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.

You Don’t Have to Be a Doctor to Be a Healer

Doctor makes patient wait 3 hoursMark 1:29-34

From church, they went straight home to Simon and Andrew’s house along with James and John. They told him that Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever. But when he came in, he took her by the hand and she got up, the fever gone, and began to serve them.

That evening, as the sun set, people started bringing their sick and deranged to the door – the whole city turned out – and he cured many with various illnesses and cast out many demons, but without allowing them to speak – they knew him.

Buried in the dustbins of theological research, in a 1985 issue (15:4, pp 142-50) of Biblical Theology Bulletin, there is a wonderful little paper by John J. Pilch: Healing in Mark: A Social Science Analysis. Pilch writes:

Jesus and all healers of that period could only perceive illnesses and not diseases…. Notice in each healing instance the almost total disregard of symptoms (something very essential to disease). Instead there is constant concern for meaning…. Jesus’ activity is best described etically as healing, not curing. He provides social meaning for the life problems resulting from sickness.

The wholeness of persons is essential to Jesus’ mission. Remember, in Jesus’ day and in ours, sickness is not so much what makes you sick, but about what makes you unable to participate in meaningful community. When you’ve got malignant cell growth you have a disease – call it cancer. When you are bedridden with cancer and no insurance coverage and are a financial and emotional burden on your family and neighbors, you are ill – and so is everyone else who is affected. When you have plaque that prevents adequate signal transmission between brain cells, you have a disease – call it Alzheimer’s. When you (without knowing what you’re doing) disrupt your family’s life and abuse your caregivers, its effects are demonic.

In both cases, it’s the second condition Jesus is addressing. He’s providing new conditions for those who were not able to participate in life to do so. The miracle is not in the suspension of the laws of nature – the demons already know and acknowledge Jesus. The miracle is in the rehabilitation of people who have no access to meaningful participation or self-determination.

Think about it. Doctors don’t get famous for curing diseases. You might say she’s a great doctor and recommend her to your friends if they have a similar complaint. But the doctors who are famous – the ones on TV, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Dr. Chopra – are addressing the larger issue of illnesses that are largely sociologically constructed and perpetuated.

Bonus: You don’t have to be in medicine to be a great healer. All you have to do, in whatever field you’re in, is address the larger issues that keep people from meaningful participation and self-determination.