Friday, March 27, 2015

Who Was Jesus?

Jesus was a thirsty man.  He was and remains a “spirit person”, a demi-god like figure like the Greek God Dionysus and the Egyptian God, Osiris who came to earth to bring completion and wholeness to humanity. The so- called Gnostics believed that the end of the world Jesus spoke of was only a death unto the suffering of life, believed that Jesus was part of a complicated myth of redemption.  Once we find our way home, once we stop our wandering we will cast aside our wandering status and become whole.  Jesus claimed that he was sent by “Abba” (Jesus’ Aramaic word for God which means “Daddy”) sent as an messenger to be a spiritual bridegroom to resurrect the marriage between the Goddess earth and the God father sky in the guise of love for humanity. The cross references to language of the gospels with the imagery of Greek, Egyptian and Near Eastern religions is startling. Some of the symbols such as the chalice, used for the Last Supper come right out of the goddess cults of Canaanite Mesopotamia two thousand years before Jesus was born. The essential message of this myth is that Jesus was himself a Jewish version of the mythological “savior” which pagan religions had recognized for thousands of years and that he came to symbolize the initiation and transformation of the sinful into a cult of love. A myth which claims that Jesus never really died, because he never really lived. And that his relationships to the marginal in his society and to women, the poor, the sick, the outcasts - was meant to deepen the spiritual understandings of patriarchal Judaism. Somehow say these folks, the early church took this story and tried to make history out of it, and in so doing missed the boat entirely creating some twisted and sick commercial deal: One dead Jesus for our eternal salvation.

There really was a man named Jesus who had tremendous charisma and power, who wandered in search of the lost and lonely, those seeking refuge to find a new home where they could be fed. I really don’t care if he lived or died or even if he ate his Wheaties each morning. What I care about is what he means to me and to you and to millions of others who are looking for a forgiving hero, a symbol to give their life meaning.

Who was Jesus? He was the healer. The one who defied expectations and laws to simply touch and heal those in need. One of my other favorite stories is when he healed the blind man on the Sabbath. Or the chronically menstruating woman on the Sabbath, or the lepers all on the Sabbath, why? Because compassion for those who are suffering knows no conditions. Beyond the laws, the customs, the prejudices, and the national hatreds, Jesus represents the Buddha heart of love, just do it! Just love. Jesus as healer holds great meaning for me personally. I reminded of him each time I give a wino five bucks.. I know he will spend it on drink, so what? For a moment there is peace.

Who was Jesus? Perhaps he is the redeemer, not for our depraved nature but for our brokenness, which is really all the word sin means. We are all broken. All in need of forgiveness. Jesus taught us though that we need not follow the laws and make a submission to some “higher power” but simply believe that we are worthy in and of ourselves and that no fault, no mistake is so great that it cannot be forgiven. He called it faith. A faith that we can always be made whole again. And yes, while he called for a reversal of the world order, was he not also calling for a reversal of the human condition. Even the richest amongst us suffer, how can they find forgiveness. The real power of Holy Week is for me, not in the orthodox sense of payment for guilt, but in the transformation from triumphant life, to falling down, to even the death of my ego, and the grace which gives me life again. I have fallen, you have fallen, we all we stumble, but a new day will come and we will start again.

Who was Jesus? Perhaps he is the one who suffered. We spiritual liberals like to poo-poo the symbol of the cross as barbaric, and it many ways it is; the Roman cross was the most barbaric form of death imaginable. But its symbolism is powerful to those who ARE suffering. Not because they have good company in Jesus, but because they understand that God suffers with them. The shortest two line in the entire bible are when he was dying on the cross: He wept. And before his last breath, he moaned, I thirst Here was a man who understood what the Buddha had understood. Life does hurt. There is pain. But there is a way beyond that pain. Here the feminine side to the mysteries of Jesus come through in shining glory. Jesus was the first world prophet to EVER welcome women into his community. Why? Because women understood the essential nature of suffering as something we go through not around. Women understood forgiveness. The feminine archetype of Jesus, claimed the great Carl Jung, was in his acceptance of suffering, not in resignation, but in forgiving recognition.

Who was Jesus?  Perhaps he was a peaceful warrior. The power and mystery of non-violent resistance and loving thy enemy has been shown to be the most sustainable and effective agent of change on earth. South Africa, India, our own civil rights movement. What would Jesus do with Sept. 11th? Hold the suffering, speak out in love? Who can say? The most courageous billboard I saw after the 11th was at a little Christian church down the street from our house. It read: “Jesus said ‘Love thy enemies’.

Who was Jesus?  He was forgiving of all us who search for home.  Jesus reminds us that we all wander but we need not be lost.  That those who are suffering, the poor, the undocumented, the unjustly imprisoned, need our help.  We are all yearning for a life of the soul, searching for that deeper meaning which gives our life purpose.  There is a little bit of Jesus in each of us, wandering in search of meaning and hope; seeking forgiving, seeking wholeness, seeking home.

I met Sister Mary Alice over 30 years ago working for a credit union. She had come in to take out a personal line of credit to help someone with their medical bills. Part of my job was to ask her why she needed this money. I mean, didn’t they have other means. She had one of those truly brilliant faces, she smiled and her eyes twinkled. It was the first time I have heard what has become a rallying cry for universal health care “Without insurance, life turns out differently. This was her insurance for this family. ‘This family’ were Salvadorian refugees. The father had diabetes and she was paying for dialysis so that he might live a few more years. I was a little more arrogant back then “But sister” I asked, “Why are you paying to help them?  They aren’t even legally here.” Still smiling, she touched my hand “Because young man, Jesus forgives all of us, Jesus would want me to do it, I am called to do it.” I shook my head and approved the loan.
Only recently have I come to understand which Jesus she was speaking of  in this story. It’s not about reason or certainty, it’s about faith. And faith, a faith in life and life’s promise, a faith that each of us and the entire world is worthy of forgiveness, is what Jesus is really about.  We are all looking for the kingdom of  love  again.  Jesus is calling on us to remember who we really are.  

With Grace and Grit, John