Three lenses and some alternate wisdom please!

I finally finished reading Marcus Borg’s Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. I commented on this book, I think, on my other blog. Borg tends to explain away much of gospel writers accounts of Jesus’ life as metaphorical or more reflective of the early Christian tradition of Jesus rather than accurate historical accounts. He seems to be fairly certain about that conclusion but it’s hard for to me to make that kind of leap. Although there are some definite ideas of which I didn’t agree with Borg, I really enjoyed this book. It has many powerful observations that helped me see, what I feel, is a more compelling and accurate view of Jesus and the world he lived in.

The most memorable points in the book were in the middle and at the end. In the middle of the book there is a section where Borg talks about the “alternate wisdom” of Jesus. He outlines how Jesus came to town and completely subverted the conventional wisdom of the world in which surrounded him. Who he ate with, who he spent time with, those who he chose as disciples, and on and on. Borg compares this alternative wisdom of Jesus to our world and the conventional wisdom that so easily clouds our ability to see and hear the message that Jesus is trying to communicate to us. Very compelling stuff.

In the very last chapter, Borg really rocked it. He hits on something that I’ve never heard before, the idea that there are macro stories within the Old Testament that we can use as lenses to view the life and purpose of Jesus. Borg chooses three stories in scripture to build his point: the exodus story, the story the exile of the Jews from Jerusalem to Babylon, and the story of the Jewish priesthood (Borg does not claim these are the only stories we can choose from, but felt these three were essential for this approach). The exodus story signifies the journey of freedom away from Pharoah. The exile story signifies the being away from home, separated from where you belong, being oppressed. The priesthood story signifies the sinfulness of man, the falling short, the required sacrifice, then repentance and lastly our need for the grace of God in the forgiveness of our sin.

Borg sets his sights on the priesthood story that, in his opinion, we have adopted today as the main way to view Jesus, while not giving enough consideration to the other two stories in terms of what the life of Jesus means for us now. His point is not to totally discredit the priesthood story, he feels it serves a very great purpose. But he merely points out that because we are fixating on this way of viewing what Jesus’ message was, we tend to interact with Jesus exclusively in the context of this sin, guilt, repentance forgiveness…….essentially framing our experience as one of “requirement” and “reward”. It’s an experience of believing now and cashing in when we “get to heaven”. The very nature of this approach to Jesus is one where we find ourselves chasing our own tales, so to speak. It is not us moving along with God on a journey, it’s just just staying where we are, hoping to get “somewhere” in the future.

The danger in not giving the other two stories a chance to shape our vision of what Jesus’ message was is the elimination of the aspect of this “personal relationship” being a journey. When we view the message of Jesus through the lens of all three stories, we get a more balanced perspective of the message of Christ. The story of exodus is our story as well. We are under the rule of todays conventional wisdom, and Christ can lead us on a journey of freedom. We don’t have a Pharoah ruling over us, but we do have commercialism, greed, racism, sexism, superficiality, etc……all of the kingdoms of this world that are not the Kingdom of God. We long for freedom from these false Gods and with this longing comes the connection to much of what Jesus did and said. The exile story is one of feeling foreign, empty, hallow, not where we should be, we don’t “fit in”, we’re oppressed, etc.

You see the dude with a mega phone on the corner yelling about how we are sinners and we need to repent so that we can be with Jesus in heaven or burn in HELL!!!. Let’s face it, a lot of people think it’s crazy talk and I would have to agree. But if we point out that not only is God graceful with our shortcomings, but that God wants us to be free of of the oppression of all the addiction, eating disorders, greed, spousal abuse, selfishness, injustice, evil, solitude, and emptiness of this world. Everyone can relate to that and connect on those terms.

If all we do is present the message of Jesus only as one of requirement and reward, like in the story of the priesthood, then those who do not feel guilty about they way they live will be completely unmoved by that message. But if we paint a more complete picture, by using all three of these stories, then we are really giving the message of Jesus more complete, identifiable voice. In focusing on all three, you end up making the story of the priesthood even MORE powerful. When in the proper context, it becomes an even more amazing quality of our God.

None of this probably makes any sense but if you read the book, Borg will spell it out for you a tad bit better than this lame attempt. I was just pumped about these ideas and had to write out the wave of excitement. That, and hanging out in a hospital all day kind of makes you crazy. Regardless, I highly recommend this book. It’s to be taken with a grain of salt, but that’s sometimes what the wounds need.

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9 thoughts on “Three lenses and some alternate wisdom please!

  1. Sounds like an interesting book…and it sounds like you did a decent job of describing the last chapter. I dig those thoughts, I guess you could say I have long viewed a relationship with God as a “journey” of sorts, and I think that’s what alot of people can relate to over the sin and guilt aspect of it all. It was nice to see this Exodus analogy for that, in a way kind of confirming some previous thoughts.

  2. Very interesting views. It’s these seemingly “alternate” views of Christianity that appeal to me so much, as I assume they do you as well. Anyway, good stuff.

    (I liked the salt comment… witty Zach, very witty)

  3. So i feel like a stalker reading your blog and only having met you for a few moments after a concert… lol. But, I heard about your family crisis and wanted to tell you I am praying for you. I then read your blog and realized that you and I share a common bond, Jesus. Just thought I would drop you a line and say that I dig your music, I dig your convictions and that Jim Wallace is the Brother/Son of lifelong family friends of ours. Strange coincidence.

    Keep on Keepin on,

    John

  4. “It’s to be taken with a grain of salt, but that’s sometimes what the wounds need.” i see a song lyric there. interesting and accurate though i don’t agree with some of that stuff (are you suprised?) other things i thought were worthy of thought. wake up, head out, rock on.

  5. I’m not familiar with Borg’s book, but you might be interested in Ernest Renan’s “The Life of Jesus.” It’s a bit of an older book (published in 1895), but it tells you a lot of the things you probably wouldn’t have realized about Jesus. To a diehard orthodox christian who isn’t open to interpretation of what the scriptures really mean and such, some of it might come off as a bit heretical, but I found it enlightening and captivating at the same time. The book describes how Jesus was a “peaceful yet iconoclastic revolutionary” who “saw poetry in the bible” and even enjoyed drinking at wedding parties. It’s hard to explain, but I thought it was positively different from the way his life is usually preached. Just a recommendation.

  6. “You see the dude with a mega phone on the corner yelling about how we are sinners and we need to repent so that we can be with Jesus in heaven or burn in HELL!!!. Let’s face it, a lot of people think it’s crazy talk and I would have to agree. ”
    I’m starting to think i should have my own blog! allow me to share… I had this buddy named mike tempke. one of the most awesome bass players i knew. and he was also one of my best friends in high school. i was a christian at this point but he wasnt. anyhow, he was in this band that really could have been big. they had thier own thing going. still have the demos. we even went on my only visit to Europe when i was 19. great guy, messed up family. so as a few years go by, we graduate and without boring you with too much detail, he ends up in Lancaster and becoming a Christian. Apostolic. i respect them as bretheren but ulitmately i think they’re wacky. well, mike invites me out to his church in lovely, desert like Lancaster and i go. we hadn’t hung out in maybe a year just due to everyday, early 20’s life stresses. well, after church we and some others from his church head out to K-Mart. I’ve already been chastized by his pastor at this point for knowing the words to the songs playing on the jukebox at after church fellowship, mind you. as we pull in to K-Mart i’m thinking “okay, these guys live a little….” ummm, no. we park and we aren’t heading for the store… we’re headed for the street! i’m wondering “uh… there’s nothing across the street except dirt.. what are we crossing for?” we didn’t cross. we stood right there on the street corner as mike whips out this big, red bullhorn from the cadillac we arrived in and starts yelling at the top of his lungs in that nowhere-but-in-a-movie preacher accent (i still dont get what thats all about). “what the…F—?” i felt sooo uncomfortable and out of place. and downright embarassed and sick. this is the buddy that helped me out when i got kicked out of my house and we collected from the piggy banks to eat cause we had no jobs and i had no car and i was in school. now, here he is yelling through a bullhorn into Lancaster’s biggest traffic area and K-Mart shopping public and i want to pretend i dont know the guy. afterward, i explained how i felt and we talked on the phone a few times but never the same friends since. about 6n years ago, traveling through Lancaster for totally different reasons to a family function with a friend in the car… i see the K-Mart to my right at the stop light. it doesnt even occur to me that this is the same K-Mart til i spot the same guy yelling through a bullhorn as when i was here last. mike spots me…. i didnt pretend to not see him… i roll my window down, “hey mike”. “hey, dennis. pull over”. “I can’t man, i gotta get somewhere…. but i’ll talk to you later”. I never did. it was wierd when i realized that i liked mike better when he WASN’T a christian. i praise God for his salvation and cry cause i pretty much lost my friend.

  7. Mike Tempke is a fool who dropped out of High School and basically joined a cult/scam group run by his stepfather in Lancaster. I knew Mike from when he was 14 years old until he was 19. He had an alcoholic mother and a despondant father who spent little time with him. He is the classic cultist. Convinced that his desicions in life were incorrect he became obsessed with ‘converting’ everyone around him so that they could be ‘saved’ like he was. I remember attempting to have conversations with Mike several years after he joined this ‘church’. He could only quote bible verses and made virtually no sense at all. A classic example of cult brainwashing.

  8. Hey,
    He is not in a “Cult” it is the truth and just because you dont believe it How dare you say such things? Just because SOMe people can give their lives to the truth and to God, dont be dissin on Mike Tempke, he is a great guy and loves God, which is more than I can say for someone who would , so called say they were his friend? the bible says no greater love , then to lay down his life for a friend? so u call yourself a “FRIEND” ? A friend sticketh closer than a brother? so what does that make you, Kristi

  9. This is Mike tempke and he is very talented, and he wrote this song for his wife for the anniversary, just look he is full of Gods love, can many people say that?

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