Two Competing Mythic Stories

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 12.19.17 PMTwo stories represent Christianity — the story of the human Yeshua totally immersed in God and the story of the divine Jesus, Son of God, Savior of the world. Both are myths. We must choose.

[Image: “Creative Commons Myth EDK BA VTS” by Jason Taellious is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

1 Corinthians 2:14-16

14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. (NRSV)   16 Incredible as it may sound, we who are spiritual have the very thoughts of Christ! (JB Phillips)

[Scripture quotationS from: New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.  and  J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins.)

Two Myths

Rational literalism does us no favors when it comes to understanding matters of religion, spirituality, and faith. The literalism of fundamentalistic theists and evangelistic atheists alike serve as a bottleneck to learning and understanding.

Unless we engage the language of symbolism, metaphor, poetry, story, and myth we will not understand our religious (spiritual) experiences. And, yes, even atheists have spiritual experiences (awe encountering a sunset or holding a newborn baby), though the atheist would likely provide a naturalistical understanding of the experience. And that’s O.K.

Religious experiences arise out of the collective unconscious, drawing upon mythic stories (Jung calls them archetypes*) to  help us understand. The truth is, we never fully understand. The best I can do is to own those inner experiences and add them to my mythic story. Richard Rohr writes, “After radical conversion, after you have once fallen through the ego and into the collective unconscious, the whole world starts becoming symbolic.”

We are dependent upon myth as we engage the experiences of the inner self. Walter Wink has suggested that within Christianity “two [mythic] stories survive, like one painting painted over another.” [The Human Being, p. 143] The first layer of the painting (the story underneath) is the myth of the human Yeshua* exploring total immersion into God. The top layer (the story superimposed upon the first) is that of the divine Jesus, Son of God, Savior. Both are myths; but too large a portion of Christianity assumes that the overlaid story is historical and factual. That assumption tends to rob the story’s mythic nature of its power to take root in the inner recesses of human experience. Instead of being transformed inwardly, believers await something coming from the outside to transform them. That something is usually projected (in the popular mind) onto a heavenly after-life existence.

The basic truth is that each of us is free to choose the myth, (the story) by which we will live. Yeshua* was right (Mark 10:25 and its parallels) that when we build up comfort and ease in our lives (symbolically, being rich), it is far more difficult to engage inner truth (go through the eye of the needle) than when we connect our story with the story of the truly Human Being (Son of Man). Symbolically, to live one’s life without the props of religious, political, social, or financial domination* systems is to be poor.  Such poverty is the door that opens one to the mythic story that is beneath the overlay of the church’s domination* system.

Presence

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The divine mystery, the Presence, can’t be bottled up. It is part of the normalcy of life.

Psalm 114:7       Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob (NRSV)

[Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

[Image: “Creative Commons Presence not absence” by Kevin Shorter is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

“The name of infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about Him.”      –Paul Tillich, The Shaking of The Foundations

In the midst of life there is a power, a force, a dynamic, a Presence. Some call it God, or Spirit, or mystery; others, Creator or Creation or serendipitous creativity.  Some have rejected all attempts to describe that which is given the name “God,” claiming the appellation ‘atheist.’ The simple atheist does not believe in God. The evangelistic atheist  resists every attempt to describe a presence that is given the name “God.”  In contradistinction to the atheists, those who call that dynamic Presence God have built religious systems to protect their beliefs and practices. Ironically, over the long course of history, many of those beliefs and practices work against the dynamism of the Presence. They go all out to protect the particularity of their beliefs and practices. They bottle up Presence, trying to prevent it from getting out of hand. They might just as well attempt to carry fire in a paper bag.

The divine mystery, the Presence, can’t be bottled up. It is part of the normalcy of life. It can no more be domesticated than the will to live. However, when Presence nudges and nags by dint of an unheard inner voice calling us to live life to the full, in solidarity with the least, last, lost, and left out… then we become the fire burning away at the non-necessities of our living, the wind blowing in change to our perceptions of the world, the refreshing living water that quenches thirsts…  then we become the presence of the Presence.

Theology by Assumption

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Have we listened to Yeshua any differently from the Israelite High Priest,  Sanhedrin, or Pontius Pilate? Or has our view of Yeshua been dependent more upon the assumptions of what we want him to be, rather than what he himself said he was?

Mark 14:53-62          53 They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. 54 Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. 56 For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. 57 Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 But even on this point their testimony did not agree. 60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?”61 But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’” (NRSV)

[Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

[Image: © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC-BY-SA-3.0]

Listening Carefully to Mark 14:53-62

Yeshua* was taken to the Sanhedrin, which was acting like a grand jury — trying to find a charge that would stick when they presented Yeshua* to Pilate for trial. All kinds of witnesses came with false testimony, but nothing that would be determinative. Much of the testimony of the witnesses showed internal disagreements. And most of it, even if true, would not provide the Sanhedrin with the charge of a capital offense worthy of the death penalty. The high priest then turned to Yeshua*, “You have heard the testimony, what do you have to say for yourself?” Yeshua* remained silent. Finally, in desperation, the high priest asked the only question that could lead to a charge of high treason, “Are you the Messiah?” Yeshua* responded to this question, “I am the truly Human Being* [Son of Man*] who brings to you the only Power that truly counts — the power to be fully Human, to integrate darkness and light within the Self, to become whole, to move toward integrity, to be genuinely compassionate and just, to be intimately connected with the inner God-process. Such power brings heaven to earth and clouds the vision of those whose security is the Domination* System. The blessing of the Human Being* [Son of the Blessed One] is genuine vision for the hearts and minds of the people whose lives have been marginalized by the political, social, financial, and religious Domination* Systems.”

The high priest assumed this meant “Yes” — that is, that Yeshua* was claiming to be the Messiah, filling all the hopes of Israel. When presented with the Sanhedrin’s case against Yeshua*, Pilate assumed that this meant “Yes” — Yeshua* was claiming to be the “King of the Jews” (high treason, indeed!). The church in its subsequent historical and theological development has assumed that this meant “Yes” — proof that Yeshua* is the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world (that is, the divine Messiah). And we all know what happens when we assume.

The radical nature of Yeshua’s teachings — that we all can have access to the dynamic messianic* power that was available to him — was too much for the Sanhedrin, too much for the Romans, too much for the church. So… we have projected upon him our desire to be saved from meaninglessness. We want Yeshua* (and God) to do for us what he taught that we can do for ourselves.

Who? Me?!

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 8.50.20 PMIsaiah 61:1-4       1 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

[Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

[Image: “Creative Commons Beauty in character” by Mary Hutchison is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

A Dialogue with Isaiah 61:1-4 

Who? Me?
Sure, I’ve paid attention to the insistence
I’ve heard the call
I’ve been ordained
I’ve become one of the long robes…

But I am more comfortable
when this passage is applied
to Israel — as Suffering Servant
to Yeshua* — as Messiah
as an ideal of what could be…

When I take the words of Yeshua* seriously
when I take the words of Yeshua* purposefully
when I take the words of Yeshua* intentionally
then I begin to shudder and tremble

There is no Messiah for whom to wait
No Messiah to “fix it,” to fix me
No Messiah to make sure it comes out right.

There is only that messianic* urge that inheres in each of us
There is only that insistence
That speaks silently within
There is only an invitation that is a call to action
There is only the vocation of the wounded healer…

No, I can’t foist it off on to Yeshua*…
to “Jesus. who is the Christ,
who is the Son of God
who takes away the sins of the world.”

Those days were easier — even if they didn’t quite ring true! —
easier to palm off responsibility to the Great Wonder Worker in the sky…

But the words of Yeshua* haunt me
a specter
a presence
that won’t let me go

“The Kingdom of God* is inside you and among you;
don’t go chasing after apparitions after spooks and ghosts…
Look within!”

The only messiah that is going to act is us!
and I am a part of ‘us.’
The words of Isaiah 61:1-4 are not a prediction or prophecy;
they are an invitation to responsibility
an insistence toward moral obligation
a call to compassion…

Those words invite me
insist on me
call me.

Now, about the oppressed, broken-hearted, captive, imprisoned, mourners, faint of spirit — connect with them; help them find resources; provide them with affirmation and support; show them compassion; learn from them; let them be there for you as you try to be there for them. That is the glory the comes in the name of God. Perhaps*. That is the planting that will produce oaks of righteousness, the salvation of many generations

In God’s Reckoning

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 3.33.20 PMJames 2:1-17 (passim)         1 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? …  5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. … 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (NRSV)

[Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

[Image: “Creative Commons Faith without works…” by Maria Reyes-McDavis is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Listening Carefully to James 2:1-17

All attempts to please vanity (especially in the church) are unmasked for what they truly are — namely the kind of selfishness and malicious behaviors that are the cornerstone of the domination systems of this world. Conversely, the God-process gives preference to the poor, opening to them citizenship in the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice. Pay attention! Who causes you more distress — the poor or the purveyors of privilege? Which of those groups are more likely to be your neighbors? While you may have to live in the same city as those who consider social status and station to be pre-eminent and those who twist the rules, regulations, and laws to serve their own personal needs, you cannot show partiality and favoritism toward them. Love, mercy, and compassion trump prejudice and judgment every time — every time, that is, in God’s reckoning. So put your faith to work — actually what you do is a valid demonstration of what you trust. Provide food for the hungry; give shelter to the homeless; connect with those who lack much so that you might determine how to help them find what they need. Actions of these kinds will demonstrate that your trust is with God in you. Otherwise, your faith is defunct.

Baptized — the New Human Being

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 3.10.41 PMMark 1:9          And it happened in those days (that) Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and he was baptized into the Jordan by John.

[Translation by Herman Waetjen, A Reordering of Power: A Socio-Politcal Reading of Mark’s Gospel (Fotress Press, 1989) page 27]

[Image: “Creative Commons Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John by Davezelenka is licensed under CC BY Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported]

What Happened At Yeshua’s Baptism? Why Does It Matter?

Mark’s Gospel account records that the Jews came to be baptized by John in the Jordan. The actual preposition changes (from “in” to “into”) when Mark describes Yeshua’s baptism. What can it mean that Yeshua was baptized into the Jordan, while the other Jews were baptized in the Jordan?

I suspect that the Jews (including Yeshua) came to John out of a mixture of curiosity, obedience, and expectation but (as Waetjen explains) most of them probably were holding back a large part of their egos. They submitted to the baptism with a sense of repentance but, in modern terms, with their fingers crossed behind their backs.

That Yeshua was baptized into the Jordan (the main river of life that ran through the middle of Israel) meant that he entered the water fully repentant — that is, he entered fully into the life and traditions of Israel and was fully open to God’s future. To use a later term from Yeshua’s teachings, he entered the water “selling all.” There was no part of Yeshua’s ego, nor any part of his unconscious that was held back. If he had any hopes or expectations for his own personal future (his career or mission), he did not cling to them.  He also did not withhold any part what he had learned about the understandings, rituals, traditions, and practices of the religion of Israel. All of that was offered to God in his repentance.

Into the Jordan he went — immersed into the waters of life offered in John’s baptism. We don’t know what happened when he was into the waters but when he emerged he was a different person, a new Human Being, fully immersed into God, stripped of obligation to the systems of Domination, freed from bondage to “principalities and powers” (as Paul would later call them). Yeshua, the new Human Being (the Son of Man), began to construct a new way for human beings to be in the world. That was came to be called the Kingdom of God (my preference is to call it the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice), a life fully immersed in God. Yeshua’s subsequent life and teachings made him a dangerous insurrectionist in the eyes of the religious and political domination systems (Temple and Rome).

So, Why Does It Matter? Or, as Paul Lehmann asks, “What am I, a believer in Jesus Christ and a member of his church, to do?”

Am I to continue to live in the comfort provided by current domination systems — a retired Christian minister whose retirement benefits have provided me a life of ease, including subsidized medical care and housing benefits? Am I to use some of my largess as charity to help some of those less fortunate than I? Am I to volunteer so as to contribute some of my time to help others? Is that “selling all?” Have I been baptized into life in all its fulness? — or is it just that my baptism happened in my lifetime? Has my baptism simply made me a better person? — or, have I been transformed into a New Human Being which signifies my “entry into a reordering of power, and in collaboration with the risen Jesus, the continuation of the construction of The Way?” (Waetjen, p. 26)

With Sighs Too Deep For Words

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It has been far too easy for us to objectify the Holy Spirit — for example, third person of the Trinity. But is the Spirit a consumable commodity, available at our beck and call?

Romans 8:26        Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

[Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

[Image: “Creative Commons Story of Prayer” by Kevin Shorter is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Musings on the Spirit

When I attend to the inner insistence that comes in the name of God (perhaps)…

when I attend to the Human Being that invites me to be more human…

when I attend to the God-process within or the messianic dynamic that is birthing within me…

Then I am drawn into a force-field that engages me with the Divine, the Mystery, the Human Being, the Eternal, the ladder of angels ascending to heaven and descending to earth…

that force-field energizes me, supports me, draws me, invites me, to be more truly myself and more genuinely connected beyond myself — with others, with community, with society and all its possibilities and short-comings, with nature, with the cosmos…

that force-field is what we traditional have called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Yeshua…

that force-field is not an objective being; instead it is a vital dynamic of being itself. I am most who I am, most the Human Being, most human and humane, in that moment.

To engage (and to be engaged by) the force-field of Spirit is to experience a time of Awe…

a time of mystical union with Presence…

a time of knowing and being known…

a time of transformation…

the time of being.

And that takes my breath away! As I start to breathe again I am a New Being, the new creation.

A “messianic” Mission, Not a Messiah

Razor WireMark 1:12-13          12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Luke 4:15-19      15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,  because he has anointed me  to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind,  to let the oppressed go free, 19   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

[Scripture quotations from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

[Image: “Creative Commons Razor wire” by Greg Chiasson is licensed under CC BY 2.0Text Added.]

Reflecting on the Inauguration of Yeshua’s Mission

When Yeshua* ascended out of the baptismal waters of the Jordan, he did so with a profound sense of an insistence in the name of God. Perhaps. What had been external for Israel (the messianic* hope had become the expectation of a Messiah who would “save” Israel) now had become an internal dynamic process (a personal calling, a vocational possibility requiring a response). What was unclear as Yeshua* left the baptismal waters was the shape of that calling. What was the meaning of the affirmation of Yeshua* as “beloved?” as “son?” of “well pleased?” A quantum shift had happened… Yeshua* found himself half-way across a bridge that he would have to build in order for him to complete his journey… building the bridge as he walked across it. That bridge spanned human consciousness and divine mystery.

Whether Yeshua* was “driven” (Mark) or “led” (Matthew and Luke) into the wilderness, whether this experience was a symbolic inner journey or a real trip into wilderness territory, it was clear that this experience was transformative — that is, Yeshua’s* Self (the deep center that managed his conscious and unconscious make-up) was altered. He would never be the same again. His calling, his messianic vocation, was shaped. (Note: “messianic* vocation” is quite different from “Messiah”).

The wilderness experience was one of contentious inner struggle, temptation, and choice — all leading to discernment and decisions about the nature of Yeshua’s* response to that inner calling. As such, he was confronted with three seductive options: curator of a prosperity gospel, consummate public servant, and/or virtuoso charmer and magician. A fourth option (John’s expectation of an apocalyptic rebel) had been rejected by the nature of Yeshua’s* experience of the God-process during his baptism. These options arose as Yeshua contended with the God-process*. That contentious engagement was not unlike that of Job’s with The Satan — not the evil one, but the part of the God-process* which, in freedom, raises all the possibilities (both good and bad). These options were the various hopes that Israel had projected onto the awaited Messiah. In his struggles, Yeshua discerns that he is called to a different vocation — likely messianic*, but not to fulfill Israel’s hope for the Messiah. Instead of the hoped-for Messiah, Yeshua chooses to extend what he had experienced in baptism — namely, direct inner engagement with the divine mystery, first-hand personal access to the God-process*, ability to perceive that unheard inner voice that call us into dynamic inter-relationship with God, self, and others.

The synchronicity of Isaiah being read in the synagogue when Yeshua* is asked to read and preach, helps cement Yeshua’s new calling. The messianic vocation to which Yeshua* responds is akin to that of the prophets — namely, to remind people that God invites the challenge of inner transformation and justice. Yeshua* will not foment a political revolution or by herald an apocalyptic incursion of God’s power to rid the world of evil. It is to every-day situations and people that Yeshua* will address himself — inviting people to find God within and then, having encountered and engaged the divine mystery within themselves, to reach out to others (especially the poor, distressed, and suffering). The reaching out is the practical definition of the Commonwealth* of peace and justice. In short, Yeshua’s* mission is to tell the story of his transformation and invite people to experience a messianic* transformation within ourselves. The mystics and the Eastern Church call that process “divinization.”

When the Sun and Moon will Dance!

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 8.47.22 AMPsalm 89:20-37          20 I have found my servant David; with my holy oil I have anointed him; 21 my hand shall always remain with him; my arm also shall strengthen him. 22 The enemy shall not outwit him the wicked shall not humble him. 23 I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him 24 My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him; and in my name his horn shall be exalted. 25 I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. 26 He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation!’ 27 I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. 28  Forever I will keep my steadfast love for him, and my covenant with him will stand firm. 29  I will establish his line forever, and his throne as long as the heavens endure. 30  If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my ordinances, 31 if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, 32 then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with scourges; 33  but I will not remove from him my steadfast love, or be false to my faithfulness. 34 I will not violate my covenant, or alter the word that went forth from my lips. 35 Once and for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. 36 His line shall continue forever, and his throne endure before me like the sun. 37 It shall be established forever like the moon, an enduring witness in the skies.”

[Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

[Image: This file was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the Deutsche Fotothek of the Saxon State Library / State and University Library Dresden (SLUB) as part of a cooperation project. The Deutsche Fotothek guarantees an authentic representation only by using copies of the original images as provided by the Digital Image Archive.]

Reflection on Psalm 89:20-37

So, how is it with those who lead in God’s name (perhaps) and seek to follow in the footsteps of Yeshua*?

  • They have been set apart by some sacred ritual, laying God’s claim on them.
  • Their strength comes from the weakness of God.
  • When attending to insistence in the name of God (perhaps), they will will find themselves in opposition to the wicked (who will see them as an enemy)
  • There will be a tendency to ascribe any seeming victories over evil to God’s strength and power.
  • God will always be perceived (in their own minds) as favorable to their plans (and, in particular, to them).
  • They will expect to rule over land and sea.
  • They will cry, “Lord! Lord!” assuming that this is enough to keep them in God’s good graces.
  • They will expect to be powerful throughout their life (or their term of office).
  • Unfortunately, their children may stray from the straight and narrow.
  • The insistent call in the name of God (perhaps) will be faithful to them. Hopefully, a portion of what they actually do will be faithful in return. When their faithful response to that insistent call becomes visible on earth, the sun and moon will dance in the sky.

The God of Weak Theology

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[Image: “Creative Commons ‘Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’’ – C.S. Lewis” by QuotesEverlasting is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Psalm 40:1-4           1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.2 He drew me up from the desolate pit,out of the miry bog,and set my feet upon a rock,making my steps secure.3 He put a new song in my mouth,a song of praise to our God.Many will see and fear,and put their trust in the Lord.  4 Happy are those who make the Lord their trust,who do not turn to the proud,to those who go astray after false gods.

[Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Reflecting on God

Something very interesting has been happening. Instead of wallowing in frustration with traditional theology, instead of being discouraged by the theological illiteracy in the church today, instead of disaffectation with the level of religious jargon and the absence of sound religious thinking among today’s politicians, my heart has been rejoicing. I have found a new song to sing. It is song of the presence of the non-existence of God, a song of the insistence of an unheard inner voice calling me, a song of being God’s presence by acting in response to that inner calling. It is a joyful song; also a spooky song.

After fighting battles with the strong God of traditional theology (especially as it gets translated into pop theology — omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence; the God who can do anything and everything; the God who turned Yeshua into a divine being and the only avenue to salvation; the God who presides over the Christian church as the only purveyor of true religion — I have been schooled in what I already knew in the deep recesses of my head and heart. That such a God is imaginative hooey, so so far from what Yeshua lived and taught. That strong, existent, theistic God no longer ‘works’ for me (and not for a lot of others, as well). No, I am not giving up on God…  just outlining a new pattern of relationship. In truth, not so much a NEW pattern since the old God didn’t relate. Of course, the God of Caputo’s weak theology doesn’t form relationships. The God of Caputo’s weak theology is an inner insistence toward peace, justice, and wholeness. To become present in the world, those of us who hear the calling can make God ‘real,’ ‘present’ by simply responding to that call with action. Our action, then, is God actualized. The strength of this ‘weak’ God in demonstrated when we suffer with the suffering, find solidarity with the marginalized, discover the real people who are the least, last, lost, and left out. It is only in relationships that God is actualized. So, where does God ‘happen?’ God happens when the spaces between us are filled by an insistence that generates care, compassion, and love. Maybe this is what 1 John 4:16b means — “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”

This new insight, understanding, schooling has surprised me… spooked me… turned me around. I don’t have to give up on God or toss God on the scrap heap. But I do have to listen carefully and respond to what I hear. It would be easier to just walk away, turn my back on this whole “God thing.” But, I’ve been spooked. I am haunted by this insisting that my radar sometimes picks up and sometimes doesn’t. However, even when I really don’t hear that unheard inner call, I am haunted by that insistence that doesn’t seem to be insisting… spooked by the nudges that are not felt… prepossed by the calling that has not yet called. I want to say, “Here I am! Send me.” If I only knew the direction that I am going?!