Friday, April 08, 2005

The Challenge of Jesus

I finished reading NT Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus the other night. From a theological point of view, I really like what Wright does with Jesus as the Christ and especially placing him in the context of the Jewish religion and the absolute scandal of him proposing that he would be the one to replace the Temple.

However, my favorite part of the whole thing was in the next to last chapter. Wright does an amazing synthesis of Psalms 42 and 43, Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach, and the Emmaus Road story, which Wright retells. The context for all of this was a discussion of Christianity’s response to postmodernism, a study that I’ve been interested in for the past year or so. Note that this chapter was originally a lecture given in 1998 (which you can read here), so Wright was well ahead of the Emerging Church trend.

At any rate, the crux of the whole thing is that Jesus appears to two postmoderns and begins discussing religion with them and basically reshapes the gospel story for these two. Note that the story doesn’t change, the gospel doesn’t change, the telling of it changes.

Wright says:

“We have a chance, as this century draws to a close, to announce this message to the world that so badly needs it. I believe we have this as our vocation: to tell the story, to live by the symbols, to act out the praxis, and to answer the questions in such a way as to become, in ourselves and our mission in God’s world, the answer to the prayer that now rises, not just from one puzzled psalmist, but from the whole human race and indeed the whole of God’s creation: O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. And when we ourselves are grasped by that light and that truth by the strange glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, we, from within the crisis of truth in the contemporary world, can say to those parts of our world that are still dismayed: Why are you cast down? Why so disquieted? Was it not necessary that these things should happen? Hope in God; for we shall again praise him, our help and our God.”

This is an issue that churches have to deal with. Are we going to keep doing the same things in the same ways, or are we going to get creative? Are we going to write the poems, make the movies, talk to our neighbors or are we going to wait for people to walk into the church doors before we say anything to them about the hope in Christ?

Now, I’m not advocating rushing out on door knocking campaigns (who wants their door knocked on?) or writing tripe (Roses are red/Violets are blue/Jesus loves me/And He loves you too!) or making schlocky movies (Left Behind [I apologize if any of my readers liked that movie]).

It’s about letting our faith seep through the pores of our being. It’s about being friends of our neighbors, or having our faith come out through writing or painting or whatever. People don’t want a 2x4 over the head. They want a friend, a shoulder to cry on. They want a good story, a story of redemption, a story of hope.

We have that! We’ve got it! But we’ve become so freaking insular that we forget that Jesus didn’t tell us to navel gaze while we sing nice songs. He said go, make disciples. Two commands there, not one. “Go.” “Make disciples.”

So go. Be a friend. Write a poem. Paint a picture. Make a movie or TV show. Tell the story. Live the story. Be Jesus.


Clarissa said...

But I so love to stare at my own navel.

Tony Arnold said...

Phil, the chorus from the song The World Outside by one of my favorite groups reads:

A better chance, out there, if God is everywhere.

The lyricists was writing about spiritual survival and struggling to maintain his faith despite all the pain and rejection he had endured in "the Church" and at the hands of "christians".

There are so many of these people in the world. The seed is still planted, waiting to germinate, but they have left an unsafe haven. These people will not walk back into our so called open doors. We have to go out and walk with them.

I have individuals close to me that are in this state and I struggle to find effective ways to help them. I have never been trained or taught how to do this. But through discussions like this, new study, and constant prayer I am learning slowly. Through Christ I hope the blind can lead the blind.

Thanks for the blogs.


Brandon Scott said...

Awesome thoughts, brother! I need to borrow that book and read it.

Adam said...

As a fellow NT Wright fan, all I can say is this post rocks, Phil. Thanks for sharing the excerpt and your thoughts about it. That is an incredible book, and I reccomend it to everyone.

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