Easter, Life in Miniature!
I have just finished rereading Val Webb’s new book, “Testing Tradition, Liberating Theology”, as part of a book club I organise. A great journey through the history of the church and our doctrines, and how people at every stage have questioned, explored, and developed new ways of seeing God through the lens of their time and place. But it’s not just a history book, it also focusses on doubt as a catalyst for this change, and spirituality, and even what we mean by God in the 21st century, a challenge in itself.
I have returned to teaching after the summer break, back in the lab with students and cadavers, and realise again what a privilege it is to be able to see the human body in all its complexity laid out in front of us. Thanks to the generosity of those who have donated their bodies to science, and those family who have let them go.
I was thinking of giving up the teaching, as it is hard to combine that with church work as a pastor, and family life etc. etc. But as I went through a general overview of the human body with some first year students, blood vessels, muscles, nerves and various organs , I realised that the teaching reenforces the essence of my faith. And I need both.
Over the years, we have seen Christianity expressed in many forms, much of it focussed on some other life, some other existence, without acknowledging that the existence here on earth is amazing, breathtaking, and a gift to be cherished, with all its flaws and challenges. I have never ceased to be astounded by who we are and how we got here, even after all these years of teaching!
It is within this gift of life that I find God.
God, a difficult word to analyse, express, or even relate to. Sometime I don’t even want to use the term.
Yet for all my doubts, and over the years I have had many, I have always had the sense of a something more that drives life itself. Not a presence that disappears then reappears because of a sacrificial death, but a presence that is found throughout the life of the universe and creation, including the lives of every human being. Which is closer to us than our own breath but urges us to connect with one another with love and care and compassion.
Recently I have asked a number of people to define what they mean by God, people who have been faithful ministers, and people who have just been faithful followers of Jesus and his way.
All of them steer away from a set definition, because it is pointless. In some ways God is to be felt and experienced, rather than defined. But they have had a go.
I have, over the years, also had a go, using this blog to variously describe what I mean by God. But there is always new ways of seeing. I came across one attempt that really spoke to me which I would like to share. It is by Barbara Brown Taylor.…
Firstly, a picture….
“Where is God in this picture? God is all over the place. God is up there, down here, inside my skin and out. God is the web, the energy, the space, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is. At this point in my thinking, it is not enough for me to proclaim that God is responsible for all this unity. Instead, I want to proclaim that God is the unity—the very energy, the very intelligence, the very elegance and passion that makes it all go. “
Rather a beautiful description!
Of course I always get a bit reflective like this at Easter time.
Easter, a time to place Jesus within my faith framework. Within this God framework. A human, living breathing, talking, acting, praying, suffering Jesus. A Jesus who confronted the powerful and paid the price. Yet somehow his story lives on in those that follow. A story that resounds in our own lives and the lives of everything that lives and breathes on this earth. Even in the 21st century.
For the resurrection story is not about Jesus and a divine resuscitation! It is so much more than that, so much more universal!
It is how God works in the world, within each of us. Giving light where there is darkness, renewal where there is decay, hope where there is despair, and new life where there seems only death. Even if it takes a long time!
To fit Jesus into my God story means seeing Jesus as one of us. A gift of life. A gift of God. With a message and love that couldn’t be beaten.
I often ask myself. How do I do Easter, when I don’t believe the whole “sacrificial payment for sin” line. Or the “original sin” line, or the line about the “perfect Jesus who now sits at the right hand of God somewhere else”?
I do Easter because it reflects life in miniature.
And Jesus for me, is the ultimate guide.
Ps if you want to read just a little more about what I think, read the entry for Feb 21st, 2016, called “What I believe, really”.