My Outlier Gospel Reader has completed Luke’s Gospel.

M. writes:

I like the tone of Luke. More sober and gentle and some fresh takes on the teachings ( would be followers of Jesus) ( do not worry)  . More in depth parables in Luke? The JWs must get their inspiration here ( going out two by two) !

I must admit to skimming the miracles mostly at this point. I find myself ferreting out nuggets of the teachings. Variations on the “direct” quotes .

This may point to some of the power of The Gospel of Thomas which I know you have studied and appreciated. The Gospel of Thomas  majors in “‘direct’ quotes;” it is much less burdened with awkward narrative than the canonical Gospels.

The narrative in the Canonical Gospels constitutes I think something of a stumbling block for modern readers. The narrative sections of the Jesus story are steeped in a worldview that is vastly different than the sophisticated, scientific, materialistic worldview that is so dominant in our day. We modern readers do not do well with lepers being healed, men walking on water, demons being cast out, and men walking on water. It all just seems so…. fanciful, mythical, preposterous.

There are two things I think about this:

1. There are vast mysteries in our world and in our make up as human beings that we cannot even begin to comprehend. The idea that our little brains have a complete grasp of all that is, and all that is not, possible in the cosmos is absurd and arrogant. There are so many things in life that are unexplainable even to the most sophisticated scientific mind. We are surrounded by mystery. If we are unwilling to be surprised by life, we condemn ourselves to a sadly truncated existence.

2.  The Gospels, like all great spiritual literature, are not intended to be read once. They are intended to be read, re-read and read again. Unlike “‘direct’ quotes” which appear to render their riches more immediately, the narrative sections of the Gospels only begin to show their wealth as they are pondered deeply in our hearts. If we are willing to let go of the need to “make sense” of and “understand” everything we read, we will begin to discover connections between the narrative sections of the Gospels, that render deep and rich spiritual insights that issed by a cursory reading.

I have read these stories over and over for forty years and still come away from them with fresh insights and new twists that allow me to see the stories in a whole new way even after so many readings.

M:

Interesting to read \’the cost of discipleship \’‎. It is a major consideration  when  living in the comfort we live in. How can we give up all our possessions in the midst of this bounty and comfort? It is easy to fool ourselves that we are “staying in front “

Christopher:

Again, as so often, you go directly to the heart of the matter. Indeed, what does it mean for us to give up everything for the truth? How does love manifest in our lives in such a rich and deep way that no sacrifice is too great? What am I willing to let go for the deep call of following the light?

I am reminded of your trouble with Matthew – “Big on the punitive and wrathful. Scary!” But “punitive and wrathful” are simply ways of saying, “Our actions have consequences.” There is a cost to following the truth faithfully; but there is a greater to cost to simply going my own way and living as if I were the centre of the universe.

I have been trying recently to take seriously the cost of compromise in my life. And the more I see my tendency to serve “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” the more conscious I am of what a step price I pay when I give into this temptation.  

M:

From  “The coming of the kingdom”… It is among you and within you. Look here, do not set off in pursuit..   beautiful! 

Christopher

Beautiful indeed. What you seek is within you. There is no need to rush off after some imagined great truth; all you need is here. One of the most important things the Bible says about human beings comes right at the beginning when the writer of Genesis says that we are “created in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27). There is implanted in every human being ever born a similarity, a resemblance to God. The human journey is to find our way back to that reality, to become conscious again of what I truly am (cf. the Story of the Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-32)

M:

It strikes me ( after gospel number 3) that the miracles and the crucifixion are accounted for somewhat similarly. The teachings and the parables are subtly different in tone and are interpreted differently in each gospel?

Christopher:

Yes, this goes back to my point above about the narrative sections. The parables are the same; they need to be pondered, compared, studied in their context, and discussed with other seekers if they are going to render up their depth of insight and knowledge. They contain within themselves an energy and a power for which we long. The goal is not to come to some grand intellectual construct, but to encounter the Power of the One who caused these words to be written and to open our hearts to the reality that permeates these words.

M:

The final  ascension scene in Luke is direct and sure. As if to say… here, I am resurrected in the flesh, deathless. Fear not , go forward! Farewell.

Christopher:

Again, you make such a beautiful point here. The Christian understanding is that Jesus in human history embodied that “deathless” dimension. He demonstrated in the time-bound material realm that there is more to life than can be contained in our intellectual dogmas and rational formulations. It is only our awareness of this deeper dimension that makes it possible to “Fear not” and “go forward!”

As we follow with authenticity and openness this deathless dimension in whatever way we are able to perceive it, we will be led into the “Heaven’s gate” of an awareness of God’s presence at work in our lives and in all of life.

“I give you the end of a golden string,
Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate
Built in Jerusalem’s wall.” (William Blake)

Advertisements