Friday, February 15, 2013

Cruiseship Faith

It's easy to throw stones at people when things are going wrong.  If we're not happy, no one's going to be happy.  So, it doesn't surprise any of us that passengers enjoying a floating vacation became irate when the boat went dead in the water.  No more buffet.  No more ports of call.  No more entertainment.  Not even a working toilet.  These are not the things that make for an enjoyable, well-deserved holiday.  You pay good money and expect to be treated like royality for a few days at sea.  They have good food in a fancy dining room always waiting for you.  They turn down your bed and make strange animals out of towels, leaving a mint on your pillow.  They spoil you into believing that this is the way life should be.  In fact, if you've ever been on a cruise, you know the common refrain of passengers on the day of disembarking is, "Back to life.  Back to reality."

In the midst of this "American tragedy" that received headline coverage, I said to my wife, "Their insufferable condition is similar to daily life of the third world.  In fact, most people of the majority world would find life on a cruise ship without power a step up, a better life, perhaps even a vacation."  And then it hit me.  I talk a lot about following Jesus.  But, I don't think I could follow him if I lived in the squallor of New Testament times (not to mention the daily life of most Christians of the majority world).  This is not a self-imposed guilt trip.  This is not an attempt to throw stones at our American way of life.  This is gut-level, honest assessment.  I couldn't have followed Jesus in his day.

Think of all the walking.  Miles and miles and miles (wouldn't you be tempted to cry out in saracastic tones, "are we there yet?").  Think of sleeping without a mattress, often out in the "wild," without showers and toilets and extra change of clothes (often, when I take a refreshing hot shower in the morning, I think to myself, "Jesus never experienced this").  Think of living on week-old bread and pickled fish.  Think of endless days, sleepless nights.  Think of all the dreadful odors--sweaty people, stinky handmade latrines, rotting flesh of lepers and smelly, diseased persons with oozing wounds and horrible dysentery.

Yeah, I know it would be exciting to see all the miracles and what not.  But, I'm not sure that would be enough to keep me going.  Honestly, after a while--knees and feet aching from all the walking, no place to call home, nothing of what we call "the creaturely comforts"--I would pack it in.  Go home.  Following Jesus back then would be too tough for me.

In fact, I would also find it rather difficult to follow Jesus on a dead-in-the-water cruiseship.  I probably would have been miserable, constantly grumbling to myself about the horrible conditions, never even giving it a second thought that the great majority of the world's population deal with far worse every day.  Every day.  Every day.  Every.  Day.

I'm grateful to God that I get to follow Jesus in America because we have warm beds and hot food, handy transportation and working toilets, and the prospect of taking a vacation from the daily pressures of life on a cruise ship.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

"The Flash" of Inspiration

As a few of you know, my partners in crime (David Capes and Randy Richards) and I are working on a new writing project, "Rediscovering Jesus" (IVP).  We're trying to offer a perspectival view of Jesus in two parts, canonical and non-canonical.  We're currently writing part one, the canonical Jesus, taking a descriptive approach to each biblical author's take on Jesus.  At the moment, I'm reading/thinking about the Apocalyptic Jesus in the Revelation of John, toying with the problem:  how do I begin to explain why this Jesus is so different from the other "Jesuses" in the New Testament?  Then it hit me:  Jesus is a cartoon character in the Apocalypse and the Revelation is the first comic book.

I like the implications.  What do you think?