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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Easter Reflection

I had a dream last night. Again. Four of us were speaking at a retreat; or was it a conference? My topic was Resurrection and the Way of Jesus. I had a five part outline but can only remember that the first had to do with "the specific and the general" and the third or middle was entitled "facticity" and dealt with the fact of resurrection. Dreams are muddled workings of the brain combining memories of things and the figuring out of those things. I woke with a brain still firing and sat down to jot what was going on.

My reflection on Reserrection and the Way of Jesus has five parts: 1) general: big thoughts and mighty teachings, 2) specific: a personal experience, 3) facticity, 4) immediacy: the fact and personal experience, 5) mediacy:  the fact and its lessons in big thoughts and mighty teachings. Need I point out the circular nature of my reflection? No, I thought not.

1. We were born into a world constituted, yet changing. Big ideas dominate around which everything else is organized. The world into which I was born was Christian-Catholic, modern-postenlightenment, scientific, democratic, capitalist, Eurocentric, English-languaged, and white male privileged. As I met others, read, and studied, I realized that there were variations on my world but generally accepted the big ideas around which my world was organized and used them to interpret all my experiences.

2. But then I had experiences of events that did not fit my interpretations and of people who questioned those big ideas and so challenged the organization of my world. I met women, persons of color, science writers, philosophers, film makers, foreigners, and others who rejected the big ideas by which my world was organized. And there were novelists and theologians in particular who undermined my beliefs. In particular, I was introduced to Jesus of Nazareth in a new way. Jesuit spirituality to which I was introduced uses the imagination to enter into the life, times, and ways of Jesus.

A "person" I learned, is not a fixed core or unchanging entity. A person is a process of discovery, a particular attitude, a practiced role, a specific style that emerges from a past and is intending a future. And so I experienced through my imagination the person of Jesus. I admired him and became his disciple and companion. He was considered a revolutionary in the mind of the establishment because he challenged the big ideas and the social organization of the times and incited a liberation movement. He identified with the culturally disrespected, the economically left out, the politically powerless and took issue with the patronage system of Rome and Jerusalem. He was also an atheist in their minds because he denied their gods and their icons of divinity. So they killed him--not the Jews, not the Romans, but the plutocrats, the patrĂ³nes, the patriots, the believers because Jesus was a danger to their way of life.

3. One articulate, fervent, but flawed follower of Jesus was Paul, an organizer who built communities taking on the attitude and role of Jesus. He spoke and wrote, as did Jesus, as do we all, using the language and ideas of our times and places. He preached faith, hope, and love among all persons in the spirit or style of Jesus. He based this faith on the "resurrection" of Jesus from the dead, a resurrection which he experienced and lived. "If Jesus was not resurrected from the dead, vain is your faith" and hope and love. It is this fact--the fact of Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection--on which Paul's whole enterprise and that of Jesus is based.

A "fact" of course is something made up. The very word (from the Latin facere) says this. Scientific facts are formulas or models (theories) made up by imaginative thinkers that explain diverse phenomena or experiences by showing a consistent relationship. These theories are facts when they are proven by evidence that is accessible to all.

4. What is the immediate experience that offers evidence for the fact of Jesus and his resurrection. For Paul it was a fall from a horse after interacting hostilely with Jesus disciples and then a vision, I suppose not unlike my dream that started all this. But it was also the change in his own life and the lives of those budding small groups of dissenters with whom he worked and sometimes fought with.

For me it is similar. It is sharing the lives of many who are living and acting in the style of Jesus, the revolutionary and atheist. Some are notables like Martin Luther King, Jimmy Carter, Oscar Romero, Malcolm X, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela; and many are uncelebrated family members, friends, fellow travelers, colleagues, companions on the journey towards justice. There are also many who live and practice the Jesus way without using Jesus language and are hostile to any religion that sanctifies what Jesus was opposing. They too are direct evidence for the continuation of the person, the way of Jesus.

5. How mediate the Jesus style today? Our media of communication are not those of antiquity or even modernity. Our common sense shaped by a new developing cosmology and psychology employs images, ideas, and forms far different. I for one cannot accept a supernatural entity or a disembodied consciousness or a place without time. I know that a dead body that has not decayed can be resuscitated and return to consciousness through medical procedures; and perhaps scientists and engineers will learn how to resuscitate or ward off brain death and loss of consciousness for longer periods of time. But that is not what I mean by "resurrection."

Others may still find solace in the ancient cosmology and psychology of gods, ghosts, and souls that go in and out of bodies. But whether people do or not is beside the point. All our doctrines, beliefs, idolatries, and conventional wisdom are transitory. The one fact, however we express it, is the resurrection of the Jesus way to bring power to the powerless, respect to the disrespected, freedom to the captives. That fact does not belong to the ecclesial bureaucracy but to a congregation attempting to live the Jesus way. It does not belong to the Nation of patriots, but to publics organized for social justice. That fact does not support service to a divine king or patron, but does stimulate the breath of Love with others. Resurrection is not a doctrine of the Christ or the Prophet, or God, but living and acting the way of liberation, the way of Jesus.

Happy Easter. He is risen indeed.