Jesus the Christ

footprints

The drama and tension that runs through all the gospels is at their core the question of Jesus’ identity. Between John the Baptists, who proclaims the coming one, and Paul, who proclaims the meaning of the one who now has come, Jesus stands. Awash in the waters of the Jordan River, beyond its shores Jesus himself became the message swirling about the Mediterranean in the questions Paul’s converts raised about this Christ Paul asked them to follow. By a dramatic turn of events, Paul would call him Christ and range far wider than any of the evangelists in his proclamation of Jesus’ identity, the nearness of God and saving sovereign for all who believed in him. The gospels and Paul’s letters, read in tandem today can orchestrate for us the mosaic of Jesus’ life and person.

Rising out of the waters of the Jordan he became a magnet to those searching for a better way, a better day. But we do not have the physical presence of Jesus to draw us to him. What sensibility quiets the clamor that seems to reign today? How do we enkindle the flame so our hearts burn within us when we hear his voice, hear the stories he told retold to us today? This is no small challenge. Our desire must be great. Our imaginations open wide. Our searching hearts undaunted by the secular world’s hold, sway and pull on us. And yet we live in the midst of our world, the way in which Jesus lived in and moved about in his world, awash with its own profane and materialistic determinations.

Woven about the person of Jesus, like a shroud that had begun to unravel over the years, over the centuries, are stories and legends, the fact and fictions of his life. He became draped in the mantel of Israel’s hopes. Soon enough, those hopes dashed, he would wear the royal purple of Rome and then become the Roman Empire’s standard bearer, cooped by a king, to be a King.

His life is a mosaic of those who loved him, those who followed him, those who believed he was their savior. His life story was even shaped by those who feared him. But the voices of those whom he had touched won out. Those are the voices that remain to carry his story forward for future generations, for us.

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Journey with Jesus

footprints

From the moment of his conception, Jesus’ life is marked by many journeys. The first he makes inside his mother, when she goes to visit Elizabeth to share her good tidings.  At the end of Mary’s half-day’s walk to Zechariah’s house, it is John in his mother’s womb who first  acknowledges by his leap of joy the cousin for whom he will pave the path made of the expectant hopes of the Jewish people. The next journey Jesus makes is to Bethlehem, still safely ensconced within his mother, his father Joseph leading their donkey across the rocky wilderness to a census taking and his birth.  Throughout his life Jesus journeys toward each new horizon of being before him.  But the journey that was his long before he came into the world, is the journey the Hebrew nation made as they crossed the wilderness, on their way to becoming the people of God. It will be this journey that he carried within him as Jewish man marked on the margins of society where a second covenant, a new testament would begin.

As an adult he will come, confident, striding across the rocky landscape of Judea, intent on his destination, carrying with him the hopes of his people, bound at birth to free them, and thereby us all, in his one great act of dedication, living his life.

 Now Israel’s story of transformation would become the story of the transformation of God.  The God who would see Jesus driven into the wilderness by the same Spirit that blessed him, in order to  gather his scattered flock back to him once more.  In the events surrounding Jesus’ coming, the gypsy-god breaks through the laws of nature in order to take his future forward once more.

Jesus takes us on a journey to the very heart of being. Divine or human, god or man, priest or prophet, rabbi or carpenter, how we know him may be how we know ourselves. How we see – experience our own lives may be how we see him. Perhaps at some point our own lives begin to resonate with his story – where meaning and myth meet – where the scriptures live: in the resonance of that life with our own – a ringing true which helps us as we make our way – find its truth – and live our lives with meaning and significance. To forge an identity we can own and from which we can live an authentic life. He shows us a way to being authentic. For above all else…he was authentic…real in the realest sense of the word. Flesh, blood, tears sorrow, questions and crisis and the mounting question as he turns his face toward Jerusalem aside the donkey now himself. How we answer this question will be the measure of our becoming.

Who Do You Say That I Am?

rhizome  He came into this world with little more than a story, surrounding him like the swaddling wrapped about him at his birth. By then the news of his coming was already running rampant across the countryside. The stories taking on a life of their own. Told, retold, ancient memories coming to life in the darkness of Israel’s winter.

Reach back over the two thousand years of debris that cover his story, back over the institutionalization of the soul, ritualization, dogma, defense, legend and myth, to the words, the Word that became flesh in the story of his life.

Before his birth his people made their long journey across the wilderness forming a sacred identity. Israel’s journey changed her. The story of this journey informed the Hebrew nation as it unfolded over time. Over time the story was knit and reknit, a weave of many colors that would unravel and be reshaped again and again. Eventually it took on mythical proportions that no longer looked like the covenant woven by the Lord God of Israel. As Israel strayed farther and farther from the heart of her identity, the Lord God of Israel unraveled into a distant silence as well. The silence drove John mad, drove him into the wilderness. Irony of ironies. One Hebrew alone in the desert now.

Into this silence came the Word; the Word that created, the Word that led, the Word that shaped and formed Israel into Yahweh’s own. To start over? Not exactly. But to reknit, to restore, rekindle, the true faith of Israel.  He came made of the cloth of humanity, a man, who would carry within him the promise. By his life he touched the people with words, with healing and more importantly with his presence. He embodied the faith of Israel keeping the promise Yahweh made to Abraham, to extend that faith to all the nations of the world, even the gentile nations. And yet, he too would be misunderstood.  He would challenge the powers that be, both religious and political, and in the end, his mission could not be sustained. Undaunted, the Lord God of Israel, whom he called Abba, would not let misunderstanding or death defeat his plan for his people. His a promised kept.  And so one fine Monday morning, when all seemed lost, his friends, weary and sleepless from their own betrayal and bewilderment, saw him, walking beside them, tending a fire by the shore, beckoning a woman to rise, as if proving himself to them, yet again, reaching beyond the boundaries of nature in order to call forth meaning from the dark tomb of their ignorance. From this seed a faith sprang up around him, vestiges of himself, fumbling forward for two thousand years, a rhizome swept away in whatever current paradigm it found to pitch its tent, shifting, sifting, defending, wending its way across the wilderness once more.

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Dream On

  night sky  In St. Paul’s letters Christ is the images of a person human, whole and sacred. To live in Christ is to live in one’s depths, in one’s creative depths. To live In Christ is to activate the creative energies of the spirit. Then to  live within the Reality that is the Christ-self that Paul says ‘hides’ within us is to come into the environment of grace, the environments of the spirit of Christ. As we come to this awareness in our lives we are paying attention and enabling its growth within us. Jesus as the Christ is our image of the sacred self. The sacred self that we are. That we all have within us. We have only to tap into it in order to make its presence known in our lives. One place we find the sacred self in our dreams.

We have invented language, some say we have invented God, But we cannot invent our dreams. They invent us. Like the stars and moon, the sacred self, that becoming thing within us, shines out from our nightly dreams, pointing the way, with the promise of inner harmony, synthesis and integration. The Self has a passion for wholeness, inclusion. In dreams it gives inklings of what can be realized, a hope for that which is not yet seen: one’s true identity. By the promptings of the dreams, we embark upon the adventure of self-discovery and trust the leadings of the sacred self, both as guiding spirit and goal of our becoming. It is the task of each individual to become who one is meant to be. To discover oneself as both sacred and human, and shrink from neither. We do this with the resources bestowed upon creation, and forge into consciousness our unique identities in the world.

This is what is truly worship. A life devotion to the whole-making energies within us. Paying attention to the sacred self, the Christ-self, within. Writing or musing over one’s dreams is a way to enter into the dreams as the language of the soul. Just like the stories of the scriptures are the language of the soul; the way we read them today so that we might enter into the sacred ground. A devotion to the sacred self as it is ever emerging within us and as it comes into view before us. If we can but attune ourselves as it shows itself  in the world of nature and other people. We just need to be paying attention. It is a life worth worthy of all our attention.

 

 

Transformation – Revisioning Paul

      my-digital-pix-338.jpg   Throughout history the narratives of faith of all people are essentially journey narratives of identity and the transformation of those identities in the experience of the sacred.

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.