I am excited to welcome Robert Miller and Jarmo Tarkki of the Jesus Seminar to Elizabethton, October 21st and 22nd. This is the fourth Jesus Seminar on the Road that we have hosted and I am hoping that you will attend and bring a friend.
Our congregation values religious literacy and the Jesus Seminar is a primary resource for an educated and literate faith. This year our scholars will be presenting on the historical Jesus. The title of the program is "Jesus in the First & Twenty-first Centuries". From the brochure:
"The gospels portray Jesus as the Messiah and divine savior. Within the gospels, however, we can glimpse another Jesus, the Jewish teacher and healer with a radical vision of the kingdom of God. The search for the historical Jesus examines the gospels in order to discover who Jesus was before he became the object of Christian belief."
The search separates the myth from the man. But it doesn't end there. After we attempt to construct an historical Jesus from the 1st century, we might ask what this has to do with the present. Who is Jesus for the 21st century? How might we incorporate the insights of scholarly research for a contemporary faith?
Much of contemporary Christianity is pitiable: anti-gay, anti-science, tribalistic, superstitious, and mean. Jesus has been hijacked by the powerful for manipulative and greedy purposes. We need a new Jesus.
Two books, Marcus Borg's Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and John Dominic Crossan's Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography changed my faith. Not just my thinking...my faith. Default religion (Jesus died on the cross to save some people from sin so they--Christians--can go to heaven when they die even though most people will go to hell) lost its appeal for me long ago.
Borg and Crossan introduced me to a Jesus who was a real person. He embodied a vision of justice, peace, and hope that wasn't based on supernaturalism. In opposition to the injustice and dehumanizing forces of Empire, this Jesus preached the "empire" of God that is real, present, and participatory.
I don't talk or write about my faith too often. It is mine. It is personal. It is sacred to me. Making it public risks misrepresentation and belittlement. I also know that talking about personal faith can sound self-righteous and grandiose.
At the risk of all of that I will say that for me, my search for the historical Jesus has enabled me to find content for my faith. It is not simply an intellectual exercise. This vision, this icon, this myth (in the true sense of that word) of the historical Jesus is sacred.
Jesus stood up for those who were put down.
I trust, I have faith, that I can do that too.
That is the Jesus who is "in my heart."
That is my faith.
I thank the Jesus Seminar for their part in restoring it.
Maybe the quest will inspire you as well.