The Gospel According to You

Luke 1:1-4

Photo credit: <a href="">Daniel Sandoval</a>

Already, many have tried to piece together the story of what took place among us by passing along the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ original students. So after taking a close look into the whole thing from the beginning, I’ve decided to write the whole story down so that you, the God lover, can know how everything you’ve been told about really happened.

If the New Testament gospels were ordered by date, they would be:

  1. Mark (around 70 C.E.)
  2. Luke (between 80-85 C.E.)
  3. Matthew (around 90 C.E.)
  4. John (sometime after 100 C.E.)

As such, Luke is a second generation account of Jesus. And there are already other accounts out there. Conflicting accounts. And this is the next generation’s attempt at sorting it all out.

It’s something every generation has to do for itself. It has to take the often conflicting stories it has received from the previous generation and stitch them together into something that makes sense. Something that can provide a meaningful framework to carry on with life.

Some stories are restitched, others are cast off. Still others, which haven’t been told in years, are patched back in. The order gets rearranged, and the themes change. Which makes each generation’s telling unique and somewhat mystifying (and at times vexing) for the generations immediately before and after.

This Advent, if you’re inclined, here’s a spiritual exercise: Write your gospel.

Without looking at the ones in your Bible, open up a notebook (or a new document in your word processing program) and start writing the story of Jesus in your own words. From the beginning to the end. How it really happened. For you. Here are some things you may want to include:

  • Nativity. When was Jesus born (or, like Mark, when did he show up) and how?
  • Beginning the work. How did Jesus start doing what he was doing? Why? With whom?
  • What Jesus did. Where he went, and who did he meet? Whose lives did Jesus touch and how did he do it?
  • What Jesus said. What were his teachings? Who was he talking to?
  • Who were the characters. Who were the protagonists in this story? Who were the “bad guys”? And how can you tell the difference between them?
  • Name the issues. What were the bones of contention? How do they (or don’t they) get resolved?
  • Ending. How did it all end? And what is the meaning of crucifixion and resurrection?

Perhaps by Christmas you can present it to the world (or just keep it for yourself) the gospel according to you. But if that’s too fast a pace, take your time to do some deep thinking about it.

Tell you what: If you want to present it to the world, you can send it to me and I’ll publish it on line here at the Scarlet Letter Bible in 2012. Just drop me a line via the contact page and we’ll make the arrangements.

Be Thankful (Not Apprehensive)

mother and son
Photo credit: Tony Alter

Luke 7:11-17

Later on, Jesus went to Nain with his disciples and a large crowd in tow. As he neared the city gate a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. Another large crowd from the city was with her.

When Jesus saw her, he felt terrible for her, and said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went over and touched the gurney so that the pallbearers stopped. And he said, “Dude, get up.” And the dead man sat up and started talking. So Jesus returned him to his mother.

The crowds were struck with apprehension. They acknowledged God, saying things like: “A great truth-teller has come to us,” and “God has come to our rescue.” And this news about Jesus shot through the whole Judean region.

(Happy Thanksgiving!)

The point of this is not to prove the Jesus can raise the dead. The point is to prove that Jesus can restore a relationship. The key line: “So Jesus returned him to his mother.”

It requires his attention to both sides of the estranged relationship. Her sorrow. His inaction. She’s not as alone in the world as she thinks. He needs to take responsibility for himself.

But what the crowd (which includes most readers) sees, of course, is the raise the dead thing. So instead of being thankful and rejoicing, they are struck with apprehension. Instead of seeing an example to do likewise, they interpret it as a sign that they will be rescued from beyond.

But the life, and the rescue of society is in the relationships. So too, is the hope of renewing life and restoring community in the ability of each of us to do as Jesus did. To have compassion, and then to do something to rebuild broken relationships. Even those that seem hopelessly dead.

[Hint: If you really want to do this, it will take paying attention to both sides.]

[Oh, and did I say, this is tremendously great news. So don’t be so apprehensive about it. Happy Thanksgiving!]