Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reconciling the Irreconcilable

For Paul a lot more than a simple faith in “Jesus as Messiah” had to take place after his encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. For Paul he had to “reconcile the irreconcilable”. The resurrection to him wasn’t just a signet proof of Jesus’ authenticity which therefore demanded a belief and following of The Way. Remember, Paul was a devout Jew in the strictest sense. He was brought up at the feet of Gameliel, steeped in the customs & traditions of Judaism and blameless regarding Torah. No, a simple posit of faith wasn’t suffice. What Paul needed was a radical shift in his thinking, (what some today might call “a paradigm shift”, really, a re-theologizing of his current perspective of God’s plan for humanity and what that was supposed to look like. Again, the Jewish religion of Paul’s day was as much diverse and fragmented as the Christian religion is of our day. There were a variety of anticipations and explanations of what the coming kingdom was to look like and be. Paul held to a sect of Judaism which called themselves “Pharisees”. They believed in the resurrection of the dead but only at the final judgment. Thus Paul had to rethink his views as the “resurrection” had happened in Jesus. What did this mean? What were the implications, etc? These were the kind of things he had to grapple with and put into a context that fit not only his worldview but now this small growing cult called Christianity. This Paul did when he went to Arabia, he received what he calls the “revelation of Jesus Christ”. After those years he finally had his head wrapped around his gospel with all the apocalyptic implications i.e. resurrection of the dead, gift of the Spirit (God's Presence), gentile inclusion etc. etc.This should lead us to an application today of perhaps the need to "reshape", "rethink" and/or even "re-theologize" our understanding of some of the key components of "the faith". I would suggest two aspects immediately taken from Paul's shift. One is the understanding of the Kingdom of God. Without being able to go into greater detail here, there needs to be a realization that its not off in some distant future, but has already intervened in time and history and began its rule & reign in the first coming of Jesus. Although, not fully culminated into what it will be, there needs to be a vital change in that we see it as already here. Think for a moment of the Gospels... How often did the phrase "kingdom of God/Heaven is at hand" occur. Also, remember the parables; specifically the one of Jesus speaking of the kingdom like a mustard seed, how it was the smallest of all their known seeds yet it grew to be one of biggest plants etc. The same needs to be thought of in terms of the kingdom, much wasn't expected in Jesus of Nazareth's life, death, etc. but look what grew out of it.Secondly, i believe another major shift in todays theology should be our notion of inclusion vs. exclusion. Again, for Paul, he saw this effected in his gospel. An ecumenical shift needed to take place. This polarization of "Jews/non-Jews had to be reconciled if Abraham's seed was to bless all the nations, etc. His understanding of the gentile inclusion was vital in his thinking. So too, we would do well to reshape our understanding of ecumenism. For Paul (as should with us) there was a great amount of allowance for diversity in the church. No matter what your background: cultural, ethnical or religous, all were unified in Jesus the Christ. An amazing thought, that religous Jews could now participate at the table with pagan Gentiles. Today, there needs to be an "ecumenical reform" within the church, according to Paul's gospel...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Unity & Diversity

In the midst of fragmented pieces comes an ecumenical cohesiveness that brings about a pattern of uniformity that fits within the sphere of an ancient judaic movement known as