Tag Archives: Creation

14 February, Ash Wednesday: Beware of Bland Faith!

monica9People talk about blind faith, but this Ash Wednesday I want to look at bland faith. Two posts last November 6th used the word: a thought provoking conjunction. Here’s Friar Austin:1

Jesus belongs to anyone struggling with faith – and how to live it truthfully. It is clear that many who would call themselves agnostic or even atheist actually live by values closer to the Gospel than do many Church-goers.

Jesus appeals to the imagination in ways that make official teaching about him seem very bland. What is the reality of Jesus beyond dogma? He was very imaginative, to a degree more suited to story than to doctrine. How would he tell his own story?

There never has been a time when God was not fully involved with Creation. The Book of Genesis states that God takes great pleasure in the creative process – and God saw that it was very good – everything is good because it is of God, good only comes from goodness. With evolution the time came for the break away from our primate ancestors, when God adds a new dimension with the arrival of the human.

And Fr James Kurzynski:2

Something I think theology can learn from science is the inspirational ethos that can be created when faith is not merely approached as an intellectual discipline to be understood, but as an adventure to be lived and explored with deep passion.

Yes, we need high intellects in the Church to further the academic exploration of theology. However, we also need voices in the pastoral field who can take the complexity of the scholar and present it to the people of faith in a way that inspires them to embrace an adventure of faith, hope, and love. Unfortunately, all too often, I encounter a bland faith of practicality in which adventure is lost and is replaced with paying bills, developing programs, and keeping tabs on the number of parishioners in the pews.

My fear is that faith is become so pragmatic that even the idea of pilgrimage, a sacred journey, is being dropped in favor of pressing play on the DVD player to watch the latest series on Catechetical instruction. Put another way, I fear that we are living in the midst of “Living-room Catholicism.”

What set me off about bland faith was this description of a Lutheran minister from Siri Hustvedt:3

He was well-meaning if somewhat narrow in his views and comfortable in his faith without being smug. At the same time, it has always impressed me that in the hands of men like Lund, the strange, bloody and wondrous Christian story inevitably turned rather drab.

Let’s take time this Lent to put a little more colour into our faith and how we live it.

3The Sorrows of an American, London, Sceptre, 2009, p173.

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Thank you and Happy New Year!

awelcomefire

All Blessings for 2018

and thank you to all our followers and readers for your continuing support.

Will and the team at Agnellus.Mirror.

 

 I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people; and God himself with them shall be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. And he that sat on the throne, said:

Behold, I make all things new. 

Revelation 21

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28 December: Father Andrew at Christmas V. Lux Vera

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Mary, Jesus’ Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury

More Christmas poetry from the Anglican Franciscan, Fr Andrew SDC.

Lux Vera

‘Let there be light’ Thou didst say.
It was done –
In the shining of stars, in the gold of the sun.
They tell of Thy handiwork, give Thee their praise,
Yet dark is the brightest and best of earth’s days,
Without Thee, our Beloved.

‘Let there be love,’ didst Thou say?
It was done –
And Mary bent low, while the night, silver-hung,
Shone soft on Thy meek Baby face –
And bright is the darkest of nights by Thy grace,
And with Thee, best Beloved.

There was and is no electricity at Hales Place Chapel, but the gold on the garments and the insignia on the walls – there are many stars elsewhere in the design – would have reflected candle light on the darkest of nights, as it did on one of the brightest of earth’s days when this picture was taken. MMB.

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November 27: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxvii – Incarnation is about being adult

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A crucial issue about creation is the emphasis we tend to put on the divine coming into the world as a helpless baby – but the Incarnation is primarily about being adult, not being a child. The Incarnation of the divine in human existence happened 2000 years ago. Says who? The human species has been on earth for over 6 million years – and the 2000 years has tended to distort this. Incarnation did not begin with Jesus’ earthly dwelling 2000 years ago. It began 6 million years ago when the human species first evolved. The first 5 million happened in what we know as Africa.

Thus far our human unfolding has been largely of a biological nature, it has taken that long to bring our biological development to maturity. Biological development has reached a high point, we can’t evolve much further. The future will be spiritual development rather than physical growth, which we call the Kingdom of God. The days of hard graft with the focus on the material is changing; the future is about growth in mind and spirit. Which is what Jesus promised: if I do not go I cannot send the Spirit to lead into this fullness. Resurrection means humanity refashioned in the direction of the spiritual rather than the physical.

This transformation is global, not confined to the Christian religion. Because all religions suffer the desire for control, all have developed notions of incarnation that are alarmingly exclusive. None of them – including Christianity – have fully appreciated what unconditional love means. There is no such thing as a master species, each is unique in its capacity to give, and is equally co-dependent. Humanity has the responsibility for drawing forth the conscious dimension of creation especially through evolution which is crucial for our understanding of universal life.

This brings out the capacity for wisdom, necessary to keep us on the way to universal love. This is where things have gone wrong – wisdom became rational and mechanistic, serving the love of power rather than the power of love. Learning to love unconditionally is crucial if we are to have meaningful relationships; there can be no love where there is no justice. Sadly, many religions work hard at installing love – but too often neglect justice. Justice translates ideals into action, and engenders hope. Justice means holding no one and no thing in disregard. Mistakenly we link justice with just wages, just rights [rarely speaking of responsibilities]. Justice is all about fostering right relationships – a way of life that means empowering the powerless. Right relationships cannot exist where rivalry rules; where economies, health and education are based on competition.

Justice should be taken out of religious systems, because religions are tainted by association with oppressive regimes. Justice needs to be primary. We need to learn to think differently in order to see the bigger vision. Thinking should always be inclusive – we are expected not to think ourselves into a new way of living; but to live ourselves into a new way of thinking. Put simply, everything and everybody is included – no exclusions whatsoever. Indeed there are obstacles, we have been brainwashed about who to like and who to dislike, who to love and who to hate – all that has to be left behind.

Equally important, the Kingdom is not just about people – it’s also about systems and structures. The Cosmos is the womb of belonging – things either belong or they have no existence. Relating in the Kingdom is not possible without recognising we belong to the whole of creation – from where everything starts. In creation everything has its place and space, awaiting the warmth of hospitality; which allows for all kinds of possibilities.

As we have seen, God didn’t create a perfect world, but a world able to become what it was meant to be by the way it is lived in. For thousands of years we befriended creation in its birthing forth bringing new life through growth and decay – all this was spoiled when missionaries came and caused confusion by insisting that we were wrong to worship nature – when all we were doing was being at home with it. We need to recover awareness of the enormity and complexity of our beautiful world; only then do we have any hope of walking in tandem with Evolution.

Church is never to be equated with Kingdom. When it comes to Church we need to recall what Paul told us after visiting those infant Christian communities; that we relish what we have been given and don’t be over-concerned about structure and procedure. We must rid ourselves of all aspects on imperialism, with its regalia and pomposity and the accompanying legalism. The Kingdom is all about right relationships, not just in a religious or church context, but in fidelity to the wonder of and enjoying belonging. Every human structure needs to be called to give account of its stewardship.

AMcC

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November 26: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxvi – Jesus’ risen life wasn’t more real

 

Creation is one – which is a reminder that there is no separation between the dead and the living – we share the same Creation but at different levels. The realm of the dead is not some distant place from where we will escape through resurrection. Life and death belong in the one reality. Jesus’ risen life wasn’t more real than his ordinary life – he is the fullness of reality – yet it is certainly more enduring.

There is one Creation in life, in death and beyond death. Creation is forever undergoing death, resurrection and transformation. Resurrection is not just about Christ; it is about all of us and all creation. Jesus was not just 3 days older, with wounds healed by God, but was present as one simultaneously alive and dead. Not that the Lamb slain has recovered. Resurrection has emptied death of its power; by showing the shape of death – the mortal wounds – without its content.

This presence is always present as death overcome. Resurrection is a new way of being human, or a rereading of the original human story that had been obscured by death. God’s affirmation of Jesus’ living and dying is Resurrection. Jesus Risen did not simply reveal information as yet unknown, but shows a reality as yet unobserved, because clouded by death. The Revelation is not that there is Resurrection from the dead [this was known at the time of Maccabees].

It is not in being human that we rise from the dead, like the next step on a journey, we rise from the dead through association with Jesus Risen, it is an entirely new way of being [as Jesus told Nicodemus]. Prior to Resurrection the disciples couldn’t understand what he was saying or where he was leading – now they see something new about him, about God and about themselves. Incarnation means coming in the flesh. The body is the creative medium through which Spirit flourishes.

AMcC

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November 19: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xix – ‘Our identity is the sum of all these relationships.’

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The ability to relate is our gateway to meaning. Everything in creation evolves, grows and dies, in a process of birth-death-rebirth. Stars exploded, radiating out vast dust containing various gases – especially carbon. This is where our story begins; the stars are our ancestors. Carbon gets entwined with the wonder of photosynthesis as a source of nourishment. All those energies relating to tides, water, and vapour – even the menstrual cycle – owe their origin to the moon.

Long before procreation dreams existed, yearnings, longings and desires; and when creation was ready to welcome yet another creative gift – through the lure of erotic love, procreation happens. Parents are the biological channel through which this energy of the ages is transmitted into a new creature. A process reactivated every time a flower blooms, a seed dies and sperm and egg meet. What constitutes our identity is the sum of all these relationships.

But what about the soul? We tend to ask where the soul fits in this process. In a relational universe things don’t just fit – it is creative energy flowing in interweaving patterns. The soul is energy, holding together the movements of creative possibilities. Dualisms like body/soul, body/spirit, are not helpful. There is no distinction between body, soul and spirit; everything is pregnant with spirit-power. Bodies don’t need to have souls inserted to make them live [batteries included!]. It is not the soul that gives identity/character to the body. The erotic is the creative energy through which we connect within creation. What is the point of incarnation if the body cannot enjoy?

The Kingdom has to do not with heroes but with lovers. Ask what did the women at the tomb miss – and what did the disciples miss? One was relational, the other – we’ve lost a leader. Any wonder Jesus needed to ask: who do you say I am? Does Peter really answer this with – you are the Christ, Son of the living God? What problems it caused! Christ never called himself that; he didn’t like titles. Christ has nothing to do with power. What we are all about is quality relationships. Nothing makes sense in isolation, not even Christ. I am because we are!

Free will and intelligence are wonderful gifts, but become liabilities if we divorce them from imagination and intuition. We belong to the whole creation, not just one part of it. Breaking the planet into segments called nations is a purely human invention – belonging more to the divide and conquer vision of reality [as history has proved]. Creation is essentially undivided. This is why Jesus could not live up to the messianic expectations he met, which were very much in line with divide and conquer.

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November 18: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xviii – Let Jesus tell his story

bread-fish-strasbg

Human stories happen around a beginning, a middle and an end – not so his story – we have had a human version of his story for 2000 years – it could be called his earthly dwelling.

Jesus’ whole being is caught up in relationship; he belongs to a web of relationships – ancient religion refers to this as Trinity. We all actually lived from this reality long before scholarship named it. We see ourselves over against creation – the game of divide and conquer. We have reduced reality into three human-like figures – Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Jesus is the hub of all relating throughout infinity and so there is no beginning or end – we need such parameters, but creative reality knows no boundaries.

Jesus’ special connection with us did not begin 2000 years ago, with his earthly dwelling. He has been around far longer than that. The Incarnation happened at the very start – there was never a question of waiting 6 million years for redemption and salvation to take place. Redemption is with us from the start. If only we had Jesus’ humanity right we would have no problem with his divinity. Things can’t be clear cut in an evolving universe. It is a condition of creative freedom for everything to be open and fluid.

Christian tradition has seen to it that what has been passed on with regard to the Kingdom has suffered from the desire for control; and so the Kingdom became a spiritual/ecclesiastical [not ecclesial!] way of containing God’s power through sacred institutions. Christ brought the Kingdom – his new way of being human, through celebrated inter-dependence with the earth. The Kingdom was never a project apart from the self of Jesus. He did not bring the Kingdom, the Kingdom brought him.

He tried to explain it through story and parable – stories left wide open, inviting our creativity and innovation. All he wanted was to sit at table, share stories and break bread together; without the baggage of not being worthy, or feeling unclean. The Kingdom is not about laws but values. There is no room for exclusions or favourites, just a willingness to welcome everybody irrespective of creed, race or reputation. Kings and kingdoms of this world welcome hierarchies and preferential living. The Kingdom is a new kind of real presence that desires to be open to all creation.

Doctrines, codes and creeds don’t need a mother, persons do! Motherhood is how we all give birth – something we have from our common mother earth; that became individualised for Jesus through Mary, his biological mother. We belong to one earth, come from the same stardust; share the same flesh and blood – we all need to laugh, to work, to play, to enjoy love. Without bodies Spirit cannot flourish.

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November 17: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xvii: ‘Human is unique.’

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Everything takes its identity from its relationships and not from self-first separateness. Jesus takes his identity from his mission – always pointing away from himself towards the Kingdom. This redefines human. Gone forever the lonely, isolated individual. For most of the 6 million years we have been around we were egalitarian, connected with the earth and cooperative in relation to other beings.

Original Creation is the source of living reality, including that of the earthly Jesus. The difference between Jesus and ourselves is that he was probably more aware of this. The ability to relate is a most noble quality – which has been severely impaired by the domination of patriarchal systems. It will be recovered more from the ground up than from the top down.

Story-telling is the most ancient form of communication – even before formal language emerged story-telling happened through gestures, pictures and skills of hand and eye. The purpose of story-telling was varied, but in the main as a search for meaning and purpose. Stories have their own compelling driving force, for which the teller becomes the creative agent. Time and again stories enable us to discover how individual lives blend with cosmic reality.

Is there a place for God here? World religions couch their truths within story, passed down from poets, prophets and messiahs [e.g. the Gospel parables]. However, institutional religion assures allegiance not through story but through procedures, rules and regulations, with God seen as the supreme ruler. We have formalised stories – Scriptures – which are meant to show the right relationship between the divine and the rest of creation. In fact in many contemporary situations these narratives tend to hide the divine reality, being overtaken by the views of the leaders of religious faith attempting to order and control. This subdues creativity and relegates people into a passive role that inhibits telling and hearing stories.

In Acts 16.2 Paul and Silas are in prison, shackled in chains. In the dark of night the whole prison is shaken by earthquake – gates are open, chains loosened. The governor panics and is for committing suicide; Paul restrains him, assuring him the prisoners are still inside. They are content just to be in their new-found freedom. Sadly, we hear no more about the prisoners, plenty about Paul – the opportunity for an example of liberating grace is lost. The writer is so taken-up with the hero, Paul, as to lose sight of the Gospel promise of liberation for the imprisoned and oppressed.

What is known as the Quantum Vision of the world: a world of endless possibilities, and it is real when there is openness to all of them; the really real is where all things are possible; it becomes unreal when we have to choose one or other option because we are limited in resourcefulness. The Jesus who brings abundant life transcends all structures; he abides not just in the human heart but in the heart of creation.

AMcC

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November 15: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xv – ‘What now?’

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What has happened thus far is following the maxim: the whole equals the sum total of the parts – whereas the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The implications: the fixed character of reality gives way to a fluid flowing, driven by energies of which we know nothing, which we cannot control. Rational argument doesn’t work anymore – cause and effect do not work as we presumed they did. Creation is relationally friendly. Quantum vision can be summarised: Creation manifests itself; energy exists; time begins; space expands; events are uncertain; only probabilities can be measured; cause and effect are fluid; birth and death happen at the speed of light; information is to be found in energy.

No room here for power-over, only power with. Power games are alien to life. Thirst for control makes no sense, where everything exercises its own sense of control – everything is out of our control. We live in a self-organising universe, which calls for humility on our part, to submit our plans to the greater wisdom of Creation.

How do we see Jesus in this context? Maybe Saint Paul can help: So, from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone the new is here… 2Corinthians 5.16.

Paul is inviting us to regard Jesus differently from the prevailing norms. Christ’s coming has changed all this. All the great religions grapple with our relationship with the divine – but the desire for power gets in the way. The understanding of God as relationship is the oldest humanity has ever known – and from this issue notions of Trinity. Christian history has seen Trinity from a mathematical angle in which the individuality of the persons became more significant than their relatedness. Jesus seen as closer to the Father than to the Spirit – though New Testament has nothing of this.

Jesus belongs to the realm where the whole is greater than the sum total of the parts; he belongs to the whole Creation – he is the primary expression of divine creativity. How Jesus differs from Father and Spirit could well be a meaningless question. The need for a difference is a human patriarchal need, which gets in the way of our befriending God in a Creation-wide way.

AMcC

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November 6, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: vi – ‘How would he tell his own story? ‘

 

Is there a place for Jesus in today’s world? Has Evolution side-lined Christian belief? Certainly questions like these are not readily answered in terms of traditional theology. There isn’t an obvious fit between the conventional understanding of faith and the unfolding reality of the world. It might be preferable to be content with asking the questions rather than trying to provide answers!

It is clear that such questions are being asked more and more today and it is not clear whether conceptual answers are available. The questioners seem to be from a group familiar with the Christian story, but suspicious of the ways the churches tell it, or live it in a challenging way.

Scholars tend to say the Jesus story is for students and researchers of the Bible to elaborate. Jesus belongs to anyone struggling with faith – and how to live it truthfully. There is no doubt that Jesus remains a fascinating figure for many; and it is clear that many who would call themselves agnostic or even atheist actually live by values closer to the Gospel than do many Church-goers.

There’s obviously something bigger about Jesus than what is contained in doctrinal teaching. He appeals to the imagination in ways that make official teaching about him seem very bland. What is the reality of Jesus beyond dogma? He was very imaginative, to a degree more suited to story than to doctrine. How would he tell his own story?

There never has been a time when God was not fully involved with Creation. The Book of Genesis states that God takes great pleasure in the creative process – and God saw that it was very good – everything is good because it is of God, good only comes from goodness. With evolution the time came for the break away from our primate ancestors, when God adds a new dimension with the arrival of the human.

Strictly speaking this is when the Incarnation actually began – the Incarnation means God identifying with the human species. God, who created the human six million years ago did not say I’ll wait millions of years until Jesus comes before declaring salvation. Yet this has been basic to Christian faith for 2,000 years.

AMcC

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