I recently read The Wisdom of Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – A New Perspective on Christ and His Message by Cynthia Bourgeault (2011).
In this book, CB (an Episcopalian priest) takes us on a journey of understanding the life and work of Jesus in ways that challenge assumptions and traditionally held constructs.
My top takeaways:
· Jesus teaching and actions challenged almost every previously held conception of God’s perspective of humans and His intentions for us. Jesus was a rule breaker and an assumption challenger – across the board.
· The practice of Christianity is evolving. I have heartily accepted the ever-changing nature of this world and of humans, yet I have doggedly held to the belief that discipleship was somehow immune to the changes that time brings. Oops!
· New findings of ancient texts (e.g. Nag Hammadi) are adding greatly to our understandings of Christ.
· As the practice of the Christian faith spread after the Passion, it began to assimilate the worldviews of the various portions of the planet to which it crept. My western upbringing has insulated me from and/or biased me against other “conceptions” of Christian discipleship being practiced in other parts of the world.
· Jesus was more focused on how we should live than on the concept that His life and death was primarily meant as a sacrifice enacted primarily to “save” us. His message was not so much one of repentance but one of returning to right relationship with God.
· The parables of Jesus can be thought of as “spiritual hand grenades,” which Jesus used not to confirm but to uproot previously held conceptions of the faith walk.
· My binary view of God and Me (as two separate entities) should give way to the conception that it is WE (the two melded into one). That relationship is not about score keeping, but rather, about coexistence.
· There are many elements of The Passion of Christ that I have completely missed during my 50 years of faith walk.
· The wall between Life and Death is paper thin; both sides being permeated by Love.
· There are numerous faith practices – Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina, Chanting, Psalmody, etc. – used by disciples around the world to deepen their faith. All require a calming of the mind and a mental and physical slowing of pace. NOT my strong suit.
My favorite quotes:
“Whatever theological premises you may or may not choose to believe about Jesus, the primary task of a Christian is not to believe theological premises but to put on the mind of Christ.”
“He [Christ] surrounds, fills, holds together from top to bottom this human sphere in which we dwell…The entire cosmos has become his body, so to speak, and the blood flowing through it is his love…Jesus in his ascended state is not farther removed from human beings but more intimately connected with them.”
“You can either harden and brace defensively, or you can yield and soften internally…The first response will plunge you immediately into your small self, with its animal instincts and survival responses. The second will allow you to stay aligned with your heart, where the odds of a creative outcome are infinitely better.”
“Jesus never asked anyone to form a church, ordain priests, develop elaborate rituals and institutional cultures, and splinter into denominations. His two great requests were that we “love one another as I have loved you” and that we share bread and wine together as an open channel of that interabiding love.”
This book was a much needed mind (and spirit) bender for me. It caused me much reflection, and I suspect it will continue to.