I have been haunted by a messianic* specter — a presence would not let me go… spooked by effete and bankrupt theologies, doctrines, and dogmas that have accrued to the legend / mythology of the one called Jesus Christ… The supernatural phantom parading as Wonder Worker, Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild, Jeee-zus!, Personal Savior, God, … has not worked for me. And yet I keep seeking… looking… hoping… And in my search that messianic specter keeps rising up within, energizing me and drawing me out, as if wanting me to release it from its prison. John Caputo might call that messianic* specter an insistence in the name of God. Perhaps. Whatever it is called, ‘it spooks!’
Caputo (along with Peter Rollins and others) has loosened the soil around the root system of my Self, allowing movement and flexibility as it works to integrate my consciousness with my unconscious — the light and dark within. Even so, he did not get to the heart of the matter — breathing life into the corpse of Yeshua that has been moldering in the church. That fresh breath has issued forth from Elizabeth Boyden Howes’ Jesus’ Answer to God. Rather than focus on the exterior dynamics of Jesus’ answer to humanity, Howes reading of the gospel accounts (flavored by her training as a Jungian analyst) hones in on the interior journey and struggles faced by Yeshua*. Her reading is cogent and compelling. Yeshua* is continually at work confronting, transforming, and integrating the darkness within — a “continual operative dialogue between himself and God moving to more consciousness.” This inner dialogue and transformation is the germinal messianic moving toward birth. That messianic* enterprise (or God process) is not the private property of Yeshua*. His message is that it is available to all of us. He is a catalyst, not the chemist. His presence (physical or metaphoric) energizes those with whom he comes into contact. His is a transformative presence.
The first six chapters of Jesus’ Answer to God lay the foundation, walking us through Yeshua’s* baptism and wilderness experience, his dealing with the traditions of Israel within which he lived, his understanding of forgiveness and the Kingdom of God, his role as healing symbol (rather than Healer), and his self-understanding of his role vis-a-vis the messianic expectations of Israel. So much of Howes’ offering was eye-opening and breath-taking. As I read through chapter seven (Yeshua’s* choosing to go to Jerusalem) it all seemed to fall into place. Yeshua* distanced himself from Israel’s expectations of a Messiah, replacing that archetype with the Son of Man* — “a special indwelling quality of judgment for actions” which is inherent in the inner dialogue between a person and God. Yeshua* is the all-inclusive one who reminds us that we must “sell all” for the sake of the kingdom.
The image of Yeshua* that inhabits Howes’ book is that of a growing, transforming human being who is passionate for finding God within and, through enduring interior dialogue, to engage others in a like transformation that is the essence of the Commonwealth* of Peace and Justice.
Beneath the Messiah Mask,
underneath the Savior Screen,
behind the Christ Cloud…
lies a real human being —
who is grounded in the divine
open to the mystery
a symbol for healing, and
a catalyst for the messianic.
grounds me in the divine
opens me to the mystery
is a symbol for my healing
catalyzes my messianism*
is the God-process* for me
opening me to the necessity
and possibility of integrating
my light and darkness
the good and bad in me.
I have been ambivalent toward Yeshua*…
uncomfortable with the Jeee-zus CHRIST
This animated image proclaimed by most Christians —
Savior who took my place
Messiah who fulfilled the hopes of Israel
Christ who is God incarnate
Son of God who knows all
That Yeshua* seemed unreal
incapable of bringing life
of inspiring transformation
of stirring deep passions.
That Yeshua* is actually
a figment of the imagination of the church
throughout the years…
theological reflection, doctrine, dogma
based on a biased reading of scripture
finding what the church wanted to find
missing the real, live human being
that was Yeshua*.
This animated, determined, striking individual
confronted and confounded
the religious and political leaders of his day
just as he
confronts and confounds
the religious and political leaders of our day…
though not many sense
the confrontation and confounding
instead, wanting to recast Yeshua*
in their own image.
A Wonder-Worker is more palatable
than a prophet who
dares speak truth to power
challenges the long robes of institutional religion
sides with the poor and
opposes anyone, any system, any institution
which restricts the freedom to make informed decisions.
The Yeshua* I want to follow is
more a rebel
than a follower of the status quo
more a teacher
than a despot
more a prophet who understands messianism*as compassionate love moving toward all-inclusive justice
than a Messiah who will lead people away from this life
into a heavenly dwelling place
where the cares of this world are unimportant.
Strangely enough this latter view
seems to be the underlying picture of the Gospels
Yeshua* began to hear a deep, passionate call
at his baptism,
began to shape that call
as he experienced an inner conversation
in which he said “No! to the various imagesof Messiah which seemed to be part of Israel’s DNA.
Yeshua* came to understand through his own experience
that God was not some heavenly adductor
waiting around to punish / reward people
for immorality, on one hand,
or respectability, on the other.
Instead, God was to be experienced as an unheard inner voice
insisting on love, peace, justice, and wholeness
in human affairs…
the Commonwealth* of Peace and Justice
was to be encountered first inwardly
then outwardly as an expression of
the depth of human community and cooperation.
To follow in Yeshua’s* Way means
that I am finding ways to integrate the darkness
that lies deep within me
with the light in me
that I try to show to everyone
To follow in Yeshua’s* Way means
not putting off life until I get to heaven
but investing myself deeply in the NOW
(in the meantime).
To follow in Yeshua’s* Way means
living fully now
The present moment —
in the meantime —
is the time we have,
the day of salvation.
The present moment is the time to
listen for the insistence
respond to call
accept the invitation
reach out to others
Following in the Way of Yeshua*
the present moment is the time
to be a real human being —
darkness and light
good and bad
forthright and deceitful
proud and shameful
integrated beyond the duality
whole and wholesome
to be a living, breathing
Does this require some readjustments in me?
even though, I scarcely know
what this needed adjustments are.
I will blunder ahead,
as I have these 75 years —
sometimes blind to myself
sometimes on target
sometimes amiss —
and always listening for
that unheard inner voice
which begins again
that child-like conversation
with my “friend,” Yeshua*.
[Image: “Creative Commons Superhero” by John Hain is licensed under CC BY 2.0]