Entering into the world

English: The Sarejevo Hagadah, 15th century Sp...
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It’s so easy to let familiarity breed a laxadasical attitude.  People who live with gorgeous views tend to stop seeing them.  Those of us who know amazing people tend to take them for granted.  It seems to me that the very rich probably don’t notice the wealth around them.  And probably somewhere, there’s a person sitting in a third world country thinking that a guy like me doesn’t have a clue how amazing it is to always have a full belly, to live with antiobiotics and electrical lights, to recieve a free education, to experience freedom of religion and expression.  That person who doesn’t have any of those things, who might want to judge me for how much I don’t appreciate so many of those things… he’d be kind-of right to judge me for this.

There are truths about the world that should seem fundamentally wierd but we slowly stop noticing: apparently solid things are over 99% empty space; obects never actually touch eachother, they just interact with negative electrical charges of the elctrons; some trees are centuries old; light from stars that reach us at night left thier points of orgin milenia ago.

Similarly, there are things about my faith that should boggle my mind.  In a way, I become immune to their wierdness by thinking about them too much.  But in some other way, the real problem is that I stop thinking on them.  I kind process some information, I can’t wrap my brain around it, so I just give up and go about my daily existence.

The facts of Jesus’ birth certainly fit this.  The author of space-time and everything in it; the originator of peace and the source of all goodness, he somehow managed to squeeze all that he is into a little bitty flawed human, living in a fallen world.  This human was born the lowest of the low, in the world’s eyes.  Even though his mom was ready to give birth no one had enough mercy to even put her up with the other people.  This God was born in a nasty, smelly barn.

His mission on Earth was not to gather power in the world’s eyes.  His life is a testament to the fact that the world’s power is meaningless.  He died not through a show of force but a sacrifice of love.

It just doesn’t make any sense, when we look at this through the world’s eyes.

And through the eyes that Jesus’ contemporaries had?  Well, sometimes, I wonder if God didn’t set certain aspects of Judaism up just to mess with their heads.  Not in a malicious way, but I have to wonder if he didn’t have just a bit of a smile on his lips when he set the whole thing up.

God taught the people that he was so far above them.  To see his face would kill a person.   To interact with him for extended periods left Moses’ face glowing.   When he took up residence in the Arc of the Tabernacle, he visited only one person only once a year.   He was a distant God, far above them.

Yet God told them that they’d set apart.  He even gave them rituals for making themselves presentable to him through sacrifice of livestock that they otherwise would have enjoyed for themselves; it was only the best and healthiest that was worthy of putting themselves in a standing that they could come anywhere near approaching God.  There was an emphasis on man’s fallen nature, a history of even the Jews being unworthy, and a borderline obsession with purity-cleanliness.

Always the idea was that they might temporarily elevate themselves.  God was only visited on God’s terms.  The very idea that God might lower himself to their filthy level must have been nearly unthinkable.

And later, Jesus would go on to be equally scandelous.  People in general have an “ick factor” associated with dead bodies.  The Hebrews in particular had specific rules and expectations around avoiding contact with dead flesh and bodily fluids.

So I can only wonder what it must have been like when Jesus told them to remember him, to eat the bread as if it were his flesh, to drink the wine as if it were his blood.  But I digress.  My focus today is on God’s entry into the world in the shape of Jesus.

And the last thing I guess that I have to offer about this mind-blowing entry, is that in a way, it fits.

I realize that I’ve just babbled on and on about the manner in which Jesus didn’t fit.  And I stand by that.  But the thing is, in a different way, it fits very well.

God often enters the world in just this way: long after anybody would have expected, far mightier than we can fathom, and utterly backwards to what had been expected, turning the tables utterly on what had been the status quo.

More on that next post.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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