Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Some Reading Hopes for the New Year, and the Book of Luke

Well, I'm not one for new year's resolutions, but I have been finding myself assembling some intentions for reading in the next 6 months to a year.  Here's what I've got so far: Frank Viola's Epic Jesus, Tullian Tchividjian's Jesus + Nothing = Everything, N.T. Wright's Simply Jesus, George MacDonald's Phantastes, the Auralia's Colors Series by a guy named Jeffrey Overstreet. I'm deep into the very intriguing Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, the first in the Mars Trilogy, a sci-fi series about the colonization of Red Planet.

As far as the Bible is concerned, I plan on spending most of my time in the book of Luke.  I've spent a long time in the book of John, and then Matthew.  My plan has been to do this with each Gospel- spend a couple of years just getting to know it, learning it like a new job or a best friend.  So this year begins (actually it's begun already) the book of Luke.

My thoughts so far begin at the end.  Though we just had Christmas, what has been on my mind has been the Resurrection narrative.  I'm haunted by the tail end of the earthly ministry of the most interesting Man that ever lived. We get, in these last few pages, a look at what must have been the most startling, unbelievable, eye-opening, paradigm-shattering event in the lives of his young followers.  Jesus of Nazareth lives, though he was killed, executed only days before.

Let me start by saying this.  In the presence of the Risen Lord, it would have been nearly impossible for a disciple to want to talk about their joblessness, or the rising cost of health care.  The text says they stood their gawking, "with joy and amazement."  At a time like that, it would have been patently absurd for Thomas, having touched the hands and side of the Savior to have turned around and said, "you know guys, we really ought to try and think positive, because our thought life is going to affect how we behave."  In fact, Thomas may not have been able to take his eyes off of Jesus, standing their radiant with the New Creation.  If he could say anything after picking his jaw up off the floor, it probably would have been something like "He lives! He LIVES!"  There were the disciples, coming off a couple days of fresh grief, listless, unsure of what to do next, afraid of being hunted down, and probably weighed down by some serious guilt.  And there was Jesus, the world's True Light, untouched by sin and death, opening the Prophets to them, showing them how the Kingdom has come, and telling them that though he was about to leave once again, he would be with them until the end of the age.

Each time he shows up, it is completely surprising.  And each time he shows up, he says a few words, and then vanishes, just as unexpectedly.  I think there's something to be said about this, but I'm not sure I'm qualified to verbalize it yet.  This is Resurrection we're talking about.  This is not normative humanity as we been conditioned to see it, but it's also not transcendence above humanity- it's True Humanity.  He's real, he's eating fish, but he's coming and going as he pleases.  He's showing them their doubts are unfounded.  He's directing the future of the Church.  He is now absorbing all the glory and honor that creation has to give.  He's telling them that he's won

In the last portion of Luke we get a portrait of the eschatological Kingdom, coming forth from the tomb, going among the people, and then seeming to disappear, yet staying present.  Jesus rises, Jesus presents a never-before-seen humanity to the disciples, and then Jesus leaves.  Yet he doesn't leave.  He's still in the flesh.  He's still "here." At the end of Luke we get a brilliant picture of  eschatology- that which is so expected and hoped for in the future that it actually becomes real now, only to let us know that the "real" thing is still yet to come.   Like an uncle we dearly love that is coming to visit after a long absence.  Though we know it'll be today, we're not sure of the exact time of his arrival, and so the preparation grips us- the cooking of a meal and the selecting of just the music for the occasion.  And the expectation overwhelms us- the joy of imagining his face at our door, his voice greeting us joyfully.  The remembering of things he said and did in times past.  These things take hold of us so tightly that it's hard to remember that he's still not here yet.  Because he...well, he is here. Isn't he?