Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Just Askin'

Hi, PDX!

Whole buncha words have come your way from me. Now it's your turn. Gonna start asking you questions. You tell me what you think. Really! Please... Y'all can respond to one or more of the following. We'll start with three questions, one for each person of the Trinity.

1. Complete this sentence: The goal of the United States of America is__________.

2. At John 10:10, Jesus says he came around so that his followers "might have life and have it abundantly." What do you understand by having life and having it abundantly?

3. Jesus comes back for a weekend and spends it with you. Surreptitiously. No, he's not having the "big second comeback", just hanging out for a weekend for old times' sake. You offer to take him to church with you on Sunday, and you ask if he has a denominational preference. Jesus gets a very puzzled look on his face and says, "Denomination? What's that? Whatever for?" You reply:______________________________.

OK. There you have it. Fire away.....


Pastor Roger


Scott said...

Pastor Roger,

I was listening to a story by Shalom Auslander the other day on This American Life. But I’m not telling you this because of the story (even though it was really good) but because of the way Mr. Auslander spoke about his education in a strict orthodox Jewish school. When relating the lessons he learned, he always used the following convention or formula, “Our rabbis say the sages say the Torah says….,” often to humorous effect. Funny or not, I liked it because it transparently shows the train of interpretation (perhaps not completely) but at least enough to let you know that what you’re now considering has been filtered over and over through the centuries. Since then, I’ve wished that protestant pastors and theologians would do something similar. In the mean time I’ve begun prefacing my scripture references as best I can. In referencing John 10:10 I’d preface it by saying, among the gospels that made it into the New Testament canon, according to the Jerusalem bible translators, the author of John says that Jesus says, “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.”

Given the immediate context of this verse, I’d have to say that I’m not really sure what Jesus means here. Provided this gospel is close to what the historical Jesus might have said, it would appear the subject wasn’t abundant life so much as it was a short discourse on how to recognize established church authorities as thieves and bandits. It’s difficult because Jesus seems to change roles. First he’s a gatekeeper, then he’s a gate, then he’s a shepherd, and later he’s the father. Yes, he mentions that he came so that the sheep may have life and have it to the full, but aside from shepherd metaphors, it isn’t very clear. (He will protect us from wolves I guess.)

Later, the author of John reports that Jesus said, “I give them (the sheep) eternal life:”

Here, it seems that, according to this Gospel, Jesus is engaged in a delicate dance with (presumably) Jewish religious authorities as he makes the subtle suggestion that he is God.

If this account is somewhat accurate, it would seem to imply that Jesus is God and abundant life is being equated with eternal life. What that means to me I guess is that supposedly, there will be some kind of existence after my death. This might be comforting in a psychological sense, but what it really means to me is that abundant life may be like life insurance that never pays off.

Frankly, I don’t think this is what Jesus meant by having abundant life. When I read the language placed in the mouth of Jesus in this Gospel, especially the part he repeats about laying down his life for the sheep, I can’t help but think that those words weren’t prophetic words as heard by eye-witnesses, but rather were early church theological words written into the gospel of John several decades after the crucifixion by somebody who has decided, perhaps through political expediency, that abundant life has something to do with eternal life thereby relieving the members of the new Christian movement of any responsibility for changing their lives while they are still alive.

The author of the gospel of Mark says that at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he shared good news about the kingdom of God being near, or perhaps present. I think Jesus’ gospel could not have been about the crucifixion since there wasn’t any crucifixion yet and since even his disciples didn’t ‘get’ that part until after he died. Never-the-less, Jesus seemed to have an effect on the people who were exposed to him, an effect that changed their lives. The stories that are recounted indicate that people felt they were healed or made whole. I think maybe having abundant life might mean working towards trying to heal people and make them whole - to work toward justice. It doesn’t seem to mean that you’ll be happy in heaven. There is even the likelihood that having abundant life will get you killed.

Scott said...

Pastor Roger,

I noticed your blog doesn't allow anonymous comments. I'll bet a lot of people won't comment if they're forced to also sign up for a blogger account.

Also, maybe you could sign up for a Gmail account (its free)and make its email address available in your profile so shy people can participate.