Speaking of love, I was reading the sayings of Love himself the other day, The Words of Jesus, which is just out from Phyllis Tickle. The four Gospels pared back down to almost the bare words of Jesus, with the narrative removed, as his sayings were originally, before they were written down. Before they became the Gospels more or less as we know them today.
And between you and me, what a treasure trove the bit is at the beginning, before Phyllis lets Jesus rip. It’s called “Reflections on the Words of Jesus.” An introduction of sorts, but an introduction as you rarely get one. An introduction that. Well. Opens us up to some extraordinarily powerful observations from a remarkable and prodigiously faithful Christian.
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Phyllis for several years, and for those of you who haven’t had that grace bestowed upon you, let me say that you are sorely missing out on a dimension of what it means to be a faithful Christian. What a blessing she is!
But if you don’t know her, you still have the opportunity of being touched quite powerfully by her, if you read this introduction. Let me quote a few sentences so that you can get a feeling for what I’m talking about.
“Whatever Jesus of Nazareth was and is, He is not, and never has been, a systematic theologian. …we are inaccurate, if not arrogant and stupid, in thinking that consistency is necessary, let alone a necessary restriction upon God. More probably, it now seems to me, consistency is a consolation slavishly desired by those of us who are still caught within time and the confines of personal perception.”
“We have become lost in a wilderness of scholarship that forgot to bring faith and humility along for the trek.”
“It would seem, moreover, that there is a strong probability that all of it—healing, resurrecting, and bringing good news—is going to offend, drive away, or grieve many of those who hear Him or hear about Him. Together, they are to winnow out those who can dare the Kingdom from those who cannot.”
“Yet here, in a sizeable portion of His whole range of Sayings, is Jesus, Son of God, seeming to teach that outside of ‘now’ is ‘is.’ And after ‘now’ is done with us and we with it—as soon as space-time’s ‘now’ is passed through—everyone of us is.”
“…I had no ‘picture’ in my head for this offensive, yearning, intense Jesus. I had no image that would or could accommodate the now-obvious emphasis and definitions He placed on the end and the hereafter. A God burning to be fathomed and yet with so grizzly a message was not a Jesus I had ever seen before.”
There is more. Much more. Delightful, insightful stuff. Understandings that I would not have come to on my own and that shed powerful new light on Jesus and what he means. What he means to mean. What he means by love. And what his love means.