Mike’s note: This is part of a guest series by Alexander John Shaia, sharing his insights gleaned from a lifetime of studying (and living) personal transformation, closely based on his explosive book Heart and Mind. Want to meet him in person? Join Alexander, Mona Haydar, Jasmin Morrell, Bushi Yamato Damashii, myself and others at Wisdom Camp this July 12th! Details and registration here. In the meantime, enjoy this reflection!
An often-overlooked element in the composition of the four gospel texts is that each text intertwines two forms of eyewitness: the apostle Paul’s sense of the “present moment” informing accounts formed from historical remembrances. We might call a gospel text the holy embrace of Peter (historical eyewitness) with Paul (eternal eyewitness). It is an important corrective to the search for a more pure ‘historical’ Jesus to recall that Paul—the most effective evangelist of the first century—never saw the historical Jesus. Paul had a personal inner experience of Jesus the Christ that transformed his life.
It is precisely this experience outside of time or location that aids Paul in being the great evangelist. Paul’s proclamation is that anyone may have a direct experience of Jesus the Christ because the Christ is, quite simply, not located in any particular place or historical moment. Paul moves this new tradition forward by always focusing on a present-moment reality. And his reality is open to all people, beyond any tribe and across all time and space. Paul literally preached a message of Jesus the Christ “here” and “now.”
I believe that Paul’s impact is the most significant unrecognized factor in gospel interpretation. If we recognize Paul’s contribution and give it its proper importance, it follows why each of the four chosen gospels were the ones composed in those Christian communities where Paul lived and taught for a considerable period of time. Paul’s preaching of Jesus the Christ as a living here-and-now reality set the standard for Christian scripture and became an additional change agent that required a gospel to be far more than a recitation of sacred history.
Honoring this key of here and now, the gospel stories I retell inHeart and Mind are placed in present tense. Quoted scripture, however, has not been altered. As we continue this week, note your experience in reading Jesus’ words and actions as a present-moment reality.
Join us here tomorrow when we look at the next key! And please share your reflections in the comments below.
Alexander John Shaia, PhD, is a thoughtful and poetic man, living the ancient rhythms of his Lebanese and Aramaic heritage. With deep conviction, he invites us into a practice of spirituality (and Christianity) for the twenty-first century—one that crosses traditional boundaries, encourages vital thinking and inhabits a genuine community of the heart. As a spiritual director, educator, anthropologist, psychologist, ritualist and Sandplay therapist, Alexander is a holistic, cross-discipline visionary and passionate professional speaker. He founded The Journey of Quadratos, as well as the Blue Door Retreat in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Now he travels internationally, speaking, leading seminars and conducting retreats on Quadratos, the Four-Gospel Journey and Gateway to Oneness (The 72 Hours of Easter). Each autumn Alexander guides an intimate band of pilgrims on the Camino, the West’s most ancient path of transformation. He’s just released the updated edition of Heart and Mind: The Four-Gospel Journey for Radical Transformation, which this post is based on. See Quadratos.com for more about his work and offerings.