I believe that all things are good, all things are fractured, and all things are being redeemed. I believe that our human actions continue to break and build the world around us, a seemingly perpetual domino and infinite butterfly effect.
The narrative of scripture opens with the repetitive refrain that “it is good.” With this as our starting point we delve into a fractured world, perpetually falling apart and in constant process of redemption. The Spirit of God hovers over the chaotic waters of creation, an image that we continue to see in our world and lives today. The epistle to the first century church reminds us that in Jesus all things hold together. This “all things” even includes the chaos. And the gospel of John provides the much needed nudge in the ribs, telling us that the light of Jesus is the light of all people and all creation, an “all” that even encompasses the chaos.
Because God made it all. And God continues to make it all today. We hope for a day when God will make all things new, knowing that we are called to be both made new and join God in making all things new. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner writes, “This world and everything in it is a manifestation of God’s presence. Our goal and challenge is to find it and then act in such a way as to help others find it too.”
But our world is riddled with suffering. We can dream of a utopian “once upon a time” when all was well or hope for a utopian “someday” when all will be well again. But we only ever live between these two points, knowing the world as it is while we strive to create “what could be” or “what should be” out of “what is.” And the “what is” finds itself saturated with suffering.
The origin of this suffering is unknowable. From our limited perspective, it simply is. Rather than tracing it to some temporal “fall,” it is the ongoing consequence of human existence, from famine to farmer’s market, total genocide to Toyota Prius. Rather than a scapegoated human disobedience, it is our ongoing actions, both good and bad, that contribute to the perpetual and infinite butterfly effect that creates the world as we know it.
I don’t believe in a fall. I believe in a falling down and a getting back up and a falling down and a getting back up and a falling down and a getting back up and so on and so forth. God is the cosmic Alfred Pennyworth, reaching a hand to an ever-stumbling creation, lovingly saying, “Why do we fall down? So we might learn to pick ourselves up.” And God is always there, helping us to our feet, present with every fall and rise, every moment of breaking and building, curse and blessing, suffering and celebrating wrought with our lives.
Because our world is stricken with dis-ease. Yet even still, God is present and active and never giving up. The most fractured pieces of this good creation are held and taken up by God. In the cosmos of our creator, everything belongs, even if we cannot readily see its place in this present moment. Every system and power, no matter how fractured or distorted, is being redeemed by God and the people of God.
Who is Jesus?—an ominous question that is in some ways commonplace and in other way completely taboo. We live in a narcissistic world where we proudly proclaim, “Jesus, thou art mine,” perpetuating a buffet of options for Jesus, from latte drinker to mixed martial arts fighter to homeboy to co-pilot and more. Take your pick; Jesus can be whoever or whatever you want him to be. A name uttered as a curse in one breath and a prayer in another, Jesus is as ubiquitous as small talk about the weather and as off limits as discussing politics at a family reunion. Yet through it all, the all too deserving question remains—Who is Jesus?
Every answer is undoubtedly biased and incomplete. Yet the consistency and misrepresentation of the question prompts a response, albeit the perpetual first word and question in an ongoing conversation rather than the final statement or punctuation in a debate. What follows is not exhaustive, but initial.
Jesus is the divine sophia, the eternal logos.
He is the image, ikon, and avatar of the invisible God.
Jesus is the son of man, come with the clouds to display a new and our true humanity.
He is a rabbi and prophet, inviting us to find our present life as a part of the age to come, proclaiming in method and message the reign and realm of God.
He is our savior, our advocate, our ally.
Jesus is a finger pointing at the moon, directing my gaze to God and God’s work in the world.
He is the living Buddha and living Christ.
He is an archetype of suffering, death, and resurrection.
Jesus is a lightning rod on the cross, absorbing all sin, evil, violence, and injustice upon himself and letting it do its worst. The cross is not God’s penalty or punishment or any sort of cosmic child abuse but simply profoundly God’s place-sharing with a broken and fractured world.
Jesus reveals the domination system and its myth of redemptive violence, exposing our mimetic desire and scapegoat mechanisms; he is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is fully and truly human; a model and example for our inhumanity, for our life and suffering, for love and justice and forgiveness, for resurrection and New Creation.
Jesus is a pillar of cloud and fire for the people of the new exodus. He is the embodiment of the returning and redeeming action of the covenant God. Jesus was and is, for Israel and the world, that which according the Jewish people and their scripture only God could do and be: the end of exile, the forgiveness of sins, the embodiment of the Temple, the fulfillment of Torah, the year of jubilee.
The question “Who is God?” is the theological implication of the philosophical question, “Is there a God?” Presupposing that yes, there is in fact a God and that this God chooses to and/or is able to be revealed to humanity and all of creation, one can then postulate who or what kind of God this is. Our postulation, however, is perpetually impeded and limited by the constructive confines and contextual nature of language as our meaning-making capacity.
However God is revealed, God is understood within the limits of human language. All language is implicitly abstract, a culturally agreed upon metaphor endowed with meaning. Therefore to speak of the “who” or “what” of God is always to speak within these allegorical confines. Understanding God as having “personhood” is a concept forever tainted by the water of personhood in which we swim. Yet in recognizing this linguistic limitation, one can state confidently, based on general and special revelation, who God is.
For in every beginning and still today we find God hovering over our formless and void tahom. God is my very breath, sustaining me and all of creation whether or not we know or even acknowledge it. Breathing isn’t really something that I do but something that I witness as it happens. In the same way, God is always present, always close. God is present in and experiences all suffering and celebration. God is my first cry at birth and my final sigh at death.
And sometimes God is even white, straight, and male. Because God is and is not all of the categories, compartments, labels, and boxes we create and impose. God is Creator, Christ, and Spirit, One, often understood as a social or economic Trinity, distinct “persons” of one essence or identity.
Love does not say, “look at me, I am beautiful, I am sublime, I am glorious,” but love is that which points to the other and says, “they are beautiful, they are sublime, they are glorious.” Neither God nor love are an object in and of themselves but rather the light that allows us to see all things as they truly are. And when we look close enough we can find God in all things. For God is the presence and energy that created it all and continues to create and sustain it all today.
God is known as eternally unknowable. God can barely be apprehended but never fully comprehended. God is always beyond understanding yet mysteriously and graciously within reach. God is the ocean on which we float, a lazy river and a perfect storm. God is the ground of being. God is not “a being” but is rather “being” itself. God is simply complex.
God simply is.
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