Question to ponder, asked at outset of church this morning: "What is your position on Jesus?"
It is easy to answer with numerous things that I know are theologically expected; but I'm not interested in doing that. Those things, to me, are old and tired. I am only interested in saying them if they actually have meaning for me. Sounds nice and postmodern, doesn't it? ... There was a time when I didn't want to be postmodern. The truth is that I fit about halfway into the modern mind and about halfway into the postmodern mindset. This makes me a good person to attempt to help people learn to relate well to each other, I suppose.
Do I believe Jesus was Jewish? Yes. Nice "historical Jesus" position. I believe that Jesus was a Jew who was unsettled with the way that people lived out the Jewish tradition; and I believe that he walked a fine line between maintaining that tradition and reinterpreting it at the same time. It unsettled a lot of people and eventually earned his followers (which included Jews and Gentiles alike) the name "Christian." I do not believe that Jesus ever intended to start his own religion. I do believe that we now have one: a religion which has been reinvented by Gentiles who were not required by their Jewish counterparts to follow Jewish customs in living out the teachings of Jesus. I could write a book on this; and I suppose that someday I will. Some people have already done this in academic circles... When I do it, I will do it in language appropriate for lay readers--without dumbing it down.
Do I think Jesus died for my personal sins? Well, this is one of those things where my views don't really go nicely with the evangelical things I grew up hearing. I don't even know where I first heard all this evangelical stuff--it is ingrained in almost every facet of church culture, even when a particular church group's theology differs on a particular point. What I believe is that Jesus was crucified because of the impact of his teachings on the political situation between the Jews and the Roman empire. What does that mean, theologically, for sinful humanity? That is the real question. It has nothing to do with Jesus being on a cross and thinking of me, personally. This personal representation is something that I cannot preach. It is a very individualistic way of thinking, and it drives me crazy. I must learn to accept the symbolic nature of salvation. God is so much bigger than I!
Do I believe that Jesus was both human and divine? I can accept this. How I can accept this I do not know. I do not question it. It just is something I accept, like I accept that I am both a learner and a teacher.
This morning, my pastor talked about how death is no longer bad news when there is resurrection... This left me with a question. How do you preach such a gospel to people who want to die--people who are suicidal because of mental illness, people who want to die because of chronic illness, people who simply accept that death is part of the cycle of life and do not treat it as bad news...? What is the gospel that is good news to them? This took me back to my experience hearing Jim Wallace speak at camp meeting, when he talked about the gospel being the bread of life. I wrote in my notes: "How is the gospel bread to people with disabilities...?" Unlike people in poverty-stricken countries, no one meets people with disabilities with the social gospel and then transforms it into spiritual good news. People with disabilities must jump spiritual hurdles while their immediate needs remain unmet. It is no wonder that some become bitter toward God. In their minds, God never did anything for them; and when people of faith come proclaiming healing and prosperity, those things are for everyone else.
So what is the good news of Jesus that really does speak? I am challenged to sort it out, again, so that I can speak it adequately. It is not that I doubt... I don't. It is a question of knowing just why I believe what I do, and being able to put it into language that makes some kind of sense, because my faith really is a faith that goes beyond any kind of meet-immediate-needs faith. I came to faith before I had those immediate needs... So how do I communicate it to people who are so weighed down by things that matter in this life?
Much to think about...