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Untwisting Time

I found this reflection while I was looking for one I published previously on the same passage from Corinthians as today’s Lectionary reading, but when I found it, it didn’t really seem relevant, so I decided not to use it. There was only one phrase that shone out in the readings for today: “Then he went home.” I didn’t connect it with the following reflection until afterward, but nevertheless, there is a connection I can’t really explain. Where is Jesus’s home, exactly? Where is ours?

Anyway, I was struck deeply by this reflection, which was written before I began to publish this blog.

I had been reading the introductions to my various translations of the Bible, and ran across something in the introduction to one of my King James Bibles, a reference edition published by Thomas Nelson: “But God had promised to redeem man from sin.” It was in reference to the beliefs of the Jews at the time Jesus was born. This phrase kicked off a whole train of thought at the time. Much of what follows was written in December 2015, but I’ve added a few things, and edited it for sense and content.


It has occurred to me that this promise of God’s is woven into the fabric of Creation itself, and that there was never a time when God repudiated us, or ever abandoned and rejected us.

If God made us to be good, and also gave us freedom, freedom to choose, freedom to accept, to reject, to take or let go, to keep or waste, then it is as plain as the nose on your face that our power to choose is real. It is not a sham. God is not like a parent standing over a child watching to make sure the child takes good care of the puppy, for the puppy’s sake.

It’s painfully obvious that if Creation is good, then any choice we make that ignores or denies the essential goodness of things will damage that goodness and create unhappiness. Not only that, but for us to even try to be wholly good, in a world where everyone has the freedom to damage goodness, is a nearly impossible task. We will damage and be damaged, there’s no help for it.

There is also another implication buried in this state of affairs. God puts us before Creation. Creation is our charge and we have a duty of care, there is no doubt of that, but we, in our freedom, are more significant. God will not rescue Creation from us, for Creation’s sake. We are not children, and if we neglect the puppy, the puppy will die. God does not give with one hand and take away with the other. God has no hidden agenda.

I have found myself questioning deeply some of the ideas we take for granted, such as Jesus being the ‘Son of God’ in a literal sense, which leads to the miserable conclusion that God accepted Jesus’s bargain to take the punishment for humanity’s sins upon himself, and thus “pay” for our sins.  This noxious idea is based on several assumptions. First, that God and Jesus were separate beings, and that one was subordinate to the other in authority and power.

I challenge this.

Jesus says (John 10:30) “I and the Father are one.” Again, he says, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (John 14:10) He also answers the Pharisees by quoting from the prophets, quoting God as saying, “I said, you are gods.” A little research led me to Psalm 82: “I say, you are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you, nevertheless you shall die like men, and fall like any prince.” The psalm starts with the declaration that “God has taken his place in the divine council, in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.” The psalm is a plea for justice, and implies that it is the act of judgment, the authority to judge which humans have been given, which makes us gods. Thus, it isn’t a state of being, but a manner of action, which confers the status of a god.

There is so much here to ponder! First of all, to me it seems much more sensible to conclude that Jesus and God were one in a pragmatic sense, without getting all wound up theologically. If Jesus and God are one (and our faith more or less requires us to believe that they are) then there is no question of a punitive father and a son who takes the blame on our behalf. It’s not even like a hero dashing in front of someone and taking a bullet for them.

No, it’s more like (and this is right out of the Bible also) Jesus actually taking on our sins: Not just assuming responsibility for them even though he is blameless and pure and doesn’t have to, but actually taking on our sinful nature, our human nature, by becoming truly human.

The choice Jesus made was not at the moment when he was about to be arrested; no, it was at the moment when God chose to become a little baby, and take on our human nature in all its foolish fragility and miserable meanness.

Just exactly when was that moment?

I remember reading the phrase “slain before the foundation of the world,” (it’s somewhere in Revelation) and realizing that it led to a whole other way of understanding:

God’s time is not our time.

God inhabits all of eternity, and we share God’s nature and are made in his image, therefore we also inhabit all of eternity.

God’s birth as a human child has always been from before time began.

God’s death in love to bring us the truth of eternal life, ‘in the flesh,’ has always been from before time began, and all of those events will last forever.

Not only do they inhabit eternity, they define it. They teach us the nature of the universe.

Jesus also says, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:18 & Luke 18:19)

So, there’s a paradox for you. Jesus says that he and the Father are one; that he is in the Father and the Father is in him, but then he turns around and implies that he is not good, that only God alone is good. It sounds as if that means that God cannot be considered alone, that God must always be considered to be one with humanity; one with Human Jesus; one with us in our damaged condition; in our collective mistakes.

Then I make the leap to the notion that God-in-us is the source of our impulse to take care of each other: That means that God is the Source of all compassion, the Motive Force behind our desire to share our miseries with one another, and the Meaning behind our impulse to accept the consequences for one another’s wrongs.

Look at that! Here we are, come full circle, back around to ‘received truth.’ God is Love. Jesus is the Word. The Holy Spirit is the Breath in us that we share with the whole world; in the wind, and in the crying and sighing and huffing and puffing of the whole Creation, and of these images of God that are called human beings.

Here’s what many of us seem to miss: If it’s really true that God did these things, took on humanity’s frailty, vulnerability, and sinfulness; became a human being called Jesus who lived and died, who sweated, cried, bled, ate, drank, pissed and shat, then that Reality also existed from before the foundation of the world.

Human-ness was always God-ness, from forever.

Pay attention to this along with me—

The expression of the Eternal within the limitations of measured time is something we human beings have always been able to behold, although perhaps not able to quite understand.

We call it Holy, and we tremble and take off our shoes in its Presence.

Our job as Christians, along with our basic commission to care for one another, is to understand that it’s as much our duty to open our hearts and be vulnerable in our trustfulness, as it is to care for the vulnerable out of our complacency.

It’s in our Love that we find the courage to refuse to hide our eyes from the Light;

it’s in our Trust that we find the willingness to shiver and take off our shoes in the Presence.

The moment in time that we understand as the Creation, the making of humankind in the image of God, is only the first among many moments in which Eternity slips through that liminal space, that threshold between the Seen and the Unseen.

The moment in time that we know as the Incarnation encloses all events like it:

it is a wrinkle in Time that allows the Eternal to manifest itself to our eyes, ears, and touch;

it is a miracle of Love that untwists time, and lays out a plain path that leads us past that very threshold, into the Kingdom of Heaven, where we find the world and ourselves transfigured.

This is the ongoing miracle— that when we look back from the other side of that gate, we see that we have not moved an inch— we are still standing right where we have always stood.

It is in that moment that something in us begins to shine with a Light that we recognize—

a Light we behold with deepest trust, and which we know with certainty is the Light that has always shone, and will always shine, world without end.

Going through that Gate—

“Then he went home.”

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