A Bloodless Revolution

atonement-lg

True forgiveness does not require payment.
Forgiving a debt is to void –
To void is to not hold a ransom.
Atonement is not a blood-stained piggy bank;
It’s not even an action.

The vapid vapors of smoke machines choke my lungs,
they sting my eyes
as they settle into soft & vulnerable membranes.
This is not the Holy Spirit that I came for
to settle in my soul,
gentle as rolling mist.

I do not wish to be washed by broken bodies
of innocent lambs;
To be made to feel guilt for uncommitted sins.
I do not wish to be told that I am worthless
while shining eyes never leave my checkbook.

My body is a temple which does not burn.
The sacred dwells within as surely as platelets.
This truth is what they cannot see:
Christ imbued in all,
Wafers and wine reminders of his humanity.

We are to take this our daily bread,
take Him in and take Him out,
To live our lives amidst the glorious,
the grit,
the grime,
His being the example.

Amen.

+ Katie +

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Walking Humbly

walkhumbly-rounded

Let’s talk for a bit about humility today. It is a subject which has been on my mind as of late, a topic I’m learning firsthand lessons on right now. You see, on the evening of April 11th I was trying to exit my bed from the foot while holding a glass of iced tea in one hand & my cellphone in the other, lost my balance at the edge, and proceeded to fall heavily on to the hardwood floor. Neither the phone nor my glass broke, but my left shoulder fractured in 2 places at the top of my humerus. I had surgery on the 24th where I received a roughly 6 in. piece of metal & 6 screws in my arm. I have been in a sling since, and am healing well, with a projected date of June 4th for being able to go sling-free. Physical therapy will be required & I won’t be completely back to normal until roughly October. I haven’t done any blogging in some time as I am generally a fast typer & have been slowed down by my injury, having to type one-handed. It’s frustrating, but I am grateful that the injury wasn’t to my dominant right hand.

Now, what of this humility I speak of? First, lets have a definition of what that word means:

Humility:
noun
1. the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.

Humble:
adjective, humbler, humblest.
1. not proud or arrogant; modest
2. having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience, etc.:
In the presence of so many world-famous writers I felt very humble.
4. courteously respectful
verb (used with object), humbled, humbling.
7. to destroy the independence, power, or will of.
8.to make meek

I am going to be honest – I don’t like to ask for help very often. If I think I can do something myself by God I’m going to try and do it. I love DIY projects, I love having independence, I love the feeling I get from knowing I accomplished something on my own. Even as a kid whenever I would get a new toy that came with the notation of “Some Adult Assembly Required” I dismissed the instructions and proceeded to assemble it all on my own, just to prove to myself and others that I could. I hate admitting at work if I’m overwhelmed or stressed, or if I’ve taken on too much in my extracurriculars (like at church) because I don’t want to be viewed as anything less than competent and capable. Having a broken bone snatches all that independence from you in a heartbeat.

I cannot drive with one arm immobilized in a bulky sling. Gone are the days of driving myself to work, the library, the store, church, or to visit family – I’m completely reliant on my husband, friends, and family to go anywhere. I can’t lift my arm above my head or bend it behind my back & therefore require my husband’s help (99% of the time depending on the stretch of the material) to get dressed & undressed. I haven’t been able to put my hair up or my contacts in. I must move more slowly and more consciously to avoid discomfort and pain, which means getting ready to go anywhere takes longer than it used to. I’ve been having to sleep on my back. There are so many little things that I used to not think about doing that now requires assistance or forethought before getting them done.

While this experience has been and will undoubtedly continue to be filled with moments of frustration, I’ve also experienced a lot of gratitude and humility on this journey of healing. When I’ve had to ask for help when I otherwise wouldn’t, I’ve been met with instance after instance of individuals who are more than willing to assist, who are in fact happy to help me. I’ve received meals, rides, gifts, flowers, prayers, hugs, phone calls, texts, and extra consideration every single day since my accident. I have learned to appreciate my husband and my loved ones more than I ever did before. I have learned that it is okay to ask for help, to say “no”, to say “yes”, and that it isn’t a sign of weakness to accept your limitations. Opening yourself up to receiving kindness & assistance from others doesn’t make you less capable, it makes you more gracious. Being made aware of your physical limitations has a unique way of grounding you (quite literally) and waking you up to the boundaries within your mortal existence. It is, in fact, a humbling experience to realize your own fragility.

I am but one small human being on a very large planet. I can make an impact on the world and in the lives of others, as small as I am, this is true. As I gaze outside my window, however, at the chipmunk darting around the back porch, the birds landing and flitting away, at the fallen rain and the sun that shines, I can’t help but think of how all of us are reliant on others: other people, our environment, our infrastructure, etc. in order to succeed. We really do nothing on our own. We are all connected to one another in some way and can help or hinder the other by what we choose to do or not do. We are a community. My shoulder injury has brought that point home for me on a very micro, personal level.

I have been overwhelmed with the love that I have experienced throughout this ordeal. To know that I have so many people who sincerely care about my well-being and who want to help me in any way they can, that is a gift unto itself. I intend to continue to cultivate my gratitude and my humble heart to carry with me in the future, to remind myself that physical struggles don’t define your humanity, to try to be as patient with others as they’ve had to be patient with me, and to pass on a piece of the tremendous love I’ve received on to others in whatever way I can.

In closing, I present to you a rather poetic and appropriate piece of scripture on the topic of humility, an excerpt that eloquently drives home the same perspective I get when looking at the stars and contemplating just how little we all are when compared to the entirety of the universe, words that inspired me to finally update my blog today.

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has directed the spirit of the Lordor as his counselor has instructed him? 14 Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice? Who taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? 15 Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as dust on the scales; see, he takes up the isles like fine dust. 16 Lebanon would not provide fuel enough, nor are its animals enough for a burnt offering. 17 All the nations are as nothing before him; they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; 23 who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. 24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. 25 To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing. 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted, 31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:12 – 17, 21-31.

+ Katie +

On the Alternative Atonement

St. Francis by Seth Fitts

St. Francis by Seth Fitts

Atonement.

No, I’m not about to discuss that terribly sad movie with the memorable library scene. Rather, I’m going to address the issues I have surrounding the traditional beliefs surrounding atonement and put forward an alternative.

The traditional theology surrounding the atonement, where Jesus Christ was sacrificed as payment for humanity’s sins, has never set well with me. Growing up outside of Christianity this was always a major barrier for me as I started to look into the religion as a teenager. How could a God of love and forgiveness need and want the death of his son to make up for his own creation’s shortcomings? If there was something inherently wrong with humanity, why did God make us that way in the first place knowing that we would be lacking something in order to fully receive some form of salvation? That seemed illogical and cruel. Further, if you were to hold the Trinitarian viewpoint (believing that Jesus was the physical incarnation of God) that would present an even stranger and more upsetting notion that not only God deemed it necessary to murder his own child, but that God was actually suicidal to boot. (Frankly, I find trying to apply any logic to the Trinitarian concept of God gives me a headache, but I digress.)

The more I learned about Christianity (and indeed the more I continue to learn about my faith) the concept of blood sacrifice was not one which spoke to my head or my heart in my understanding of what kind of deity God is. In fact, the entire theological concept of Jesus’ death being required as a blood sacrifice on the world’s behalf doesn’t even really jive with what’s in the Bible. God was decidedly anti-human sacrifice at the conclusion of the story of Abraham and Isaac. Nowhere in the New Testament is human sacrifice demanded, encouraged, or condoned, by God or Jesus. Jesus was, in fact, very outspoken against violence of any kind. When confronted with violence that was considered necessary and required by ancient law he rebuked those demands and instead showed mercy. Why would a God who made a point of showing love, mercy, and grace to all in existence actually mandate the torture and murder of his own son? The writers of the Gospel were coming from the same Jewish background as Jesus and were, therefore, approaching the crucifixion within a framework where sacrifice and quid pro quo in their relationship with the Almighty were regular occurrences. While early believers may have had a limited scope of experience in order to understand what happened with Christ’s death and what it meant, we are not so limited.

Though atonement theology has always been something I have disagreed with and didn’t believe in, I was concerned with voicing this belief as I had always understood that blood atonement was considered a central tenet, if not THE central tenet, of Christianity. In my experience, I have found that it is not an uncommon opinion or belief that without Jesus having died for our sins, there was really no point in being a Christian at all. The intertwining of original sin with Jesus serving as humanity’s scapegoat to save us from our own inherent evil nature are beliefs which have become so imbued within mainline Christianity that it’s hard to believe that there exists a faith without them.

I wondered: Could I still really be a Christian and not believe in this atonement theology?

Actually, yes.

This past week I was introduced to the “alternative orthodoxy” of St. Francis as presented by Fr. Richard Rohr. This “alternative” orthodoxy is one which falls in line with other orthodox Christian beliefs & doctrines, but rather than the emphasis being on the “stain” of Original Sin and Jesus’ death serving as payment for that, Franciscan orthodoxy postulates that God’s creation is inherently good. A radical notion eh? St. Francis believed that it is through us and through the world (God’s Creation*) that God expresses his love (Franciscans actually call creation “the mirror of God”). Franciscan theology does not separate God from creation into categories of holy and profane, good and bad, but rather sees the presence of God in every aspect of life: in the dirt, in trees, in the sparrow & the wolf, in suffering & the sick. Since God was the center of an interconnected world, to Francis all of life was kin to him, which he expressed in sentiments used for his environment such as Brother Sun and Sister Moon. To Francis, God’s Kingdom was not an abstract & otherworldly place, it was here in this tangible and tactile reality now.

Since there is nothing profane about God’s creation, humankind does not need someone to suffer and die on their behalf in order to receive the love and grace of God. God loves us in spite of ourselves, with no strings attached, with no caveats, with no exceptions. As I heard it phrased from Richard Rohr quoting another theologian:

Jesus did not come to change God’s mind about humanity, he came to change humanity’s mind about God.

Christ saved us by being the living example of God’s love in this world and showing us how to live our lives serving as instruments of that peace in this kingdom – not through grisly torture and execution.

I can’t tell you how good it feels to have a personal theological issue suddenly settled by your favorite saint. I must admit that despite feeling that this “little poor man” was responsible for leading me to Christianity in the first place, and identifying him as my patron saint because of that, I’ve been lazy in researching much in his own personal theology above the “lite” version we’re all familiar with. How remiss my soul has been in not finding this information sooner. How delighted my soul now feels in finding affirmation and reassurance of God’s love in this “alternative” orthodoxy.

“My soul in an excess of wonder cried out: ‘This world is pregnant with God!’ Wherefore I understood how small is the whole of creation- that is, what is on this side and what is beyond the sea, the abyss, the sea itself, and everything else- but the power of God fills it all to overflowing.”
– Angela of Foligno

+ K +

Anticipating Advent

jesusmaryandlambround

This is the first week in Advent, a time in the church calendar marked by a time expectantly awaiting the birth of the Christ child, anticipating the light to re-enter the world. Now, I know that Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25th and that the date was chosen to coincide with already existing pagan winter festivals that also celebrate light during the dark half of the year. I know that Christmas and all of its festivities and symbols (candles, lights, wreaths, trees, presents, etc.) all derive from much older pagan customs. I have no problem with that and completely embrace and accept the pagan roots of Christianity; there’s no point in denying the facts. However, even though the celebration of Jesus’ birth is one that’s completely symbolic at this time of year, there is still a story and a message carried in those symbols that touches our lives today.

Christ’s coming into this world brought with it light, hope, and love. He served as our direct line to God, delivering the Divine’s desires and blessings directly to the people.Born of a woman and delivered to Earth, Christ represented the union between spirit and flesh, the Word and the world contained within one body. The very Word and essence of God was to inhabit our planet and experience it through the eyes of humanity. The spiritual and physical, human and Divine, a man who both embraced the profane and celebrated what was to come. He passed no judgement on the sick, the scarred, the mentally ill, divorced, poor, or otherwise unclean. He did not shun the dirty and the broken. Those who had set themselves apart from the unwashed masses of their fellow man, those who were convinced of their own moral superiority, the ones who “knew better” than to cast in their lot with the likes of Jesus and his companions, those were the ones whose lives were met with judgement and correction.

Christ saw divinity and love in all of humanity, because he recognized that he too was having a human experience. Here was God’s own son, one who was truly holier than thou, who was unwilling to separate himself from those dismissed by polite society. Jesus was the missionary of God’s own heart, a minister of Divine unending love and Grace blindly bestowed on all, regardless of the rules and judgements erected by men. He came and let us know that God is bigger, and brighter, and better than the Law. Christ’s birth and life demonstrated that God can and will be found amongst us, even in the most unlikely of places, if we but look with eyes that see. You cannot say, “Here is God”, and, “There is God”, when divinity lives in all. You cannot say that God isn’t to be found amongst us, in the things of this Earth, when God has already dwelt on this Earth before – fingers, toes, tears, blood and all.

While Christ’s earthly body may have died, He did not truly leave us. As we enter this time of expectant joy, lighting our candles in the dark, once again watching for His arrival, let us be reminded that we don’t actually have to stand by for very long before finding his presence living amongst us once again. All we have to do is close our eyes, open our hearts, and realize that the the love of God in Christ is within us and around us at every moment of our lives. No waiting required.

+ K +