On my way to Petra, 1981.
Thank you, Huston Smith, for widely sharing your lifelong spiritual quest.
The reading this morning was the Gospel of John’s famous prologue about the Word, the Word that called creation into being, the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. My blogpost “The Word We Need This Christmas” reflected on this passage, and I had this in mind as I read again John’s very grand interpretation of Jesus’ birth.
But my “a-ha” came when I recited the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, as I do every morning. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth”—and here I stopped, not adding my usual “on earth,” an alternate wording that suggests an alliance of human will. “Thy kingdom come…in earth.” “The Word made flesh.” The connection was obvious and inescapable. From the beginning, God’s “kingdom” and God’s “word” has been embodied, enfleshed, in earth, in matter and energy.
God’s kingdom and God’s will is the spark that began the universe in the eyes of people of faith. “Thy kingdom come in earth as in heaven” is as much about origins as it is about hoped-for destinations. Faith posits that the more we know of our origin—our reason for being who and what and where we are—the better we know our destination, our purpose, our meaning.
The scientific search for the origins of the universe is no less than an attempt to find our place in it, how and why and when we came to be. For most of human history, we have relied on our spiritual imaginations to speculate on our place: myth-making, ritual-performing, story-telling. Now that our scientific imaginations are given a freer reign, we have fact-oriented, experiment-performing, evidence-gathering methods of discerning something like what our spiritual imaginations have sought.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “arc that bends toward justice” may be a way of recognizing that justice (God’s will, God’s kingdom) is built-in. This is a high-view of creation in general and humankind in particular, and would seem to belie the notion of “The Fall,” but to “fall” requires heighth. In my belief, “The Fall” is not built-in, though most Christians probably believe that to be so. As Matthew Fox and others have pointed out, it’s our “original blessing” that is built-in.
Genesis has us created in God’s image, thus in Jesus’ lineage the Gospel of Luke calls Adam “son of God.” The Gospel of John has the Word giving us “power to become children of God,” restoring us to our rightful heritage.
My reasoning will seem sophomoric to some, but the profound sense that matter and energy and we are also incarnations of God’s will and kingdom will not leave me.
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The intense beauty of colors in the stone of Petra
brought involuntary tears to my eyes.