Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Don't call me good, part 2

That verse from Mark about "No one is good except God alone" has still been on my mind. Specifically, I was thinking about the interpretation that suggests Jesus is essentially trying to get the man to reach the logical conclusion that he is God. I was talking to my friend Shane yesterday about it, and I said that from my frame of reference, I could read it as Jesus saying that he was good to the extent that he was doing God's will. So Shane, as usual, asked a very good question. "When did Jesus not do God's will?"

I don't have a direct answer for that, of course, but I have what I would call a suspicion. I believe that Jesus was born as a normal human being. During his life, he became so close to God that Jesus the human essentially ceased to be and he was the living will of God. If the account of Jesus' baptism is a historical account, and not an attempt to link him to John the Baptist, then I wonder if it was the moment of epiphany for him, that he gave himself up completely at that point. If so, then my answer to Shane's question would be that he might have deviated from the will of God before that point.

There are times, too, in the gospels when I feel like it is the human Jesus speaking. In the garden of Gesthemane, for example, when he asks "Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." And of course on the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me".

Although a lot of people consider my view of Jesus to be blasphemous, I find that it gives me great hope. The things Jesus did and the way he acted are not impossible for us. The closer we align ourselves to God, the more we become like Jesus. I have often heard people dismiss some of Jesus' teachings as impossible for us to follow because we are only human. I do not believe that, and I know that the early Quakers did not believe that as well. George Fox spoke of us being restored to the state of Adam before he fell:
And the Lord showed me that such as were faithful to Him, in the power and light of Christ, should come up into that state in which Adam was before he fell

And that brings me back to the verse in Mark, and closer to William Barclay's view of Mark 10:18, which is that we shouldn't concentrate on "being good", we should concentrate on being in God. Out of that comes the good.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Don't call me good

I have been re-reading the Gospel According to Mark lately, and Mark 10:18 has been in my mind over this past weekend:

10:17 Now as Jesus was starting out on his way, someone ran up to him, fell on his knees, and said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 10:18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.(From The NET Bible)

When I read that, it sounds like Jesus does not consider himself to be God. There is a note in the NET bible that seems to say that Jesus was suggesting that if only God is good, and the man considers Jesus to be good, then there is only one logical conclusion. I googled on this verse, and most of the pages I found seemed to express the same sentiment as the NET bible. I consulted a number of commentaries and study bibles, and most of them indicate that in Mark, Jesus is not equated with God, which is in obvious contrast to John (not to mention most of those sites on the Internet).

I think that this verse is a good one for revealing how we read the bible with our own preconceived notions. This verse could legitimately be taken at least two ways, and either way would be in harmony with other verses, and in conflict with some others. In the end, I think that we get so caught up in debating what the verse is supposed to mean that we miss the true message. To put it into Jesus' time period, I think that we become Pharisees.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Recognizing Jesus

I was at a banquet one time and saw a man who looked very familiar to me. After quite a bit of staring and pondering, I realized that he was a distant cousin. It took me so long to recognize him because I wasn't expecting to see him there. I think we all experience that odd sensation when we see someone we know in a different context and don't recognize them immediately.

I think that happens with God as well. There are certain times where we are expecting the presence of the Holy Spirit, such as at Meeting for Worship, and we are often more able to sense that presence. I think of some of the post-resurrection stories, such as the road to Emmaus, or Mary at the tomb, where the disciples failed to recognize Jesus because they weren't expecting him to be there. In our daily lives, we aren't always looking for God or expecting God to be there, so we may fail to recognize God's presence.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

A little practical mysticism

I read Frank Laubach's The Game With Minutes (PDF) this morning. It is a nice set of practices for remembering God at various points in your day, working towards the idea of praying without ceasing. The basic game is really just trying to remember God, or bring God to mind, at least minute of an hour. For an hour's time, you might score yourself to see in how many of those minutes you actually managed to remember God.

In addition to the basic game, Frank Laubach also provides other suggestions for remembering God. One struck a chord with me, which is that he says a little prayer for people when he is on a train or in a crowd. When I remember to, I try to hold other drivers in the Light briefly as I am driving. I find that it makes me a much calmer, more courteous driver, and I don't get as upset over other people's rudeness. I think that either praying for other people or holding them in the Light can be more helpful than the Jesus Prayer because it is more of an outreach to others. You are simultaneously practicing the two great commandments to love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul and to love your neighbor as yourself.

I was also trying to come up with ways to remember God while at work. I'm a computer programmer, and I have to do quite a lot of thinking. Today I tried to think of God when I hit the "Enter" key on my keyboard - as in "ENTER into God's presence" or "RETURN to God". I can't say that I remembered all that often, but I hope to do better.

Frank Laubach also wrote Letters By a Modern Mystic.

The PDF of "The Game With Minutes" is incomplete. This PDF includes The Game with Minutes among some other works and has the complete version.

Update #2 (11/14/2006)
Peter Schott has pointed out that The Power of the Holy Spirit (Volume III) contains a more complete copy of the Game With Minutes. Thanks, Peter!