Monday, March 03, 2014

No Irrelevant Jesus

I apologize for the long absence from writing: it was a hectic February, in all sorts of ways, but I'm glad now to have a few days of Spring Break to re-organize.

For those looking for spiritual reading this Lent, please allow me to suggest Gerhard Lohfink's new No Irrelevant Jesus: On Jesus and the Church Today. I began the book this morning with a commitment to reading one chapter each day. Normally, I devour books such as this but, in attempt to have a more reflective attitude toward the text, I'm going to take it slowly.

The first chapter, provocatively entitled "On Not Taming Jesus," rejects the tendency to reduce Christianity to a message of self-acceptance. In a riff on Matthew 22:39, Lohfink writes
You shall love God,
you shall love your neighbor
and you shall love yourself -
in fact, you shall first of all love yourself,
because otherwise you can love neither God
nor your neighbor. 
The problem with this, Lohfink writes, is that it assumes Jesus addressed his teaching to individuals, to each disciple one-by-one. Instead, he continues, we must remember that Jesus addressed himself to his disciples as a group. The way of life inaugurated by Jesus was a new way of living as community, a new way of being a group of women and men committed to God's Reign on earth. Jesus' way had precious little to do with accommodating to society (something many would-be church reformers seem to have forgotten) but with rethinking what it meant to be a society, a church, gathered in expectation of God's action in history.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe the children learn of Aslan that he is "not a tame lion." Aslan doesn't like to be tied down or restricted: his mission, as king of Narnia, demands his freedom to go to and fro. Lohfink, concluding chapter one, similarly decries attempts to "tame" Jesus by making him in our image and likeness in a way that affirms, rather than challenges, ourselves.

If this book unfolds as I expect, this is going to be a rich source for spiritual reading this Lent. I'll do my best to share more  as I read, both to encourage people to take up this text and to process it for myself.

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