Jesus Shows Us The Way

 

footprints

He is the first born. He is our hope. He is our way. He shows us how to live. He shows us how to die. He shows us that death is not the end. He shows we will live on. Changed. Transformed. He shows us how to be in relationship with God, others, the world. How to be at one with our fellow human beings. He shows us the meaning of friendship. Of solidarity. The meaning of true leadership. He shows us the power of story. That power is the ability to act for what is true. And he shows us the cost of freedom. The cost of speaking truth to power. Of not settling for the status quo. He shows us how to become vulnerable and shows us that this is the paradoxical path to intimacy. He shows us who our neighbor is. And how to live in community. He shows us how to be alone. He shows us how to be faithful to who we are. He shows us the value of human life, even in the face of death. And he shows us how to pray, to reach beyond ourselves. And trust that all he shows us is all that we too might become.

 

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The Christ-self

  brillant leaves    Autumn is a season of striking transformation. Unlike Spring which comes slowly, softly, tiny shoots rising up out of the earth, small green buds gradually come to bloom on the trees, autumn blazes across the landscape. Right now the Midwest is ablaze with change. The trees that rumble across the landscape in shades of green one day are a warm palette of reds, orange, yellows, rusts, purple, crimson the next. We drive across the countryside searching for the passion and blaze of this season, before all falls away into winter.

Whether landscape or mindscape, change is at the very heart of the natural world and of human life. The worlds turning tells us this with each new day, with each season, in each plant, species and amoeba. Down to the very last cell of DNA we possess within us the ability to grow, to change, and to become. In fact, it is human nature to be in an on-going state of becoming.

We have often heard the word transformation used in the word conversion. John the Baptist would use the word repent, by which he meant return. It was a return to the one true faith and God of Israel. Yahweh. The living God. His was the outspoken cry from the wilderness, beside the Jordan, where a sign of being transformed was emersion in the waters of the Jordan. For whatever reason it was John’s activities that caused Jesus to come from Nazareth to the river that day, where his life too would, by the gospel accounts, change as well.

Paul’s very first letter to the Thessalonians was a call to change, to be converted, transformed so that they might follow and serve the true and living God. It is in Ephesians that we find the heart, soul and core of his message to the infant church that he is guiding into being. Paul’s call to put on Christ, to live your lives in Christ, is summed up in the hidden self that he prays will grow strong within us. This hidden self is Christ. The Christ-self.

This Christ-self is the Christ that may live in our hearts through faith, and it is in our hearts that we will know the love of Christ, which Paul adds is beyond all knowledge, so that we become filled with the utter fullness of God. It is this Christ-self, the Christ-life within is Paul’s raison d’etre.

To grow, if you will, to become more and more aware of the Christ-self within. It is in Christ, in the Christ-self that we participate and become part of the life of God. In Christ’s love for us is the utter, absolute, complete life of the living God. We could also speak about the sacred self.

All theology is anthropology. Of necessity then, to speak a word about God, is to speak about the human person as well. It is to speak of the sacred in the human heart – by this Paul meant in the depths of our being. Paul’s call to live in Christ is shaped by the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. For Paul death, death with Christ, becomes the corridor to the fullness of being. A death that because we live in Christ, also means that we come to new life, transformed in him as well.

Autumn will give way to the sometimes dark and dreary days of winter. But in that winter, after the fall of the leaves, the dying out of the colors that so brilliantly blaze across the landscape today, will come, as the year itself dies away, a celebration of something that may be just a myth, but within that recurring myth, is the truth of the Christ coming upon the landscape of our waiting hearts.

Enamored in autumn’s brilliance is a promise. The promise of He who is ever new. The Christ-self as our abiding and permanent openness to God.

A New Way of Being

 IMG_1562       As Paul concludes his letter to the Colossians from his imprisonment in Rome, he wants to set the course, the way, to live a life fully as a Christian. Which means becoming fully human. In Christ he says we are something new. We are a new people, new persons.  Now there is a new way of being available to us. A new way of being ourselves. And this new way is something that can continually be renewed in the image of the Creator and through which we come to know God.  And I believe what this means is that we have within us the capacity to become fully human. Becoming fully human means knowing that we are also sacred.

What strikes me here as the full blossoming of spring is upon us is that our human nature is not static. We grow; we are constantly becoming ourselves, learning who we were created to be. Just as Jesus showed his followers, and us, most fully who he was at the resurrection. Because what Jesus taught and what he did by coming back to life is the pinnacle of the transformation process. In coming back to life he personalize and universalized the process of change inherent in human nature. Just as the Father Creator designed a world in which nature is continually in the process of change. Jesus’ resurrection is the authentication on his life. The renewal of his human nature into a sacred nature demonstrates fully for us what we too can become. Paul is saying that living in Christ makes this transformation possible for all who follow after. For all who put their faith in Jesus the Christ.

For all of Jesus’ teachings and sayings and his resurrection are about changing. Changing our hearts. Changing how we practice what we believe. Changing the way we live our lives. Changing our behavior, especially toward others, as Paul so often is telling his audience, who are meeting the challenge within themselves of living something new; and especially the challenge from without from those who criticize and disparage their new way of being.

Recall the many people who believed Jesus was just plain crazy. Even his family came at one point to take him home because they thought he’d lost it. Probably they did not want to see happen to him what eventually did happen to him because his voice was being heard very openly, very publically.

Wisely, Paul did not set out a program for what it means to be more fully human. Rather it is a way of living. This is the secret self that is ours to discover and become. It is the way we come to know ourselves and to know God.  Self-knowledge is God-knowledge. Even in 1st century Palestine, without psychological gurus and spiritual mentors, without all the advances we have made in understanding what it means to be human, Paul understood that we are continually renewable human beings and have within us the capacity to become the persons we were created to be. This is a sacred trust. The secret and reality of Christ that he writes about. He knew this, not in any school, but in his experience of the risen Jesus. In faith it is this experience that is possible for us as well.

And like the Creator God who keeps this world in motion and more especially breathes into us the god-life at each moment of each day, we too are ever advancing within ourselves in what it means to be a uniquely created person, myself. To be human, to be sacred, to be meant. For each of us it is the secret of who we are that only we and God know, that only we can discover and grow. The eternal Spring, the ever blooming garden of the Self.

The next Post will explore what Paul has to say about how we come to this fully renewable human nature.

 

The Gypsy-God

Have you ever spoken to someone who thought it was incomprehensible that someone would die as Jesus did for others? We, who have been born into the Christian faith, take this, I think, as a given, for granted, without question. But there are times when I myself look at this wonder did it have to be that way? Surely, God being God, what God did in Jesus could have been accomplished without Jesus having to die, and die as he did?

It goes back to the image of tent that was yesterday’s topic. It’s about the God who pitches his tent among us. The God who signifies himself as a tent-dweller, journeying with his people as they made their trek through the wilderness. The Son too, who St. John says is the Word become flesh, the still living God, pitches his tent among us. In Jesus God continues to dwell in a tent, to journey, to suffer and die AND bring us back to life.

God is saying to us in Jesus, in the Word that become flesh, Jesus shows us the way. The way in this too; because it is the way of all flesh. Jesus’ way of dying precedes his rising, his coming back to us. The living God’s Yes in the face of humanities worst, in the face of death’s no.

He is the God of All Things, good and bad. And the badest is death. In Jesus’ death God is saying “I got this.”

Death changes everything. Jesus’ death was very human, very public and got a lot of people’s attention. But his reappearance in three days got even more. In fact his reappearance, changed the way people thought of his death. It changed the way they thought of life and living. It changes us. It changed the Western world.

Jesus’s death then was the beginning. Not the beginning of the end. But the beginning of a new way of life. Life reinstated. Life rethought. Life relived. A new way of being. A new way of becoming.

God is saying Stay tuned. This is only the beginning, the beginning of the next stage of a journey that began long ago, when I too was a wandering, tent-dweller. I made my home with you then, saved and kept you for myself. In Yeshua I continue to love, to care, to save, to go with you. He too saved you from death, saved you for life. I have saved you for myself. He changed water into wine. I change death into life. Because I not only got this, I got you.