So was his mother… (well partly at least)
I didn’t quite preach this last Sunday, but it was something similar, the following is pretty much the thinking behind it, albeit done after the event in true Primary/Secondary Theological fashion.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian may have been one of those films which invoked passions of loathing or loving from religious commentators and practitioners alike however, I think that Brian may have been right.
I’m pretty sure his mother was also right on one count at least, ‘He’s not the messiah’ but perhaps misguided on the second, ‘he’s a very naughty boy’. Putting his night of pre-marital passion aside, which comes directly before the immortal lines. He then addresses those who have been eagerly following him in the misguided assumption that he is either the messiah or has something worthwhile to say.
But perhaps Brian does have something worthwhile to say, not that those following him are ready to listen properly of course, they are just caught up in the hysteria of searching for a messiah, someone to rally behind who will destroy the Roman Empire and re-establish the kingdom of Israel. Brian says, ‘you’re all individuals’ to which the crowd responds as one voice, ‘Yes, we are all individuals’ completely ignoring the statement. Brian also says ‘You’ve got to work it out for yourselves’, again the crowd respond ‘(ex?)parrot fashion’. But perhaps Brian is right, we’ve got to work it out for ourselves.
The first people to experience the life, death and resurrection of Christ are long gone. Their testimony of those moments is lost to us through years of compounded theological building. During that experience they would have – knowingly or not had an experience which would have led to later theological development upon the experience. It was a moment of Primary Theology. Other experiences on top of these would have led to further moments of Primary Theology and the Secondary Theology – the articulating of the experience and its meaning to others in the form of discourse or written word, (most probably the former) – would have been compounded upon layers of Primary Theological experiences the articulation of which have been lost.
Therefore, Brian was right. ‘We’ve got to work it out for ourselves.’
We need to start with our own experience of where Christ is present to us, be it in bread and wine or other symbolic offering and move out from there remembering that others place greater or lesser importance upon the elemental constituents of what is offered. The point is that we should at the very least be able to agree that there is ‘presence’ as apposed to ‘absence’, a common point of departure as we share the ‘Bread of Life.’