God of the Im/Possible
With the resurrection of Jesus Christ, time is interrupted and we are startled by a deeper reality: God is doing new things. Underneath a world racked by war, racial hatred, gender discrimination and global warming, the power of divine love is swelling with new life, symbolized by the risen Christ. The resurrection does not mean that Jesus was resuscitated from the dead but that he rose from the dead. As Saint Paul wrote, “if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then our faith is our vain” (1 Cor 15:14).
Early Christians had such faith in the risen Christ that they threw themselves wholeheartedly into defending the faith amidst the pagan Roman empire. The late historian Henry Chadwick recounts how the emperor Nero rolled Christians in tar and lighted them as torches because they would rather undergo a tortuous death than renounce their faith. When the aristocrat Perpetua and her maid Felicity was arrested for being Christian, her father begged her to renounce her faith rather than suffer martyrdom in the coliseum. Her answer was simply, ego sum Christianus: I am a Christian. Her pregnant assistant, Felicity, while in labor pains, was stripped bare and sent into the coliseum to face the lions. While awaiting her fate a guard jeered at her, saying, “if you are suffering now, imagine what you will suffer when you face the beasts.” Felicity answered, “now I suffer but then there will be another suffering in me,” indicating her wholehearted faith in the risen Christ. Throughout the ages and into our own time, faith in the risen Christ has evoked a power of freedom and trust that death does not have the final victory. The Archbishop and Saint of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, was repeatedly threatened with death for defending the people. His powerful words of resistance rose from a deep inner place of radical faith: “If I am killed, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.” This is a declaration of resurrection: I will not die but I will live in my people.
One who lives for others, lives for God. The human person is like a wave-particle duality; the particle aspect is the particularity of our lives, and the wave dimension is the breadth of our relationships. While I am alive, I am changing and growing from one moment to the next. This is true of both my body and my character; indeed, the whole pattern that is “me.” Because I am always investing my future in another, while I am alive, that other is “me”—my many selves that I am becoming but after I am dead, that other is you because my own self is woven into yours. We live on in our relationships, and in and through our relationships, we are continuously created. In a sense, this is the fundamental meaning of the resurrection. The experience of Jesus raised from the dead ignited his disciples with a new fire of hope; the experience of Jesus, alive in a new way, set the world ablaze with an evocative love. The disciples experienced something new and wonderful: God is doing new things. They realized the power of God and the presence of Jesus were one and the same and this power was now among them; indeed, in them. Violence, slavery, oppression, all were exposed for what they really are: thwarted gods opposed to life. In Christ, a new light shone, a power present from the beginning of time but now seen more brightly as the power of hope, promise, and new life ahead. The disciples realized this power and began to speak and act as if a new world was dawning on the horizon.
Today, Christianity has become a religion of the empire, enervated of its transforming power. Rules, laws, dogmas, judgments, lines of division, all have weakened the Christian message and reduced it to a routinized formula of abstract concepts and beliefs. But Christianity is about God in matter; a power of divinity shaping matter and changing matter through the energies of love. Something is going on in this world of constant change and it is the restless God seeking to become fully united with all creaturely life in a deep and personal way. We find ourselves in an unfinished universe of immense proportions where suffering and death are built into the system of new biological life. We are here after 13.8 billion years of death and major extinctions. God will always find a way to push through unto new life. This is the symbol of the risen Christ; not only does life have a power of unquenchable love but we are becoming something more unified in this incredible process of evolution, despite the powers of opposition and entropy. God has a vision of wholeness, and we are invited to realize this vision as artisans of the future.
The Good News of the Risen Christ is this: Let God matter! Let God matter your bodies, your minds, your hearts and souls; let God matter the trees, the flowers, the gentle breeze, the sun and moon and stars and every living creature. Let God matter because matter is the mirror of God. Look into this mirror of matter and see what you believe. If you see Christ, divine love shining through the beauty of all things, then believe what you see; that God is restlessly seeking to become more. Become what you see and realize that you are the body of Christ.
Let us leave our tombs of darkness, our stifled and protected lives, closed in by giant rocks of hardened hearts or wounded egos or deep fear and anxiety. God is the infinite potential of infinite love and to believe in God is to believe in that which is not yet; the possibilities of what we can become. So throw yourselves into the heart of God – let go and see what happens when faith steers the power of the will. Venture forth into the unfinished world where God is struggling to be born; let us not settle for mediocrity but let us liberate our minds to imagine a new world. This is the Christian way; the way of the im/possible, the hidden potential of infinite love within us, calling us to respond in faith, hope and love: Faith in God’s infinite power of love; hope in the power of life before us; and love as the energy of resistance, creativity, novelty and dreams.
Is Christ risen from the dead? Maybe. The only testimony that makes this Christian faith real is our response in faith:
I believe in one God, one human family, one planetary community, one body, one love, uniting all in beauty, for God’s infinite love is infinite, fecund and beautiful.
I believe I am entangled with all earth life and all living creatures,
I believe this future is the relational unity of all things in God,
I believe this earth has a future entangled with God,
I believe the heart of God is love.
Beliefs guide us, faith strengthens us but love—well, love is the core energy of life. Where there is love, there is no death, only future. Love raised Jesus from the dead; love heals and makes whole. It is time to stop talking about the risen Christ and begin to love in a radically new way. The power in our midst to reimagine a new world is love.
When Did Jesus Become God?
[God is another name for personhood. The Christian mutation is the development of personhood in freedom and love.] In an article on “The Emergence of Devotion to Jesus in the…