Thursday, March 4, 2010

Breaking Up With Jesus

Everyone who is anyone today knows what BFF means -- best friends forever!  Of course!  Not exactly the cutting edge of trend, but well known.  Well what does that mean?  It could mean an interjection that is used to end an email (duh, but who uses email... txtng has replaced email except for old people) in case one of the corresponding parties dies in a car crash in a ditch before the two see each other again... OR  a BFF is someone who has been there for you at all times and will listen to what ever you have to say. They will call you just to see how you are, but that's if they're not with you at the moment. Usually, a BFF is someone you've known most of your life and have been through a lot with them... OR someone who makes you feel constantly high on life, someone who makes you laugh uncontrollably for long periods of time, someone who provides you with the best inside jokes, someone who would be willing to skip down the hallways with you screaming, just to make people stare...

These are the more, shall we say, youthful meanings of BFF... You can do your own search for the more adult meanings which we will not discuss here.

Jesus is my soul mate, my BFF, my "boy" friend (to all genders)...  Jesus is my "relationship..."   One blogger posted about his "break up" with Jesus.  Some years ago now I had what was commonly called a relationship with Jesus. Boyfriend was not the term we used, of course, but he was effectively a kind of invisible friend. I talked to him. Not all the time of course. In fact it was mainly when I was stressed. ‘Help me Jesus, I’m in over my head here’ or, alternatively, ‘Thank you Jesus for this lovely sunny day.’ I wouldn’t have said that Jesus and I were close, because that would seem immodest. But that was the aim of it all. However the relationship was clearly, in retrospect, one-sided. I did all the talking. It was all about me. I knew that Jesus was meant to do some of the talking. He didn’t really. I knew there were supposed to be techniques for listening so I tried to do some listening. You were supposed to read the Bible and then your take on what you had just read was taken to be what Jesus was saying. Alternatively when I had questions and asked Jesus about them I was supposed to wait and see what ideas came into my head. And if they persisted and I felt them impressing themselves strongly upon me, then I was warranted in regarding that as Jesus talking. It was a strange relationship!

He was pointed about the nature of this relationship -- even with it ambiguous overtones...  When I was young it had a lot to do with asking Jesus into your heart or life. But it had very little to do with the actual life of Jesus as we know it from the gospels. It wasn’t that I didn’t know about that, but it had very little in practice to do with my invisible relationship. The relationship was all about my fears and my needs and my wants and, the benefit of talking to someone about them. I was constantly being told that ‘Jesus loved me’ so it was easy to assume (without thinking too much about the sexual overtones of it all) that this was the basis for a romance – Jesus & me 4 eva.

And then it came to an end.... no more BFF...  How?  However, to cut to the chase, what put paid to it in the end was, quite simply, that the nature of my relationship with Jesus was almost the opposite of the one presented by historic Christianity.

The "relationship" he had with Jesus was egotistical, one-sided, somewhat shallow, but, worse, it had nothing to do with the Jesus of Scripture, the Jesus proclaimed by the Church through the ages, and the Jesus of the Cross.  When the house of cards (that was his relationship with Jesus) he was left with no BF and no F... just an empty now.  He woke up to the fact that Jesus did not enter our mortal world and our brokenness to be our friend forever but the Savior who would confront on the cross at the cost of His own life all our enemies.

Jesus was concerned (prior to his death) that he be remembered precisely for and in his death. This is my body broken for you. This is my blood shed for you. Do this to remember me! The Jesus of Christian faith is not an invisible psychological aid. The experience of resurrection is this: living he confronts us with his death. He wants us to know him as a man (the God man) who poured himself out for the world.... This death is the culmination of the person and it is this that determines whatever kind of ‘relationship’ we might have with him.

For Lutherans this is talk of the "theology of glory" vs the "theology of the cross."  Where and how is God to be known?  We are determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  This is no asterisk to the Gospel -- it is the Gospel.

In this man's search for a genuine "relationship" with Jesus, it is the liturgical encounter with Christ in the Sacrament that will be the genuine connection to Jesus and to His rich gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

I guess if there is a sense now that I have a ‘relationship’ with Jesus (and the term relationship certainly sticks in my throat) it is in the sense that I know Jesus now as my ‘victim’ – my divine victim. What I need is something like a ‘liturgical’ relationship with Jesus rather than a romantic one. I need to be constantly addressed by the drama of God’s encounter with the world as it culminates in the great revelatory victory of the cross of Christ. As I am addressed by this drama I learn to respond to it, to act a part within it. After all in spite of it I still find myself constantly drawn into a world process which produces new victims and I am constantly drawn to deny my complicity in this process. Unless I am liturgically confronted by the forgiveness of my divine victim, Jesus, I will never be truly human nor truly participate in God’s life for which I was created. My hope is that eucharistic liturgy is the Spirit’s way of casting out romantic narcissism and making disciples.  Courtesy of Bruce Hamil...see Jesus and me broke up*

Can the Church provide this divine encounter and liturgical reality without the Divine Service?  I am not talking about having to use ancient hymns or Gregorian Chant or incense... I am asking whether or not we believe that the structure of the Divine Service, the ordo, is not the very means through which in every age and generation this liturgical reality IS maintained -- the Spirit works through the Word and Sacraments, the means of grace, to bring Christ to us with the power of His death and the hope of His rising again and all the gifts that flow from the cross and empty tomb. 

Another blogger summarized this well... Bruce's account should remind us that the only Jesus we want anything to do with is the Jesus narrated in the Gospels – not Jesus the friendly poltergeist (as Robert Jenson once put it), but the crucified and risen one who summons us to discipleship.

1 comment:

Loneviking said...

As much as I agree with the Ordo, I doubt that this is the cure for the problem at hand. Sure, the Ordo takes one through the problem of ones' sin, then reconciliation, but the result is one arrives back at the gifts that flow from the sacrifice. And in the Evangelical world, from which flows this idea of a BFF, one of those gifts is that Christ is now your buddy!
No, what is needed is proper teaching by way of homilies and catechism on the means of grace and the doctrine of the Atonement. If one learns these two doctrines correctly, that is what cures the BFF syndrome.