Innovation.Xmas2B

Christmas 2B, 2009
John 1:1-14

A Liturgy is also available

EPIPHANY: GOD THE ‘LIFE-THROB’ IN EVERYDAY LIFE.

God is the life-throb of all things!

When I first read those words and later on repeated them out aloud,
I admit to responding with an equally loud, ‘right on!’

For me they painted a vibrant picture
of what a lot of the current God-talk could be about
and what the Season of Epiphany is indeed all about.

Yes, we have moved yet again in our liturgical or lectionary journey.
We have moved through the 12 days of the Festival of Christmas
into the Season of Epiphany.

Traditionally, Epiphany has been tied to the visit of the international Wise Ones.
But it is much broader than that.
Epiphany is also about celebrating the experience of God’s presentness
in all things.  From the daily tasks of
parenting,
working,
relaxing,
to remarkable experiences of insight and wonder...

And the mystery of the universe:
why there is anything at all, rather than nothing (Goodenough 1998:11).

In Religious Naturalism/Process Theology terms,
in the Season of Epiphany, we open ourselves
to divine omni-presence and divine omni-activity.

To Creativity God present in each breath and who gently persuades in every encounter.

The God of John the storyteller,
while more sophisticated theologically than by either Luke or Matthew or Mark,
is dynamic and relational.

In the God of John the storyteller
we repeatedly encounter a multi-moving, acting God.
A ‘verb’ rather than a ‘noun’.

Which has encouraged Catholic feminist theologian Mary Daly to ask:
Why indeed must ‘God’ be a noun?  Why not a verb - the most active and dynamic of all?  ...The anthropomorphic symbols for God may be intended to convey personality, but they fail to convey that God is Be-ing.

Epiphany unveils and celebrates the presentness
of this lively, innovative Creativity in everyday life.

God is the life-throb of all things.

oo0oo

Luke Skywalker, the young super hero of Star Wars,
is putting on his flight gear for the climactic battle with the Death Star
that threatens to destroy the last remains of a brave rebel force.

His somewhat cynical friend, Han Solo,
who is packing a space freighter to escape before the uneven battle,
pauses for a moment and then says with a kind of awkward voice,
‘May the Force be with you!’

When I saw the movie some 25+ years ago,
I pricked up my ears at that phrase: may the Force be with you!

Because I had heard that whenever those words were uttered,
movie goers all over America wildly cheered this scene.

Since then I have had a bit of a think.

There is more than just a touch of ritualistic re-enactment in this film.
But more importantly, perhaps the movie makers were touching
on a truth which we in the church have either lost
or have never known.

And that is, a sense of the dynamic that is not seen or heard
in most of the traditional words in addressing God or the Sacred.

The storyteller John uses dynamic and relational (be they anthropomorphic)
words and images.  And in general terms
so too does the whole of the biblical tradition:
bringing,
gathering,
consoling,
leading,
understanding,
granting,
scattering,
choosing,
forgiving.

In these multiple actions, God is always affirming, and in all these many ways,
creation is always the subject of God’s great demonstrations of affection.

But I think we get a bit stuck when we hear the English translation, ‘word’.
In the beginning was the Word...
The Word was with God...
The Word was made...

In English, ‘word’ has often been given the meaning of sounds
or its representation in letters put together for oral or written communication.
Printed word.
Radio word.

But the Hebrew word for ‘word’ is ‘dabhar’ which, according to
Matthew Fox and others, means divine creative energy (Fox 1995).
The storied word.
The word that gave birth.

Those of you who are right-brain thinkers
will probably have already resonated with this and made a connection.
For the Hebrew ‘dabhar’ is about
the creative,
the imaginative,
the heart,
the feeling.

And this divine creative energy is more than just a concept.
For Epiphany also reminds us that the ‘word’ is made flesh.
It lives among us.
Moves within and between and among all things.
Inspiring us to think and sing and dance with integrity and historical honesty.

oo0oo

As we begin a new year together, and in the spirit of this divine creative mystery,
let me share with you some observations
first inspired by ‘Jesus Seminar’ theologian, the late Robert Funk,
but which I wish to echo and own (FourthR).

• I am encouraged by those ordinary Christians
who are unwilling to continue to indulge in theological double-talk,
by preferring to address the real questions that perplex all of us...

• I am embarrassed by the pronouncement by the Vatican
that does no more than reaffirm both the primacy of Rome
and the absolute superiority of the Christian religion
over all other forms of religious expression, and even
refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of other Christian churches...

• I am worried by the failure of the scholarship of Islam
to enter into the modern age, and of learned Jews
who do not counter unfounded claims to eminent domain in Palestine...

• I am alarmed by those who endorse, in the name of Christianity,
the misunderstanding of religious experience
called fundamentalism and literalism (MFallon),
which leads ultimately to intolerance, the use of legislation,
and war to enforce its convictions...

Yet in spite of much of this
the truly energetic creative word of God, ‘dabhar’,
will not be imprisoned,
will not be locked up.

Our universe (or Creation, to use the traditional) is as ongoing as we are.
As vast as our experience of it.  Ursula Goodenough writes:
“Emergence is inherent in everything that is alive, allowing our yearning for supernatural miracles to be subsumed by our joy in the countless miracles that surround us” (Goodenough 1998:30).

Our task, I would suggest, is to get out of its way enough
that we might be filled with it
and go about our task of healing, celebrating, and co-creating.

As for the new year, we can only wish for peace:
in the world,
and in our lives.

God is the life-throb of all things.

Notes:
Fallon, M. 1993. Fundamentalism. A Misunderstanding of Religious Experience. Eastwood. Parish Ministry Publications.
Fox, M. 1995. Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality. New York. Harper & Row.
Goodenough, U. 1998. The Sacred Depths of Nature. New York. Oxford University Press.

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