Saturday, 07 January 2012

Jesus is not the answer

We all have heard the classic Christian one liner: “Jesus is the answer.” I remember as a kid in Sunday school, whatever the question was, we would always answer “Jesus”.  What if we had it all wrong, what if Jesus never intended on giving answers to life’s tough questions. 

Jesus never wrote anything himself. That must be our first clue. He did however told plenty of open ended stories. Funny enough, whenever he was confronted with a question, he responded with a story.

Or a question in return.

Although more than his stories, you’ll find his questions.

According to Richard Rohr, Jesus asked 189 questions in the four Gospels. Guess how many he answers.

Only three. 
(I really love that about Jesus.  Somewhat slippery. Jesus probably would have been a lousy Protestant preacher.)

So maybe Jesus is not the answer, but rather the question. Or questions. Tough, tricky questions we need to ask our ourselves.

Jesus is the mirror God holds up.

John Dear writes that Jesus’ questions can reposition you. Put you back on track. Reframe your God imagination and invites you into new creative possibilities. Rohr adds to this by saying that Jesus leaves us “betwixt and between”.  The questions Jesus asked, backed up with uncomfortable open ended silences or even better: his earthly yet timeless life parables, leads us into liminal, transformative spaces. As Christians we follow in the footsteps of a questionable Rabbi leading us into questionable spaces that can alter the direction of our lives. 

For that to happen we need not to find the right answers about God, but rather become (in the words of John Dear) answering persons responding to the questions asked by a questioning God.

Thursday, 02 June 2011

God has scars

Today is Ascension Thursday. Christian churches all over the world celebrate the new reign of Jesus the Good Ruler.

The first faithful had one statement of faith which caused a lot of controversy in the first century world: Jesus is Lord.

A good, law abiding roman citizen would have been very nervous around friends and family who converted to the Christian faith proclaiming that Jesus is bigger than Ceaser. A good, faithful Jew in those time would have been appalled by such a statement. How can a human be Lord (Yahwe). Who in their right mind will compare a dead Rabbi with the Mighty Yahwe?

But in spite fierce criticism, they held on tight to the hope that the new life of Jesus and his ascension to the heavens is the beginning of a new way of life possible for all of mankind.

Tom Smit writes on his blog the following:

“Ascension is the celebration that God has rose to power. It is an image that places Jesus at the top. He is higher. In the heights he has ultimate power. In the creeds we confess that, “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God”. In Psalm 68 we hear tha this power is about:

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows

is God in his holy habitation.

God settles the solitary in a home;

he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,

but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.(v5-6)

Tom then brings Bruegemann into play with the following:

It turns out that the one who has ascended into power is not transcendent in remoteness, is not splendid in indifference, but is deeply in touch with the reality of the earth where money and power and social leverage and differentiation of gender, race, and class leave some dangerously exposed. This father-God to whom we pray “our father” rides the clouds not as a joy-rider, but rather to be in a position to see and to know and to care and to intervene and to feed and to heal and to forgive and to reconcile and to liberate. It turns out that ascension, whereby God is celebrated in power, is a claim that the earth is ordered differently because of the one who governs it. (p3-4).

I love this part that Tom wrote:

Ascension is therefore the day in which we celebrate that what God has done to Jesus now becomes the mandate of the church to serve the world. We become agents of the new government!

The ascension states that there is a regime change in the world.

A new order ruled by the one who was known as the Suffering Servant.

With this in mind I would like to add another angle to this day of celebration:

This coming Sunday our church will have reflections on Doubting Thomas and his moment of eternal fame when he touched the scars of Jesus’ suffering.

As far as know, Jesus went to heaven with those scars still in place. Or let us assume so for the sake of my heretic argument.

Today on twitter someone made the comment: “heaven is under human rule”, referring to Jesus the crucified human sitting on the right side of God: Right side being a metaphor for governing, ruling, being in charge alongside God.

I am not good with scars. I’ll rather embrace my doubt than stick my finger into someone’s wounds.

Popular culture is not good with scars, hence Photoshop and Botox.

We prefer perfection to be unblemished and unscarred.

Heaven is our ideal projection of perfection.

In heaven there are no scars. No reminders of a life of suffering. Just pure eternal bliss.

But maybe Ascension Thursday can invite us into another way of imagining heaven.

Jesus taking back the gift of humanity.

Wounds, scars, vulnerability, brokenness.

In a sense contaminating (the platonic version of a perfect) heaven with our frail humanity.

Inviting heaven downwards.

Ascending to bring heaven down.

Turning heaven into a home.

Where there is lots of room for the wounded.