Sunday, August 23, 2009

As vs. is

What the Gospels MeantI'm now reading "What the Gospels Meant" by Garry Wills. (I'm not done with my "What Paul Meant" series of posts, but those don't feel super urgent because I finished the book months ago.) With this book, I thought I'd just quote snippets as I am struck by them, and add a little commentary, making more of a living interaction, which is more appropriate for a blog.

The part that grabbed me was Wills' discussion of how vibrantly the early church felt at one with Jesus.

"The [gospel] books reflect not only past events from the life of Jesus but his experienced life in the members of his community," he says. Whereas a modern biography would tend to focus on all the major events of a person's life and be whole and complete, the gospel writers saw that the life of Jesus was continuing and would never end. Their aim was to tell the story of the Jesus who still lived among them, by drawing on the precursors that he foreshadowed in his human life.

In other words: in the case of Mark, whose audience was suffering Christians, he focused on the suffering Christ. His aim in his gospel was not to simply tell the believers that they could endure suffering as Jesus suffered, but to say that because they were suffering, Jesus is suffering now.
"Given this sense of Jesus' indwelling in the community, its members did not ask what Jesus would be saying if he were present. It asked what he is saying because he is present. ... If the community was suffering persecution or doubt or trouble, it took strength in the fact that this was the suffering of Jesus."
I have to admit that I do not have this same tangible sense of Jesus being within the church today. I get the idea metaphorically that we are all one in Christ Jesus, that we are his body. But in practice I just look around the room at church and see so many strangers, a group of people who are always changing as people move in and out of the Seattle area so frequently, that I feel only like a random collection of humans, not like a close-knit unit in which Jesus himself rejoices and weeps, shouts and furies, dances and draws still.

But I think I'd like to feel that way more. I'd like to have my eyes opened that way.

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