Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jesus Died for This?

1 Corinthians 15

3For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve...

12Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. ...

19If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.

"...take a good look at Jesus' crew!" Jesus' people still includes even those of us who don't fit, never have really belonged anywhere and probably never will qualify as conventionally religious, never will be recognized as church guys, church ladies, potluck princesses, bulletin board superintendents (etc.), yet when she started looking, Becky Garrison kept seeing "everyday saints" (like all of us Jesus has claimed, forgiven and freed), the literal embodiment of the crucified and risen Christ all over the place.

Jesus Died for This?: A Satirist's Search for the Risen Christ on amazon

Jesus Died for ThisBecky Garrison opens her most recently published book with a basic stroll through a few selective Holy Land sites - both authentic and spurious - noting along her way the parallel presence of kitschy, tawdry places that might be able to rake in an occasional shekel from an occasional tourist with bad taste. So far so good; her energy level and what she observes both seem similar to mine, so I enjoy it the way I'd appreciate going there with a friend. Later she sojourns some in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and then visits some spots in the USA.

A few dozen pages into the book, and how about spiritual swag? Americana Christianity? From "the newest shiny theological toy" to Sing-along Savior and Contextual Christ, through Postmodern Pal and Money Messiah, Becky has a hunch "...Jesus of Nazareth doesn't exactly like 'doing lunch' with his classier counterpart Commercial Christ."

And then, another dozen or so pages further along, huge parts of Jesus Died for This? turn out to be about huge chunks of my own experiences. For sure the details are different, but the endless quest for a geographically nearby people and place that more-or-less responds to my needs to be welcome and to participate reasonably to the extent of my gifts and abilities is almost identical. And like Becky, I grew up in a household framed and defined by the type of dysfunction that grows out of substance abuse (or maybe that needs to read "substance abuse and addiction that seeps out from the splitting-apart seams of social and familial dis-integration").

Exactly like my near-endlessly current situation, on page 49 Becky tells us "But I didn't have a place I could call a spiritual home." Yet later, on page 105 "…if we focus on fishing in those places that speak to our hearts." I keep telling myself part of my being out of sorts is the clear fact that the Church does not do well supporting people who for whatever reason no longer are serving so-called professionally as called, appointed, rostered (another etc.) leaders. True that mine started not with my own decision, yet I still believe not doing so remains better stewardship of my life and gifts. I've previously blogged and told people I was spending far too much time doing "ministry in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ," often nearly oblivious to a lot that was going on out there in the world; it was a supposedly legitimate way to hide, as well. But I've spent eons of time and immeasurable energy denying the fact that in any case I'd have had difficulty discovering a place and space that would welcome me and that I could claim—because they first claimed me?! Not sure about that one. However, [page 70] In Belfast a friend told Becky, "You're in a place that probably hasn't healed enough to welcome the total stranger." Nonetheless, you need to keep following the living Christ!

About that "spiritual home" (but Christianity is incarnational and enfleshed, yet I do get what Becky is saying), like Becky I need to ask:
  • What am I looking for?
  • How will I respond if my questions change?
  • Am I ready to be surprised by the answers?
"Among farmers, actors, musicians, theologians and used car dealers...a dream born on the unsettled non-conformist edges of the church during the early 1970s," the Greenbelt Festival was new to me and I need to be there! But she writes about high school cliquishness coupled with unexpected snubs and exclusions at Greenbelt, at a place where she'd hoped for real life meetups with virtual friends. Also part and parcel of my own history and current style, she describes hiding "fears of abandonment ...underneath thick layers of self-sufficiency." Hey you readers out there, it's not about fear of abandonment, since too many of us have been abandoned on a regular basis! Really! More than 100 pages later, after talking about those of us "who hurt to do what they do,"...a few people I thought were friends and fellow-travelers bolt and head for the hills." [page 171] I still don't understand why?

Becky cites alternative worship that carries everyday artifacts and technologies into sacred spaces as something seriously to consider, since it reflects ways Jesus lived immersed in local culture yet constantly challenged it in word and action. A few pages later, "Casino Style Christianity" is another apt description of branded varieties such as Emergent Church™, New Monasticism®, Organic Church© exactly like any place on the strip, different storefronts yet pretty much similar insides. I fully resonate with her telling us casino glitz obscures Nevada's beauty and Becky suggests some of the newer expressions of the church can obscure God's voice. For sure this book is not comprehensive, but how about theological and confessional labels worn by mainline denominations—not to mention the history and events they hold dear and attempt to keep unsullied? Martin Luther as our ancestor? Aldersgate as the place of our spiritual birth?

The quest for the Risen Christ! Why do we seek the Risen Christ and why do we seek the living among the dead?

As Becky describes her dad's activist brand of Christianity [page 151], this is part of the "why" of the search for the Risen Christ: "Without the power of the risen Christ, Dad's civil rights activism that drew him to seek the [Episcopal] priesthood was reduced to Sesame Street sing-alongs. When peaceful progressives downplay the life-transforming power of the resurrection, they reduce the words of 'social justice' Jesus to just another prophetic voice calling people to repent."

The quest for the Risen Christ! Why do we seek the Risen Christ and why do we seek the living among the dead?

On page 180: "While considerable ink has been spilled discussing the variants between denominations and their accompanying theologies, too little attention has been paid to how a region's history and local issues often inform one's spiritual perspective." That's something I'd love to blog about—even my own necessarily limited experience would make a fascinating story!

At the end of the book there's a helpful chapter-by-chapter "For Further Reading ... Reflection ... Respite" with references, books and websites.

1 Corinthians 15

3For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve...

That the Risen Christ would appear to each of us?! But where do we look? Are we willing to look in unexpected places? And ready to recognize the Risen Christ when we find him?

These are a few of my very positive impressions of Jesus Died for This? A Satirist's Search for the Risen Christ; I've done my best to say something about ways I found it helpful. Becky Garrison writes in a low-key conversational manner that's easy to read and understand, and nothing about it would be off-putting to the more formally theologically educated among us, yet almost anyone seeking to learn how another person's journey might parallel and help them sort through their own and point them in useful directions where they might meet the Risen One and be the Risen Christ for others could enjoy reading and re-reading this book.

my Amazon review: Seeking the Risen Christ

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