Blogging Towards Sunday, August 28th
The Gospel according to Mark begins with a radical affirmation: “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” [1:1]. In the original language of the book, Koiné Greek, the word for gospel, euanggelion, also means “good news”. It means good news as in headlines of a paper, an blessed event like a birth or marriage, a joyous pronouncement like VE-Day at the end of WW II, or a military report of victory.
Louise Hirschman asks, “if we actually believe the good news of the gospel, why don’t our lives show it in wild, crazy, amazing expressions of joy? If we believed it, we could do anything, knowing that Jesus the Christ has our back!” So what holds us back? - holds you back?
Friedrich Nietzsche a 19th century German philosopher and theology student (and son, grandson and great-grandson of pastors) wrote convincingly for many against the belief in Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life. “On Dying for the truth” he writes: “We should not let ourselves be burnt for our opinions: we are not that sure of them. But perhaps for this: that we may have and change our opinions.” #333 75- Aphorisms.
Known as the father of 20th century Nihilism, his statement seems to be at the root of the thoughtful critic of the new cultural paradigm in our 21st century nation in David Brooks' book, Bobos in Paradise. “Instead of community arising as a byproduct of rigid belief, people will return to religious belief because of their desire for community. In other words, people will return to religious tradition not necessarily because they accept the truth of revelation, but precisely because the absence of community and the transience of social ties in the secular world makes them hungry for ritual and cultural tradition. They will help the poor or their neighbors not because doctrine tells them they must, but rather because they want to serve their communities and find that faith-based organizations are the most effective ways of doing so. They will repeat ancient prayers and reenact age-old rituals, not because they were handed down by God, but rather because they want their children to have proper values, and because they want to enjoy the comfort of ritual and the sense of shared experience it brings. In a sense they will not be taking religion seriously on its own terms. Religion becomes a source of ritual in a society that has been stripped bare of ceremony, and thus a reasonable extension of the natural desire for social relatedness with which all human beings are born.” How do we follow Jesus for what it gives us and our families?
Søren Kierkegaard (a 19th Century Danish philosopher) wrote “The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindler. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say. If I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian Scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is dreadful to be alone with the New Testament. Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard, p.201.
In our following the Way, we’re challenged by our cultural tendency towards unlimited choice, to place the power and responsibility of our choosing solely on our shoulders. We’re also tempted to choose the easier path, that’s more “realistic.”
What keeps you – us – from trusting, and living, the truth that Christ has our back?