Thursday, December 1, 2011

JESUS' LIFE AND OURS...July 6, 2010.. note to Edward Fudge

Hi Edward, your descriptive statement of a meaning of Jesus as , 'our stand-in and our proxy. His living was our living and his dying was our dying:' I think this places far too much 'living and dying' on Jesus instead of responsibly 'taking up our own cross'  and  fully 'living and dying ourselves'  This would, to me, give a more real meaning to the idea scripture emphasizes that we can 'be like him.' A true spiritual leader, such as Jesus, really means it when he says, "become like me" ....'because you are potentially the same in every way.'  I realize this is not consistent with Christian orthodoxy but it is consistent with the actual words of Jesus as given in the gospels. 
Jesus And  A Samaritan Woman
I think taking Jesus more seriously in this area is far healthier and leads one to  more fully experiencing this brief life. That is  to see Jesus as a model of doing as he did, in his unique way,  so that we can likewise do what we do, also uniquely,  in the same spirit. This is how I image our  having a similar experience of life's spiritual unfolding as Jesus' must have. And that we can more clearly discover the mind that must be nothing less than The Christ's.  The more we are told or it is implied that we are not really 'like him'  I'm convinced the more we are hindered in that goal.... and eventually one would not see that as an actual practical goal of the Christian way of life. 

I believe orthodoxy has missed a very important meaning of the Christ story by making our own life and death too much of a vicarious experience than a fully lived one. We are actually called(in the Christ story) and empowered to live our life as fully, lovingly and courageously as Jesus lived his. Jesus, for example encouraged and suggested the Samaritan woman could  find her own unique inner 'living waters and truth.' This may even mean  drinking deeply of such experiences as  'Father, why has thou forsaken me?'  It can indeed mean 'drinking of the same cup and being baptized with the same baptism' as Jesus metaphorically described the suffering aspects of his life. And likewise finding the same secret he found of living life through a strong sense of a natural “Joy that is set before us.” Any less of a  goal than the  life of Jesus relived uniquely in others  is a failure to  grasp the radical nature of  the Christ Story and its offer of transformed life.
But these things describe an individual path and mass, group Orthodox  Christianity has never welcomed that part of the message. That side of the Christ story can be more frequently heard in the stories of the Christian mystics. Perhaps such a full path is for the very few.  But we should all at least know , be taught, that  is what the Christ story is centrally about, and not a group experience where a 'mine is better than yours' kind of attitude is set up to  eventually and pathetically be played out with the false claim of it being the Christian way.

Yes, I am extremely delighted to know that God has forgiven my(and it seems to me all others) sins but I hardly need a liturgy to remind me of that.  Not that I oppose healthy liturgy wherever it may be found as a tool to help us be in better touch with inner spiritual realities. But liturgy can be no more healthy or true than than the orthodoxy it supports. Much liturgy simply is not spiritually or psychologically healthy for today's   human need and situation. The typical liturgy places much too little expectation on ourselves for entering into the fullness of life and death, by instead  expecting Jesus to have done that for us, in our place. 

We can describe such an attempt to vicariously use Jesus' life and death story as humbly glorifying God all we wish but I don't think such efforts are what Jesus, in his actual teaching, was imploring his friends and followers to do. The later development of the religion around Jesus' memory devised the vicarious uses and  interpretations of His life and death. I think it is Orthodoxy, in its various historic forms, that developed the concept that 'His living was our living and his dying was our dying .' This is a central area that needs to be reexamined I believe if the story of Jesus is to again have a similar kind of relevant voice and trans-formative  influence in Western Civilization that it  had in the distant past. Blessings, Jim

A gracEmail subscriber asks if it is right to confess our sins to another human being, and whether a believer who hears our confession can speak forgiveness in the name of Christ.
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It is true that no mere mortal has power to forgive sins, as Jesus' enemies correctly observed (Mk. 2:5-7). However, Jesus authorized and empowered his people -- in ever-widening circles -- to speak forgiveness in his name, beginning with Peter, then all the Apostles, and finally the whole church (Matt. 16:18-19; John 20:21-23; Matt. 18:15-20). James later encouraged and affirmed the proper exercise of this ministry, both by recognized representatives of the believing community, and also by any individual believer (James 5:14-16). "Your sins have been forgiven you for his name's sake," John boldly promises, and we can repeat that good word with assurance as often as may be helpful and needed (1 John 2:12).
This is all possible because "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them" (2 Cor. 5:19). Through Jesus Christ's faithful obedience, culminating in his death on the cross, "there resulted life to all" (Rom. 5:18). He was and is our representative, our high priest, our stand-in and our proxy. His living was our living and his dying was our dying. We look at Jesus and see the Father; the Father looks at us and sees Jesus. Jesus endured what we deserve; we enjoy what Jesus merited. By his action and by his passion, by what he did and by what was done to him, by his doing and by his dying, we are set right with God fully and forever.
In liturgical churches, the gathered congregation regularly reads together a common confession of sin and asks God's forgiveness, to which another believer responds with an affirmation of pardon. Many gracEmail subscribers have never enjoyed that experience. There is great blessing in saying aloud, "I have sinned in thought, word and deed," then hearing someone say the words, "You are forgiven for Jesus Christ's sake." To help congregations that do not already experience this blessing, I have put together a variety of responsive Scripture readings, each including a statement of confession, of pardon, and of praise.

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