Sunday, April 24, 2011

My First Easter Blog - Getting To Know Jesus Today


3:19p.m. Easter Sunday, Uptown Waterloo

Happy Easter! ...Now there are various responses that you might come back to me with. A simple "Happy Easter to you" could very well be one of them, or there could also be a "Um, but you don't believe in Easter." In either case I wish you a Happy Easter, particularly for those of you for which it holds so much importance.

In this article I'm going to hash out my thoughts on Easter as it means to me, and I do so not in order to antagonize in any way or to "rile up feathers." I am spiritual. I like to write. Thus I write about spiritual things.

Briefly about the past. Easter weekend used to mean the following to me: Good Friday was about Jesus' death on the cross for my, and the rest of humanity's sins. I used to go to church services every Good Friday, and the most powerful and deeply emotional ones were when a group from the church would put on a play. First the Roman centurions would come up the aisle, followed by the two thieves. Then would come Jesus, with a crown of thorns upon his head, with blood (fake of course) pouring down from his brow. He was dirty and sweaty and carrying his cross. Even thinking back to those times it is still emotional. I remember sitting in one of the front pews one year just bawling and bawling and bawling with emotion. "Jesus did this for me." "It was because of my sins, my mistakes that he was punished and died."

Easter morning of course was an entirely different story. Sometimes I would go to two services, one at sunrise outdoors (I'm not sure exactly why sunrise services are a tradition, but i liked them) and then another larger service inside later in the morning. It was happy, joyful, for Jesus was now alive. I've heard it said that in the Christian life Christmas is special, but it's Easter that holds the most importance.

What about now? What are my thoughts 8 years or so removed from evangelical Christianity?

One thought that I want to refute from the outset is the well-worn statement that "if Jesus didn't die for our sins then his death meant nothing and he was a lunatic." This is very one-sided thinking and allows for no other possible interpretations. I understand it, I just don't agree with it.

First of all, let's talk about the condition of humankind. A widely held belief is that Jesus died because our sinful, evil nature separated us from God and we needed some way or person to bridge that chasm. I disagree. I do not believe that humankind's original, natural state is sin or evil. For one reason or another probably since the dawn of history humans have felt the need to feel bad about themselves, to feel like they're not worthy of goodness. This is only reinforced if you grow up being bullied, abused, or abandoned. "I really am shitty." Or the fact that we were bullied, abused or abandoned reinforces our belief that we are originally sinful and unworthy. It works both ways.

If you and I aren't originally sinful (and the story goes that sin was handed down all the way from Adam in the Garden of Eden), then what on earth was the purpose of Jesus? If he didn't come to earth to die for our sins, then why did he come?

First of all, I don't necessarily believe that Jesus came down from Heaven. It's fine by me, and actually more miraculous - not less - if Jesus was born naturally from two human parents, and that he made mistakes and "sinned" just like all of us have. What was so special about Jesus then? At some point Jesus became enlightened to the divinity within him. Instead of knowing God as an outside being in the sky, and instead of knowing spirituality as being about laws and regulations, Jesus came to the mind-blowing awareness that he was one with God, God lived within him, and spirituality was about connecting with that inner divinity, and then living that out amongst others.

I'm still processing this, and probably will for the rest of my life, but the authorities probably killed Jesus because 1) Jesus said he was God (blasphemous) and 2) Their power and rule were threatened. Jesus, not being willing to lie about who/what he really was, did not fight back.

What is the good news about Jesus for us? The good news for me is that Jesus' purpose was to be a way-shower. Sometimes I like to say, within or out loud, "Jesus was not the point!" Firstly I think Jesus might very well shudder if he were to see the religion based on his name with tonnes of churches, evangelists, priests, authors. Secondly, I strongly do not believe that he wanted to be worshiped. Big deal. If he wanted to be worshiped he might have become a politician or a Nazarene Justin Bieber (God help us all). Instead he walked the countryside with a ragtag band of fisherman who probably were in great need of a shower. Yet what do we do with Jesus now? We paint pictures of him, we fashion images out of marble and stone, we sing songs of him, we bow before him. No, this is not Jesus to me.

I believe that Jesus purpose was to show the true nature of humankind. Through Jesus we see that the true nature of humankind is divinity. We don't have a sinful nature, we have a divine nature. Jesus' purpose, as he was being lifted up, was to lift up all those around him so that they could see their beauty, their magnificence, their brilliance, and their divinity. In life Jesus was always making people feel worthy, accepted and he was lavishing them with the all-encompassing grace and mercy of God. I think of the woman who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. (Is there any more beautiful image in the world? This afternoon I can't think of any.) Or the woman who was caught in adultery, or the little children who came to him. Jesus always enhanced and uncovered the splendour within everyone he met. And in his death he powerfully and bravely said once again, "You may not think much of yourself. You may be down and out, you may have been called dirty and unacceptable. But good news! You are good! You are worthy! God lives within you!" The Easter resurrection story then says to us that death has no hold on divinity.

What then can I call Jesus today? My Lord? No. My God? Only inasmuch as God lives within me. My Saviour? Not in that he saved me from my sinful nature. Teacher? Rabbi? Friend? Shepherd, Brother? Absolutely.

The truth of Jesus Christ lives anew in my beating heart and it courses through my veins.

I am more than acceptable to God, divinity lives within my heart.