Monday, February 21, 2011

The Third Question

This is the last "installment" of my own attempt to answer the three questions posed by Ashley in her blog, A Passionate and Determined Quest for Adequacy.

3.  What one thing would you say to people to describe your relationship with Jesus?

The way I relate to Jesus is as a master, like a chess master.

The gospels are about Jesus, placing him at the center of "the good news."  I cannot get my mind around the life of Jesus as good news for me if he was "the pre-existing God" or "born God."   To say that Jesus "lived a perfect life" doesn't speak to my condition because I am not God.   To say that he lived a "perfected life," however, aligns our lives.

This is a notion, of course.  It's as speculative to say Jesus was human as it is to say he was God (no matter what the probabilities) because there is no way to know, one way or the other.   One can believe, one way or the other.  As I have said many times believing things in the realm of spirituality and morality that we can't know is dangerous due to the limitations--lack of data and presence of thinking errors--of rationality.  

Where such notions have value to me--and then only when I don't invest in them to the point that I care if anyone else invests in them or not--is when they seem consistent with my own experience.   It is notional, speculative, for me to think that such things as  God talking to young Samuel in the temple could happen but the story "rings true" with me.   That's not because I hold up theological and/or scientific propositions about how a universe would have to work for such a thing to happen.   It's because I have had that experience, myself.  That makes it seem plausible to me.

The story of Jesus is "the good news" to me because it is the story of a man who, with diligent attention to the leadings and openings of God to him, attained a degree of perfection that  demonstrated life that transcended the world we all inhabit, a life he is written to have said "was" and "was coming."  

I see that.  Not in my head, I don't "understand" it, it doesn't "make sense," or "stand to reason."  I mean I see it, around me.

I don't (and can't) know that there is an afterlife.  But I know that there is a here and now.  And I know, from my experience in it, that if I pay attention to what God is telling me from moment to moment, I am going to be a lot better off--as will those around me.  The faith and practice of Jesus, insofar as it is portrayed in the scriptures, is one of a person who spends a lot of time with God, in different ways, and who is always seeking--and following--divine guidance.

Having been dragged to it enough times to have finally figured out that it's easier all around to just walk where I am told to go, I cannot say that I live in that transcendent space that Jesus seems to have occupied.  I can say, though, that when I am able to be faithful  I catch glimpses of it all around me.   

I think about the scene at the river when, it is written, John puts Jesus under.  The spirit descended on Jesus (like the form of a dove).  I don't know what that means, any more than anyone else does.   But I can see it meaning that it marks the perfection of a human being, the attainment of maturity, wholeness and fitness for a particular purpose.   From all accounts, accounts being what they are, this was the Perfection of all Perfections, and maybe it was.  What it was for Jesus, though, is not as important to me as what it is to me.

For me that is the good news.  I am not, nor is anyone else, doomed to a life of depravity, hopeless under the power of sinful states of mind, creating an endless stream of evil that will dog me and everyone around me for the rest of my life, finding relief, perhaps, only after I die.  The Protestants are wrong.  Fox was right.   There is perfection, maturity, wholeness and fitness on this side of the grave.  

Or maybe they were both right.  God's grace, orthodox Protestantism teaches us, "saves us."  I have been taught that God's grace is some kind of  a "get out of jail free card" issued for whatever reasons it might please God to issue it--eiher in this life or the next.  It certainly has nothing to do with anything I can do.

However, God's grace as I have come to know it is the willingness of God to talk directly to me, to show me the way and to change me.  If I will take the hints and submit to the process I will be by some measure saved.  Can I make that happen, myself?  No, but accepting the grace of God--doing what I am told to do--I can make sure it does.

 I will not get to where Jesus got, but I have come nearer than where I started, and I can keep putting that starting place farther behind me.   In the dynamic of the faith of Jesus I recognize the outlines of that which has been trying--with uneven success--to bring me along for years.

There is a similar view of Jesus, I have discovered, in the work of Elias Hicks.   That doesn't give my notion any more (or less) weight.  Mine or his, it's still just speculation.  I don't really care if anyone else validates it or not.   What matters to me, as I have stressed through answering these three questions is that what matters is my doing what I am told to do, going where I am told to go, and following to where I am led.   

But for being moved to answer the first question I might not have ever addressed the other two--and especially not this last.

But, hey--you asked.       ;-]

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