Wednesday, 3 May 2017

one story, our story: rediscovering Easter

I left the midweek musing space free for the week after Easter, as I wrote a few posts in advance. I anticipated being moved over Easter, by the story, the gatherings, the moment. I have before. But I wasn't this time, even with a Good Friday vigil, a Passion Play, and Easter Day's rousing hymns of joy. It's the third Sunday of Easter now, as I write this post, and I think the story might finally have plucked the strings.




This morning we celebrated communion at Greyfriars. We sing the Agnus Dei in our communion liturgy there (which is not always sung in communion liturgies at home).

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us peace. 

I've been reading some of the work of Beverly Roberts Gaventa for my thesis, for she is working on Romans, and her insights have been helpful as I explore the questions raised by my embodying of the letter for performance. Quite helpful in particular, and a little surprisingly to me, for at first I wasn't sure about Gaventa's idea, but the more I inhabited the letter and played with the ideas, the more I found meaning in the letter.

you take away the Sin of the world

The idea is that when Paul speaks of the power of sin, it's helpful to think of Sin (capitalised, proper noun) as a Power in opposition to God. Sin brings with it another power, Death, and humans are caught in the consequences of Sin's attempts, with Death, to grasp at power. God, in Christ, has undermined Sin's power, undone the consequences of death, and liberated the earth from Powers of evil.

It's far more complicated and nuanced, and you can read more in Our Mother Saint Paul, and Apocalyptic Paul, and I commend them to you.

What's been floating around in this season of Easter has been the further idea that this liberation from Sin is not the individualistic 'God my saviour sent to die on a cross for me' notion. It is that God in Christ takes away Sin from the world: liberates the world from the power of Sin.

you take away the Sin of the world 

For those who believe, who walk this path to the heart of God, Jesus the Christ, as host at the communion feast, offers his brokenness for us to participate in the healing that it brings. Jesus the Christ made a courageous sacrifice of his life because Love is stronger than, lives beyond, Death: and that cup of love flows for us to drink.

There is forgiveness to be found for the individual with God – there always has been, as the stories that go before the story of Jesus profess. There is healing to be found with God – there always has been, for Jesus emerges from a rich tradition of reconciliation and life restored.

One of the things I've found most difficult about inhabiting Paul's letter to the Roman church is the negative view of the law, the Jewish Torah. Paul presents the ideas that it's not necessary any more; Sin has corrupted it; Grace is the new path to the heart of God. For me, this is a man in the moment trying to come to terms with the meaning of Jesus, who he and many others have experienced to be the incarnation of the Divine.

Two thousand more years since then, of life-giving immersion in Jewish faith, identity, story, and spirituality says to me that Torah is not irrelevant, unnecessary, unhelpful. I refuse to subscribe to a Christianity that dismisses and disrespects Judaism or any other faith. God is so vast, and humanity so wonderfully diverse, that surely there are many paths into the heart of the Divine. There are some ideas in Paul's letters that are of his time, and the experiences and growth of humanity over the succeeding generations must be allowed to change our ideas.

I write all this because it has, I think, been at the heart of a certain ambivalence about Easter I have experienced this year. I haven't had the profound tearful response to the story of God my saviour nailed to a cross for my sins this year, because my idea of sin/Sin has been radically transformed by my encounter with Paul's letter and Gaventa's articulation of my embodied intuition. My ideas about Jesus and what his life and death and resurrection might mean have been changing for a long time, and I think this is a moment of breakthrough into a new clarity.

you take away the Sin of the world 

It's not about me. Jesus' dying and rising is not about the individual and her / his wrongdoing. It's about the Power that grips the world, tries to rip the world from God's embrace. It's not about eradicating an old law for a new one, either, for the law we uphold (Romans 3) is the law of love that Jesus affirms, is at the heart of Torah: it is the law, the rule, the teaching, of God revealed through Moses, other prophets, Wisdom, Psalmists, and Jesus.

Jesus, his life, his death, his rising from death, is a story about changing attitude, renewing perspective, transforming relationships. I don't know much about Judaism as a faith tradition today, to my shame. I suspect it has grown and changed and that where it is life giving it is about transforming relationships and building healthy, reconciled and reconciling communities inspired by the radical, welcoming embrace of G-d.

I happen to be among those who live according to the story of Jesus the Christ, who follow the path of Christian spirituality. So, for me, the story of Easter is a story of Love putting Sin and Death in their place. It is a story of liberation, of courage, of Divine Presence. It is a story of hope and renewal of life.

I think I am finding my way to celebrate that without needing to claim, or apologise for the claim, that it is the only story of liberation, of hope, of Love, of Divine Presence. It is our story. It is one story. I am happy to believe that God tells many stories in order to lead God's beloved back into the heart of the Divine. And I am finally happy again to celebrate the story of God revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ for what it is: God revealed, Love shown to be the ultimate power unlike any other, an invitation from the Source of Life to healed, whole, flourishing.


1 comment:

Glenys said...

Profound and so helpful. Thank you for wrestling with this on our behalf. What a gift.