Purpose of Jesus: Bodily Resurrection

   During April we're exploring the Purpose of Jesus.  This past Sunday we talked about the bodily resurrection of Jesus and it's significance.  I wasn't going to write a Musings today because I was tired and grieving.  You see, last week we had to unexpectedly put down our 8.5-year-old beloved Doberman, Jesse.  He was an amazing dog.  He was always full of life.  I would so often say, "He never got the memo that he wasn't a puppy anymore."  More so than any other dog I've ever known, and I've known a bunch, he was always just plain happy to be alive- his stumpy (aka tail) literally never stopped wagging.  Even when he got in trouble he would sheepishly come back wagging his "stumpy" and give you that, "are we good yet" look with big brown eyes.  He never stopped following me around, picking up a sock here or a shoe there bringing them and saying, "want this...come and get it!"  Long after he should have slowed down, he simply didn't.  He would walk every morning with "mom" and then hope that it was an evening when "dad" would take him for a 4-mile run.   He seemed to soak every drop of love, life, and enjoyment he could get.  Last Tuesday afternoon, the day before he died, he was playing with the other dogs in the backyard, romping around, poking at one here, nudging the other there, chasing my girls for a pat, or trying to sneak in a "kiss," generally making his usual nuisance of himself.   He never stopped enjoying life until he couldn't squeeze any more out.  You see, his heart was breaking--it was literally breaking down.  By Wednesday morning he could barely walk without gasping for breath.  We don't know how long his heart had been that way, maybe years.  Regardless, he squeezed all he could out of life until his heart literally gave out.  He lived fully alive, stumpy wagging, every day in a body that likely should have given out long ago. 
     So what does Jesse have to do with the Purpose of Jesus?  Or the purpose of a physical resurrection?   Perhaps nothing or perhaps everything.  Christ rose physically- he didn't appear as a ghost or some type of ethereal projection.  He was flesh and blood and yet not the same as before (John 20 ).  Perhaps the risen Christ was showing us what God wanted us to know from the beginning...God is manifested/revealed (incarnated) through tangible creation.  God wanted to be seen and known in the fleshy and earthy substances of creation (Rom 1:20).   God wanted us to tangibly know that bodies and creation contain and reveal the Spirit's image (Gen. 1).  If that's the case, then Jesse revealed God's playful, relentless joy and love for life and humankind that never gives up.  A love and joy, that despite a heart that was breaking, kept on living to the fullest, looking for the next face to kiss.  So looking at it this way, maybe Jesse's life and death do have everything to do with the purpose of Christ....I wonder how our lives would be different if we remembered to look to see how God is being revealed in each face, creature, or plant we meet?

Reflect this week:
What, or Who, do I see?

 Babs May-Clark

Purpose of Jesus

   During April we're exploring the Purpose of Jesus.    So much of our beliefs regarding the purpose of Jesus depends on where we start.  If we start from a place of humanity being separate from God (Genesis 3) we most often end up with a theology that was promoted by the theologian Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109).  In this view (Substitutionary Atonement Theory), some kind of necessary transaction of blood sacrifice that was needed by God to forgive or to love or to accept humanity.  This has been the predominant view for the last 1000+ years.  I would argue that it has been predominant, not because it is right, but rather, because it is easier for church leadership to control people with fear than with love. In this view God becomes a god who needs to be appeased and the church, or if you are Protestant,  "saying a prayer" becomes the key and the broker of god's acceptance and "salvation." 
     However, viewing God as needing a transaction to be appeased, leaves us always questioning if we "made the cut" and if God really is loving and good.  Who can really trust a God who needs a "blood sacrifice" to love what He created?  Richard Rohr says, "I know there are many temple metaphors of atonement, satisfaction, ransom, “paying the price,” and “opening the gates”; but do know they are just that—metaphors of transformation and transitioning."  Too many Christians take these in a transactional way instead of an invitation to transformation.
     Fortunately, in the last 15+ years, an alternate theory of the purpose of Jesus has resurfaced that has a different starting point.  This theory, first promoted by  John Duns Scotus (1266-1308), has its foundation in Genesis 1 rather than Genesis 3.  In this view, never popular in the mainstream but always alive along the margins, "Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity, it didn’t need changing. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God."  Scotus never believed that “blood atonement” was required for God to love us. He taught that Christ was Plan A from the very beginning (Colossians 1:15-20, Ephesians 1:3-14). Christ wasn’t a mere Plan B after the first humans sinned.  Scotus taught that the purpose of Jesus (God come in flesh) was grounded in God’s perfect love and God’s perfect and absolute freedom (John 1:1-18), rather than from any mistake of ours.  He believed that nothing changed on Calvary (no transaction was made), but everything was revealed.  On Calvary, God was revealed as a God who loves and suffers alongside us. Jesus (God) didn't take the easy way out.  He suffered horribly and died just like we do.  He revealed that we can trust God, even in the face of injustice, uncertainty, pain, doubt, and horror.  He revealed that, though trust in God's love and goodness may not come easily (Luke 22:42-44), it always leads to resurrection and new life. 

Reflect this week:
1.  What theory about Jesus' purpose am I living by, do I want to change it? 

2.  True love and grace can never be brokered, contained, or even fully explained.  It can only be received and experienced.  
 

Babs May-Clark

Simplicity: Resurrection

   Over the past several weeks, we explored the topic of simplicity and how it's intertwined with our life in God.  Living simply is a process of discovering what is most important and, with God's help, living it out.   Some say that simplicity is a "matter of focus" of "living out what is most important."  This upcoming Sunday we celebrate Easter and the resurrection that followed Jesus' death on the cross.  Jesus seemed to know what his "most important " was.  He lived and died with love, union, and trust in God as his "most important."  He believed that, despite his external circumstances, God would bring about Life.  How else could he say, "not my will but yours be done?" (Luke 22). 
      It is this pattern of death and resurrection that we are invited to embrace and celebrate this week (and incidentally, every day of our lives).  We can only embrace "death" (from the small everyday ego deaths we experience to physical deaths ) to the extent that we know, at a gut level, that we are loved and in union with a trustworthy God.  So this week I invite you to find a quiet place, center your heart and mind, and invite God to show you how precious you are to God and how you and the Spirit are united.  Once you have rested in that place for a while, you may want to gently continue and go about your day.  If, however, you want to practice living in resurrection a bit more, choose one (or more) of the following to practice (list from Richard Rorh's book, Immortal Diamond).  
12 Ways to practice resurrection now:
1. Refuse to identify with negative, blaming, antagonistic, or fearful thoughts (you cannot stop ‘having” them).
2. Apologize when you hurt another person or situation.
3. Undo your mistakes by some positive action toward the offended person or situation.
4. Do not indulge or believe your False Self—that which is concocted by your mind and society’s expectations.
5. Choose your True Self – your radical union with God – as often as possible throughout the day
6. Always seek to change yourself before trying to change others.
7. Choose as much as possible to serve rather than to be served.
8. Whenever possible, seek the common good over your mere private good.
9. Give preference to those in pain, excluded, or disabled in any way.
10. Seek just systems and policies over mere charity.
11. Make sure your medium is the same as your message.
12. Never doubt that it is all about love in the end.

Babs May-Clark

Simplicity: Ring the bells

Over the next several weeks we will look at Simplicity and how it is an expression of the Realm of God.  During his talk on Sunday Sean shared the following excerpt from Leonard Cohen's poem, "Anthem."

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

Every line this poem invites us into a deeper, more meaningful life when we choose to take the time to reflectively sit with it as a prayer. 
      "Ring the bells that still can ring."  What bells do I (do you) still have the opportunity to ring?   Perhaps it's the bell of caring for the poor, or teaching a class, or offering peace prayers, or caring for the environment, or making that phone call you have put off,  or a forgiveness that you can extend, or a ministry you can support or join?  Each of us, as long as we still have breath within us, has "bells" we can still ring.  What joy we experience when we live consciously, inviting the Spirit to show us the bells we can still ring. 
      "Forget your perfect offering."  We never will "ring our bells" perfectly.  We have believed the lie that God only accepts a "perfect offering." In doing so, we believed that in order to please God we have to be "perfect" and live near perfect lives in order to be loved, blessed, and accepted.  God's Spirit, however, invites us to a radically new way of living.  The Spirit invites us to stop striving to be perfect and instead embrace God, who works in and through our humanness, to bring about what is pleasing to God (see Phil 2:13).  It is God's work and our cooperation, as imperfect as it is that is pleasing to God.
       "There is a crack in everything. That's how the Light gets in." As humans, we are perfectly imperfect.  The sooner we embrace our imperfection, the sooner we can get on with living and enjoying our journey.  Each and every one of us regardless of it looks to ourselves or an outside observer, is a bit cracked. We think that if we have no weaknesses we are strong, successful, and safe.  In God's realm, however, the opposite is true.  We are invited to embrace our weakness and find that when we come to the end of ourselves there is a power greater than ourselves that makes us strong (2Cor 12:9).  It's from this "weak" and "cracked" place that God's light shines the brightest.  Not only does this light shine on the outside it also shines for us on the inside.  The Light discovered by embracing our weakness becomes for us a beacon reminding us of our true home and true self.  God's Light and Life living inside of us are found not by our strength but by our weakness and cracks.

Reflect this week:
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

Babs May-Clark