Monday, November 13, 2006

Jesus the Word Artist

Jesus didn't shy away from giving people mind cramps.

Jesus wasn't afraid of being misunderstood.

Jesus lived in our reality, yet spoke from a different realm altogether; a realm that deepened the meanings of ordinary words.

Jesus was a masterful word artist. He was a brilliant conversationalist who could inject an ordinary term with mind-boggling or mind-cramping power.

With Nicodemas in John 3 it was the phrase "born again." Nicodemas does a mental double-take and asks dumbfoundedly "How...?" With the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, it was the term "water." With baffled curiosity the woman asked for the living water but wasn't sure Jesus could give it to her since he had nothing with which to draw that water.

Back in John 2 Jesus used the word "temple" with his new definition to the bewilderment of some very upset Jewish authorities.

Why do we evangelicals have this slavish penchant to be correctly understood and to make sure the minds of our listeners are always at ease? Why don't we dare to speak ordinary words filled with other world, kingdom of God, meaning? Why is Webster's (or whatever) dictionary our source for definitions and not the creative Jesus and his new world of meanings?

I anticipate the objection: But does this not make language too slippery? Are we going to fill a word with whatever meaning we want? To these questions I simply ask, Did Jesus do that? He was creative, not willy-nilly.

Jesus was an intriguing artist, not a ponderous exegete. He believed in a deeper, truer realm; lived from it and invited others into it. He used mind-cramping words at times to do it. His vocabulary while current and earthy nevertheless had a "...and beyond" dimension.

Our house church, exploring and playing with Jesus' word artistry, experimented with putting kingdom definitions into ordinary words. It was our attempt at exploring another way "to be like Jesus." We felt like amateurs. Like kids. Like we were starting from scratch. Born again.

11 Comments:

At 11/14/2006 11:24 PM, Blogger Dr. D said...

Oh my, you have said so much here, and it is truly great - BORN - opposite is, unborn, still being formed. -AGAIN- where repentance hits the wheel of real. I confess that there is sin in my life, I'm certainly not proud of it, but who am I to worry about the lil nick of sawdust in your eye when I've got a log in my own? My, my- we have a long ways to go, and, truth be told, a short time to get there. Preach on John people need to hear about Jesus.

 
At 11/15/2006 1:08 AM, Anonymous Ted Gossard said...

Excellent, powerful, potent stuff here, John. You've got the good stuff, I can see! When can I come over and smoke some of it?

Great insight here. The kind that can be liberating to us and all those around us, for a start. Thanks, brother.

 
At 11/15/2006 4:11 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

dr.d,
Thanks for the good words. I like your expression of BORN AGAIN. It has a lot in it.

 
At 11/15/2006 4:13 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Ted,
Sssmooookin'! Come on over. Jesus is indeed the liberator. I'm smokin' Jesus. :)

 
At 11/15/2006 10:54 AM, Anonymous Susan said...

John,
This interfaces so well with some things I'm working on currently about language and worship; I'm grateful for your insightful observations here. I will be working on a project this summer (which I hope to introduce in the Fall ) that has to do with encouraging and equipping worshippers to be artistic with the language they use in dialogue with God. There is much to learn from the Master artist Himself!

 
At 11/15/2006 11:05 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Susan,
I would like to read your paper (or whatever it is) about this subject. Undoubtedly Jesus was a poet and an incredible artist with words.

 
At 11/15/2006 4:52 PM, Anonymous Susan said...

John,
I'll send a copy your way when its done. Won't be till about August, though. It will be 8 sessions designed for use in a spiritual formation setting.

 
At 11/16/2006 9:29 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Susan,
Cool! I'll anticipate receiving them.

 
At 11/16/2006 6:15 PM, Blogger Dr. D said...

John I am deeply honored to have you say that to me about something I've penned- your book has blessed my life - Jesus has gifted you with a unique talent to see Him as few can. Thank You for considering, teaching, and helping disciple us. Let us pray- Father in all we do this day, with what you have given us the opportunity to have, may we serve, may we strive, may we listen - to hear you in our life, to feel and experience you in our souls and to walk with fresh wonder through this abundant life you have provided for us. May your love inhabit our lives to the extent that others won't see us at all, but you Jesus, as you work through us, truly, making this world a new and ever more joyful experience; thank you for giving Matt the truth of what it's all about- it's all about you Jesus, it's all about you.-In Suus Muneris -Amen

 
At 11/17/2006 7:04 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

dr. d,

It is you who has honored me. Your comments about the book confirm that God is still answering my prayers. May you, too, know the blessed presence of Jesus today and the deep joy of following him.
I'm grateful to be your brother.

 
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