The Church came into existence as a community that preserved the dangerous memory of Jesus—the memory of his public crucifixion and his subsequent return among his frightened followers in a way that was utterly new and beyond anything that could have been previously imagined. And what emerged was a new concept of community; a community that has held together for over two thousand years. The Church, at its best, is a community based on mutual love and not on fear. The Church’s contemplation of this dangerous memory is what we call ‘theology’, which is actually founded on the marriage of Scripture with philosophy—particularly classical Greek philosophy. This is important. A religion that is without theology quickly becomes fundamentalist as it begins to interpret Scripture in a literal way, full of cultural bias and with little rational underpinning. Fundamentalism is always culture-bound, declaring itself “the only way” excluding all who might see God through a different lens. And although the story of Jesus is historical, set in a particular time, place and culture, his teaching is transcultural. So, too, should be the teaching of the Church.[i]
So, what does all this mean for us? Well, it means that the Church should not minimize the radically different nature of its revelation. Yes, Christian revelation is found in the person of Jesus who invites us into the freedom of God’s love, but revelation can also be found in nature, in relationship, in poetry, music, and art. The revelation of God is not limited to “my experience of God only,” but can be found in a variety experiences and in the diverse patchwork of life and faith found across many cultures. And it’s when we finally come to realize that there are many paths up the preverbal mountain, that we can begin to journey in earnest with our fellow sojourners, as we all seek to experience the Sacred Reality that is within and around us.
Now, as we continue this journey together, my prayer for all of us is that we will experience what the Celts called, “the thin places.” Those places where the veil between heaven and earth, between God and humanity, are thin. And as you experience God in these “thin” transformative ways, may you form a personal theology based in love and demonstrated through compassion; a theology that is ever-developing, ever-expanding to include all of God’s people and all of Creation. Many Blessings on the Journey.
[i] Drawn from the work of Sebastian Moore, The Contagion of Jesus: Doing Theology as If It Mattered (Orbis Books: 2008), 59-60.