“We have this treasure in clay jars,” the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, “So that it may be clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”
As I age I am especially aware of my cracked and wrinkled clay! I see it in the mirror, as my skin’s terrain shifts with time. I feel it in my body, my joints stiffening like the Tinman’s rusting hinges.
Lent is a time to reflect on our mortality, but I think of it also as a time to contemplate our divinity—as process theology would say, our participation in the divine life. “For in God we live and move and have our being,” Paul quoted a Greek philosopher to proclaim a new theology in Acts 17:38.
Henri Nouwen’s spiritual director once gave him this koan, this mantra: “I am the glory of God.” Where else is the glory of God manifest but in our bodies and in nature and in the cosmos? As Teresa of Avila observed, “On earth, God’s body is our own.” Ephesians tells us, “We are God’s work of art” (NJB, 2:10).
Thomas Merton wrote “it is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, [God] gloried in becoming a member of the human race.”
Listening to the news on National Public Radio and reading the newspaper each morning, I am constantly reminded of human absurdities and our terrible mistakes. That’s why I need a time of reading and reflection to remind me who we are.
Some progressive Christians have reservations regarding the divinity of Jesus, "that God gloried in becoming a member of the human race." Henri Nouwen wrote in his book Creative Ministry, “We will never fully understand the meaning of the sacramental signs of bread and wine when they do not make us realize that the whole of nature is a sacrament pointing to a reality far beyond itself. The presence of Christ in the Eucharist becomes a ‘special problem’ only when we have lost our sense of God’s presence in all that is, grows, lives, and dies.” I would extend his understanding to say, “The divinity of Christ becomes a ‘special problem’ only when we have lost our sense of God’s divinity in all that is, grows, lives, and dies.”
Affirming “I am the glory of God” is not “all about me” or “all about you,” but rather, all about us and all about God.
You may enjoy reading “Jesus’ Temptations” on the writings page of my website, my imaginative excerpt from the “lost” Gospel of Jesus.