December 22, 2010
I’ve been thinking a lot about Incarnation and what it means that Christ was fully human and fully divine. I’ve been thinking about what it means for me to be an Incarnate being – a creature of flesh
and sinew and sensation.
You see, I’m one of those privileged people who gets to think for a living. I write text, I compose music, I preach, I teach, I organize activities, etc. Obviously, the vast majority of the human species, throughout time, has not lived this way, but I do.
The Kingdom of God, however, cannot be conceived by thought alone. If it were, then the divine logos, the Word of God, could have been revealed to us as a book, or a poem, or an idea. It could have been a formula or a creed or a doctrinal statement. It could have been an argument.
The Word of God, however, is none of these things; the Word of God is an
infant, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The Word of God was revealed to us as a person who got calluses on his hands, who had animated dinner conversations, and who drank excellent wine at weddings. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.
It’s so tempting to reduce Christianity to a religion of ideas and to equate Christian formation with theological study. It’s so easy to say that the soul is sacred and the flesh is profane, that white-collar work is more respectable than blue-collar work, and that it’s what’s on the inside that really matters. To do so, however, is to deny the miracle of the Incarnation.
That’s what I’ve been doing. For the last year or so, I’ve been slowly gaining weight, eating food on the run, and generally treating my body as an inconvenience. This, too, denies the miracle of the Incarnation.
My Advent discipline was to watch for the places where Christ is breaking into the world. My Christmas discipline is going to be fully inhabiting my body, living in the flesh as an act of prayer.
I invite you to join me. Go for a hike. Eat a fantastic meal. Look at something beautiful. Give someone a back rub. Play with your dog. Have an incredible make out session. Build something with your hands. Stretch. Cook. Run.
December 12, 2010
For me, dance can be an act of prayer. In movement I can pray the longings of my heart for which I have no words. In the dance that I have posted below (music by our own Isaac Everett!) I was dancing out my sense of longing, a hopeful expectation, calling out and listening for a response, and finding myself turned around and heading in an unexpected direction. (Oh, and keep watch for the amazing spontaneously transforming sign.) At the beginning of this third week of Advent, I lean forward and look out into the distance, toward the coming of God’s kindom, when God will fill the hungry with good things, raise up the
lowly, set the
prisoners free, and lift those who are bowed down. May it be so.
December 8, 2010
a short play by j.
December 5, 2010
This fall, I got to hold a friend’s newborn baby in my arms. He seemed fragile to me, with his delicate fingers, unfocused eyes, soft skull, and feeble neck muscles. It was seeing that final detail in person that made me understand the total dependence of infants on their families in a real and visceral way. He needed my help to hold up his head.
A couple of years ago, I was talking to some friends at a seminary, and they started discussing an ancient Christology that eventually was declared heresy. According to the understanding of the nature of Jesus that was developed in Adoptionism, he was born as an ordinary human and then “adopted” by God at his baptism as God’s spirit, shaped like a dove, descended on him; God’s nature and God’s power did not enter into Jesus until this moment. Two of my friends argued that they believed this to be true, that God’s nature and God’s power could not possibly have rested in an infant’s body.
There was something very disturbing about this idea to me. I want to believe that incarnation
means that God understands what it is like
to live with the fragility and limitation that being human entails. I want to believe that God knows what it is like to be poor, hungry, tired, unable to communicate clearly, and dependent on people for life itself. When I need God and can’t even put words to my prayer, I want to believe that God “remembers” what it was like.
The scripture in the lectionary for today, the second Sunday of Advent, is Isaiah 11:1-10. It begins, “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” This image speaks to me of fragility, of the seedling that needs protection, of the green life that needs care to thrive. This Advent, I am keeping watch for fragile things, the green shoot bursting into my life from some dark corner, the infant idea that needs my help to hold up its head, the emergence of God in delicate and breakable moments. Oh come, oh come Emanuel.
December 3, 2010
Tonight is the third night of Hanukkah, which celebrates both the new found political independence of Judea from the Seleucid Empire, and the eight day reconsecration of the Temple of Jerusalem, which Antiochus the IV dedicated to Zeus, thus defiling the most sacred site of Jewish faith. The revolt began in earnest when a Jewish priest refused to sacrifice to Zeus, and killed the one who came to sacrifice in his place.
Tonight is also the sixth night of Advent, the season of anticipating the birth of a true king, worthy of homage, during the reign of a client king of an occupying power who claimed its political leaders to be divine.
We pay particular attention to joyfulness and giving this season. Giving usually means spending money somehow. And Americans are well practiced money spenders, so there should be no surprise at the level of commercialization during this season, though it’s sometimes overwhelming to see so many demands to buy products you haven’t heard before and promises that true joy and happiness follow their owning the new 5Gen WidGet!(tm) or that those who love you don’t really love you unless you get a Baloney MyBox, the bigger version of the MyKick you already have.
So between the historical roots of this time of year of enforced false gods and the contemporary sensation bombardment of chocolate
jesuses and soda-pop saints, I think it would be a good idea to reflect on Idolatry.
Before we make a differentiation between a true and false deity, let’s ask what a deity is. Here’s my best answer right now: the principal foundation of a human’s heart by which all other perspectives and behaviors will defer and accommodate. Kind of an abstract definition, but I can demonstrate:
That priest held the Lord so dear that even under threat of death he could not show worship to anything else, and murdered another out of distress that his victim was about to do what he risked death to refrain from. This man would become Maccabee, or Hammer, leading a rebel army and winning political freedom and the beloved temple back.
The unseen father of the friend in “Ferris Beuler’s Day Off” made the car the center of his life, with consequences on his troubled and terrified son, who ultimately took violent action against it
So a deity does not have to be a supernatural force, or have an inherently spiritual connotation. Well, an Idol doesn’t, at least. All an idol needs to be an idol is to seduce you thoroughly enough for you to act foolishly and dangerously for its sake, even so far as to alienate those who love you the most. Terrifyingly, this is the price of the true deity too: “If
anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother… he cannot be my disciple.” (l14:25-27) But fortunately, we can find the Lord in our neighbors.
An Idol, though, has no power. Or more accurately, it could have a lot of power, but only the power humans grant it. The car, no matter how cool it is, is only responsible for the family’s misery by the dad’s devotion to it.
We should all be for acting foolishly and dangerously for the sake of the Lord, and we naturally find it commendable and reasonable to act foolishly and dangerously for our family. But I (try) to draw the line at judo-throwing someone for the sake of a video game. Or mooning a live television camera for money (though a buttload of money might be tempting…) Or killing someone because a General said it was Okay.
Now WidGet!(tm)s are nice things. I have quite a few myself. And they actually could make nice gifts. But they are made by the hands of humans, to serve humans and to be dismissed by humans. Worshiping such a thing (whether it’s recognized as such or not) is not only stupidity, it is deadly. It either means that another human, who is a weakling sinner bag of flesh living in just as much uncertainty as you, is imagining themself your master, or you are ultimately worshiping yourself, which you can do until the horse you ride on gives you a good buck off a cliff and you realize you are subject to physics, not the other way around, and even the horse you think you controlled is stronger than you and decided it didn’t like your attitude.
Now next week I’ll write about the act of giving, the act of gratitude, and how to do them both properly (even when the gift is a WidGet!(tm)) without all these stupid idols screaming for our submission.
December 2, 2010
Honestly, counting days to Christmas is not the most exciting thing about Advent to me. In fact, it feels a little false – after all, the people who were waiting for Christ the first time around didn’t know when Jesus was going to come. They didn’t have fun little advent calendars to help them count the days, nor did they have advent wreathes to mark the passing weeks.
No, when Jesus was made known to the shepherds, they were just chilling on a hillside and then suddenly: HOLY CRAP! ANGELS! Similarly, the Magi took a couple of years to make it to Jesus
because the star took them by surprise, too. Even John the Baptist, the guy who made his entire career by announcing the coming of the Messiah, didn’t get going until Jesus was well into adulthood.
Jesus took everyone by surprise. The season of Advent certainly captures the feeling of waiting, but it misses the feeling of uncertainty – the process of waiting in hope and faith for something even though you have no idea what it is.
That’s pretty much what the Kingdom of God is like, though – we can’t predict it, we can’t control it, and we don’t always recognize it when we see it. Emmanuel – God With Us, the Incarnate Deity – is revealed to us when we least expect it. Jesus didn’t tell us to wait, he told us to
keep watch, for we do not know when our Lord will come.
This year, instead of thinking of Advent as a countdown to Christmas, I’m going to treat as a challenge to keep watch for every way I see God breaking into our world.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
December 2, 2010
Happy December 1st! I know its not my day… again. I keep checking it like a little kid who can’t wait to see what picture is behind the little paper door on the Advent calendar. And since December 1st is when those paper (or chocolate!) Advent calenders started for me as a kid, figured I’d offer up another post.
I’m so glad to have peeled away from lesson planning and research papering to meet up with Ula, Dan and a warm collection of Followers in the family room of Radical Living for their Advent/Book of Common Prayer Release
Party in Brooklyn tonight. Following the prayers and
scriptures that we shared together for December 1st (We even got a call from Shane Claiborne sending his love), there’s a note on Advent for December 1st in the Book of Common Prayer, and a link to an interesting looking website- http://www.adventconspiracy.org/story
I suggest checking out the “about” section- Worship fully, spend less, give more, love all; and the stories which I’ve linked to, which share our communities around the world are applying the above guidelines creatively in the celebration of Advent. One of their stories might also be something great to share with us in a future Advent blog post, if you’re blanking on what to say that day.
November 30, 2010
True, its not my advent day. But since we’re 2 posts behind, I thought I’d take the liberty to kick us off, with the words of… someone else.
Here is the true message of Advent: Faced with him who is the Ultimate, the world will begin to shake. Only where we do not cling to false securities will our
eyes be able to see
him, and to get to the bottom of things. Only then will we be able to guard our lives from the frights and terrors into which God has let the world sink to teach us, so that we may awaken from sleep, as Paul says, and see that it is time to repent, time to change… It is time to awaken from sleep. It si time for an awakening to begin somewhere. It is time to put things back where God put them. It is time for each individual to go to work with the same unshakeable sureness with which the Lord will come, and – wherever he can- to set his life in God’s order.
- Alfred Delp
November 28, 2010
My brother is an electrical engineer who works with robots, so I always keep my eye out for stories about robots and innovations in robotic technology. Last night, as I was thinking about this blog post, I ran into an order viagra online article on the New York Times website: Robots, the Military’s Newest Forces. Reading it made me proud of my brother, who recently went through a logistical nightmare to
switch work groups in his PhD program because he feared his ideas and inventions would be used to create machines designed for combat. It also made me despair for our country and our world. On this, the first Sunday in Advent, we read the famous prophesy from Isaiah (2: 1-5), “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Last night I sat in front of my computer reading about robots designed to bring death and wondered when we will start investing in the technology of life. In the plowshares and pruning hooks, books and dry erase markers, windmills and solar panels, water filters and medicine that we need to make our communities thrive. When will we stop learning war?
November 28, 2010
Welcome to Transmission’s series of blog posts for the season of Advent. Seven men and women from the Transmission community have committed to writing one blog post each week for the four weeks of Advent. The posts might be related to the lectionary for the day, or might simply be the musings of the author. Whether you join us for one day or
the entire season, we hope you will join us in clearing some space in our busy lives to prepare for the coming of the Christ.