The story of Israel is one long journey narrative, the journey to a transformed identity, a changed understanding of a God who journeyed right along with them, shaping, changing who they were and whose they were. And that story continues in the gospel narratives.
In one of the opening scenes of St. John’s gospel, Jesus changes water into wine. After John’s beautiful poetic Prologue and the challenges to both John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ identity, there is a transformation. It may seem that it is a miracle story bolstering Jesus’ identity, but it is John’s way of signaling that what follows is going to be a gospel narrative about change and transformation.
Luke’s gospel begins with the infancy narrative. The birth of Jesus. Again, Luke is making sure that his audience knows that Jesus was born in the city of David and is in direct line to Israel’s first shepherd-king. We all know that the birth of a child is a life changing event. The birth of this particular child would be a world-changing event.
Paul’s first letter was to the Thessalonians who he said at the beginning of the letter had been ‘converted’, change so that they might follow and serve the real, living God.
There is only one transformation in the New Testament that is greater than Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road. His was a most radical transformation of a person. From persecutor to champion of Jesus Christ. He tells he had the experience of the risen Lord. It is this risen Lord, this Jesus of Nazareth that changed everyone he touched and came into contact with.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is a gospel of transformation. And at the heart of all his letters is transformation. Not as an idea, a doctrine, a set of tenants, decrees, laws, regulations or rituals. But as a lived experience. The lived experience of the risen Christ, the Christ-self within and available to each of us.
It would be Jesus’ transformation from death to life, the resurrection that would be the great transformation, the transformation that is at the heart of all transformation. One that Paul says we too can and do take part in.
So, the whole of our sacred writings, both Testaments, have one thrust. The radical alteration of human life. The transformation of what it means to be human. And the impetus and center, the energy of the spirit driving this change, is the Christ-self. Paul’s ‘hidden self’. The Self that is a possibility within those whose lives are lived in Christ.
It is the Christ-Self within us that the gospels and Paul’s letters are trying to bring us to awareness, the sure knowledge and lived experience of how we may – where we may – participate in the life of God.
The Christ-Self as the lived experience of the sacred. Of our sacred humanity. A sacred humanity that in Christ opens everyone to its possibility. The possibility of that which can become itself in God.