THIS AND THIS….FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW…….
Superman is invincible except for the little matter of kryptonite. Wonder Woman has her magic bracelets that deflect bullets. Batman has the cowl that protects his identity, the Bat Cave, the Batmobile and his sidekick Robin. The Wonder Twins have each other and the ability to change into any animal, vegetable or mineral that is needed to save the world. When we think about Jesus the Christ , we assign him superpowers as well.
Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, and proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor. He came to set the captives free, to cast out demons, and to save us from our sins. It seems a little offensive to lump Jesus in with the Saturday morning cartoons and the Justice League of America but our unexamined actions tell a different story.
We think so often as Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross, his giving up his life in that moment of eternal justification. What if that is a place we may be missing the point? Did Jesus live a daily life of sacrifice, giving up the things that other humans had? Did he give up the things that mark our humanness and can so easily be trusted? The things that Jesus seemed to live without are the things that can so easily be twisted into idols-money, sex and power.
We assume that Jesus traipsed through Galilee and Samaria like some sort of Robin Hood with his band of Merry Men. Yet perhaps we don’t see are all the private daily temptations. We only see the big ones at the beginning of his life and at the end. Since we don’t have the power to multiply loaves and fished or cast out demons, we think we can give up on following Jesus because we just don’t have the right stuff. Jesus had no permanent home, no wife, no children, no steady source of food and financial security Those are all the things that we think are important in life. It seems that we assume that Jesus was above all that. The sermon to the Hebrews tells us that we have a high priest tested in every way just as we are. The daily tests and trials were part of Jesus life also. How does that realization shift our paradigm of Christ incarnate, Christ made human, just like us?
It’s easy to dismiss Christ’s earthbound life as if he had some sort of secret superpower. He was the son of God so ultimately he didn’t need to work and worry and wonder. Yet I think that’s too simplistic. Jesus said he relied on God for everything: for power and his ability to do miracles, his very life. Jesus didn’t command the father, it was the other way around. Just like us.
Jesus incarnation, being among us human as we are, changed everything. The resurrection and ascension finished and sealed the work. Then, the question becomes: how does the reality of the incarnation change our lives today?
It means that we don’t go anywhere that Jesus hasn’t already been. Even in our technological world of email and cell phones, smart phones that are smarter than we are and a 24/7 work life, the way of Jesus has much to offer us. The rhythms of work and rest, the comfort and intimacy of relationships that make us whole and make us holy, the companionship with God and with each other all bubble up from that spring of living water.
The life of Jesus Christ: his conception, birth, life, death, resurrection and continued life are not a work of fiction or of artful wishful thinking. God’s justice, God’s shalom is wiser and more courageous than human justice. God alone is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of all that we are and all that we will be. We don’t need to hide behind masks, wear fancy jewelry or continually change to be what other people need and want. The superpower of life lived as a Jesus-follower comes from the grace that is Holy Love. It is the grace that calls us to a gentle and strong humanity. In partnership with Holy Love we don’t need to be anything that we are not and we have the opportunity to grow into more than we could ever ask or imagine.
Upper Room Disciplines 2014: God endows each of us with particular gifts and abilities and then tries to encourage and inspire us to develop and use those gifts. That rarely happens fully or without the distortion of human sin. Still, God calls us to particular tasks or endeavors in the service of love and mercy. God knows that there are no perfect humans to be found to accomplish holy purposes; so instead, God chooses people like us – people who are available…Neither does God always choose the firstborn, the rightful heir, the one with seniority, the obviously qualified. God does not allow human conventions or traditions to get in the way of God’s will. Seemingly, God does choose the person most able to accomplish God’s desires. (228)
Rokelle Lerner, Daily Affirmations: I will view all new situations as occasions for a richer life. I will value all people I come into contact with as teachers giving lessons in survival, speaking volumes in smiles and postures, carving whole histories in the creases of cupped hands….Today I trust and delight in my capacity for rejuvenation, and I shake off the fears and doubts that would drag me down. I will burst the confines of habit and stale routine and enter an arena alive with variety and diversity. I will feel expansion and joy in rejuvenation. (188)
Kelli: How are the two quotes above related? Often when God calls us to a task outside our comfort zone that seems to be serving someone else, God is resurrecting/rejuvenating/recreating our hearts at the very same time.
Thomas Merton: This morning, the indescribable magnificence of the dawn. Cirrus clouds on the horizon, first glowing with angry and subtle purple fire, then growing into a great mottled curtain of iridescent flame, of what color I don’t know. But off to the south, a pile of mottled grey with all kinds of delicate pink highlights in it, like some Oriental porcelain. St. Eucherius on that sunrise! “Think of how much more the splendor if the light will be for us in the future, if it shines upon us so brilliantly now. In what magnificent form will the light shine on eternal things, when it shines so beautifully now on what is passing away!” July 28, 1962, Journal IV. 234
Thomas Keating, Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit: The second fruit of the Spirit is JOY. Joy is an abiding sense of well-being based on the experience of a conscious relationship with God. It is the sign of liberation from the false self and the growing awareness of the true self. Flowing from joy comes the freedom to accept the present moment and its content without trying to change it. (italics mine) (18)
Kelli: In the changes and chances of this life (which seem a little overwhelming to many of us today), joy seems far off, some sort of cosmic joke. What I need is practice in what is italicized above – the freedom to accept the present moment and its content without trying to change it.
Sand Art image by Joe Castillo
It is thus the soul, starting from the opposite end makes the same journey that God made toward it. And that is the cross. Simone Weil, Bread and Wine, page 216
On Good Friday in the Christian liturgical year, we symbolically follow Jesus from his arrest to his crucifixion and burial along what is traditionally called the Via Dolorosa, the way of sorrow or suffering through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem. We watch from the safe vantage point separated by time and geography from the cruel and generative events of those days. If we will slip off our rose-colored glasses we will find that it isn’t just Jesus who is nailed there for all the world to see and scorn. As living disciples of Jesus, we too find ourselves nailed to the cross. Our journey into the kingdom of God takes a similar path though in a different direction.
We find ourselves nailed to the cross of our human broken-ness, crosses we have built for ourselves. We hang there, dying, bleeding, breathless. All that could have been we have turned into a mockery by our pitiful, pity-less striving. “Save yourself!” the people around us mockingly shout. We are helpless, doomed. We cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, save ourselves.
Yet, in that moment of choice of what we can possible do, salvation waits. We can choose to be numb and shuffle along with some outer semblance of living. Or, we can choose to die, to turn all of our selves over to the Creator who will breathe into us new life — resurrection life.
When we die to our agendas and to our illusions of power and control, we find our Friend meets us in the dark grave of hopelessness. It is there our new life begins. We still bear the marks of the nails and spear we inflicted on ourselves, or that this broken world inflicted upon us. Those scars will never leave us just as the scars were part of the resurrected body of the Christ. In God’s full healing, those wounds become the places though which Holy Love shines.
Our human journey with the Christ, as followers of Jesus, is walking the opposite way of the Via Dolorosa. It is the way Jesus walked to the cross. And our human path from the cross to communion, walking back to Christ, takes us in the opposite direction. We face the jury of peers in the religious and governmental structures of our day that would label us. We face the scrutiny of our culture as a modern day Pilate scornfully asks “What is truth?” doubting that there is such a thing and doubting even more that a disciple of Jesus Christ might actually possess it. The church of our time sits in judgment as well, against those who would move from legalism and fundamentalism to embrace the freedom of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We sit in the dark prison cells of our own fear and self-judgment. Those inner hyper-critical voices keep us locked up in shame and guilt from which we mistakenly believe there is no deliverance. Our spiritual journeys travel through our personal gardens of Gethsemane where we seek God’s face and discover our friends and companions bored and asleep at our darkest hour. We finally come to the acceptance of the cup God firmly places in our hand.
The end and the beginning of our spiritual journey is the home we find in the community gathered around the Lord’s Table in Eucharist – thanksgiving and celebration. Our life long seeking finds rest in the company of Jesus Christ himself and in the companionship of other Jesus followers.
In the regular practice of the sacrament of Holy Communion we find nourishment, strength and community. Our hearts, minds and bodies are realigned for the work that lies before us. Meeting at the Lord’s Table is a hallmark of the gathered and scattered church populated by disciples living resurrection lives.
One of the first steps in recovery from any kind of addiction is admitting we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable. That is true when the addiction is to alcohol, drugs or some sort of substance. It is our addiction to being in control of our own lives and worshiping at the altar of money, power, comfort and prestige that nail us to the cross of our own sinfulness. In that regard we are all powerless and our lives have become unmanageable. When we admit our powerlessness and die to our shakily built structures of power and control, we can know and live the truth. And the truth, in all its resurrection power, will set us free.
The preaching of peace by a remnant in an age of war and violence is one of the eschatological characteristics in the life of the Church. By this activity of the Church the work of God is mysteriously accomplished in the world. (Thomas Merton, 3/7/1964 Journal V, pg. 87)
As we walk though these days, how I long for the ‘healing of Easter”. (Thanks to Lib Campbell for that phrase). We are all spiritually broken. Life skews in us the capacity to give and receive the highest kind of love – that sacrificial love that wants God’s best for the other. So how do we clean the slate? How do we learn the ancient-future ways of loving and living that lead to peace?
First, we must surrender to God who is the author, creator, redeemer and sustain-er from whom we have been running – intentionally or unintentionally.
As in any kind of recovery, we learn to live one day at a time, one situation at a time. We give in to trusting God as we are growing to understand.
We look for the people of peace in our lives. People of peace can be, will be, in community/communion with us. We pray our way into being an extended family on mission, a group of people with a common focus and rule of life. Rules are not legalism but the responsibilities that walk hand in hand with relationship. Somewhere I read recently “relationship without responsibility is mere sentimentality, responsibility without relationship becomes mere legalism.” The healing of Easter means living in fruitful tension between relationship and responsibility.
Then we must actively look for ways to live out the mission: making disciples of Jesus Christ who make disciples of Jesus Christ. This is God-given creative work that has a rhythm of life and Holy Love at the center.
There is the white flag of surrender that becomes the tabula rasa, the clean slate, of new life. That surrender is not the end, it is the beginning of new life lived by being truly human, in relationship with God the way it was meant to be on the day of Creation.
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.
I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.
I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love. Galatians 5:1-6, The Message