Daily Riches: “The Unfamiliar Jesus” (David Brooks, Romano Guardini)

“My background is Jewish. So I see Jesus through a Jerusalem lens. To see him in that lens is to see him embedded in the Jewish world of 2,000 years ago. That world is nothing like the peacefulness of an American church pew. It’s nothing like the quiet domesticity of a modern Bible study. It was a world of strife, combat and fractious intensity. The Holy land then, and it is now, was a spiritual and a literal battleground. The primary factor was foreign occupation. Jews and Jewish homeland had been oppressed and occupied for centuries. The Babylonians, the Syrians, the Romans–certain questions would have been electric in the air: Why are we oppressed? Who amongst our people is betraying us and collaborating? How do we survive as a people under the crushing burden of their power? Everything was fraught, semi-hysterical and tension-filled. Desperate gangs roamed the land. Minor league revolutionaries were perpetually rising up. N. T. Wright lists seven separate revolts between the years 26 and 36, about the time of Jesus’s ministry. . . . When you see Jesus in this context, you see how completely bold and aggressive he was. He lived in a crowded, angry world yet took on all comers. . . . Jesus walked into a complex network of negotiated and renegotiated power settlements between various factions. And he . . . pierced through them and went right to the core. At a moment of elite polarization, he was bringing access to the kingdom directly to the poor. He was offering triumph directly to the downtrodden. [He taught] . . . another way, another path, a higher serenity. [The Beatitudes] were an inversion of values. They were beauty in the storm. Romano Guardini put it beautifully–in the Beatitudes, something of the celestial grandeur breaks through. There are no mere formulas for superior ethics, but tidings of sacred and supreme realities entering into the world. Jesus was love and beauty in the midst of muck and violence and the most difficult circumstances imaginable. You don’t have to be Christian. You can be atheist, Jewish, Muslim–whatever, and you can be astounded by this man and astounded by the faith he inspired. . . . [and] these are the acts that have the power to shock . . . a revolution in our culture and in our consciousness.” David Brooks

“Behold, the Man!”
John 19:5 NIV

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Was the Jesus you know an “agitator”–challenging and offending the political and religious leaders of his day? –often rocking the boat?
  • Have we somehow pared Jesus down to make him more acceptable–more manageable–less demanding?
  • Have you turned to his story lately (as an adult)?

Abba, guide me into “good trouble” (John Lewis), and truth seeking just like Jesus.

For More: David Brooks at the National Cathedral in Washington

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Daily Riches: Conflict and Ego (David Brooks and Barack Obama)

“Historically, we reserve special admiration for those who can quiet the self even in the heat of conflict. Abraham Lincoln was caught in the middle of a horrific civil war. It would have been natural for him to live with his instincts aflame — filled with indignation toward those who started the war, enmity toward those who killed his men and who would end up killing him. But his second inaugural is a masterpiece of rising above the natural urge toward animosity and instead adopting an elevated stance. [Today] the beheadings and the monstrous act of human incineration [committed by ISIS] are also insults designed to generate a visceral response … to make the rest of us feel powerless, at once undone by fear and addled by disgust. The natural and worst way to respond is with the soul inflamed. …If they chest-thump, we’ll chest-thump. If they kill, we’ll kill. This sort of strategy  … sucks us into their nihilistic status war…. The world is full of invisible young men yearning to feel significant, who’d love to shock the world and light folks on fire in an epic status contest with the reigning powers. The best way to respond is to quiet our disgust and quiet our instincts. It is to step out of their game. It is to reassert the primacy of our game.  …without that mission we’re just one more army in a contest of barbarism. Our acts are nothing but volleys in a status war.  …conflict inflames the ego, distorts it and degrades it. The people we admire break that chain. They quiet the self and step outside the status war. They focus on the larger mission.” David Brooks

“… for Lincoln, it was never a matter of abandoning conviction for the sake of expediency. Rather, it was a matter of maintaining within himself the balance between two contradictory ideas – that we must talk and reach for common understanding, precisely because all of us are imperfect and can never act with the certainty that God is on our side….” Barack Obama

“How the mighty have fallen!” 2 Samuel 1:19

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Does ego sometimes get the best of you? in your marriage? your work? your politics?
  • Can you “step out” of the “status war” when there’s conflict?
  • How do you “quiet yourself” in times of great upheaval?

Abba, in conflict help me to quiet my reactive soul.

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”