Welcome to the Jesus the Imagination Blog.
This is a little space for me to curate some of my thinking and writing and creating. I pour a lot of my creativity into journals where it remains largely buried. They’re like a sort of portable, external subconscious. And they’ve been pestering me lately for a little more attention. They’ve been saying to me:
You’re like a busy farmer who scatters seed on the ground, and you sleep and rise night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, you do not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, and the harvest has come, how long can the busy farmer neglect the sickle and the reaping before the good crop goes to seed, scatters itself back to the earth, and is lost for a season?
As a Christian who follows Jesus and a pastor called to help other people – hmmm, what’s another word here… let’s say – EXPERIENCE Jesus Christ, I spend a lot of time trying to imagine ways into a confidence with Jesus. In its Latin origins “confidence” means “faith with.” I try to imagine ways of having faith with Jesus, which I think for some people – especially the people it seems I have been called to serve so far in my ministry – is more fruitful than “believing in” Jesus. “Believing in” something suggests a sense of immediate and full surrender which simply doesn’t work for everyone. “Believing with” Jesus helps us to recognize Jesus’ invitation into a way of living and being and into the commitments of the Good News, which he embodied. When we believe with Jesus, we believe one step at a time. We recognize that – much like the imagination itself – faith is inside of us, but it is something we must choose to encounter. The field is ready to harvest. Will we go down and do the hard work of reaping? Like the imagination, Jesus is inside of us. And Jesus, like imagination, is not contained by us. Jesus-Imagination is bigger than us, a source of life – the read of life, the living water, the word. Faith is like a well – a tap into a great reservoir. And we must choose to haul the bucket to drink. Although, it might not be as much work as we imagine it to be.
In my preaching I take to take these images and dreams and visions and explain them. In this blog, I will do some of that. I also hope to allow some of the images to just flow without the need to tame them into a logical precision. After all, they are born and they live not from logic, but from faith and imagination. Perhaps this wild nature is their truer form.
There are a few buckets to haul on to get to know Jesus.
First, there is Jesus of Nazareth, the historical person. Getting to know this Jesus happens through academic scholarship. A great deal of academic interest and resources have gone into studying who Jesus was as a real-life person since the late 18th century. This Jesus scholarship really took off with the publication of Albert Schweitzer’s The Quest for the Historical Jesus in 1906 which reviewed all of the previous work on the subject. Another big milestone in historical Jesus studies was the formation of the Jesus Seminar in 1985 by Robert Funk. The seminar was made up of 150 scholars who would get together and vote on the historicity of Jesus’ sayings and deeds. And in 2013 Reza Aslan’s book Zealot probably became the most widely read book of historical Jesus scholarship after a video of him being attacked on Fox News for being a Muslim who writes about Jesus went viral on social media.
While some scholars have suggested that no historical person called Jesus of Nazareth ever existed, they are in the minority, and most assert that someone called Jesus of Nazareth did exist but their reductions, recreations, or interpretations of his life – what he did and didn’t do, what he said and didn’t say, and what he meant by it all – vary widely. This diverse range of scholarship, some of which is totally contradictory, and none of which can be proved to be more or less factual than any of the rest (it can only be demonstrated to be rigorous and scholarly – but equally rigorous and scholarly works disagree greatly) is a great invitation into the exploration of Jesus. While it doesn’t seem that there are limitless possibilities for the reconstruction of a historical Jesus, the deeply personal narratives that are created help our imagination enter into the deep possibilities of Jesus, help us to understand his particular historical context, and encourage us to imagine Jesus with the historians.
Another entryway is the Jesus of faith statements. The Gospels are faith statements – each author has a particular interpretation of who Jesus was, what Jesus said, what Jesus did, and what it all meant. (You can maybe see a pattern beginning to emerge here.) The dogma of the Church and the churches are also faith statements about Jesus. Probably the most famous (or infamous) of these today is “Jesus Christ is my personal Lord and Savior.” “Jesus loves me” is another. But again, faith statements about who Jesus is vary widely throughout history and across culture. In the church I serve now – First Church Somerville UCC – there are atheist Christians, Catholic Christians, Christians from fundamentalist, evangelical backgrounds, new-age Christians, spiritual-but-not-religious post-Christians, Unitarian Christians, Universalists, Nones, and so on. In one church the testimonies of faith about who Jesus is vary widely from person to person and throughout their individual lives.
And then there is the third way, which for me, underlies and grows out of the other two.
Another famous faith statement about Jesus from the opening of John’s Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through the Word, and without the Word not one thing came into being.
And from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians chapter 13:
Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?
Some more faith statements: Jesus is the Christ (the anointed one, the Messiah, the Savior). Jesus is an incarnation of God. Jesus is resurrected. Jesus is the Logos (Word) of God. Jesus is co-eternal with God. In Jesus, all things were created. Jesus sits at the right hand of God. Jesus is within us.
Jesus has a particular, historical aspect. He was a real person. His precise, exact life is lost to us but can be reimagined in many ways through study and imagination. Jesus is the Universal Christ – eternal, creative, resurrected. These statements are not imaginary assertions, but imaginal orientations to existence that allow a love and relationship to develop with that which is Ultimate and allows us to make ultimate commitments to a way of being (faith).
Jesus is our imagination – the historical Jesus, the Bread of Life and the Living Water. The Jesus of history and of faith are both far greater than us and yet also exist like a seed and a well inside of us. To have faith with Jesus requires the reorientation of the imagination: a step-by-step growth of what is possible, what is good, what is true.
And to create anything, to do anything – anything at all that comes out of our bodies – requires Jesus the Imagination. At least, this is my faith statement. It is absolute and universal to me. Perhaps not so for you! But I hope you will find visions and creations within this blog that offer you an invitation into communion and creation with Jesus Christ.
Jesus the Imagination
Thoughts and dreams, musings and meditations