Monday, 11 April 2016

History or just story

Today we are confronted with two readings which have had an ongoing effect on the lives of the Christian Church.  In one we see the 'commissioning'  of Peter to go out and 'Feed my sheep' (Jn 21.1-19) and the second that gives us an understanding of Saul's 'conversion' (Acts 9.1-6).  In looking at these two passages in the scriptures my debate and doubt within myself is to ask regarding the reality of these events and what might our understanding be if we viewed them from a different perspective?

If this is true reportage of events and we have interpreted them over history correctly as such then we will be well versed in our understanding.  The events portrayed delineate the risen Christ's commissioning of Peter and his historical movement through preaching and evangelism towards being the first Bishop of Rome.  He becomes a fisherman of men rather than of the abundant and mundane fish of the Tiberian sea.  The Saul / Paul dichotomy of post and after is read as the conversion event of history, upon which we judge all other such events.  Indeed to have a 'Road to Damascus' event has entered into the lexicon of our judgement of fellow Christian travelers. Something that we aspire to or wish to have so that we may become one with Christ and portray that oneness to the world.

What if we now look at these two 'events' as stories, much as we look at favourite bedtime stories or fairy tales.  Those often gross tales that have moral or practical inputs into our lives from which we gain insights into the world around us and our ethical response.  What difference does such a vision have upon these two passages from Scripture?  Do these post resurrection tales have something to say other than the theo-logical interpretation that may loose us in a plethora of un-followable verbiage and convoluted thought process?

Does the 'author' of the Johanine tale speak to us about a natural development as the disciples and followers of the Christ come to terms with a resurrection that is not corpreal like Lazarus but is more bodily than spiritual?  Does it reach out to us with an understanding or a realisation of what the resurrection means to them at the time, which can only be expressed in a tale?  If this is the case what are the elements that point us into a new humanity formed in the understanding and embodiment of Christ?

Forming community, family and a place of safety.

First let us imagine the scene, a night of fishing without a catch, tired and dispirited people in a boat.  A common enough scene, something identifiable in our imaginations.  A voice from shore suggesting something different.  Perhaps recognising that they have fished only on one side, perhaps showing us that we need sometimes to look from a different perspective.  However, such suggestions in our lives are easily dismissed as we continue on our own agenda. Down the oft driven track and 'proven' way of doing things.  The story reminds us that it is only in action that the result of an abundance is achieved.  It is only when we respond in our lives that we come to understand the resurrection, it is not there in explanation it is present in action.  Only when we hear the call upon our lives do we begin to change our understanding.  The question to ask is: Can we act on alternative views or are we stuck on our own track of tried and proven means?

Once we start to see from a different perspective we come to see Christ in our midst.  With a shout of joy and recognition we abandon our stability and move to meet the risen Christ in fellowship and a welcoming of the extreme other, who now enters our life.  In doing so we entertain a simple meal, an offering from nature, for which we give thanks and feel the warmth of fellowship around the fire which denotes community; a place of safety, friendship, love in a world of fear, hatred and isolation.  Is this what the risen Christ means in our society?  Is this the place of the Body of Christ?

Luke's pseudo biography of Paul is perhaps best seen as a fantasy developed for the author's own requirements and purposes.  How can Paul convert?  He is a Jew moving from one view to another within the same religious tradition.  The moment is real but not instantaneous.  Paul's apocalyptic vision is life changing as he comes to understand the resurrection from a different perspective, which in his own words obviously needs time to digest (Gal.  1.13-18).  A whole three years of digestion.  There is a process of understanding, of accepting the new perspective and relating it to what we know of and in the world.  It is only when we have incorporated the call of God's radical hospitality into our lives that we begin to understand the purport of the resurrection as we come into a new life in Christ.

Many of those that proclaim the faith of Christ, after their Damascus road experience, are seen not to fulfill the life of Christ within their own lives.  Our ignorance and doubts are harbingers of new life, rather than the certainty proclaimed by those who 'know' with dogmatic truths that cannot cope with everyday lived lives.  In doubt we are able to encompass the alternate vision, not in the certainty of our own ways.  In ignorance we look for Christ in new places and find the risen Christ within our own lives as we interact with the other in community.

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