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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Life Is Suffering: another look at Christ

To consider life we must of necessity consider our origins.  I begin with the understanding that I exist because of something smarter than me.  I have decided to look at the introduction of the 'Christ' into human history as a spiritual means  of coming to grips with being here and as an explanation for the fact of my existence.
It is clear I exist and you probably feel the same way about yourself. So what does your existence owe itself too?
In the revelation of the Gospel of the Kingdom there is an answer.  They did not teach me this in church.  I had to wrest it from the bible itself.  But in doing so I believe I have seen a vision of the God who was incarnated and killed after fulfilling his task in leaving the 'Truth' behind to mingle with human consciousness and to transform it.


Life is suffering for a most unusual reason.   A second look at the Mystery of Christ.

Why does life hurt so much?  Poverty hurts, disease hurts, loss hurts, war and oppression hurt.  Even though these are grievous experiences all of them together are not the reason the life is an inexplicable hardship.  Sometimes what is worse than all the rest is the underlying sense of discontent, the feeling that life isn’t worth it despite its offsetting pleasures. 

In our heart of hearts we understand something is not right. Perhaps there is a vague nagging, an irresistible sense of dissatisfaction in understanding that we are alive, it hurts for a while and then we die. We know the same fate waits our children, and their children.   We are all, apparently, on a ceaseless trek to the grave. 

This is not a morose morbid theme it is a meditation that appears in humanity throughout history.  Throughout the making of history mankind has asked the questions about his origins, his existence and what it means.  The Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes is a classic example.   The book of Job discusses present  loss and suffering against a cosmic backdrop.  Click on the hyperlinks to read texts. 

Job is one of the most misunderstood of the biblical books and this misunderstanding has produced some of the worst commentaries on the topic of suffering imaginable.  As a result many believe that the goodness of God obligates Him to relieve suffering and when he does not do so then the love of God is thought to be unreal, a fable.  This is not so, I would argue that the love of God means something quite different, as Jesus pointed out. 

But here we are in life, we do our best and nothing is able to extinguish the knowledge of our personal appointment with death.  That destiny may be eclipsed by daily activities.  But it is always nearby.  Someone you know dies: a grandparent, a parent, a school friend.  Happiness, which we all value and desire, is found to exist in a mixed bag of pleasure, pain and sorrow. 

The reason for this is almost impossible to find.  We keep trying.  Circumstances may improve, but all the more energy is needed to retain what has been gained.  The harder you work the harder you have to work to keep what you have gained.  This situation has been called a rat race.  If it is, it is a rat race on a treadmill because no one crosses the finish line before they get to the grave.  Or so appearances confirm.

And so, there is good reason to feel dissatisfied.  It’s a dissatisfaction a thousand electronic gadgets and sales gimmicks cannot make disappear for very long. It’s a sense that lies beneath your happiest moments keeping you aware that something is fundamentally wrong with the way things are.  You feel guilty for not enjoying what you have.  But you can’t, you always want more and that’s making you frustrated with the whole mess. You cannot get enough to make the dissatisfaction go away.

But in your heart of hearts you feel there is more.  That is because you are right, there is more to being human than what you have been assured can be satisfied by purchases in the marketplace and experienced within the context of only three dimensions.

The reason for dissatisfaction with life is that we have forgotten who we are.  It is not us who have forgotten, or our parents, or their parents either.  No, long ago in history man began to think of himself as identified with his present experience of life and death.   Norman O. Brown's book "Life Against Death: the psychoanalytical meaning of history" published in 1959 is a resource explaining this phenomenon. It is recommended reading.   Identification with this experience became perceived as the reality of the human race. And it is. But only because of forgetfulness and determination on our part.

There is a story told by Jesus which explains the situation of the human race in a cosmic setting. It’s a story about a prosperous farmer with two sons.  The story begins with the younger of the two sons asking for his share of his father’s wealth now rather than having to wait for him to die to receive it as an inheritance. The father agreed.  Shortly afterward the younger son left his father and brother and took the wealth his Father had given him. 

Take the time and imagine the young man loading up camels and choosing from his father’s slaves before saying his good-byes and taking leave of his father’s house.

Jesus describes the young man as going to a ‘far country’.  There he goes, disappearing over the horizon into another life, a life of his own, with his camels and slaves. Once there in a strange land with no true friends he spends the riches his father had given him.  He spent it all and found himself destitute, friendless, homeless and starving.

The turning point in the story is described by Jesus with these words:   “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” Luke 15:17- 19

 Jesus’ parables were conceived with the purpose of opening the listeners mind to the Kingdom of God.  He claimed it was his purpose to disperse this information where human consciousness might find it.  Once they understood the information they would be able to come to them-selves. 

 Jesus’ words in the parable “when he came to himself” open the door to the mystery of the kingdom of God.  It is in this mysterious Kingdom of God where we find our true identity, where we come to ourselves.  Making this discovery liberates and saves us.  This is why in the book of Revelation the redeemed are given a new name.   A change of name in situations relating to God is  related to a change in the relationship of the person with God.  It is the way it was with Abram when God changed his name to Abraham.  
The story Jesus told of the Father and his two sons is a story about the human race and God.   It is this Father which gives us our identity and to which we return. The passionate apostle and visionary Paul of Tarsus understood the nature of the gospel to reveal an unexpected state of affairs.  He referred to those relating to their present experience through the knowledge of Christ as being a partner in “…the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,” Ephesians 3: 9. 

“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.John 17: 20-24 KJV.

Do you see it?  Do you begin to understand the mystery of life as opposed to the rat race of life?  The spiritual teaching of Christ reveals what was forgotten.  We are children of God who have been brain-washed out of our identity.  We must come to our self.  If we do not identify our self accurately we are doomed to tread the rat race forever.

In the incarnation Jesus reveals the astonishing intent of God.  “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world,” … “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:…”  “predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,…” “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,..”  “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:” “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth;” (quotations from KJV book of Ephesians)

To be chosen something must already exist.  I cannot choose a Cadillac if Cadillacs do not exist.   According to Saint Paul, God was able to choose us in Christ long before we were born on this earth.  That is definitely mysterious.  What does it mean that he chose us before we were born?  Does it mean we existed before we were born?  Or does it mean that God in his all seeing eye knew we would be coming down the pike in need of help?  Another way of looking at this is also possible.  According to the way our reality is set up all time exists simultaneously.  Past present and future are equally accessible if this is the case.  That fact may help to make this plausible. 
There are other ramifications to this as well.  One striking feature of this reality is that death is not what it seems to be anymore than life is not what it seems to be.  If God has predestined us before the foundation of the world, it is reasonable to understand that we existed before the foundation of the world.  You cannot choose something that does not exist even if you are God.  God can make it, but if it is selected it must have been in existence. So the conclusion is if God chose it, it must have existed. Some will argue with this to no avail.

It is reasonable to understand given the knowledge available in Christ that before the foundation of the world we did not exist as human beings such as we are now but that we in fact did exist in some genuinely real way simply because we were chosen.  We could not have been chosen if we did not exist and since we did not exist as the human we know as ourselves now this is truly a mystery.

I have decided to examine what this means in the context of the Christ Event, the redeeming appearance of Jesus, as explained by Jesus himself and those who had insight into what his appearance meant.  My primary resource will be the Bible, but other authorities are not left out. 
The situation mankind finds itself in can be seen to have a different connotation than ordinarily understood by looking at human experience through the lens of Christ.  Most denominations have given lip service to the idea that In Christ is all knowledge.  Most have made this knowledge unattainable by turning it into ‘doctrine’ which effectively makes insight into the mystery difficult or impossible.  The New Testament points to Christ as the answer and I will do my best to ruthlessly understand what it means. If Christ is the light of the world, knowledge of him is necessary for understanding what it means to be here now.

Jesus claimed that he, himself, was the ‘Truth’.  I will approach this ‘Truth’ as an intellectual construction rather than something codified into a doctrine or set on an altar to worship.  ‘Truth’, as I perceive the notion,  is a living medium by which the Spirit activates the mind giving faith allowing its genuineness to become self-authenticating.  Truth in this context is alive.

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A practitioner of the art of living with the intent of learning how to die without fear.