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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Work and Jesus

One of the funniest things I've ever had happen in one of my classes was when I was making an argument that Jesus, looking from a purely pragmatic standpoint, really didn't do anything. I admitted he healed some folks, talked a lot, and made sure people got fed, but as far as we know he never really did anything. Did he cook? Build? (Some people assume Jesus was a carpenter because his Dad was one, but that's just an assumption. He could have also been a priest in the temple, as he seems to be in the Gospel of John, but that's just an assumption too.) But the gospels don't say Jesus did much of what we think of as "work."

Anyhow, one of my students (from Liberia, and this is not a trivial detail), went into some kind of stupor at the suggestion that Jesus didn't do anything. He was beyond flabergasted. I've had people look at me before as if I'm from another planet, but his look at me went intergalatic. I think, he said "You are crazy." (Which is probably also the truest thing a student has ever said of me.)

As you, loyal and gentle reader realize, I was playing off the idea of what constitutes "work" in our current society. "Work" has to have some kind of end-product, especially if remuneration requires billable hours. If there is nothing to show for, how is work done? So we strive to show our work (sort of like 7th grade math class) so that people know we "did" something. Since Jesus never wanted to show his work, and there is little record of him doing so, it is quite possible that he "did" nothing. That is my point.

And of course my Liberian student grew up in a world where you never had to show your work in order to prove you did something. Therefore, he could not understand in any appreciable way what I was hinting at, although he got the point better than some of my USA educated students. If "work" is defined only by what you produce that is verifiable or empirical or observable, then work can only kill you. But if "work" is defined in another way...well, you may just survive it. I think that's the work Jesus was trying to do.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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