Monday, December 30, 2002

History?!

As you said, the concept of the progressive march of history is a Western one. But we now live in the interregnum between the Eternity that was before the dawn of “time” and the Eternity that will be after the end of “history,” when the Word of God, predestined in Eternity to the restoration, redemption and salvation of all Creation will prevail and linear, historical time will end.

A comment about doing biblical theology: as Christians we (I) run with some basic assumptions:

• God’s supreme, most conclusive self-revelation is found in Jesus of Nazareth – a human, born of human parents, who walked and lived on this created earth in historical, measurable space and time. Jesus’ person and work reveals the transcendent as immanent.

• The God and Father of Jesus the Christ is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the “I AM” of the Covenant on Mount Sinai.

• God is God of history, God of nature.

• Creation is a product of the will of God and therefore distinct and separate from God. Humankind is part of creation. God indwells all creation as Holy Spirit.

• (Therefore,) just as our own individual history in time, space and place reveals our identify, our corporate history reveals the Living God in ways understandable to us as human creatures.

• The outrage, the strange world the Bible reveals is the offense of a Holy God Who dares and risks his very Self, His reputation, by invading human history and living as one of us in order to re-reveal Himself to creation, in order to reconcile creation to its Creator.

Once people settle comfortable into a place and a space they often forget who they are, who God is: a God Who travels and sojourns with the people, a stranger and a sojourner with the people, God of History, “God of Great Surprises,” in Corita Kent’s words! Meaning is central to our lives as humans. And as you pointed out, the meaning of the Exodus is freedom, liberation, hospitality to the stranger and to the sojourner…I love that God tells Israel he is a stranger and a sojourner on the land with Israel – forever! And the many stories in which hospitality shown to the stranger equates with giving hospitality to God.

Comfortably settled in space and place, people often try to define God, the indefinable, indescribable One, and not only to picture and define God, the wholly Other but ultimately to objectify God and then also to deify objects. This is one of the many temptations of “civilization,” “citification.” The nomadic religion and way of Israel and of Jesus is a religion and a way of promise. Nomadic religion is religion of history. If only we’d observe the first commandment, life would be so easy. The first commandment is all we need!

You underlined and ?-marked “The Biblical Witness.” Maybe you’ve noticed the phrase is kind of a buzz word. However, your question was “…what does Leah mean here?” When I say “the biblical witness” I’m referring to the broad sweep of recorded revelation: myth, saga, history, prophecy, eschatology, apocalyptic, poetry – everything…but beyond that, I assume all these writings witness to God’s ongoing activity in human history and most definitively in the Christ Event. And as you probably realize, I trust in the essential inspiration of scripture and I also trust its canonization was Spirit-ed. However, I also believe a lot of human writing and human activity is Spirit-led, which means I see the compilation of the Bible as somewhat accidental – though an inspired accident! As always, I claim God’s most authentic and fullest self-revelation is found, seen, heard, touched, smelled, tasted, felt – in, with and under the everyday ongoing activities of human life. I read a taxonomy of the Christian walk someone had invented according to what they considered a biblical model. Its seven marks were kinda like Luther’s Seven Marks of the True Church. First was “the mark of the stable: begin where God says.” No, not true!!! God always begins where we say! It’s exactly as you wrote, “He meets us where we are in our understanding.” Jesus reveals a Servant God who continues to condescend, who serves us. We serve Jesus’ God most perfectly in serving one another. In meeting others where they are, in beginning where they say. As you often point out, most especially in welcoming and in serving the stranger in our midst. Jesus is our ultimate model, in every way.

You wrote, “Jesus…is God showing us Himself…” Yes!!! Amen!!! Jesus shows us a sym-pathetic, com-passionate God who suffers, grieves, rejoices with us. The God of Love who does not condemn. Do you know the song “Endless Love” that Diana Ross and Lionel Richie sang long ago? Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross recorded it more recently. I love the line in the song, “And love, I’ll be a fool for you.” Those words perfectly summarize God’s intervention in history – God’s intervention in each of our individual lives, our God’s passion for humanity.

Although I can’t quote the passage exactly, in I and Thou Martin Buber speaks of “primitive man” being asleep much of the time and says in effect, “most of his waking hours also are sleep.” Isn’t that what you’ve been saying about all of us? We need to awaken to, come home to, God who is beyond time-bound and space-bound history. In “that day” each of us will be found: no longer sojourners, no longer “resident aliens.” We’ll be at home and at oneness with ourselves, one another and with our God.

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