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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Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

Daily Riches: Chafing At Our Basic Neediness (Eugene Peterson)

“It is not unheard of for us to chafe at our neediness. Having to ask for help is an admission that we can’t do this on our own, that we are not in control. There is something in us … that would prefer never to have to ask for help. Consumerism is a narcotic that dulls the awareness that we are in need. By buying what we need, we assume control of our lives. We replace a sense of need with a sense of ownership, and our sense of neediness recedes. Technology is a narcotic. It depersonalizes needs to something that can be handled by a machine or a device. We replace a sense of need by the satisfaction of being in control: ‘I will manage my own needs, thank you.’ Money and machines anaesthetize neediness. They put us in charge, in control. As long as the money holds out and the machines are in good repair, we don’t have to pray. But there is a steep price to pay. Narcotics diminish the capacity for personal relationships. Narcotics dull and finally destroy the capacity for living, feeling, loving, enjoying. And praying. When we choose to live with a diminished sense of the limits imposed by our basic neediness, we falsify our place in the intricate and marvelous goodness of our creation, what the psalmists celebrate as the ‘land of the living.’ A refusal to work within limits is a stubborn, rebellious refusal to receive life as a gift. Needs are not limitations that interfere with or refuse or flatten our lives. Needs prepare us for a life of receptivity, a readiness to receive what can only be received as gift. Needs open the door into this vast giving-receiving ecological intricacy of sky and sea, clover and bee, man and wife, horse and carriage. Needs don’t reduce us to ‘mere’ creatures; they provide the conditions in which we are able to live in reciprocal relation with wildflowers and woodpeckers, with sons and daughters, with parents and grandparents. The limitations inherent in need prevent us from illusions of grandeur and the isolations of selfish pride. …Limits don’t limit us from being fully human. They only limit us from being God.” Eugene Peterson

“He himself gives life and breath to everything,
and he satisfies every need.”
Acts 17:25

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Would you rather do it yourself without any help from anyone? If so, why?
  • Do you use consumerism or technology to avoid neediness?
  • What is to be lost in denying neediness? …gained in embracing it?

Abba, help me take my rightful place in this world, experiencing the great ecology of the land of the living.

For More: Tell It Slant by Eugene Peterson

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Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill

Daily Riches: This Confusion of Images and Myths (Neil Postman, Thomas Merton, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley)

“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t…. we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares. But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another—slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. …In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.” Neil Postman

“But how does one stop to separate the truth from the half-truth, the event from the pseudo-event, reality from the manufactured image? It is in this confusion of images and myths, superstitions and ideologies that the ‘powers of the air’ govern our thinking…. Where there is no critical perspective, no detached observation, no time to ask the pertinent questions, how can one avoid being deluded and confused?” Thomas Merton

“What is truth?”

Pontius Pilate in John 18:38

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Moving From the Head the Heart

  • Perhaps both Orwell and Huxley were right. Do you see our world in their prophecies? Have you heeded their dire warnings?
  • Are you sufficiently detached from the culture to have perspective? How could you detach? Do you?
  • Is what you fear, or what you love, preoccupying you so that you have no time to “ask the pertinent questions?”

Abba, deliver me from delusion and illusion that I might be more useful to you.

For More: Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

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Thanks for following and sharing my blog. I appreciate it!– Bill