus as God...and oh yeah human too" thingy. I think "the church" (I know you hate that) got in the habit recently of emphasizing his deity over humanity because "the attack of culture" has been on his deity. I remember learning that during the time of the apostles and the early church, the big bru-ha-ha was over his humanity because in THAT culture, everyone knew the gods came down and assumed the form of humans - You know, Zeus did it, Aphrodite did was just the thing to do! But the idea of a god remaining human *while the human body suffered* - THAT was a scandal for sure! That's why the gnostics were so naughty - they totally believed in the divinity of Christ, but not his humanity. He was like those greek gods, just residing for a while until it got uncomfortable.

    Wow that was long - I was just thinking about how theology responds to the culture around it - rightly so, I think.

    And how it's understandable culturally speaking, that we would have an urge to defend the divinity of Christ - and the Bible.

    By Blogger Headless-in-GR, at 1/21/2006 9:51 AM  

  • I like to think that God gave it to us straight with the ten commandments, appealing to our minds, and that Jesus gave it to us with charisma, appealing to our hearts with his parables and actions, so we could see it, feel it in motion :)

    By Anonymous kate, at 1/23/2006 12:30 PM  

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