Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gospel of John from a Naturalistic Point of View

The worship guide for Winter is on-line.   Read it in pdf.    With this you will know what the services will be like for the next 13 weeks.   If you have a creative idea to go with one (or more) of the services, let me know!  Here is the prelude:

The path of creativity and imagination is the result of the dance between awe and sorrow. From the darkness ignited by wonder comes creativity. We know two truths. It is amazing to be alive and life is painful. We know that we are and that we are not. Life is here. Life is temporary. 

What words can we find, what language can we borrow that can express what it means to be alive? How do we both cheer and grieve? Religion is designed to help give us language. What of our religions and their symbols? What are their limits? What do we do when the language we have inherited has become stale? What permission do we need to challenge what we thought was absolute? After we deconstruct and let go of images that have become cracked idols, what will we create? Welcome to the via creativa.

Moving beyond religion, what about life? What about your life if I may ask? What will you make of the awe and the pain? What are you creating or what is being created in you? Can you give yourself permission to read an old text in a new way? Can you allow yourself to make an error? Are you afraid you might get God wrong? What would happen then? What energizes you? What is important? For what or for whom do you live? Are you on an adventure? If not, why not? Can you create your own life? The via creativa says you can.

During the Winter as the days get longer, we will acknowledge creativity and imagination. To spur this creativity, we are going to read an old text in a new way. We are going to read the Gospel of John from a naturalistic or mystical point of view. In this view, Jesus is a human being who was a mystic and had elevated sense of self-awareness. 

As with many figures who are larger than life, stories get told and written. The Jesus Seminar concluded that virtually nothing that Jesus said or did in John’s gospel went back to the historical Jesus. John’s gospel is a reading of Jesus, a creation by its author who lived perhaps as much as 70 years after Jesus. This vision of Jesus has been read as a supernatural being who comes down to Earth, performs miracles, dies for our sins, rises up from the dead, and flies off to heaven to return someday. If we believe this story we go to heaven. If not, oops, off to hell. The story for most of us has long lost credibility.

But as a parable for the authentic life, it has meaning. This season we are going to try some different readings and we will refer to some thinkers who see new possibilities in this old story. John Shelby Spong, author of Eternal Life, A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell will spur us along as will Walter Wink, author of The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man.  Both books are in the library. 

We will read Jesus and the Gospel of John in a natural and mystical way as opposed to a supernatural and dogmatic way. In this reading Jesus will be a parable for the authentic life. He is what it means to be an authentic human being, the Human One. Rather than be different from us, he is the real us. 

The point is so what? What does that mean for me and my life or for all of us and the life of our planet? How might we become authentic?  Hopefully, these worship services will ignite our own creativity. It should be fun.