Saturday, September 23, 2006

Diet Jesus, just one calorie!

I have had amembership for over 16 years now. I used it “religiously” for years. In the last 5 years my gym membership has existed and my attendance has been less than stellar. Two weeks ago I began a workout program at the gym. I have enlisted a personal trainer and nutritionist to aid me in this endeavor. I dream of shedding the collected weight that binds me to a less than fruitful life.

There is this ideal that we aspire to be physically, mentally, and spiritually. In recent decades, America physical image has taken the primary interest of our creative efforts to stay trim. To be described as sexy, beautiful, or handsome is a common denominator of the American psyche. This mindset, along with the struggle for power, prestige, and wealth has handicapped the American Church. This has impeded our ability to calmly and humbly sit at the feet of Christ. Over time the definition and practice of what and how to be Christians has morphed into a billion dollar business. With every new venture seeking to be better, bigger, brighter, more insightful than the “competitors” for the spirituality of this nation, all under the banner of Jesus Christ.

Every understanding and confession of Jesus Christ grows out of a particular situation and both reflects and speaks to particular needs and aspirations. Knowledge of Jesus Christ is not simply academic or historical knowledge. Faith in Christ is not just knowing about him but trusting in him and being ready to follow him as the way, the truth, and the life. The living Jesus Christ is greater than all of our confessions and creeds and he surpasses all of our theological reflections about him

What is the difference between the solace, peace, and direction one obtains from Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Scientology, etc. as compared to the peace, solace, and direction revealed in Christianity? For Paul Tillich, the difference is the very renewal which takes place in the acceptance and proclamation of Jesus as “The Christ.” Jesus returns us to the intended creation to which God enacted in the “beginning”. It would not matter to convert anyone to Christianity without of this dramatic life altering renewal of the New Being (Jesus Christ). The power lies not in the brand of religion one practices, rather the power of bringing forth creation into the New Being in the midst of the Old Creation in Jesus The Christ.

Creation does not bring forth New Being in the midst of Old Being. New Being is eternally present, eternally available. It is recognizing its presence in creation that allows us to participate. There is no creation absent of Jesus the Christ. When we attempt to bottle this revelation we are left to bumper stickers, leaflets, t-shirts, and the latest round of Christian spiritual books to bring forth transformation. I ask, where do we arrive if we are so motivated to get in our vehicles and drive down to the local Barnes & Nobel or Lifeway Bookstore to peruse and purchase these Being enhancing purpose filled products? We attempt to master and understand the why’s and what’s before we experience New Being in Christ, which has been present all the while.

To embrace Christianity absent of New Being makes no difference as you hold just another life draining misguided attempt at offering transformation. The only place to obtain life transformation is at the feet of the cross in the presence of Jesus the Christ, New Being itself!

I see parallels between our desire to shed excess weight and or desire to be transformed in Christ. Just as we pursue weight loss we pursue Christ. I believe that we must submit to Christ and not work harder, train faster, or watch our diet as we would when train for a marathon or keeping physically fit. I am not saying that we are void of responsibility in our actions. I am not suggesting we haplessly wander on in life to dabble in this or dabble in that. I suggest that in order to fully appreciate, receive, and embrace the grace, forgiveness, and transformation in Christ we must continuously seek the tension between absolute depravity and utter righteousness.

It is in the tension between the Old Creation and New Creation that the courage to be manifests in our religion. The need for religion is a constant for creation. This does not matter if one practices Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, or even atheism--all are a response to the need and longing for something bigger than ourselves. This is a product of Old Creation. We offer only quick fixes and veneers today in American Christianity to display the process of participating in New Being.

We offer packaged vacations to High Holy Days with all the Disneyland trimmings of pomp and circumstance. Where is the New Creation in this? Is it any wonder that American Christianity is losing ground to atheism and apathetic religiosity? “…when the divine is rejected, it takes the rejection upon itself. It accepts our crucifixion, our pushing away, the defiance of ourselves against it. It accepts our refusal to accept, and thus conquers us”. If we are to continue practicing Christianity under the status quo we must prepare ourselves for further marginalization of the gospel message and the Biblical witness. We risk becoming another voice in the masses of consumerism and dilute the radical life altering, courage providing voice that is offered in New Being.

What is needed is a response that fulfills in us the courage to be, as Tillich understands, and live as New Creation absent of the dull aestheticism reflected in our desire to be sexy, beautiful, or handsome. For the only difference between Christianity and all other religions is the promise of New Creation in the midst of Old Creation. It is in the Power of Jesus THE Christ that we enter in to creative order and reunite with our creator. “It is the tension in which modern man lives, even though he may have lost the way to traditional religion. A human being can be ultimately judged by whether or not he has reached and can stand that tension. To endure it is more horrible and more difficult than anything else in the world. And yet, to endure it is the only way by which we can attain to the ultimate meaning, joy, and freedom in our lives. Each of us is called to endure” Tillich’s sermon, Escape from God). There is no room for a lukewarm response or ascetically pleasing visions. A diet of New Being (Jesus Christ) embarks us on a journey into this tension to which we are called. Anything less than this would be a waste of the New Being Christ is and the New Being to which we must have the courage to be.

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