November 04-B, 2022

Roaring Fork Falls 05/20/2014 — Blue Ridge Parkway, Little Switzerland, North Carolina
Jesus was thrown to the wolves
by the orthodoxy of his day.

His disciples followed in quick succession:
"Young John who trimmed the flapping sails,
homeless in Patmos died,
"Peter who hauled the teeming net,
head-down was crucified"
(William Alexander Percy).

And the 13th disciple, Paul,
met a similar fate in Rome.

The "new thing" that stirred to life 
in Jesus was met with harsh opposition
by those who knew a better thing
when they saw one--
the better thing being their own spin
on sin and redemption,
with them holding "the keys to the kingdom"
in their tight control.

Power is always political,
whether in church or state,
and the power to say what's what
and what needs to be done about it
or else
is the prime power all are seeking.

So came the persecution of the heresies
and the heretics,
the burnings at the stake,
the destruction of alternative ways
of thinking about Jesus
and what it means to be the Christ
for those who would be his followers.

What it means is how we meet and manage
the contradictions at work in being alive,
and being human in a Christ-like way
as called for by the circumstances at hand.

The Christ-like thing about Jesus
was the way he handled contradictions,
and created them,
by seeing what was needed here/now
and doing it,
no matter what.

With Jesus, the right thing to do 
was organic,
of the moment,
and the spirit was like the wind,
blowing where it will.

Nothing could be more antagonistic
and detrimental to the church
of rules and regulations,
stipulating exactly how to do things
"decently and in order,"
imposing its ideas of how it ought to be done
on all situations and circumstances
throughout time and place. 

To be Christ-like is to be UN-christian.

And it is to die in the service
of Christ-like-ness 
in taking on the contradictions inherent in 
the process of being alive,
and bearing the pain of their opposition
through all of the times and places of our life.

Col. Nathan R. Jessup,
the Jack Nicholson character
in "A Few Good Men,"
and his telling line,
is the living epitome of the contradictions
to be borne in the service of truth.

We are here to balance the contradictions of life,
the way Jesus did,
damned if we do and damned if we don't,
and dying metaphorically/symbolically
and rising from the "dead"
to "die" again and again
throughout our life
in bearing consciously the contradictions
at the heart of 
having life abundantly,
"pouring over, spilling out"
all our life long.

We make the peace
by taking the way things are
in one hand,
and the way things need to be
in the other hand,
and getting the two hands together
in each situation as it arises
in every moment of every day.

This is what the old Taoists meant
by harmonizing Yin and Yang.

We balance the opposites.
We unite the contraries.
We merge the polarities.
We die metaphorically,
and sometimes actually,
as Jesus did,
and all his disciples after him
(Except those who claim to be disciples
with no clue as to how to go about doing it)
in saying "Yes!" to life just as it is,
in a "Thou Art That"
"Neti Neti" 
kind of way
to everything that comes our way,
all our life long.

Handling the truth of internal/external
opposition to truth
in dancing to the music
of every occasion,
and laughing with the joy
of knowing how things are
in all their absurdity and glory
every step of the way that is the way


Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

2 thoughts on “November 04-B, 2022

  1. You are the only person I have ever known who quoted William Alexander Percy—and I’ve known some quoters. Great reflection, just what I needed.

    Liked by 1 person

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