A New Way of Being Human

Posted: June 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

Pentecost 3B

Genesis 3: 8-15         Mark 3: 20-35

A New Way of Being Human

Along with the age-old way of being human based on the personalized and anthropocentric approach to God, so too is the idea of God casting out Satan, no longer the way of working toward being human. Up until now, such ideas of God and evil have been essential to our species survival. These ideas have, at the very least given us a relative peace within our own groups in geographical and cultural distinctiveness but now we have a new world and a new opportunity to travel that path towards being more human. For us as followers of the Jesus Way this is the path that Jesus offers us. He said or is recorded as having said; “And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.” Jesus seems to be saying that we have, in fact, been a house divided. Our recent review of human history suggests that human beings have always found ways to divide ourselves based on what was called the satanic way of accusation. Tradition has also said that, that way of being human has come to end in the cross, and Jesus’ new way of forgiveness is the only true way forward.

But what does that mean in terms of our understanding of God. This is important it seems because you and I are called to be part of this new order, this new alternative This new humanity. The old alternative is that older way of seeing salvation as an escape from a world that will forever remain divided and subject to violence and the primary question has been; which way of salvation do you want to be part of? One suggestion is that in order to see the choice more clearly, we have to raise our level of discourse to that of anthropology: that Jesus comes to invite us into a whole new way of being human. But again; what does that mean?

I think it means doing more of what we’ve been doing which is calling our community to treat each other as interdependent, be it family, village, town or community, especially when it comes to the least of us, “we shall always have the poor with us” and those different from us, ‘we are neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor master, gay nor straight, or different in skin colour. I think it means doing more as children of God, good citizens, faithful people etc. The task we are called to is to engage in the bridging of the gaps of this partisan polarity. We are called to be part of the solution in a world that is captured by violence in all its forms, from physical abuse of another to the sustaining of systems seeking to avoid the critique of its influence on the human path to flourishing.

In our Genesis reading there are a number of tantalizing phrases in this familiar passage from the Creation story. One could emerge from this text, taking a number of different directions: God searching for us, the nakedness of shame, the pervasive nature of blame, or the relational impact of curse. The theme that seems to be most harmonious with the themes presented in our Gospel passage are the resolution of the relational curses in the person and work of Jesus, “their sins will be forgiven them,” and also the pervasive nature of blame, “a house divided against itself shall not stand.”

It is also hard to resist dwelling on the beauty of the passage about God searching for Adam and Eve “at the time of the evening breeze but,” why that narrative elaboration? Well maybe; the evening breeze on a beautiful evening is an invitation to discern what could be the purpose in this text telling us that God was heard walking in the garden “at the time of the evening breeze.” Often the sounds on that occasion are magnificently alive because we’ve grown accustomed to the alternative sounds perhaps. In the sounds of the rain and storms of winter we miss the sound of the insects that can only be heard in the stillness. We miss the sound of silence and the sound of nature breathing and moving. I think these are the sounds of creativity that arise out of the silence of imagination that we miss when consumed with the business of the now.

The worldview of a Creativity God, with its strong affirmation of God’s immanence in the world, is not as threatened by the picture of God walking around in the garden “in the evening breeze” as our classical theistic forebears might claim. They took issue with such a passage of scripture because their theological concept of God was one of an utterly transcendent and impassible Gods.

Process Theology, proclaims the immanent God who is concerned about the whereabouts of a couple who were created free — free enough to hide from God even in the Garden of Eden. And thus, any mention of “breeze” in the scriptures invites us to clue into this translation as connoting the same Spirit that is involved in the Creation narrative in the first creation story, as well as elsewhere throughout the Bible. The Ruach, (wind, breeze, breath, Spirit) is one way that we might be able to translate the meaning of what is happening in this text to hearers who might be unwilling to let go of the idea of an omniscient God walking around searching for Adam and Eve.

The alternative claim to an omniscient God is that the Breeze blowing might just be one and the same of “God walking” and “God speaking” to Adam and Eve, who know they have trespassed upon God’s commandments. As Sally McFague has stated in Models of God, this Pneuma/Ruach/Spirit might be a good way of conceptualizing God in a way that connects humans to non-human creation and to a Creativity God, as was outlined in the Trinity Sunday sermon a couple of weeks ago. I called it Serendipitous Creativity but the serendipity can be assumed as the acknowledgement of the evolutionary component in creativity. Furthermore, the fact that God is portrayed as searching for Adam and Eve is a description of a divine relationship with humanity in which it could be said that God is actively involved in the pursuit of a humanity fulfilled. Creativity God is concerned with our well- being, our location in life, and this offers us the best possible outcome of relationship.

In this week’s Mark reading Jesus has been gleaning some wheat for a snack and then healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. After that, he is then pictured healing a multitude of people, such that he had to escape for fear of being crushed (3: 9-10), hushing up some impure spirits (3:11), then deciding to delegate the power of exorcism to twelve apostles (3:13-19). After this whirlwind of activity, Jesus returns home (3:20), where he is met with suspicion. His family seems somewhat embarrassed, since the word around town is that Jesus has lost his mind, and the scribes have an even more scandalous charge. He’s filled with the Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies, since according to their logic, only the ruler of demons can cast out demons.

Jesus has the decency to entertain the charges of the scribes, and counters their logic with his own, woven into parables. “If a kingdom is divided against itself, it cannot stand, and if a house is divided against itself, it cannot stand, and if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. Note here that “his end has come”. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.” Process theology speak says we can take this phrase as a lure to speak about our prevalent divisive cultural and adversarial political climate though the comparison here between a “kingdom” and “Satan’s kingdom” as implied by Jesus.

Jesus’ parable puts him and his followers on the side of the plunderers, making their way into the house of the “Strong man,” and binding him, so that he and his followers can plunder the property. We look at our world today and we see examples of the resurgence of the “strong man” story around the world. Look at United States, Russia, The Philippines and many other places and we see political electorates which seem enamored with the possibility that such a “strong man” might provide salvation for a group of people politically engineered to feel victimized and hunkered down in a bunker mentality. Perhaps it is of interest to us that Jesus quite clearly positions himself on the side of the plunderers in this parable. How might an exorcist with a plan to “bind the strong man and plunder the property” be the torchbearer of followers of Christ in this political climate?

My summary to date is that the creation story and the gospel or the Jesus Way challenges us to see ourselves as part of the creativity, part of the culture building, part of the meaning development and one might say, part of the problem, and that when we see and understand this we are able to understand what forgiveness, freedom and the alternative Jesus Way, looks and feels like, and discover a new way of being human.

And on that note, I want to suggest that after service today we will engage in that very challenge. We will be asked to think about a name for our school; not our umbrella name because I think there is adequate justification being voiced that says St David’s Centre is where the location, heritage, legend and traditional, is valued and expressed. In other words that name says where we have come from and what we value as we step into the future, and now we are ready to engage in providing a name for our school. This will express what we think is distinctive, forward thinking and invites those who have no understanding of our spirituality, our aspirations as a sacred community of faith and how we think we might go about encouraging the development of young human beings to be spiritually aware, authentically driven and leaders of our world in a future which is beyond our imagination. In short what sort of world do we think the future might be, should be and how do we prepare others for it, even if we are not sure of what it might look and feel like.

What we do know is that it will be a world where our children will benefit from being multi-lingual, technologically astute, self-aware, and innovatively driven. A world where fear as a driver of violence, uncertainty, ambiguity is no longer valid and where society is based on an understanding of the efficacy of love and compassion. A new way of being human.

Genesis portrays the emergence of fear and sin in the human story. The Gospel portrays Jesus as declaring that all sins are forgiven and that love is the vehicle that replaces fear. Jesus is here, relating the sin to his own experience of feeling debased by the scribes who are describing his work and words and ministry as arising out of an unholy Spirit. If God is searching for us and comes walking in the evening breeze, which way the wind blows is important for our living as human beings, in other words what we say about ourselves to those who do not know us or what we believe is important. So, what are the words in naming our school that say who we are and what we believe we are aspiring to? Amen.

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