thoughts about Christ...

The other morning I was reading in the beginning of John, and the first thing it says about Christ's life on earth is sort of the beginning of his "public ministry" so to speak. It struck me again that the first miracle he performs is at a wedding where the host has run out of wine, so he finds the pots that had been set out for the Jewish ritual of purification, has them filled with water, and then tells the servant to take some to the headwaiter. The headwaiter tastes it and realizes it is wine. Now, this says a couple of things to me. First of all, Christ's first miracle is a very human thing. It's not super spiritual or holy or what we would really consider useful in any way. He saves the host of the wedding from humiliation at not being able to afford enough wine for his daughter's wedding. Only the servants knew what happened, as the headwaiter apparently just thought they had found some more wine or something. Also, Christ used the jars that had been set apart for a sacred ritual to make wine in. What this says to me, is that "sacred" is only a label we make up, in a sense. In other words, something we consider sacred is not too high and lofty to be used for something simple or worldly or what we would consider much less than sacred. These "sacred" vessels were not too holy to be used to fill with wine for a party. This may be reading too much into the passage, but I think I can apply that in my own life, in the sense that it changes my perspective on things - the sacred ritual or service is not necessarily more worthwhile or important than the simple pieces of being human. It's not necessarily less worthwhile either, but we have a tendency to view, for instance, a church service or a sacrament or whatever as a very holy and elevated and important thing (which it may be), but if it becomes too holy to touch humanity, then we have lost our perspective.

I also find it interesting that basically the next thing that happens after the wedding, is that Christ goes to Jerusalem, to the temple, and when he finds the people there making a profit from religion by selling the animals for offerings and changing money, he makes a whip, drives the livestock away, and overturns all the tables. As far as I can remember, this is one of the very few violent outbursts recorded from Christ, and it is in relation to people making profit by way of religion. Here is my first thought about why this was such a big deal. In terms of the Jewish religion, the sacrifices and offerings were the appointed way to make your relationship with God right again. Therefore, the intended point of those rituals was something very solemn and crucial. However, if you start, for instance, selling cattle, sheep, etc at the temple to be sacrificed - you subvert the meaning of the sacrifice. That is, the point for you is now at least partially diverted to making an income, and not simply restoring your relationship with God. In this way, I think that if you do anything in life with a secondary motive, the thing itself loses meaning to you. For example (one I've used before) - if I get into the coffee shop business partly to make coffee, but also to make profit and open more stores and spread and become popular, then the coffee will lose its importance to me, and I will sacrifice it for the profit and the stores and the spreading and the popularity. If I get into the music business partly to make music, but also to make a profit and to become popular and to be famous, eventually the music I make will become banal, formulated and just like everything else. I think Christ saw this and was outraged that people would subvert something so important, and also just saw the danger of this attitude in general. So, this warns me about making my relationship with God an enterprise of any kind, giving it any kind of secondary meaning or motive other than simply knowing and loving God. It also warns me against trying to manipulate others for my own gain by use of religion. And I see it as a pretty strong warning.

Ok, that's all for now :)

1 comment:

  1. I very much agree... secondary motives are so often the cause of problems even if they cause us to act in appropriate ways or do appropriate things.

    I think that some things are sacred in this world (like worship services and sacraments) but I agree that the importance is not somehow in the event itself but in our participation. The event itself is not transcendent -- it is we who transcend in the worship and experience real communion with Him.

    We shouldn't be there to somehow catch the rays of sacredness but for pure reasons: I John 4:19: We love him because he first loved us. Yea, it's sacred, but we're not worshiping because it's sacred, it's sacred because we're there worshiping.