God Lives A Wonderful Expression In Us.

Posted: May 16, 2017 in Uncategorized

Easter 6A, 2017 John 14:15-21

God Lives A Wonderful Expression In Us. 

Last week are claimed that the words ‘I am the Way the Truth and the Life’ were put into the mouth of Jesus by the storyteller John, and the interpretation I offered, I am sure was challenging to some of you. The claim was counter -cultural in the extreme in that those words have for many years been at the core of transmitting Christianity as the only true faith and that while other faiths were clearly of value they missed the boat considerably. For years we have been brought up on an exclusive Christianity. Even our interfaith dialogue has not been able to break completely free of the exclusivity. Of course this has its roots in a literal understanding of the scriptures, and doctrines and creeds have been piled on to confirm and build on that view. With a claim of certainty the gospel has been delivered with a level of almost arrogance and at the expense of other faith’s validity.

But what I said last week was not what some of you have read or heard others say before. What I hoped was that you might have begun to view a world where the Christian Way was just another approach to the questions about what it means to be human and what our purpose might be. For those of you who were not here last week I should perhaps recap just a little. The starting point was to ask how we could make sense of the claim: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’. I suggested by using Rex Hunts recollection that traditionally, these words have often been used, and come across, as exceedingly exclusive. As if Jesus, in the guise of a benevolent but first century ‘Terminator’, is making an ambit claim against other religions. I know that when wanting to share one’s faith one has to seem enthusiastic and the difficulty is in being enthusiastic without being exclusive of other points of view. But I think I want to say that there is a Way of claiming the Jesus Way as worth exploring without saying that anything else if wrong.

I claimed last week that Jesus is not the way in the sense of a moral guide or a model of leadership but rather. He is the path-way into the depths of the God-self-neighbour relationship… It is looking ahead to the possible rather than getting hung up on identity. I also suggested last week that the introduction of the Gospel of Mary brought the feminine argument into sharper relief, restoring a balance so to speak and enabling relational thinking to contribute to logical thinking. Or as I suggested into the mystery of our common existence.

I also suggested that Jesus is the truth about that common existence. Not in the sense of some unchallengeable doctrinal fact but rather in the sense of uncovering what is hidden, and bringing to light another dimension of human existence. Jesus is the truth in the sense that he encourages the possibility of an alternative path. Jesus is the truth about what it means to be human.

I suggested that Jesus is life because he is the way and truth by which God, self, and neighbour, break their isolation and flow into each other. Here is the core of relationship. It is found in the mysterious interaction that is what motivates us for life. All the struggles and challenges we know as our lives make sense when we discover that others have been there, others are there and others will be there. Jesus is the life because we recognize it as a life we know and experience in relationship with each other and with our God.

So the challenge for those of us who live comfortably with the title ‘progressive’, (and that’s not everyone who call themselves progressive) is not the existence of other faiths claims. For the most part, most of us happily embrace religious pluralism and spiritual diversity. The challenge, it seems is our surrendering of the Christian story to exclusive cults and preaching gurus, to fundamentalists and members of the ‘religious right’, and to the new neo-conservative evangelicals.

But all of that was last week so we had better get on to this week before time runs out.

I want to suggest that this week gospel is a natural sequel to last week even though some consider it complicated. It is John’s prelude to Pentecost –  and it is a bit complicated but it is about the continuing presentness of God. I want to try now to briefly suggest that this text is about that which my title suggests. God’s expression in us. Firstly I want to say that an entry point is the differences between the religion of Jesus, and the religion about Jesus.

The religion of Jesus is found in the echoes of the sayings he spoke and the stories he told, not as law, but about how to live, how to treat one another, how to re-imagine the world. His healing actions were not about supernatural manipulations of nature, they were healings in the truest sense, that of enabling people to live the fullest of lives that they could. They were about freeing the mind to see possibilities rather than restrictions. His teaching was about seeing the ordinary everyday life in anew light. About seeing the possibility of peace in a culture of military aggression.

The religion about Jesus has often been the religion of literalism and fundamentalism. And when it has, it is believing a certain story about an interventionist God, with the promise that if you do believe, you’ll be saved some day after you die. The religion about Jesus was dependent upon unquestioning loyalty to an idea and that idea was that humanity was totally dependent upon supernatural means. There was no point is seeking a true peace because it was beyond one’s control.

This means that the religion of Jesus is not a ‘supernatural’ story.  It is about how one can be made more whole, here and now, and how one can help make the world more whole, here and now. From our very best guesses (thanks to the work of amateur sleuths and scholarly critics), we can say the message of the religion of Jesus was one of liberation and empowerment and compassion. Of providing new or different pathways to experiencing and serving God in daily life, this life.

And from all we have puzzled over and learned, we can also say the message from the religion about Jesus was one too often aimed at frightening or controlling people, hating gays or assertive women, or supporting a war against people somewhere.

We could say that the religion about Jesus emphasizes the ‘noun’. While the religion of Jesus emphasizes the ‘verb’. Someone said that the religion about Jesus is ‘Easter’.  The religion of Jesus is ‘eastering’. “It’s about the miracle of new life coming from old, life out of death, right here and now.  Nothing supernatural, even though it feels so magical when it happens…  Life is about honouring that spirit of life that comes and goes as it likes, but when it comes our way it can make all the difference between feeling dead and feeling alive…” (Davidson Loehr UUAustin Web site, 2008). 

The story we heard this morning from John, I want to suggest, was more about ‘eastering’ than ‘easter’. They are not about bigger miracles or stricter commandments or watertight creeds. They are about a dynamic, creative, evolving ‘presentness’ in our midst. True, they are conditioned and shaped by the language of their day: flat earth, sin causes sickness, Their God may have seemed all powerful and yet distant, but so are our stories conditioned and shaped by the language and imagination of our day.

So, why should it not be that we can claim: that God is ‘not far from each one of us.’ Present and active everywhere on earth… – in the slow development of human cultures and societies, – in the growth of knowledge, – in the constant search for meaning as women and men tell stories and sharing their connectedness, and in the urging of us to love graciously and generously, to break down barriers between people, and to put an end to religious elitism and religious wars.

Why can’t the Jesus Way be an imagining of a better and more creative and vulnerable humanity. And a rejoicing in the knowledge that God lives and comes to wonderful expression – in us. And speaking of a vulnerable humanity I am reminded of Paul’s weakness of God and of John D Caputo’s weak God as the authentic God because the almighty all powerful God doesn’t seem to have it right yet.

And just to finish with a bit of a challenge. What if the Jesus Way is to reimagine the world, to honour the mind, in other words; to grasp the liberty of human thought, to live the questions, and to express the joy or gratuity of life in the midst of it all; in other words; to explore the adventure of humanity. The truth that is Jesus is the invitation to be a work of art which is to challenge, be playful and creative, to be a parable perhaps and thus the life Jesus is not spent looking for answers but rather but rather one spent asking how in the moments of fleeting life and changing history, human experience   van hold value. The challenge of looking at life this way is to see that giving meaning to experience is an interpretive act. No piece of art and no poem is understood if viewed simply as fact. I am the Way is an interpretation, I am the Truth is an expression and I am the life is an experience like no other. It is as Gordon Nicholson says when I ask him how he is, “Full of Joy” Amen.

 

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