The Sacred “And”

The Creation of Adam [Humanity], Michelangelo, segment of The Sistine Chapel, c. 1512
The Creation of Adam [Humanity], Michelangelo, segment of The Sistine Chapel, c. 1512
This Week’s Lectionary Passage:  2 Corinthians 5: 16-21

16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Paul starts right off acknowledging Jesus as both divine and human.  That in and of itself is hard for us.  I mean, we like the idea of Jesus coming and walking around in our midst, giving us a much clearer way of understanding what it is we’re supposed to be about.  We like the idea of what sometimes seems to us to be a sort of “semi-human” leading us around and in some satisfactory way “proving” to us that God really does exist.  We like the idea of having someone to emulate.  But, see, Jesus is not a textbook or proof of God’s existence or even a super-hero that we can aspire to be like.  Jesus is fully human, that fully-developed image of the Godself in which we were all created.  Jesus came not to start a religion or even a belief system; Jesus came into our midst, Emmanuel, God With Us, that we might, finally, become human.

But in order to be fully human, in order to become this New Creation about which Paul writes, we have to let go, have to open ourselves to the Divine pouring into us, filling us.  The New Creation is not a denial of humanity.  The coming of God’s Kingdom into our being does not mean that we will become Divine; it means, rather that God’s Spirit, the essence of the Divine will pour into our lives and make us fully human.  St. Athanasius of Alexandria (4th century) supposedly claimed that “Christ became human that we might become divine.”  Now that used to bug me a bit.  It even bugs me when someone refers to another person (or themself!) as “godly”.  I don’t think of myself or anyone else as “like God”.  I actually believe that God pretty much has a monopoly on that way of being.  And yet, if Jesus had NOT come as human, as one of us, then God’s Spirit, the essence of the Divine, would have remained pretty removed and unapproachable for our limited capabilities.  Perhaps Jesus came as human to show us how to open ourselves to the Divine, how to leave room for this pouring in of the sacred and the holy into our lives, how to relate to a God that was never really removed and unapproachable at all. 

The statement says that Jesus came as fully human and fully divine.  The two cannot be separated; otherwise, humanity is removed from God and the Divine remains aloof and inaccessible.  But together, intertwined, eternally connected with a sacred “and”, we become fully human.  We become the one that God created us to be.  We become a new creation, reconciled to God.  We become righteousness, become sacredness, become the essence of God’s Spirit.

So in this Lenten season, be fully human.  Open yourselves to the Spirit of the Divine pouring into your life.  Embrace the sacred “and” of you and God together, Emmanuel, God With Us. 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Whose Deeds and Dreams Were One

We live in a society that separates.  So much of our language is based more on notions of “either / or” rather than “and”.  We talk about either “this” political party or “that” political party, either “conservatives” or “liberals”.  We talk about either “this” way of doing religion or “that” way of doing religion (and I guess, that, too, is somewhat loosely based on “conservatives” or “liberals”).  We talk about either the “haves” or the “have-nots”, the “legals” or the “illegals”, the “rich” or the “poor”.  And through it all, we talk about the “secular” and the “sacred”, the “things of this world” and “the things of God”, the “human” and the “Divine”.

And, yet, we are told that Jesus came into our midst, both human and divine.  There was no separation; rather there was a gathering of all into the Kingdom of God.  This holy gathering is a new creation unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.  And, yet, we are determined to keep it apart.  We are determined to separate ourselves from each other, compartmentalizing our lives and drawing boundaries through our world, through our neighborhoods, and even through ourselves.

God does not call us to be someone that we are not.  We are human, always and forever human.  But until humanity becomes human unity, we are lost.  And so we search for something that we know God can show us.  We search for an eternity or a heaven or whatever you want to call it “out there” when our eternity waits for us here.  God came into our midst, both human and Divine, that the two might come together, that what we do and who we are will join.

Ever Sunday morning, we profess that we believe in the holy catholic church.  We are professing that we believe and indeed that we desire unity, a universal church not created out of sameness or conformity but out of love and respect for each other and for every part of the world around us.  Both diversity and unity live together in this new Creation.  It is a place of “both-and” rather than “either-or”.  It means being part of a world that strives to live in unity.  But it also means recognizing that sometimes we’ll have to live with a little bit of tension as we try to work differences through.  I am clear, though, that even in the midst of those tensions, God is there, walare called to king us through it.  God doesn’t cram anything down our throats and I don’t think we’re supposed to do that to other people either.  William Sloan Coffin claimed that “diversity may be both the hardest thing to live with and the most dangerous thing to be without.”  I think he was right.  Because you see, that diversity is part of this new Creation.  It is part of what is calling us to grow and change and become more like Christ with each step we take.  And when we allow ourselves the opportunity to experience and share our diversity and perhaps even learn from it a little, we gain an experience of God that is unlike anything that we could have gained on our own.

In this Season of Lent, we are called to recognize those things in our lives that are not Christlike, that are not the way that God calls us to be.  It is our calling to reflect on those things that make us less than human.  Jesus walked this earth as a human to show us how to be human, to show us how to bring together who we are with what God calls us to be.

Dear Jesus, in whose life I see all that I would, but fail to be,
let thy clear light forever shine, to shame and guide this life of mine.
Though what I dream and what I do in my weak days are always two,
help me, oppressed by things undone, O thou whose deeds and dreams were one!

John Hunter, 1889, The United Methodist Hymnal, # 468
So, continuing with our act of giving up so that we can take on, identify those areas of your life that are divided, and give up that division.  How can you reconcile those things in your life into a more perfect and holy union? 
Grace and Peace on this Lenten Journey,

Shelli

Sorry, this is actually the post that should have happened yesterday, so I guess you’ll get two today!