Faith looks a lot different depending on what questions I’m asking. The question I’m asking is could Jesus be telling us that it might be time for us to imagine God as something bigger than the understanding we have now, to let God out of the box we keep God in with our labels and definitions?
Mary sat at the feet of the Rabbi (Teacher) Jesus, something that only men were allowed to do. Jesus commends her for having the courage to do something different. Our role as followers of Jesus is to be open to the Spirit who helps us know what it means in our specific circumstances to live as Jesus’ followers. When the message of the kingdom is divorced from the person of Jesus, it becomes merely a program or an ideology, but not a gospel. Our commitment is to Jesus, not to a set of ideas and terms that vary widely from group to group under the wide umbrella of what we call Christianity, each of which makes various claims to be the only authentic version.
Jesus brought a totally new understanding of God. Before Jesus God was seen as a powerful king, judge, and punisher who watched us from a distance, and every once in a while got involved, usually to punish in some way. Jesus shows us a God who is not far away or remote at all, who loves creation, heals and calls us to growth and involvement, is not interested in power and control, and is with us always. The religions who claim to be acting in his name, on the other hand, are very much about power and control and are mainly patriarchal. In varying ways they make use of gate keepers, thought police, even prayer police, to keep the folks in line and make sure they use only the approved words and ideas, and discourage any original thinking. Folks who are more open to thinking and growing in their experience and awareness of God are called heretics, censured, or thrown out. A worthwhile question is do we believe in God or in the idea of God? The infinite God cannot be confined to finite terms and concepts.
When we look at Jesus, we see all that we can know about God from the human perspective. In Jesus we see God is interested in people, healing us, encouraging us to work together to take care of each other, grow together. Jesus called this the Kingdom of God happening here and now. Most religious forms do not like this because it lessens the control they have over their folks, but it is something that is happening quite a lot.
We’ve inherited much of our terminology about God from folks who lived in a different time and place and who used terms that helped them relate to God in ways they could understand. With all the advances of science, to include the Webb telescope, the wars and threats we face, might it be time to build on what we have learned from those who came before us and develop our own concepts and ideas about how to talk about God? Our ideas of God have evolved since we began to think and be aware, and this evolution is continuing now. Are we willing to look at it and be a part of this process? Or should we fear and discourage. In creating us God gives us an intellect, which makes us the only species capable of thought. Is there a cogent reason why we should not use our intellect to gain a deeper insight into God? Is there anything to be afraid of from the God who, and Jesus shows us, keeps us in being, loves us and calls us forward?
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There is no cogent reason not to deepen our understanding of God, and nothing to fear in doing so except drawing the anger of contemporary Pharisees. And that’s nothing to fear. I have long thought that the Kingdom of God is the realm where mercy, forgiveness, compassion, unity with the Divine, and love reside—whether in an individual, family, or community. These are what Jesus examples for us even as he hung on the Cross. These should be the marks of our how disciples live their lives and interact with one another. To the degree that following this example diverges from what my institutional Church preaches, too bad for I choose Jesus’ example over the institution. As a closet heretic, I guess I’m comfortable with living a bit of a paradox.
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