Voting down “real” Jesus

Voting down “real” Jesus

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The Getty Center, taken 30 May 2012

Excerpted from, why yes, a letter to a friend, written 3 June 2013…

Thought of you a lot while waiting for the 761 to the Getty yesterday.  The question has been raised by various people at various times lately, and specifically in a small group study I attended last week: Which is preferable, “real” flesh & blood Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?

I always have the “wrong” answer.  I always vote down Jesus, well “real” Jesus.

People tend to think “real” Jesus would be better, because “real” Jesus would somehow automatically be spending all his time with just them.  That’s even worse, because if Jesus is with me, there are billions of people other than me in the world that he is NOT helping.

That’s no good — that’s terrible in-fact.

I can’t be “for” that.

Because one of the best things about God is that we do not merely have a Jesus who can help us as he has time to help (if something of our life or faith happens to catch his attention). We have the Holy Spirit — a helper just like Christ — to be with us (each and every one of us) always.

And what I am reminded of most Sundays is that — even though I love Jesus very, very, very much…I don’t want who I am in-Christ to be merely about what I receive from Jesus. What I was reminded of in my conversations with various saints throughout the weekend (especially the people who actually asked with love and attention how I was doing and were ready for more than a one or two word answer), is that life in Christ — which is life in the Spirit — is not just a life where we receive something from Christ,

it is a life where we receive from the Spirit in such a way that God is no longer an external God who has to reach out and touch, but an internal presence free to work from within: to love us, and to work through us to love others in a beautiful and powerful way. The Spirit also helps us to love each other.

That’s a beautiful thing.

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And it’s in those quiet moments — when there are tears without words and hugs that don’t let go — that I am reminded of just how great and beautiful a grace it is to have Christ’s love, by the Spirit, to each other, through us.

Love to you my friend. I’ve lost count at this point the line-itemed list of things I should be praying about for you…but I’ve got the big things. I’m trusting the Spirit to chink the cracks on my prayers for you my friend. The point of intercessory prayer isn’t the list or the words, but the love behind the words.

We were talking about prayer in Sunday School class yesterday, and I commented that my own life is always full of situations that need a lot of prayer because God sends me places no one else is willing to go (because he knows I will go without asking a bunch of questions about what will happen or what’s in it for me). It’s about having the kind of faith to know to jump when you can’t see a pool or water in the pool because you know that with God there is a pool and there is water in the pool, even when you don’t know how far you’re going to fall before you find it.

I call it faith, but a lot of people call it stupid.

Love to you, and may God’s peace, love, hope, and comfort be with you strongly in all things this day. Blessings, love, and hugs to you my friend.

[The credit for the amazingly beautiful icon, “The Visitation” was too long to be a caption for that image, but it was so amazing and inspiring I need to put credit where credit is due: http://3acres.blogspot.com/2010/04/icon-update-iv-visitation-is-finished.html]

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Transfiguring the world with joy

Transfiguring the world with joy

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As most who know me know, expressing an intriguing idea in my presence always carries with it the risk of me thinking deeply on the matter and then giving you my $0.02 (and by “my $0.02,” I of course mean $0.02…with about $17.98 in spare change to go with it).  In an e-mail to another Christian — one I admittedly do not know well, but know well ENOUGH to know that both Easter and Lent are on his radar screen — I closed with a cordial word of hope and a reference to the resurrection:

“As we, with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, progress through this holy season and prepare to celebrate the grace and mercy of the crucifixion and the glory of the resurrection, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.”

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His response was:

“Maybe joy of the resurrection transfigured our whole world”

Which, of course set me to tho thinking…and thinking…and thinking some more. What follows is my response…

[I preface the following with the reminder of my intent toward Theological Studies as a major…and that I have had more time than normal American humans to read/write/think about theology; normal American humans watch TV at night instead]

I thought about it, and maybe you’re right and the resurrection did transfigure the whole world. Maybe it’s like C.S. Lewis in The Last Battle where we come upon the dwarves who are in Aslan’s Country but think they are still in the stable and actually came to a place of such total resolve to self-reliance that they were blind to the truth of reality? Lucy begged for compassion for them, but they were not able to receive it because their own perspective was too warped. Or perhaps it is like all the “ghosts” in The Great Divorce — the ones who wouldn’t get on the bus, the ones who wouldn’t get off the bus, the ones who headed back to the bus, the ones who couldn’t be persuaded to stay and preferred the awfulness of the place from whence they came? That place that may or may not have been heaven was available to anyone if his or her heart and mind were in a place to be able to receive the beauty and blessings that were on offer…yet many either left that offer on the table or else were so damnably self-absorbed they never knew the offer had been made. The joy of the resurrection may or may not have transfigured the whole world, but even if it did I can tell you truly that not everyone in the world has noticed. There is a lot of dark brokenness in this world trying to mess things up and distract people away from the glorious joy and truth of the promises fulfilled by the crucifixion/resurrection/ascension. Those three are inseparably co-dependent on each other to fully complete God’s great rescue plan, and while I think I need to think about this a little more before I’m comfortable to give what I’m about to write status as my “final answer,” I’m leaning in the direction that — of the three — the ascension was and is the one that has had the biggest impact for transfiguring the whole world because the transforming power of the Holy Spirit is “present progressive.”
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Christ is truly awesome in every sense of the word, but in life the gospels are replete with stories of desperate people following him in great thronging crowds for just the chance to MAYBE encounter this Jesus. And though his resurrected body apparently had cool abilities like being able to walk through walls, there was still only one of him. A pastor friend of mine preached a very good sermon last fall as part of a series on The Nicene Creed where he ran through a very amusing “What if?” on “What if there was no ascension?” as the intro. It was imaginatively funny, but drove home the point in a way I don’t think I’ll ever forget, because without the ascension we wouldn’t have the Holy Spirit. And it’s the Holy Spirit that makes possible Christ’s power in plurality across the whole world and all time. Christ set his immediate world ablaze, but the Holy Spirit set the WHOLE world ablaze (and being at least 7/8 filthy gentile scum in ancestry, thanks be to God for THAT!). And while God is God is God regardless of person, and while the Holy Spirit’s primary function is to point to Christ, the Holy Spirit enables Christ’s power to transfigure the world in an amazingly unique (and present progressive!!! 😀 ) way.
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So while the crucifixion and resurrection began the transfiguration of the world, I would argue that the best news of all is that the Holy Spirit has been/is/continues to carry the torch for the transforming power of Christ in the world. But I reiterate, even such a great and glorious manifestation of Christ’s power still — on some level — requires notice to be appreciated; notice of God and Christ is inversely proportional to degree of self-focus (and my brain with its Calvinist bend is of the view that the primary operating gear of humanity in its post-fall “natural” state is “self-focus”).

So all that to say that I think I agree with you, but with some corollary modifications to your original statement (mea culpa, it’s the mathematician in me).

Blessings to you in all things