My Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief (Part 7)

Recently, a co-worker asked whether we’ve reached the place in American culture where Christianity is seen as a fringe system of belief. I rattled off nine reasons why, if we’re honest, Christianity should be considered a fringe system of belief to those in the world at large. This Advent season, I’m exploring these beliefs and offering a somewhat surprising conclusion. Today, I’ll explore reasons 7. 

*****

MY COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL, UNSCIENTIFIC, ORTHODOX, FRINGE SYSTEM OF BELIEF

(Click the links for POINT 1, POINT 2POINT 3, POINT 4 and Points 5-6.)

Each night, we set the Christmas tree a-twinkling in the Haines’ house, and last night I took a look at the ornaments adorning it. There’s a baby Jesus ornament–a meek and mild one made from clay–and another baby jesus swaddled in blown glass. There are shepherds on a shelf over-looking the tree, and they’re making their making their way to the baby Jesus in the creche over the entertainment center.

If your house is like mine, there are at least a half-dozen baby-Jesus depictions in your home right now, most of which adorn your tree. But do you have an ornament depicting the wedding feast at Cana, or one of Jesus driving the demons into Gentile swine herds? Do you have a Jesus-heals-the-leper ornament, or the limited edition Pool-of-Bethesda ornament from Dayspring? Do these seem like inappropriate ornaments for your Christmas tree?

Why?

The miracle of Christmas is the coming of God in human form. The miracle is that Jesus grew through infancy, toddlerhood, adolescence (zits and all), and into adulthood, where he embarked on the ministry of new life. Christmas isn’t merely about a cute baby-child in a manger; instead, it is a New Genesis, the story of God returning to walk with men in his Garden of creation. It’s the story of a wholly different life, one that ultimate conquered death for the benefit of all mankind.

As we saw in Parts 5-6 of this series, the stubborn wills of men murdered Jesus. But Jesus–the ever-more-stubborn God-man–bested the bunch. He rose from the dead three days after his crucifixion. And instead of bringing his wrath and vengeance upon those who’d strung him up, he instituted a Gospel of forgiveness, hope, restoration.  This is the pinnacle of his miraculous life, and so, this is the pinnacle of Christmas.

There could be no Easter without Christmas. It’s the simplest truth, but one that I often forget. This being the case, perhaps we should hang an empty-tomb ornament or two from the old tannenbaum next year.

*I’d love to see an empty tomb ornament in 2015. If you would too, click: Dear @dayspring, I would like a resurrection Christmas ornament for 2015.

*****

A CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY AND A COUPON CODE

Sign up to receive my monthly Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. In December’s issue, we’re exploring the groaning of creation as we await the birth of the Christ with eager anticipation! And if you SIGN UP, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win Preston Yancey’s fabulous book Tables in the Wilderness. Though there can be only one winner (randomly selected, of course), every Tiny Letter subscriber will receive a 10% discount on the already-lower-than-Amazon price of Tables in the Wilderness, from Givington’s!

*powered by TinyLetter

 

 

*Photo by Mike Tungate, Creative Commons via Flickr.

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

My Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief (Parts 5-6)

Recently, a co-worker asked whether we’ve reached the place in American culture where Christianity is seen as a fringe system of belief. I rattled off nine reasons why, if we’re honest, Christianity should be considered a fringe system of belief to those in the world at large. This Advent season, I’m exploring these beliefs and offering a somewhat surprising conclusion. Today, I’ll explore reasons 5-6. 

*****

MY COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL, UNSCIENTIFIC, ORTHODOX, FRINGE SYSTEM OF BELIEF

(Click the links for POINT 1, POINT 2POINT 3, and POINT 4.)

 

POINT 5-6: We believe that Jesus was (5) convicted of claiming to be God, and (6) murdered.

It’s a country run amok, one in a violent and tempestuous historical moment. The police, the government–all ruling authorities–are at odds with the people, and they push back waive after waive of protestors. The brown-skinned babies born under an expansive empire are opportunity-stripped. Some die under the hand of an authoritative, fear-mongoring government; others are relegated to menial labor, to service of the wealthier classes. Any attempt to revolutionize the system or seize opportunity is beaten back by the system itself. It’s a world of oppression and sickness for most, and opportunity for only the elect.

These are the days into which Jesus was born. Sound familiar?

In the midst of all that injustice, God swung low. He came pouring revolutionary wine. He healed the sick, restored community to the lepers and the hemorrhaging. He taught good news in the temple, and bucked a legal system that would condemn an adulteress to capital punishment in the street. He showed mercy to those in need of mercy. He fed the hungry (5,000 of them to boot!), drove out demons, and calmed the storms.

He was God-with-us and the powers did not recognize him. They closed their eyes to his God-with-us-ness, plugged their ears to the Spirit and sang “la la la la la la la.” They hauled him before the powerful Yes Men, the men elected to keep the status quo.  “He claims to be God!” the rulers said, “let’s crucify him.” Producing no evidence warranting a conviction, and ignoring all evidence proving his deific nature, they rigged the trial and marched Jesus to a blasphemers slaughter.

This was humanity’s darkest hour. The pinnacle of creation convicted the Creator, and then they murdered him.

The powers murdered God. And I fear they’re murdering him still.

*****

Thank you for reading. Follow along this Advent season as I explore my Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief.

And sign up to receive my monthly Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. In November’s issue, I’m examining the question, “what is beauty?” and exploring the beauty found in nature, art, and people. Sign up today, and I’ll send you a copy of the November Tiny Letter, and you’ll receive my monthly Tiny Letter updates!

powered by TinyLetter

 

*Photo by David Antis, Creative Commons via Flickr.

 

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

My Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief (Advent, Part 4)

Recently, a co-worker asked whether we’ve reached the place in American culture where Christianity is seen as a fringe system of belief. I rattled off nine reasons why, if we’re honest, Christianity should be considered a fringe system of belief to those in the world at large. This Advent season, I’m exploring these beliefs and offering a somewhat surprising conclusion. Today, I’ll explore reason number 4. 

*****

MY COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL, UNSCIENTIFIC, ORTHODOX, FRINGE SYSTEM OF BELIEF

POINT 1: We believe in an invisible, eternal, Supreme Power who created the world with a few words. 

POINT 2:  We believe that the Supreme Power became small and stepped into his own creation.

POINT 3:  We believe that Jesus was born into poverty, oppression, and scandal.

POINT 4: We believe that Jesus grew into a man who taught salvation by way of eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

Jesus was a man of awkward metaphors. To a samaritan women drawing water from a well, he offered “living water.” He instructed a Jewish teacher to be “born again.” One apocryphal text indicates that the boy Jesus was blocking a doorway out of which his little brother Jude was trying look so as to see the setting sun. Jude quipped, “you’d make a better door than a window, Jesus,” to which Jesus responded said, “how right you are.” (See generally 1 Haines’ Imagination 4:32.)

In the book of John, Jesus is seen tending to the needs of the masses. God of the creative word, he takes five loaves and two fish and breathes a blessing of multiplication over them. Under this reenactment of Genesis, the pittance of a meal undergoes a sort of mitotic multiplication, grows exponentially until the entire crowd is fed, with leftovers to boot.

Days later, the same crowd comes to Jesus, hungry again. Pressing him, they ask for yet another meal. Jesus, though, swings the engagement toward a teachable moment. Knowing they would trade the spiritual truth for a full belly, Jesus denies them another gustative miracle. Instead, he seizes the opportunity to wax eloquent (if not in grotesque metaphors) about true food. Jesus says,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”

As modern believers in the Christian story, our post death-and-resurrection context neuters this teaching. We read the text, see through to the metaphor of the matter. Yes, Jesus said that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood, but what he really meant is that we must accept his death burial and resurrection. What he really meant was that a cracker and Welch’s grape juice would suffice. The Jewish audience of the day would not have been blessed with such high-minded modern notions, though. They would have been aghast. In fact, in a private moment his own disciples confronted him. “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” they said. Jesus shrugged off their criticism, said, “do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” In other words, “I’m the God-son, fellas. You’d better get used to hard teachings and awkward metaphors.”

This Advent we celebrate the coming of Jesus, creative Word made flesh. We celebrate, too, the reason for his coming. He came to bring us awkward metaphors? Yes. But he came, too, to bring us spiritual food and drink. He came to bring us living bread and water. He came so we could feast on his body and blood.

Does this sounds like a tenet of a fringe system of belief? Good. It should.

*****

Thank you for reading. Follow along this Advent season as I explore my Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief.

And sign up to receive my monthly Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. In November’s issue, I’m examining the question, “what is beauty?” and exploring the beauty found in nature, art, and people. Sign up today, and I’ll send you a copy of the November Tiny Letter, and you’ll receive my monthly Tiny Letter updates!

powered by TinyLetter

 

*Photo by David Antis, Creative Commons via Flickr.

 

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

My Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief (Advent, Part 3)

Recently, a co-worker asked whether we’ve reached the place in American culture where Christianity is seen as a fringe system of belief. I rattled off nine reasons why, if we’re honest, Christianity should be considered a fringe system of belief to those in the world at large. This Advent season, I’m exploring these beliefs and offering a somewhat surprising conclusion. Today, I’ll explore reason number 3. 

*****

MY COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL, UNSCIENTIFIC, ORTHODOX, FRINGE SYSTEM OF BELIEF

POINT 1: We believe in an invisible, eternal, Supreme Power who created the world with a few words. 

POINT 2:  We believe that the Supreme Power became small and stepped into his own creation.

POINT 3:  We believe that Jesus was born into poverty, oppression, and scandal.

I suppose God could have made his transition from God-out-there to God-With-Us in any number of ways. He could have come in some terrific deific apparition, could have materialized at the throne of Caesar and deposed him with the sharp edge of a sword. He could have come with any number of weapons for that matter; he could have come with a legion of foot soldiers, an aircraft carrier of tomahawks, and a squadron of fighter jets. He could have come with limitless wealth, illimitable power. God of Isaiah, he could have blown upon humanity with atomic breath, could have watched all mankind whither like the field grass. (Isaiah 40)

Instead, Emmanuel joined the family of oppressed humanity. And not only did he come screaming into a people living under the strong arm of Roman subjugation, but he was born into a Jewish world controlled by the crazed king Herod, the leader who had ordered every potential newborn Messiah murdered.

As if were not enough for God to appear in the midst of this sort of systemic double oppression, he came in poverty and scandal. He immigrated from heaven to earth through the womb of a virgin girl, an innocent who’d never known a man. “Virgin? Innocent?” the women might have gossiped about Mary in those days. Servant of the Lord, though, she ignored this third sort of oppression–the tyranny of the scandalous pregnancy–and was obedient to the humiliation of bringing our Christ into God’s world. On the stable floor, her humiliation reached its apex, and she pushed through hard and fast contractions as Jesus’ crown-worthy head entered into the smell of sheep dung and new straw.

Over the course of history, people have asked whether this whole born-of-a-virgin thing was really all that important. I might ask a similar question: was birth into poverty, oppression, and scandal really that important? For those of us who believe the good story of God-With-Us, we know that the answer to both questions is critical. It’s only through the scandal, oppression, poverty, and tyranny that we see that God embodied the with us of Emmanuel. Here, we see a God that is like the bulk of humanity, a God that choses to make his home with the underdogs.

This Advent, I’ve been considering the beautiful scandal of Jesus’ coming. And in considering it, I’ve been asking these questions:

If Jesus were to come today, where would we find him?

Would he come to the suburban middle class of America?

Would he come as a member of the United States Senate or as the strong-armed chief of police?

Would he come as a powerful businessman, as one who can buy and sell all fungible people?

I don’t suppose he would. I suppose he’d come an immigrant, a member of the oppressed and scandalized. He’d come poor and without power. He’d embody the second-class citizen, and would run in circles too dirty for the whiter-washed. And if this is true–and I believe that it is–it begs the question: if Jesus were to come today, would we recognize his coming?

*****

Thank you for reading. Follow along this Advent season as I explore my Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief.

And sign up to receive my monthly Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. In November’s issue, I’m examining the question, “what is beauty?” and exploring the beauty found in nature, art, and people. Sign up today, and I’ll send you a copy of the November Tiny Letter, and you’ll receive my monthly Tiny Letter updates!

powered by TinyLetter

 

*Photo by Gabo Halili, Creative Commons via Flickr.

 

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

My Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief (Advent, Part 2)

Last week, a  co-worker asked whether we’ve reached the place in American culture where Christianity is seen as a fringe system of belief. I rattled off nine reasons why, if we’re honest, Christianity should be considered a fringe system of belief to those in the world at large. This Advent season, I’m exploring these beliefs and offering a somewhat surprising conclusion. Today, I’ll explore reason number 2.

*****

MY COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL, UNSCIENTIFIC, ORTHODOX, FRINGE SYSTEM OF BELIEF

POINT 1: We believe in an invisible, eternal, Supreme Power who created the world with a few words. 

POINT 2:  We believe that the Supreme Power became small and stepped into his own creation.

To quote the Good Book, Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities… and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:15-17) To put it another way, through the creative power Jesus, atoms hold one to another and form molecules. Molecules hold one to another and form building blocks of matter. These building blocks of matter attach to each other and form larger substances. And it is these collections of atoms, molecules, and substances–all held together by the sustaining power of Jesus–that form the very chair in which you are sitting or the Breakfast of Champions you might have eaten this morning.

This is what the Good Book says.

Consider this irony, then: though God himself, Jesus stepped into the nature of his own creation, becoming a collection of cells. An embryo held together by his own eternal word, Jesus swam inside the womb of a woman (a womb which was likewise held together by the same eternal word). God-with-us confined himself to a collection of atoms and molecules, and placed himself inside another collection of atoms and molecules, so that he could enter into this world of atoms and molecules and rescue it from its groaning. In so doing, he willingly accepted the limitations of humanity, became our brother in breathing the air he created, drinking the water he poured out, and eating the fish he spoke into being. He entered this world as a willing, embryonic participant, and he held together by way of his own words.

And why would God take such seemingly rash action? This is the grand mystery of Advent.

*****

Thank you for reading. Follow along this Advent season as I explore my Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief.

And sign up to receive my monthly Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. In November’s issue, I’m examining the question, “what is beauty?” and exploring the beauty found in nature, art, and people. Sign up today, and I’ll send you a copy of the November Tiny Letter, and you’ll receive my monthly Tiny Letter updates!

powered by TinyLetter

 

*Photo by Bruno C. Vellutini, Creative Commons via Flickr.

 

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

© Copyright - Seth Haines