thinking theology

Archive for November, 2018

Advent Musing

It is the beginning of a new church year. We call the season Advent to signify that someone or something is coming. All our prayers and music celebrate the presence of Christ in our lives. We also look to Christ continuing to move more deeply into relationship with us, a progressive second coming. 
What does that actually mean for us in our time and in our world? I would like to suggest that it is an alternate path to the transformation of the world. Neither military force nor doctrines, neither false leaders nor true; no systems of any kind have been able to save us from ourselves, or the world from our predatory behaviour. 
I think people of faith, in all the religions of the world, need to commit ourselves to the life of prayer. By that, I mean the conversion of our hearts to listen without arguing, to act without counting productivity, to open ourselves to the healing, winnowing spirit of Christ. It will be the risk of vulnerability, of being changed, of following the one who worked in relationships rather than systems.
As a personal discipline this advent, I would invite you to say this simple prayer as many times a day as you think of it. “All life is sacred. Thank you for my life and for all that lives. Jesus come into my heart.”
May this season fill you with hope, in the bright and in the dark of your life. May Christmas bring delight in your relationships and in what you value most. May the holy family find shelter with you. May Christ come to your feasting table. 

Beyond Kings

In this era that feels pre-apocalyptic, I want to reflect on what this feast day of Christ the King might mean. In the 1800s, a philosopher and diplomat by the name of Joseph-Marie Comte de Maistre — a man of significant influence — argued for the divine right of kings, the supremacy of the Church, and the right and obligation to impose Christianity on all people. He famously said that the people received the government they deserved. He would also have agreed with the Doctrine of Discovery that asserted that the church should colonize all nations not presently under the rule of the Catholic Church and the Pope.

We persist in thinking that we no longer share in these ideas but we continue to make little kings and queens out of the people we elect and then react with anger when they are clearly human, buffeted by conflicting demands and realities. The problem with government is that it is asked to act on a history not redeemable and on situations that are not legislative but based in relationship. For example, in the government’s relationship with First Nations, I wonder how often we ask those representatives about their suggestions, rather than rushing to partial and unsatisfactory solutions. Parental, solution-based decisions sabotage relationships. In other forms of government as well as democracy, there remains the idea that the whole must be governed by a small group who know what is best for everyone, and certainly for themselves.

I wonder if we are standing in Pilate’s shoes when we try to make Jesus a king of this world who will mandate culture, politics, even economy. I worry when any of us employs the name of Jesus as a political tool or benchmark. I recall Jesus handing back the coin with the face of Caesar on it and remarking that the product of empire belonged to empire. At trial, Jesus mocks Pilate and scoffs at the title of king, a title laden with corruption, violence and self-interest. 

So what is the truth to which Jesus testified? I think he was pointing to a revolution of human self-understanding. I think he would encourage us to get beyond depending on whomever we have made a king. I think he would say that if we want a different world, we will have to make it one meeting at a time, one hour in prayer at a time, one act of courage at a time.

In the world, we must pay taxes, vote, discern the best paths. In the world of Christ, we are remaking how we imagine life and society. We are an undercurrent of change gently whirling society from top-down to consultative decision-making, from imposition to exploration in relationship. Kings will be kings. But we will carry a hope and a vision for humanity that is beyond kings, beyond armies, beyond law.

Our vision begins with the idea that the creation is holy, people are holy. Life is sacred. It is irrelevant whether this is achievable. That is the measure of kings and corporations. What is relevant is what is happening in each human, in you and in me, and in how seriously we undertake this transformation. The solution is not out there, but in our hearts and minds. From the Alpha to the Omega, from the beginning of understanding to its fulfillment, it is all made in goodness. To understand this is to stand in the midst of the Divine, with Jesus, forever.