What’s the Going Exchange Rate for a Dying God?

There is this idea that Jesus’ death bought something: that he was a unique currency, only ever redeemable once.

There is a part of me that recently wanted to throw this idea away far away from me.  And in some ways, I had good reasons.  There are some questionable ethical things happening, if this is how it worked.  It seemed rather suspicious than American, Evangelical Christianity would become rather obsessed with a financial-economic view of what Jesus was doing.

Today, I am holding this idea outward, with an open hand.   Perhaps it will stay.  Perhaps not.  I see some language in the bible that suggests it.  I see some value at it.  I can be a bit fickle.  Perhaps I will be ready to throw it away, again, tomorrow.

But the thing that got me thinking about all this was a podcast I was listening to this morning.  Michael Gungor, one of my heroes, started talking about transactional relationships with God.  I assumed what he said next was going to relate to Jesus’ death.

But he went a whole different direction.  He was talking about the deals we make with God.   ‘God please do this for me.’  ‘God, if you do x, I will do y’, ‘God I need…’  Gungor goes on to suggest that the alternative foundation for connecting with God is embodied in Mother Theresa’s often-quoted description of her prayer life: she states that she listens to God listening to her.  (Forgive the vast oversimplification of Mother Theresa’s words; it is worth looking up.)

I am thinking that maybe there is a connection between seeing Jesus’ death as transactional and seeing our relationship with him as transactional.  On a broader level, I know that some of my own relationships with other people have been ones where we abided in a love for each other, like Mother Theresa.  Others have been built around mutual exchanges and need.

Most, of course, are somewhere between these two extremes.  But the older I get, the more sure I am: I would rather engage in loving than exchanging stuff.

 

 

 

Love Poem, the night before our 20th Anniversary

I never knew

(how could I?)

About the giving and the taking.

Those rings and vows, all those years ago.

They were the easy part.

 

And if I am

any sort of man

It’s only, ever been

loving you

that made me so.

 

And if I gave you the springtime of my life

I took yours in its place…

And if the truth were to be told here,

our summer days are shrinking as we enter this fall.

and I never thought it would be a fall, this glorious fall.

 

I spent all that time

trying not to fall.

I wish I had thrown my arms up and my head back

And embraced this glorious fall.

 

 

 

 

 

God the Mother

God reached into the dirt, and kissed it.  And suddenly, it was alive!

That first human was made in the image of God.  It seems that it came with the breath itself.

I have been thinking about how Eve was made from Adam’s rib.  And wondering how God’s image works through all of this.

It could be that God’s image was just copied into both of them.

But given all the stuff that is said about sex and marriage, and it seems like maybe a separate part of his image ends up in both of them.  God’s image isn’t copied, it is broken in two, and Adam and Eve each get a part.

(This seems to connect with the second creation account, that occurs later in Genesis.)

Here’s the pretty amazing thing about this possibility:

It puts to bed all the talk about God as a ‘he.’  It locates the divine in the feminine and the masculine.

God the father and mother!  So much more robust and liberating then just choosing one or the other.  A pretty cool thing.

 

Waiting for God to Speak

My friend Hafiz

spoke to me

across these thousands of miles,

these hundreds of years.

 

He told me how they all waited for God to speak.

And they cried when he did not.

I have been there.

Crying those tears with them.

 

Tonight was different though.

The wind let go of the dirt it had been carrying.

It stopped pushing those branches gently aside.

 

The birds stopped their bickering.

The clouds stood still in the sky.

 

Tonight, all the lights turned green as we waited for God to speak.

This eager hush fell over the crowds.

Those lucky enough to be scratching the gray coating off their lottery tickets…

All came up winners.

 

Tonight, we all waited for God to speak.

Just as they had waited, hundreds of years ago.

But tonight?

That waiting?

That waiting itself.

That

was all

that we needed.

 

Finding God In the Waves

There are these people who give me little snap shots of who they are, and I think, “Wow.  I want to know more.”

That is how I have always felt about “Science Mike” McHargue.  He is a thinker, writer, and blogger.  He is also  one of the two Mike’s behind the liturgist podcast, and does some solo work, here which is more focused on science.

I got what I had been wishing for.  I just finished his book, “Finding God in the Waves.

If you could spin the book really fast to force all the things that went into it to separate, or maybe boil the book, and reach the melting point of some of the constituents in order to isolate the things that make it up, I think you would come up with 3 different ingredients.

First, the book is a spiritual autobiography.  Science Mike spent the first half of his life in a fairly conservative/evangelical Christian Church.  When life circumstances lead him to question his faith, he began a transition to closeted atheist.  He eventual left the closet, and began a journey back to a reconstructed faith.

Secondly, the book is an attempt to balance the newest findings of science with the ongoing wisdom of following Christ.  Astronomy and brain chemistry get the most attention, but there’s lots of compelling psychology and sociology, too.  I can be a bit of a snob about these sort-of attempts.  In my experience, authors who try to bring together faith and science usually end up doing a mediocre job on one of these.  Or both.  McHargue is kind of intimidating, because he is way smarter than me in both these areas.  So near as my little brain can figure, he gets them both right.

Thirdly, “Finding God in the Waves” is a blue print of what a reconstructed, science-informed faith might look like.  There are times that this book reminded me of Descrarte’s Meditations.  The French Philosopher began with the question, “What if everything my senses bring me is wrong?”  The American thinker begins with the question “What if everything I used to believe is wrong?”  Both authors respond to this by creating a series of axioms that will prove to be the building blocks of a new set of beliefs, which hopefully end up being more defensible than the previously unquestioned assumptions.

My favorite thing about the writing here is how frequently it flips the script.  I will be cruising along, reading almost on autopilot.  A few key sentences will start me heading in a certain direction, and then, from nowhere: Blam!  Suddenly, things do exactly the opposite of where I expected to.  The effect is sometimes funny, or touching, or both.

My favorite thing about the author is that he is so courageously even-handed.  That’s a thing about hanging out in the middle: Sometimes it feels like you are pissing off everybody.  I wonder if the author sometimes feels tempted to play to one side, or the other, just to get somebody to sign-on, whole-heartedly with his ideas.

This even-handedness plays out in a couple ways.  Sometimes, it is around intellectual debates.  He takes an amazingly consistent approach with calling out the good and the bad in targets as diverse as New Atheism and Old-School Baptist Churches.

But this even-handedness plays out in another way that is a little more difficult to articulate.  One way to say it is to say that he has all these different intelligences.  He is compellingly analytical when the situation calls for it.  And then, a page later, he will say something that demonstrates an emotional intelligence, that isn’t about chopping things up so much as looking at the big picture.  His proficiency with using the right mental tool for the right mental job lead me to be so fascinated that I  read this book in like 3 days.

You should go buy it and read it.  It was really good.  It will be released on September 13

 

Beginings

All that is

And all that ever was

And all

That would ever

Be

 

Not even emptiness

No time to stretch out into

Yet

 

Oh you trinity

Of primal forces

Conjoined meeting of matter and

energy.

 

You

You gave up your body for

Me

 

When you burst forth and made space-

time

 

There was a serpent

And also

betrayal

Torrent

This torrent comes crashing down,

A wild thing from up so high.

Niagra would look with awe at this fall.

 

Here, below.

Mostly we gather on the shore.

And the holy men in their hip waders bring the little cups.

They grimace as they fill them and bring them back to us.

The spray and the run off have soaked them.

They walk slowly.  Slowly to us.  

Apostles and apprentices towel them off solemnly.

There are so many of us here now.

We wait.  And the water is so much of everything.

But the cup is emptied so soon.

 

I do not listen to them as I step into the water.

I discard my clothes and I do not care that they are watching.
I stand beneath the waterfall with my arms stretched out wide.

They make a wide space for me,

As they continue their conveyance to their followers,

Back and forth, back and forth.