Multi-Jesi

Or is that multi-Jesuses? My Latin really suffered after the second declension.

After a long quiet month on the blog, Jon and I both make our return on the same day! (I actually decided to post before I even realized that Jon had put up his own entry.) I believe that it is well timed.

I am moving on to chapter 1, but I hope that I will be able to engage our posts on the intro and chapter 0 as I go.

As I started reading chapter 1, “The Seven Jesuses I Have Known,” I hadn’t really even gotten through the first two paragraphs on the first page when I began pondering what Jesus it is that I had met. How would I describe him? Do I know more about him now than I did then? Nearly two years into marriage, I know that my relationship with my wife has to change every day – it has to grow and improve, or it our marriage will grow stagnant and die like a garden plant left without water during a very dry August. I have been what conservative Protestants call “saved” for over twenty years now, and what does that mean? How have I changed since the day I declared my faith? Is my knowledge and relationship to Jesus deeper now than it was? Or is it like the plants outside our back porch – withered and dry?

The scary thing is, I really cannot say that I know. I think the same thoughts during the day, while I plan services of worship or Sunday School lessons for a new class I want to teach. So I used to be able to translate Hebrew sentences, and I could argue successfully that it was supposed to be a genitive of object, not a genitive of source. Yet my faith feels shallow. Like Bilbo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring – thin, butter spread over too much bread. My faith is supposed to be a shining example to those in the congregation, yet I am sometimes appalled by it, admiring those who look up to me. Perhaps that is healthy and a challenge. Perhaps it is something else entirely.

Anyway, I read the rest of the chapter for the second time tonight – the first was a long time ago, after I first bought the book. I have, like McLaren, come to the conclusion that each of these traditions offers some truth about God. And I agree that none of us gets it all right – indeed, I would venture that we do not even get a majority of it right. I look at the table at the end of the chapter, and I find myself immediately attracted to a few of the traditions and repulsed by the others. I have positive thoughts about Roman Catholicism, but the thoughts on the liberation tradition are immediately critical.

In some way, I think it is like the Psalms. There are days when Psalm 150 reigns, and that is the kind of Psalm that I need. There are days when Psalm 42 echoes the deepest groans of my soul – sheer strength of will keeps me in the faith. And rarely could the two fit into the same circumstance of my life. Perhaps each tradition will speak to me in its own course, as it did for McLaren. Perhaps I never reach them all – and do not need to.

Jesus is who he is, and I believe that he reveals us to himself precisely as much as we need to know. And there are aspects of his character that do not make sense to me, and I do not need to know them. These are the unfathomable riches of his grace, the depths of his love that we can never reach.

I like Jesus that way. True to himself, and exactly what I need. True to himself, and exactly what you need.

Enough nonsensical rambling.

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One thought on “Multi-Jesi

  1. Since I’m working on my own post on Chapter 1, I’ll leave most of my comments for that. As for our faith being a “shining example” to those in the congregation, I think you’re absolutely right about it being challenging and helpful to have a humble attitude in this regards. After all, each one of us models and lives out our faith in different ways, so each of us learns from the examples of others. It’s not that you and I should try to be Abraham – who was, to me, the pre-eminent example of what “faith” is. He was a man who lived in a very different culture a long time ago. The question for us is, “What does faith look like where I am, right here and now?”

    In that way, the best “shining example” I think all of us can offer is not trying to be any holier than anyone else – Jesus was that model for us. The best we can do is to live out faith in our very own context, and give people the tools and the resources to figure out how to do that too. That means even responses to things like doubt, cynicism, depression, sins… faith doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens in our moment-by-moment response to what God brings into our lives.

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