About Me

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I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Resurrection Faith, or "What is Jesus Doing?"

(also on episcopalcafe)

In his book on Resurrection, Rowan Williams points to the strangeness of the Risen Christ. Though we have stories of Resurrection encounters, the risen Jesus is always at first unrecognized. Some fundamental transformation has happened, and that transformation testifies to an altogether new relationship between humanity and God. Everything has changed.

This is something that I think is not widely understood about Christian spirituality: People know, we know, that we are called to “follow Jesus,” to try to live as he lived, and we are often judged by the degree to which we fall short of his example and his teaching – and that is fair enough. We ask “What would Jesus do?” to guide our ethical thinking. But in fact, when Christians reflect on our relationship to “Jesus,” it isn’t really the historical Jesus we’re talking about, or even, completely, the Jesus we meet in the gospels. It is, more mysteriously, the Risen Christ, who belongs at once to our flesh-and-blood experience and to the transcendent mystery of God – who brings together, once and for all, our humanity and the God who reaches out to us, loves us, desires the restoration of our lives and our world.

This is a tough thing to get our minds around but I think it is the heart of the gospel, the heart of what it means to be a Christian The resurrection proclaims the action of God in history and yet moves beyond history. – We proclaim it in our Easter liturgies without always noting the extraordinariness of what we are proclaiming. Listen to our words: “On this day the Lord has acted/We will rejoice and be glad in it” is the Easter psalm. Or in the words of Brian Wren’s hymn: in Brian Wren’s hymn “Christ is alive, let Christians Sing:”

Christ is alive, no longer bound to distant years in Palestine.
He comes to claim the here and now, and conquer every place and time.
(Hymnal #182)

For Rowan Williams, the Resurrection removes Jesus from being simply an object on whom we project our fantasies, our woundedness, our desires – because he is in some ways, utterly strange, unknowable, as God is . And yet he also invites us into relationship.

At Our Saviour, Silver Spring,we sing with gusto gospel hymns that actually teach us something quite profound about the relationship with the living God that Resurrection faith opens up to us. “I serve a risen Saviour, he’s in the world today,” we sing. “He lives! He lives! From him I’ll never part. You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart. “ (LEVAS,42) Or in another hymn that particularly moved me this year:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives
.(LEVAS, 43)

These hymns are emotional rather than theological in focus, yet they help us experience the RESULT of Resurrection faith, the conviction that the world actually IS in God’s hands, that the redemption of the world has happened, is being fulfilled, and we are called to participate the work of transformation that continues.

So when we think of Christian faith and life, the question to ask is not just “What would Jesus do?” (i.e. how can I best follow the example of the Jesus I meet in the gospels) but “What is Jesus doing?” How is the life of the Risen Lord shaping my life, and the life of the communities I participate in, in the here and now?