Jesus Changes Everything: Am I ready for that?
A Worship Guide for February 24th
Scripture: Luke 9:28-36
Scripture for Next Week: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Jesus changes everything. That has been the experience of those who have gotten very close to Jesus over the centuries. In the Gospel of Mark, from which the Scripture for this week has been chosen, Jesus changes people by teaching them to see. Mark’s Gospel begins with Jesus charging into action immediately after his baptism, shaping the world, changing, and transforming those who will listen, inviting them to see the Kingdom of God that is at hand, that is within them. Jesus teaches in parables designed to encourage the listener to rethink the way they have perceived the world. More than any other Gospel, Mark lets the parables speak for themselves, challenging the reader to let the parables change them. What Jesus, through the story of Mark, wants us to see, is that God is within us.
This is the story of the transfiguration. On the mountain of transfiguration, what was always within Jesus was revealed to three of his disciples. The challenge of Mark is for the reader to learn how to experience that transfiguration for themselves. The reader is encouraged to live in such a way that they come to see that Divinity also resides within every human being. We just cover it up, burry it with worldly feelings, thoughts, concerns. This is the explanation Jesus gives for his parable of the seeds, “but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. 20 And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold (Mark 4:19-20, NRSV).”
Rabi Lawrence Kushner offers this perspective from his lifelong experience as a Jewish teacher and spiritual leader. In his book The River of Light: Jewish Mystical Awareness, Kushner offers these words, “For Christianity, the central problem is how God could have become person. How spirit could transform itself into matter. Word become flesh. Consciousness become protoplasm. The direction is from the top down. For Judaism, on the other hand, the problem is how humanity could possibly attain to God’s word and intention. How matter could raise itself to spirit. How simple desert souls could hear the word. Human substance attain consciousness. The intention is “to permeate matter and raise it to spirit.” The direction is from the bottom up. Perhaps the two traditions, one moving down, the other moving up, are destined to meet in the divinity of humanity. “Rabbi Hoshaiah: When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the first man, the ministering angels mistook his identity and wished to say ‘Holy’ before him… (Kindle Location 1237).” Yes, there is a deep Jewish tradition that God created human beings so intimately linked to the Divine, that we pour forth (or could if we chose to) the very image of God. Kushner offers the process in which we can pour the image of God into the world by presenting an ancient rabbinic interpretation of Exodus 33:20, “‘You shall not see my face and live.’ If you are willing to die, then perhaps we can do business. But as long as you hang on to your ego, your selfhood, going around being a subject, comprehending other subjects and thereby making them objects, you will not see me (Kindle Location 806).” Yes, the rabbis recognize that the Jewish prophets, including Moses had long been offering some of the core lessons that Jesus is trying to help us see. They have been arguing the meanings of Scripture far longer than Christians, but it is only in the last 100 years or so that Christian theologians began to study how Jewish scholars interpret Scripture. Prior to the early 1900’s anti-Semitism was so prevalent in Western European and American University theology departments, that the very people who just might offer us the greatest understanding of the Scriptures, were ignored.
Thankfully, today, as the world is slowly being transformed by diverse voices, we are learning to understand the Bible in grand and beautiful new ways. For the past 400 years or so, many Christians have looked at the Bible as a truth to be proved. The Rabbis have always looked at Scripture as perspectives to be discussed. They do not believe in only one interpretation for any piece of Scripture. They view Scripture as a many faceted jewel. Every time one turns the jewel, and peers at Scripture through a new facet of the jewel, a new understanding of Scripture can be seen.
During Lent, are you willing to turn the jewel? Would you be willing to participate in discussions about different biblical perspectives, to enter the wilderness of seeing through other people’s interpretations? Would you be willing to enter challenging conversations in order to experience the transformation that Jesus is offering?
Every Wednesday evening, March 13 – April 17, we will meet from 6 pm -7:30 pm in the Gathering Room to discuss Rob Bell’s book: What is the Bible: How an ancient library of poems, letters, and stories can transform the way you think and feel about everything.
Rob Bell guides the reader through ancient Jewish perspectives, historical context, and offers various perspectives on how to hear God speak to us through the Bible. I hope you will join us as we explore how we can experience the transformation that God is offering to us this Lent.