Charlie Chaplin’s speech at the end of “The Great Dictator” rings so true! Produced in 1940 the film features the silent-film comedian delivers a speech that speaks volumes about fascism, violence, freedom and democracy. However, the quote from the Gospel according to Matthew is often over-looked. That “the kingdom of God is within you” is indeed a revelation which we all too often forget. I wonder what life in the world would be like if we learned to live as if we actually believed that within us lies the power to usher in the “basileia ton Theou” lies within each of us. Might we be better able to live into our full humanity if we realized this reality? basileia = feminine plural for sovereignty – what if we lived our lives as if this were true? What if our faith was about living into our full humanity? What if we were about the creating the kin-dom of God? What might we be capable of becoming?
“The words we use should empower the lives we live.” so says Ilia Delio one of the world’s brilliant theologians who is forging a way forward in the world we live in. With that in mind, Delio reminds us that the word catholicity can be used to define a dynamic principle of attraction or ‘whole-making’ as the cosmos moves toward greater complexity. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Ilia Delio, as I was until recently, you can find a brief introduction here. Following an exciting Saturday spent with Ilia Delio this spring, I spent some time this summer revisiting Delio’s book, “The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love” which provides a window into Delio’s brilliant quantum theological leap into the 21st century!!!
In this lecture, recorded at St. Jerome’s University, May 2014, Delio discusses the meaning of Jesus in light of evolution and the relationship between catholicity and Christogenesis through the work of Teilhard de Chardin.
Krista Tippett’s TED talk from 2010 provides an “important linguistic resurrection” of the word compassion. Tippett sees compassion as kindness, curiosity, empathy, forgiveness and reconciliation, the simple act of presence, a willingness to see beauty in the other, and “for the religious compassion also brings us into the territory of ‘mystery’ encouraging us to see not just beauty but perhaps also to look for the face of God in the moment of suffering, in the face of a stranger, in the face of the vibrant religious other.”
In his book “Meeting Jesus AGAIN for the First Time”, New Testament scholar Marcus Borg writes about the Hebrew word for compassion ‘rakham’ – “The Hebrew word for ‘compassion’ whose singular form means ‘womb’ is often used of God in the Old Testament. It is translated as ‘merciful’ in the characterization of God as ‘gracious and merciful.’ It is present in that quite wonderful expression from the King James Bible the ‘tender mercies’ of God. It is found
in a passage in Jeremiah that has been translated as follows:
“Thus says Yahweh: In Ephraim (Israel) my dear son? my darling child? For the more I speak of him, the more I do remember him. Therefore my womb trembles for him; I will truly show motherly-compassion upon him.
“Thus the Hebrew Bible speaks frequently of God as compassionate, with resonances of ‘womb’ close at hand.
“And so Jesus’ statement ‘Be compassionate as God is compassionate’ is rooted in the Jewish tradition. As an image for the central quality of God, it is striking, To say that God is compassionate is to say that God is ‘like a womb,’ is ‘womblike,’ or, to coin a word that captures the flavor of the original Hebrew, ‘wombish.’ What does it suggest to say that God is like a womb? Metaphoric and evocative, the phrase and its associative image provocatively suggest a number of connotations. Like a womb, God is the one who gives birth to us — the mother who gives birth to us. As a mother loves the children of her womb and feels for the children of her womb, so God loves us and feels for us, for all of her children. In its sense of ‘like a womb,’ compassionate has nuances of giving life, nourishing, caring, perhaps embracing and encompassing. For Jesus, this is what God is like.
“And, to complete the imitatio dei, to ‘be compassionate as God is compassionate’ is to be like a womb as God is like a womb. It is to feel as God feels and to act as God acts: in a life-giving and nourishing way. ‘To be compassionate’ is what is meant in the New Testament by the somewhat more abstract command ‘to love.’ According to Jesus, compassion is to be the central quality of a life faithful to God the compassionate one.”
Tippett’s storytelling helps us to connect with the divine image which exists within our flawed humanity. She insists that the flaws we see in compassionate people liberates us from our modern obsession with perfection and gives us the courage to be compassionate. Tippett paraphrases Albert Einstein to remind us that, “the future of humanity needs this technology as much as it needs all the others that have now connected us and set before us the terrifying and wondrous possibility of actually becoming one human race.”
Among progressive-christians the word ‘panentheism” – literally “all in god” is used to express the notion that, all is in god and god is in all. One way of understanding panentheisim is to expand on Acts 17:28 “In God we live and move and have our being” with a blessing I often use when I lead worship: “God dwells in, with, through, and beyond us.” To imagine the Divine Womb-Love in which we live and move and have our being dwelling in, with, through, and beyond us provides a compelling way of living into our Divine/Human compassionate-selves. As humanity evolves, may it evolve in ways that embody Divine compassion!
I am currently enjoying Matthew Fox’s new book, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times in which Fox puts Eckhart in conversation with an engaging collection of mystic-wariors. So, it is not surprising that in this short video, I hear echoes of Eckhart.
Summer Sundays are laid back at Holy Cross and so we engaged in a dialogue sermon. The Gospel reading from (Matthew 14:21-28) about Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman begged the question inspired by Marcus Borg, “Why did the author of the Gospel According to Matthew write this story the way he did and what can we learn from it?”
Our readings also included:
Hebrew Scriptures: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Contemporary Reading: from Dorothee Soelle Quoted from Matthew Fox’s book “Christian Mystics”, New World Library, 2011
“If Jesus of Nazareth was the poor man from Galilee who was tortured to death, then Christ is that which cannot be destroyed, which came into the world with him and lives through us in him. When I say Christ, I always think also of Francis of Assisi and Hildegard of Bingen and Martin Luther King, Jr. and of Ita Ford, the American nun who was murdered in El Salvador – as well as all resistance fighters who are sitting in prison today. Christ is a name which for me expresses solidarity, hence suffering with, struggling with. Christ is the mysterious power which was in Jesus and which continues on and sometimes makes us into “fools in Christ,” who without hope of success and without any objective, share life with others.”
As news of wars and rumours of war penetrate our consciousness, it is so very tempting to give in to the cynicism of our age. While our hearts grieve for our broken world, let us remember that while we cannot control the actions of others, we can control how we react to the actions of others. Let us not fall into temptation. Let us live in hope. Let us pause in the gentleness of this summer morning to turn our being toward the dream of peace. Shalom, Salam, Santi, Pax, Udo, Santi, Axsti, Salmu, Sith, Paix, Peace….
Two videos which present John Philip Newell’s interpretation of the Celtic prayer for Deep Peace
Recently, I have found myself cornered on several occasions by individuals who ask, somewhat accusingly, how and why I continue consider myself to be a Christian if I do not believe in Hell. On these occasions, I have assured my inquisitors that as someone who attempts to follow Jesus, I do indeed believe in “Hell” even if I do not believe in “hell“. The hell that I believe in is a condition here on earth. The Hell that I suspect my inquisitors wish me to affirm does not exist except in the corners of our imaginations. Nor is belief this mythical place called Hell a prerequisite of the faith. Christianity is not about being saved from eternal damnation to the fiery pits of Hell. Christianity is about following the teachings of Jesus with regard to peace through justice in order to create Heaven right here, right now.
My own ministry has been enhanced by Phil’s work and so it was a happy and timely coincidence that brought a video into my inbox which I had forgotten all about. Phil’s story about Heaven & Hell followed by an interview in which Phil shares his conviction that “Hell is killing us!” say it all so much better than I can. Phil’s gentle manner reveals a way forward for those who wish to leave Hell behind and move on toward building heaven on Earth. Phil’s latest publication “Living the Quaker Way: Timeless Wisdom for a Better Life Today” provides a window into spiritual practices to nourish those who seek to live in peace in a world where so many have chosen to perpetuate Hell on Earth. The book is an essential read for progressives who seek to embody a way of being that will contribute to creating peace. Enjoy!!!