I had coffee with Jesus the other day and we got to talking about what is currently going on in the world the other day. Our other friend Sid happened to stop by and joined the conversation. Sid is Buddhist and he and Jesus see things fairly eye to eye, though Sid feels that Jesus talks too much.
After some small talk and pleasantries, we got down to the meat of the matter. “What the hell is going on” I asked? I of late have been rather amused by all that is going on in the world and even though I am a therapist and trained minister, I wanted to put this all away for a second and let go of trying to undertand and let Jesus state his point. This conversation turned the way many of his conversations go and really looked a lot like those conversations he had with his disciples, you know, “you have heard it said, but I say unto you” conversations. Sid rolled his eyes, he knew what was coming; in Buddhism, things are fairly simple, “live life in such a way as to reduce the suffering of all sentient beings”.
I pointed out my frustrations with getting people to listen to me and my struggles with the church. This really got no sympathy from Jesus or Sid, I actually think Jesus rolled his eyes. Jesus began pointing out that many of things he tried teaching, most folks could not get their heads around. I asked Jesus to give me some examples. Sid would chime in from time to time, these were their thoughts:
“We are not in competition” Jesus offered. Jesus offered that many of the narratives of his time and carried over to today are patriarchal stories of domination. On the contrary Jesus offered, he was all about embodied service, reconciliation and self giving. Sid would point out that Buddhism also teaches this. He would also tell me that Jesus told me that our problem in the world is our obsession with redemptive violence. He told me that folks were obsessed with it when he was around and it made a mess of things then. The whole crucifixtion thing had a lot to do with redemptive violence.
This got me to thinking about a book I recently read recently by Brian McLaren. In his book, McLaren offers these points about why Jesus was so subversive:
For Jesus, instead of offering stories of violent revolution or revence, Jesus would teach and model for us how to carry out transformative nonviolent resistance.
Instead of advocating escapist stories of isolation, he sent his followers into the world to be agents of positive change, like salt, light, and yeast.
Instead of leaving the oppressed in stories of victimization, he empowered them with a vision of faith, hope, and love that could change the world
Instead of the purification stories of scapegoating or ethnic cleansing, he encountered and engaged the other with respect, welcome, neighborliness, and mutuality.
Instead of inhabiting a competitive story of accumulation, he advocated stewardship, generosity, sharing, and a vision of abundance for all.
We are in rough times right now. There is a certain rigidity that pervades our Christian narrative. There is an us vs. them mentality. You are either in or you are out. Too often, I called a liberal. Simply, I believe I am just following the way. I would challenge you to do the same. Put away the labels, focus on the message that Jeus offers us. What does embodied service look like? Sid offers in his tradition, it is living in such a way as to reduce the suffering of all sentient beings. It is embracing the Buddha nature of the other in your midst. Jesus would counter that it is bowing to the “Christ nature” in others. I think we can glean a lot of wisdom from McLaren’s direction in his book.
I asked Jesus what to do about the upcoming inauguration. Can you believe that he quoted the whole “Be still and know I am God” quote? He caught my eye rolls and said that rolling my eyes was part of the problem. He told me that my ego was in the way and I was deluded by my own adherence to a certain way of thinking. Quickly becoming a jump on Rob moment, Sid piped in that strict adherence leads to suffering, leading to unhappiness, cynicism and doubt. He told me to let that shit go. Moreover, both offered that more now than ever, we need to pray. Pray for our oppressors and our oppressed.
Jesus would end his short discussion by talking about his “Christness”. He explained that even though it has been accepted that he is the human embodiement of the Christ, we all hold the potential to be seats of Christ and that we have the Christ nature in us. He told me to tell those I talk to practice being the light. Jesus told me that for all who tomorrow will start chaos, who hold beliefs different than ours, in them there is a Christ nature, there is beauty and there is suffering. Suffering from the adherence to a rigid set of beliefs that does not allow them to see the possiblity of an objective faith. Beauty because all are God’s beloved and that God is love and nothing can seperate us from this reality.
We finished our coffees, and because it is COVID time, we bowed a deep bow of compassion to each other, and because we really did not care what others thought, we embraced in a deep, loving hug.
Brian D. McLaren and Gareth Higgins, The Seventh Story: Us, Them, & the End of Violence (Porch: 2018).