Christ Is Plan A

Richard Rohr, (May 31, 2015 subscription meditation) describes “incarnation” from  the perspective of Franciscan spirituality. Following is my summary of his meditation.

The mystery of Incarnation is the trump card (though sometimes hidden). Incarnation literally means enfleshment, yet most of Christian history has, in fact, been excarnational–in flight from matter, embodiment, physicality, and this world. This avoidance of enfleshment is much more Platonic than Christian. Incarnation means that the spiritual nature of reality (the immaterial, the formless, the invisible) and the material (the physical, the forms, that which we can see and touch) are, in fact, one and the same! And they always have been, ever since the Big Bang, which scientists estimate happened around 13.6 billion years ago. “God’s Spirit hovered over” creation (Genesis 1:2) from the very first moment of existence as we know it, setting the trajectory for the rest of creation.

Most Christians were taught to associate the Incarnation only with Jesus’ birth 2,000 years ago. That was perhaps when humanity was ready for a face-to-face encounter, what Martin Buber would call the “I-Thou” relationship. But matter and spirit have always been one, since God decided to manifest God’s self in the first act of creation. Modern science (especially quantum physics and biology) is demonstrating that this is, in fact, the case. Where does this endless drive toward life, multiplication, fecundity, creativity, self-perpetuation, and generativity come from, except from Something/Someone we call an indwelling “Spirit”?

Unfortunately, many Christians believe that the world is messed up and Christ is the solution. This “substitutionary atonement theory” of salvation treats Christ as a mere Plan B. God saw that we had screwed up. Creation was not seen as inherently sacred, lovable, or dignified. We are still trying to undo this view of God and reality.

By the modern age most Christians acted as if the only real rationale for the Divine Incarnation was to produce a human body that could die and rise again. It did not matter much what Jesus exemplified, taught, revealed, or loved. Things like simple living, non-violence, inclusivity–which are now proving necessary for the very survival of the species–were ignored. Christians focused instead on the last three days of Jesus’ life and his freely offered quarts of blood. Jesus became a highly contrived problem-solver for our own guilt and fear  instead of the Archetypal Blueprint for what God has been doing all the time and everywhere. Jesus became a mere tribal god instead of the Cosmic Lord and Savior of history itself (Colossians 1:15-20, Ephesians 1:3-14). Christianity ended up just another competing and exclusionary religion instead of “good news for all the people” (Luke 2:10b. We all lost out.

Yeshua and Nicodemus

John 3:1-17

One night Nicodemus, Pharisee, leader among the Jews, came to Yeshua and said, “Rabbi, as a teacher you have truly demonstrated what it means to live a holy life in the name of God. Yeshua replied, “Holiness comes from living a new life through insistence, that unheard inner voice in the name of God. Perhaps.” Nicodemus, somewhat confused, asked, “New life? How is that possible for an old man? Do I have to return to the womb and be born another time?” Jesus answered, “The Commonwealth of Peace and Justice is peopled with those who have experienced a spiritual rebirth — turning their attention away from the normal standards of the world. (You know those worldly standards…  “might makes right” “the golden rule — whoever has the gold, makes the rules” “whoever dies with the most toys wins.”) The Way of the Commonwealth, insisted upon in the name of God (perhaps), turns our attention toward a high set of priorities and standards — “a preferential option for the poor” “replace hate and violence with love and compassionate action” “if you have, and see a sister or brother in need, share” “resist / subvert the principalities and powers” “love, compassion, justice, health, and wholeness rule.” This is the directional arrow that pierces the hearts and minds of people in the name of God. Perhaps. It is in that spirit that I live my life and teach the Way in order that people like you and your neighbors might have abundant life.

Working with Messiah

Colossians 3:1-17

Are you one of those who claims that Yeshua is the promised one of Israel, called Messiah in the name of God? Perhaps. If so, then you have set your sights pretty high. Don’t settle for less. Your life is inextricably intertwined with Yeshua, with Messiah, with all that is in the name of God. Perhaps. Don’t depend on worldly standards or mores. Don’t engage in promiscuity, corruption, maliciousness, or exploitation even though those behaviors seem endemic in too much of modern society. Also rid yourself of animosity, resentment, spite, backbiting, and bullying. You are in the process of being re-formed into the Way of Yeshua, transformed by the insistence of an unconventional, even radical, wisdom in the name of God. Perhaps. That wisdom blurs the distinctions between Arabs and Jews, Tea Partyers and Progressives, Wall Street moguls, felons, the homeless and suburbanites. Yeshua’s Way invites them all. So, hang in there together. Don’t get disappointed with each other. Let forbearance and forgiveness become the currency of your relationships. Wrap yourselves in love and wholeness. Seek peace in the world and in your community. Cultivate thankfulness. Let the insistence of Yeshua in the name of God (perhaps) impel you forward toward the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice. That is the radical, unconventional wisdom which animates your community and demonstrates itself in the liveliness of your worship. Whatever you do, whatever you say, make sure it conforms to the Way of Yeshua and is generated by the insistence, that unheard inner calling, in the name of God. Perhaps. Do all that and “Surprise!” – Yeshua’s messianic calling has become your messianic calling. If Messiah’s work is to be done, you and I will have to do our part.

Drawing Water from Deep Wells

Psalm 1:3  They are like a tree replanted by streams of water, which bears fruit at just the right time and whose leaves don’t fade. Whatever they do succeeds.   
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

How happy and blessed are those who do not build their lives on the basis of bad advice, or fill their lives with hatred, or take their place along side the sarcastic and sardonic. Instead, they delight in the insistence of God and meditate on that call day and night. They are like trees that draw their life from deep wells of fresh water. They bear fresh fruit in season and their leaves do not wither. There are others, however, who do not pay attention to those inner nudges and persistent calls. They treat those insistences like chaff blow away with the wind. Therefore, they will be absent from the gatherings of those who are attempting to follow in the Way of Yeshua and the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice will not be for them.

Wise Leadership

1 Chronicles 28:1-10

David assembled all those in positions of leadership — administrators, military leaders, governmental managers, palace officials — and addressed them. “It was my hope, to build a grand temple. I envisioned that temple to be a permanent repository for the ark of the Covenant, as well as a physical representation of God’s presence in our midst, a place for us to showcase God to the world. While I may have originally thought that this was in keeping with God’s insistence, it has become clear that doing so was my intention, but not God’s. It seems that empire-building and violence have disqualified me. You all know the story of how I was chosen to be king in accordance with God’s insistence, God’s calling. It would appear that I was correct in discerning a divine invitation to build a temple; but wrong in assuming that it would be my job to build it. Instead, that same insistence that a temple be build, insists that my son, Solomon, succeed to the throne upon my death. It is he who is to build the temple. If Solomon continues to pay attention to the least, the last, the lost, and the left out, then God will continue to pay attention to his leadership. Follow Solomon’s wise leadership in order that you may follow God’s calling, including the building of the temple.

God’s Tribe

 

Deuteronomy 10:12     Now in light of all that, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you? Only this: to revere the Lord your God by walking in all his ways, by loving him, by serving the Lord your God with all your heart and being. 
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

So, O Christian, now that you have become immersed in Caputo’s theology, what is it that you understand to be required of you? Only to respect the insistence that embroils my inward self. Pay attention to that unheard inward calling and follow it, walking in the way taught and lived by Yeshua. Only in that way will I be of service to that which we name as God. Perhaps. Attending to (and heeding) that insistence, that inner beckoning, is like a divine commandment which I ignore at my own peril. We all desire a heavenly origin for the insistences that burrow into our inward being, we want to believe that we (and our tribe, our ancestors) have a special “in” with God. We want to believe that we have been chosen from the beginning of time, and that our being chosen grants us special privilege. Wrong (and, yet, at a deeper level ‘on target’)! No — me /my tribe / my ancestors do not get more or less insistence than others. YES — when I / we pay heed to those inner unheard callings by executing justice for the least, the last, the lost, and the left out… when we open ourselves to strangers through acts of kindness and generosity… then we have made God present in the world for a brief moment. Unfortunately, when I tire of our efforts, when I cease to direct our concerns outward to those in need, then God evanesces, disappears, goes up in smoke…  then God dies! The “living” God has only one tribe… those who enflesh the godly insistence (the divine calling) to reach out to the hurting world and its distressed inhabitants. that is the only great and awesome action that deserves the name of God. Perhaps.

Yeshua is God’s Insistence

John 17:23a      I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one.
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

Yeshua is the connection to the insistence of God.  He lived fully by and through that unheard call. His life and teachings are an invitation, an insistence for us to follow in his footsteps. To be at one with him is to be at one with the insistence, the calling, that inner nudge, that beckoning that bears the name of God. Perhaps. The three years of which we are aware in Yeshua’s life were clearly lived deeply and fully aware of that unheard call…  living out a dynamic response to the insistence that, through the ages, generations have treated as arising in the name of God. Perhaps. That insistence has been named God, Truth, Abundant life, the Way, the Word. What ever its name, it is clearly a way to be attended to, emulated, followed. To become one with that Way, that insistence, that calling, is to love God. Perhaps. It is the only distinguishing mark of those of us who claim the name “Christian,” who are (more accurately) ones who are attempting to follow on the Way.

 

Singing the Audacity of God (Psalm 98)

Let your life resonate with a new melody. Sing of the audacity of God, who did not let divinity get in the way but divested existence from the concept of God so that divinity could be experienced in the response to that inner unheard insistence that is claimed in the name of God. If the idea of God has any power, it is manifested as those who claim to be God’s children act in a manner that shows them to be insurrectionists on the Way that leads to the commonwealth of peace and tender justice. When the peoples of the world look at Israel, it is our hope that they see the insistence in the name of God (perhaps) in action. The earth rejoices and breaks into song; the seas roar in exultation; flood waters cover the earth with gladness; the hills sing in beauty. Add your lyres and trumpets to the symphony of nature. Let the music be in praise of all that is done in response to the insistence in the name of God. Perhaps