The thought behind last week’s post, “Hevel Happens,” was confirmed by our delivery system sending it to subscribers a day late! Sorry!
I thought of writing this and posting around Christmas, but I am so overcome with something like a convert’s zeal that I can’t wait till then, even though each year summer’s end has the lowest ebb in terms of blog visitors who are not subscribers. Earlier this season, for example, we enjoyed over 4000 monthly visitors but are now shy of 3000. So I invite you to share this link/post with as many people as possible!
What excites me is yet another chapter in William P. Brown’s Sacred Sense: Discovering the Wonder of God’s Word and World: “Incarnational Wonder,” based on Gospel writer John’s prologue, the first eighteen verses of chapter one. See last week’s post on a different chapter.
What I “got” from it goes a bit beyond Brown’s actual elucidation of this text, though not beyond its implications. I suddenly understood that the “mystery” of Christmas (though of course mystery by its very definition can never be understood, only “wondered” at) is that early Christians finally “got” that God was in the world, in earth, in its creatures and in its matter, and in us—our very DNA.
And this is a tenet that we skeptical, doubting, deconstructionist, demythologizing, progressive Christians may affirm without reservation, I believe.
“In the beginning was the word [logos].” … Typically translated “Word,” logos comes from Greek Stoic philosophy and refers to the structuring principle of the universe that makes all life possible. … Call it God’s Grand Unifying Principle (aka GUP). But Logos in John is more than a formal abstraction, more than a grand unified theory of everything as pursued by physicists (aka GUT). No, the Logos is embodied.
The reason I write that my “ah-hah” may go a little beyond Brown’s interpretation is that I believe that, instead of this being the moment at which God entered the cosmos, entered the earth, inhabited “dirt”—that rather, this was the moment when we realized God’s essence or organizing principle or divine life was always incarnated in creation. That may be Brown’s intent as well.
I’ve written in an earlier post that the mystic Hildegard of Bingen believed that the Incarnation was not a result of “The Fall” or sin, but was intended by God from the beginning of Creation.
Physicists and theologians are engaged in similar tasks, discerning and discovering the “structuring principle of the universe that makes all life possible.” Scientists might say theologians are relying on “supernatural” phenomena or beliefs, when the Incarnation might mean there is nothing supernatural about God—that God is as “natural” and integral to the cosmos as we are.
Does that discount a “personal” God? It surely discounts a tribal, nationalistic, or parochial deity, but reveals a deity to be found in our very DNA, our skin, flesh, blood, eggs, sperm, tears, and bones—what could be more personal than that? And that we would attribute to that deity our highest values—love, compassion, justice, equality, shalom, and good stewardship—such as equal distribution of the world’s goods, care for “the least of these,” and respect for our environment—to name a few of those values, touches our deepest felt needs and lifts us to our highest aspirations, and it could be said, those of God.
Process theology posits a God that includes the cosmos, making in effect everything we can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste God’s “body.” Thus God is the ultimate altruist, sharing divine life sacrificially and universally, exemplified in Jesus of Nazareth’s living and dying for others, inviting his followers do the same. That is the path to resurrection, to new life, to new possibilities, to re-creation. Later in the book, Brown explains in his chapter, “Consummated Wonder,” that Revelation is about the earth’s renewal, not rapture, through God’s indwelling presence.
Brown notes that John affirms the darkness cannot overcome the light that is the life of the world and uses “a surprising word for God’s full-bodied embrace of creaturely existence, [that] has little to do with limitation: ‘fullness’ or pleroma in Greek (1:16). It is from God’s outward-extending abundance, from God’s pleroma that God becomes enfleshed. Divine pleroma is like an aroma that fills a room, like the costly ointment Mary used to anoint Jesus’ feet… Or like God’s glory, which ‘filled the tabernacle’…”
These thoughts should make for us the merriest of Christmases!
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