The Gospels, part 1: the mystical dimension
What they are and what they aren't
Imagine, if you will, that you are a member of one of the first-century communities of those who affirm Jesus of Nazareth as the “Anointed One” (“Messiah,” “Christ”), the Son of God. Not only that, but you are within that particular strand of tradition – only a matter of mere decades after your ekklesia (assembly) was established – that honors Peter and Paul as your two foundational apostles. Other communities of Christ-followers exist, possibly in the same region in which you dwell, who look to other apostolic founders. But your congregation looks to Rome, where Peter and Paul were both martyred. The mother community in Jerusalem has been scattered in the wake of catastrophic events there, so Rome’s churches have taken center stage. You have been baptized and initiated into the mysteries of union with Christ: you have, along with all your fellow disciples, “died” and been “raised” in baptism, and now you are living “in Christ” and he is living in you. You are part of his “body,” you are no longer part of this kosmos or this aion, and your true life is “hidden with Christ in God.” You breathe with his “Spirit” (“breath”) and are in a process of ongoing transfiguration that will reach its fulfillment in “the age to come.” You practice a discipline of prayer (including the ecstatic), share a sacred meal with your community, and are involved in acts of charity for the poor, the widowed, the sick, the orphans, and others. Above all, you live holding to the conviction that Jesus is alive and will be your merciful judge when the conclusion of this present age comes. Therefore, when your community shares again either the oral or written record of Jesus’ acts and words, you are heart and soul receptive to it. You are, in a sense, there; Jesus is speaking to his ekklesia directly once again, and so he is speaking directly to you. The Spirit quickens the story, and it isn’t only Jesus’ story, but as a member of his body, it’s also your story.