Sermons on divine union
The holes in Jesus’ hands and the sword-inflicted wound in his side, from which blood and water flowed, showed Thomas that he is not asked to believe in a God whose new life in Jesus obliterated the worst of humanity, pushing aside the ugliness and violence , ignoring the places of pain or horror or absence, but rather to believe in a God who went into that brokenness and breathed the possibility of new life into all the shattered places, because that’s how the resurrection can make a difference to us.
I’m wondering, if you were to imagine the cairn, this mound of rocks or pebbles, which indicate the way deeper into God for you, as a metaphor for your spiritual activities, for that through which you order your life to reach God, what would you put together to form the mound? What would you pile together? Where would you gather the rocks from? How would you arrange the stones so there was balance in your spiritual life? Perhaps your stones would be your prayer life, times of meditation, scripture study, listening to or playing music, listening to the giggles of your grandchildren, moments of silence during church, or walks in the woods. What are the pieces you need to gather, so the “cairn” of your soul can keep you pointed to the place of God? Jacob found the knowledge of God to be the gateway or portal into God’s dwelling. How do you come upon the knowledge of God that brings you into God’s dwelling? We learned in our story today that it was God’s initiative that led Jacob into this knowledge of God. We can trust that God is taking the initiative with us, in this moment as well.
And yet, how can our compassionate hearts not meet these people in the complex layer that lies behind, or beneath, or alongside our rationality in these situations? How do our hearts not break for Hagar, cast out into the wilderness to watch her child die? How could I not have enfolded in my arms that young mother who was allowing a family to be born for others, but not for her. How can we pretend there are children in our societies who go unprotected due to the enslaved condition of their mothers? We can’t and we shouldn’t. We can’t and we shouldn’t dismiss the grief of anyone, whether there were actions or circumstances that should have foretold the impending despair.
In our modern-day terms, Paul’s words might read as this: there are no gay nor straight people, there are no people of color and no people of no color, there are no immigrants or citizens, there are no democrats or republicans, there are no monied people and those without, there are only people being united in Christ. There are outward distinctions, but there is no inward spiritual difference. And this is what Paul says is what matters: only our relationship with Christ. If we have turned our heart toward Christ, if his body and blood feed us, if we are nourished through the care of others, then the only identity that truly matters is who we are in Christ. This is the gift offered to us. If our core identity is one with Christ, then we can no longer be judged by others nor be judgmental of others, we can no longer be ostracized to the margins, nor ostracize others to the margins. Instead, we search for those on the margins and draw them inward, as Jesus did, so they too know they are loved by Christ.
It is this life force, this Kingdom of God come near, this divine love, this presence of Christ planted deep within our souls, which nourishes, supports, stabilizes, and energizes us, and is the still point in a world that is constantly changing.
I once remember living in mid-air. I was wholly terrified and equally exhilarated. I felt unprotected, yet strangely safe. I felt as though my world had cracked open and the contents of my life’s story had came spilling out, never to be reassembled with the same plot, without even a glimpse of the new stories yet to be written.
Now the people in Nazareth are neither especially bad, nor blind, nor particularly unreceptive. They made a mistake many of us are prone to. They expected the ordinary, a human being, to do ordinary things. Or they expected extraordinary things to be done by extraordinary people. Not an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. They took Jesus at face value. They remembered Jesus as the kid who lived two doors down, who kicked the ball in the streets with his friends, or could be found in his father’s shop, learning the carpenter trade. The people of Nazarene couldn’t look beyond Jesus’ ordinariness to figure out how he could do extraordinary things. Instead they dismissed the whole package.