Easter Faith

Faith is not certainty; neither is faith a comforting lie. Jesus actually died; each of us will actually die one day as well, and no faith that is really faith will try to airbrush that one. Faith is not a comforting lie.

Nor is faith an intellectual “I believe in God” — or any other kind of  assent to statements about God. That’s too easy: it just remains in the head– as a former teacher of mine used to say, “massaged between the ears.” No: faith always involves commitment— the intentional engagement of the will to trust.  Faith is more verb than noun, which means acting before we’re sure. If we wait to act until we’re sure, it’s not faith anymore, is it?

An Easter faith is an active trust, now– and again now, every day we begin again– an active trust that the God who gave life, can give life again. To trust resurrection is to trust that the God who created life, can re-create it.

Such a trust raises to consciousness the darkness of our lives: the shadows of pain/of shame/of grief/of sadness/of betrayal and rejection– raises them to consciousness, AND THEN FREES US FROM OUR ANXIETY ABOUT THEM. Trust frees us from the anxiety that binds. It’s only by denying the grief of  Good Friday and the anxiety of Easter Saturday that they have power over us; it is by trusting the Easter Sunday God– by trusting Our Risen Lord– that the darkness is integrated with the light, and we are free to love, and praise and serve. Trusting God frees us to live.

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Jung and Jesus– Darkness in God

Light and Dark: Acceptance and Integration

The great psychologist Carl Jung said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” We don’t become any brighter by focusing exclusively on the light; we become more fully alive by integrating dark and light, by embracing that which has been rejected. Jung also thought that this is the task of the second half of life: we are to recover and re-integrate the shadow side of ourselves, to become more whole as we age. “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” To live today, in the season of Easter, is to live first through the agony of Good Friday and the anxiety of Easter Saturday. Not to deny them or to ignore them, but to live them in their dark truth: as authentic parts of the human journey.

This is the brilliance of the Christian understanding of who God is: that while any authentic spiritual path acknowledges the darkness that’s in us, we worship a God who has darkness in Him, and who in Jesus was willing to go into that darkness, and by going there to make good come from it. It was only by involving Himself in the darkness– in the suffering, in the pain, in the shame, in the death– only by involving Himself in it, that it could be transformed to serve the end, the goal, the purpose of life. “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” That’s true for God, too: God realizes the fullness of God’s divine being, by fully entering the darkness He contains. As Bonhoeffer said: “Only a suffering God can help.”

Photobucket | candle in darkness Pictures, candle in darkness Images, candle in darkness Photos – Page 2.

What Friday? Which Saturday?

Church: Will the Jesus Movement Find a Home Here?

Disestablishment means the taking away of official government support for a particular religion. In the American way, this is a good thing. In a polity that values liberty, and a culture whose strength is diversity, we don’t want a government to favor, abet– or worst of all, to compel– a particular brand of religion.  Voluntary religion is our way, and has been for nearly 200 years: New Hampshire (where I live), for example, disestablished in 1819.

For those of us who believe that a healthy dose of religion would improve the well-being of our political and cultural life, there is a temptation to yearn for a quasi-re-establishment of Christianity– a desire more deeply rooted in nostalgia for the 1950s, I would say, than in current reality. When some well-intentioned folks get in a froth about “Christmas” trees versus “Holiday” trees, for example, the underlying issue is about trying to maintain Christianity as the unofficial official religion. Even if we grant that there was a time when Christianity was the official religion of the culture, those days are gone. Increasingly, to follow Jesus means to be counter-cultural.

This truth is very uncomfortable for many Americans who claim to be Christians. The old certainties are gone, but that only makes sense: the death and resurrection of Our Lord was, is, and always will be about the disruption of certainty and the re-creation of new possibilities. Lived Christianity (as opposed to a system of Christian belief), is always about the new life that God is bringing into being on the edge of now.

The following news tidbit, relatively trivial in itself, is a sign of the increasing distance between the culture and “official” Christianity (and “official” Judaism, for that matter). While the aged and ossified Church (of whatever catholic, orthodox, or protestant flavor) may see this increasing distance as a threat, a vibrant and counter-cultural Jesus Movement will see this increasing distance as an opportunity:

University Ends Scheduling of Breaks Around Religious Holidays

“Christian Post” reports today on the decision by New York’s Stony Brook University to end the practice of scheduling the academic calendar around major Jewish and Christian holidays. In the past, the school closed for Good Friday, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It will no longer do so, and will end the practice of scheduling Spring Break to always coincide with Easter and Passover. Instead Spring Break will be the seventh week of the semester. The school says it is ending the practice that honored only some religions. However the American Center for Law and Justice says that the change demonstrates hostility toward religion and fails to accommodate religious practices.

via Religion Clause: University Ends Scheduling of Breaks Around Religious Holidays.

The Cross for Today; Salvation for Today

Grunewald's Crucifixion

That God the Father sent his Son to absorb the Father’s justified wrath at sinful humanity, thereby getting us sinners off the hook, is a theology that needs to be retired. The world we inhabit needs saved in a different way– a way that sees humanity’s greatest brokenness being not  guilt, but fear.

If our brokenness is fear, then salvation is in faith, or better (since faith is a tired word), in trust. I used to think courage was the opposite of fear, but the fear we have is all about isolation– about being cut off, and crying into a darkness so thick that the silence that meets our cry only deepens our anxious loneliness. Courage isn’t enough. Only the trust that gets shaped by compassion into a human form, a human face, can heal the fear. The embrace of a relationship, over time, is today’s salvation.

So what does that have to do with the Cross? Everything. It’s not that God the Father was so angry that he sent his Son to suffer in our place: such a theology is not faithful to the unity of God. Jesus is God– so if Jesus suffers, God suffers. It’s the suffering God (not the angry God) whom we can trust. He suffers with us, and so his Passion is a com-passion, a suffering-with.

This is not a god who makes everything okay– who prevents pain in the first place. This is the God whose very being contains suffering; the God whose divine essence includes vulnerability, even weakness.

The temptation is to think that the god of Power is the one who can save us from fear, much like the way a child turns to the idealized omnipotent father for protection. That god is a failure. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Only a suffering God can help.”

via Grünewald’s Crucifixion: “The Lockjaw Christ” | Superfluities Redux.