Sunday, August 12, 2012
After a pilgrimage to Israel and trekking the land where Jesus trod, my faith in Jesus as an historical figure was grounded literally—concretized and dramatized, challenged and enlivened in a way it had not been before.
Let’s face it! Looking out on the Galilean Lake while sitting on a patch of grass or a bit of stone wall, listening to the gospel story of the Feeding of the 5000 read slowly, hearing waters lap, feeling the caress of a warm breeze and the soothe of your teacher saying, “You see? You see? We are in Jesus’ restaurant” is NOT the same as staring at a reredos behind a church altar picturing Jesus in stained glass, no matter how beautiful.
Topography and geography were for me the missing pieces to round out my faith. Nothing like terra firma to sober up any leftover spiritual illusions harbored by the overly romantic—like me.
We visited all the churches and buildings of note, of course, but what pulled me into the ministry of Jesus, the guy of Galilee, were the untrammeled unbuilt sites. Of course we were never able to stand on X marks the spot of where Jesus may have stood, but we were assured that we were likely in the area of where certain key biblical events in his life happened. After all, Israel is about the size of New Jersey—small, dense. How far off could you be?
I don’t take the Bible literally but I do take it seriously. It is a bit Cecil D. deMille because how else would you remember all those fantastic stories? I believe every single story has ultimate dignity and worth for the power of its theological message, mostly all the same: God loves and God saves in spite of human idiocy and fear. There ain’t no hell but in our minds.
Once at a former parish I referenced the infant Jesus in diapers, suggesting that he actually pooped. A woman left the parish in a huff. Too much humanity for her:) Literally soiled her image. On the other hand, in most churches there is so much emphasis on Jesus’ divinity, all I can do is worship from afar but not get too close.
I know we can’t split up the Incarnation of God-in-Christ, but I confess I cheat and do it anyway. I find Marcus Borg’s vocabulary helpful: pre-Easter Jesus and post-Easter Jesus.
"To deny that the pre-Easter Jesus was God does not diminish Jesus at all. Indeed, it exalts him. He was utterly remarkable—one of the two most remarkable people who ever lived. When I say this, I am often asked, "Who was the other one?" I answer, "I really don't care." My point is that the pre-Easter Jesus is a human possibility.”
He is not special because he was divine and had a divine "boost" that we don't have. Rather, he was special because he was an utterly remarkable human being—like St. Francis with an exclamation point. Francis (1181-1226) is often seen as the most remarkable and Christlike of the Christian saints. Was Francis a human possibility? Yes. How often does a Francis come along? Not very often. Someone like Jesus doesn't come along very often either. The pre-Easter Jesus was extraordinary—so extraordinary that his followers saw in him the decisive revelation of God." (from “Speaking Christian” by Marcus Borg)
The beauty of the Christian faith to me is that Jesus Christ, its icon and hero, walked the walk as well as talked the talk. Everywhere we went in Israel I heard the echo of Jesus’ invitation to inquisitive disciples, “Come and see.”
I loved getting to know the pre-Easter Jesus better —walking his land barefoot and busting with energy for his beloved YHWH-God. Frankly, that's divine enough for me.