“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks the disciples.
There was a time when I could answer that question with great clarity and confidence. The more I devote myself to prayer and contemplation, the less I know how to answer, and the more I am drawn to remain silent. How can I articulate experience that is beyond words? How can I dare to speak of infinite mystery?
I have grown up in an enlightenment-influenced society sceptical of myths, that wants evidence and seeks answers. I have grown up in an enlightenment-influenced church that has taught answers and well-constructed statements about what to believe without question; a church that is captive to its need to have certainty about that which is infinite mystery.
My journey in the Christian tradition is much like Moses going up the mountain. I desire to see and know God, but the further I travel up the mountain the thicker and darker the cloud until I have no sight at all. The simple and well-worn answers and concrete statements about Jesus have not led me deeper into awareness of God. What I encounter is mystery; and mystery cannot be taught, it can only be encountered and experienced.
For me, the centrepiece of the Gospel is the mystery of the Transfiguration of Jesus. The image of Jesus as a being of light reflects his relationship as Son of God. He is one with God but is not himself God. Jesus is one with the light, but he himself is not the light.
This is his identity; this is his nature and being. The Christ or Word of God is life and the life of the world is light. This is revealed in a historical context in Jesus.
The central theme of the gospel is that God in Christ becomes flesh in a human context. That which is infinite mystery can be encountered and experienced in each and every historical context. God did not just enter and then leave human history 2000 years ago in one man.
What good does it do me if Jesus as Christ is resurrected and I remain buried? What good does it do me if Jesus as Christ recognises he is full of God and I remain empty? Jesus as the Christ for me is the realisation of the Divine mystery incarnate, the Way made flesh. What was reality in Jesus is reality in us. The task of the Christian Religious path is to come to the same awareness that was in Jesus, to put on the mind of Christ.
I consider myself a sojourner. I experience my life as part of the way, and my desire is to seek the way and live an authentic life as a person of the way. Along this way I have experienced moving from believing certain things about Jesus and his life, to Contemplating his life and receiving his life as experience in my historical context.
The authentic Christ question I need to ask of myself is: “Who do I say I am and who do I say you are?” And now I shall return to silence…
Rev Greg Crowe
oh dawn that rewrote every morning
yet to awaken and long since gone
what gift you bring to ears that strain
to distinguish dreaming from your soft impossible refrain
while limbs that long to dance
unencumbered by the shroud of night
shake loose and follow you, into the weeping, gathering light
oh dawn that makes full use of space
engaging emptiness to host
a void that only God could fill
when woe had donned her veil of black
and armed with ointments keened for lack
of something real to heal her punctured heart
you stood beside the sharpness of her fear
just be glad,
he is not here
Rev Jennie Gordon
Easter is all very well, but it’s nothing without Good Friday. In the Christian story, Good Friday came first. And it must have been devastating and utterly bleak. It’s hard for us, viewing Jesus’ death from the other side of his resurrection, to imagine how lost and misled the disciples must have felt.
Not to mention Jesus himself. If Jesus were genuinely human, he wouldn’t have known that it was all going to come out right in the end. He had a profound faith in God – and a sense that if he was true to his calling that was all that mattered – but I doubt Jesus went to his brutal betrayal and agonizing death thinking: ‘I just have to wait three days and it’ll be fine’. Being human, he would have felt confused and despairing. He wasn’t simply acting out a charade of death. He died.
To those who speak of God as some heartless, manipulative puppeteer, I want to paint a picture of an incarnate God who was born in poverty, a refugee before he was two, misunderstood and betrayed by his friends, persecuted by the political and religious authorities, and eventually tortured to death, feeling abandoned by the God he had endeavoured to follow.
I find this picture of Jesus more helpful than any glorious Jesus, golden and raised up and self-assured.
When I read the daily litany of wars and natural disasters, apathy and self-interest, this is the God I want to worship. A deity who isn’t up in the sky, benignly or indifferently looking down, but whose heart is the first to break when human beings are wounded, bewildered or afraid.
When people in my community are knocked sideways by an early death, the sundering of a marriage, chronic depression, the mental illness or drug addiction of a teenage child, I want to share with them this wounded, vulnerable God who has experienced some of the depths of human pain.
So, we need Good Friday. But we need Easter Sunday too. Jesus’ resurrection isn’t simply a continuation of the beautiful and miraculous cycle of life we see every time there is a bush fire – with the new little pale green shoots bursting out of the charred wood of eucalypts.
Easter is a radical break with the life cycle. It is God saying not simply that life in some form will continue, but that God is stronger than death itself. That even if we destroy this planet for good and all, God will still be there, somehow bringing it all together in God’s love.
Clearly God does not reach down and stop a toppling building, halt a runaway train, or pluck one person out of the path of a tsunami. But I do believe that in the end, God will bring it all in, drying every tear, healing every hurt, making us whole, enabling us, at last, to be completely loving.
For me, the message of Good Friday is that God is there with us in the worst that the world can dish up. The message of Easter is that God, who seems so powerless in the day-to-day tragedies of human life, is ultimately the end point of every life, every striving, every suffering and every human heart.
Clare blogs at www.clareboyd-macrae.com