thinking theology

Continuing to think about John 6 :56ff, we hear again that Jesus is the bread, the wine, the life, the way. Not surprisingly, commentators link these sayings to the great theophany experienced by Moses on Mount Sinai: “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” To see Jesus is to see the One with whom he is filled and Jesus is the one who has been sent in this case. Of course, this would border on blasphemy for many. Not even the great prophet Elijah made such a claim, nor Moses, nor the prophets. To manage a current way to reflect on this passage, we need to think about one more interaction between Moses and the divine.

There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’

In these Exodus stories, we are offered deep and shattering assumptions. It invites us to rethink our basic premises about the nature of the divine. In many ways, the old pantheon of the gods still controls our theological thinking. We imagine the divine to be like us, but Genesis says that we are like the divine. This juxtaposition means that we continually create gods to be like us, with our cultural, limited biases. What the scripture calls us return to is the idea that the divine presence cannot be contained by our myths, our language, our culture or our assumptions.

God can only be called Life or Being. There is no effigy that can tell us anything except about ourselves, no theology that is not limited by our era and our awareness, our knowledge. Is God the bread that we eat to live? Yes. Is God the blood that courses through our veins, the rivers that run to the sea, the ice bergs that crash at the poles? Yes. Does God fully inhabit Jesus of history? Yes. When we are tuned into the connectedness of all Being, all Life, is Jesus present with us? Yes. Are his words the language of eternal life? Yes, because he invites us onto his reality of a world pulsating with life. To see Jesus, then, is, to use Marcus Borg’s words, to see what God would look like in human form. To accept the broad expanse of God’s life, transcendent and incarnate is to experience eternal life. Like electricity, we carry it within the body but it exists beyond us also.

A Buddhist philosoper, Thich Nhat Hanh comments:

“…we must distinguish between the “I” spoken by Jesus and the “I” that people usually think of. The “I” in His statement is life itself, His life, which is the way. If you do not really look at His life, you cannot see the way. If you only satisfy yourself with praising a name, even the name of Jesus, it is not practicing the life of Jesus. We must practice living deeply, loving, and acting with charity if we wish to truly honour Jesus.” The “I am” to which he referred is the Ground of Being of the universe. It is God, who manifests within us as the loving observer in mindfulness practice. The historical personality of Jesus is a metaphorical door for us to open into this
“I am” experience.

Since it is not only Jesus who stands at this door, but all people who tap into the experience of the God of Life within who greets the God of all Being and beings, the invitation of Jesus is without boundary or condition. To experience eternal life, we first divest ourselves of all the limiting fear and prejudice that we have learned. We need to be free to dive into the ocean that is life and that contains life. The invitation is not to become a christian, but to become alive. Like Jesus, our path is to connect with others and to be the connection for others. A universe in a grain of sand, a holy grain of sand in a universe of possibility.


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