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Sermon Du Jour: Where’s He At?

 

So Where Is Jesus Now?

In a couple of months, it’ll be Easter, and the same church signs around the state that proclaimed JESUS IS BORN will be proclaiming in black block letters JESUS IS RISEN, sometimes adding INDEED in case the point is missed.

As far as I know, Jesus is the only person whose birth and resurrection—though not his death—are described in the present tense. (Or have I just missed the church signs crying out, on the Saturday after Good Friday, “JESUS IS DEAD TODAY?”)

The present tense—the “is-ness” of Jesus—underlines his identity with the God self-named I AM. It confirms that you and I can have a real relationship with that God and with that Jesus, because they aren’t characters from the past but beings in the present. And the is-ness of Jesus metaphorically and accurately names the way Christ is experienced by Christians in a here-and-now that is the signature of the Holy Spirit.

All well and good: the grammar is iffy, but I won’t find fault. The was/is/ever/more shall be tense we use to tell the scriptural story combines with the turning of the liturgical year to create deep layers through which the eternal and the temporal, biological and spiritual, profane and sacred, human and divine stitch their complex and interesting patterns.

In a few days, by coincidence, it will be both Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday, eros and thanatos, love and death; the start of the season in which we may contemplate and repent of our sins. So many of which —for me, anyway—began in desire and cupidity.

This week would once have been known as Septuagenisma, the “pre-Lent” time, since Lent apparently demanded more preparation back in the old days. Pre-Lent commenced on February 2nd, the date upon which Jesus was/is/ever more shall be presented as an infant in the Jerusalem temple. There, the temple priests looked for his shadow and figured out how long winter would last.
Hilarious.

Anyway, between Candlemas and Ash Wednesday, we are now simply in what is known as Ordinary time. Again.

See, there is a sort of “Groundhog Day” feeling, lather-rinse-repeat in the Christian liturgical year, but also to the Jewish year and to other years as well, since human beings recognized and depended upon the cyclicality seasons and called it sacred long before we discovered the rotund circularity of the earth.

Lather, rinse, repent and then, this year, the risen Christ will greet Mary and the women outside the open tomb with “Surprise! April Fools!” Since Easter happens to fall on April 1st.

Also between now and then there is the Feast of the Annunciation, but it would invite a sort of spiritual whiplash to pay too much attention to that, since it takes place on March 25th: “Guess what, Mary! You’re going to have a son!” and then, a mere five days later, her son is on the Cross.

So Mary’s pregnancy, as described by Luke, will be compressed into Advent, her first labor and delivery won’t even get a whole sentence to themselves, but will be subsumed into the bit about how the birth takes place in a stable because the Inn is too crowded.

By the way, any guesses as to why the Annunciation has to be celebrated on March 25th? That’s right: it’s nine months before December 25th, Jesus’ birthday.

Although…Luke’s Gospel doesn’t actually tell us the date of Jesus’ birth, and most scholars who look at the internal evidence don’t seem to believe it really happened in the bleak midwinter. The story describes lots of people being on the road with Mary and Joseph, traveling to meet the census-takers each to his own city, and there were shepherds abiding in the fields with their flocks, none of which happens in winter. It would instead indicate that Jesus was born in late summer or early fall.

Or rather —gotta watch that tense thing, now!—Jesus IS born in late summer or early fall. But since it ISN’T late summer or early fall right this minute…in fact, it’s (sigh) February…where is Jesus now?
Well, Mary is pregnant. She is a few weeks along. Jesus is an embryo.

It is in the first few weeks of pregnancy that an embryo experiences its most dramatic rate of growth, the original single cell dividing and dividing in a process called hyperplasia. After the first nineteen days, this growth slows down a little, as hyperplasia gives way to hypertrophy, a phase that will persist, all-hypertrophy-all-the-time right through adolescence into adulthood. Once we have reached maturity, there is a whole lot less hypertrophy and, indeed, in the geriatric phase of our lives, the cells shrink…with predictably discouraging results.

Ah, but getting old beats the alternative, as Jesus—who never got the chance to age—would probably be the first to tell us.

But he won’t tell us this today, because at the moment, Jesus is a wild, biological tumult at the tiny center of which lies the crucial element of organization. His rapidly dividing cells, protein hungry, are on the move but they know exactly where to position themselves.

“It is not birth, marriage or death,” the developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert wrote, “but gastrulation which is the most important time of your life.”

And Jesus is a gastrula, a trilaminar cup-shaped structure of totipotential human cells all marching obediently into position, lateral to medial, lining themselves up, nuclei to the back, microtubules to the front, in precise ranks along the basement membrane and in so doing creating the basic axes of the body—front and back, top and bottom.

I picture the genes and enzymes barking out orders ( “Left Face! Forward March!“) as the busy cells form the human Jesus according to his unique chromosomal blueprint… or what has been termed “the Fate Map“ of the human organism.

Jesus looks like nothing, now, but he isn’t: as Dr. Bernard Nathanson has written, “…from the seeming chaos of early rapid-fire cell division and unimaginably precise deployment of these cells to their designated posts, there is a vector of life, a direction, and velocity of life forces that is perfectly programmed, irresistibly logical and immutably fixed in time and space…”

Despite surprisingly infrequent errors, most gastrulae become fetuses and then make it to birth having ridden what Nathanson calls “the crest of the vector of life as the surfer rides the perfect wave.”

So a gastrula doesn’t look like much, but it is nonetheless what it is. If it’s going to be Jesus, that means it’s Jesus already, Jesus right now, Jesus as small as an O in 12-point font, but Jesus all the same. Not just because it was/is/evermore shall be Jesus, you understand, but because that’s how humans —all of us—come into being: zygote, blastula, gastrula, embryo, fetus…baby, kid, grownup …and geezer if we’re lucky.

Mary knows she is pregnant right from the start. That’s a more common miracle these days when instead of an angel or a strange dream, a pregnancy test detects trace amounts of the hormone—Human Choreonic Gonadotropin, if you’re interested—that begins to be secreted by the placenta as soon as the human being arrives in the womb and sets up shop.

But even though Mary knows she’s pregnant, the life, activity, and development of her infant is hidden from her, a mystery taking place only inches away from her eyes, but well-hidden behind the windowless wall of her own body.

After the Angel Gabriel departed, Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was (is?) then six months pregnant with Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist. According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

As it happens, six months is about the time a first-time mother will begin to feel her baby move. This was the moment called “quickening” in ancient times and marked as the beginning of human life. So the response of tiny John the Baptist could be seen as the moment when Jesus—at that point, a mere zygote—gives his cousin life.

Of course, modern medical technology has allowed us to know that John the Baptist has been turning and kicking and sucking his little thumb for at least three or four months by this point, following his own fate map, surfing the vector like a perfect wave.

By eight weeks gestation, Jesus was/is/evermore shall be about yay big. His heart is beating with a nice, regular rhythm. His eyes have migrated to the front of his head, so his face looks a lot more human than before. Nerves capable of transmitting sensory information to his small but growing brain are developing around his mouth, and in the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet.

Give it another month, and Jesus has eyelids and he can clench his little hands into fists. If Mary were a 21st-century pregnant lady, she’d be having a 12-week ultrasound right about now, and the technician might even tell her that the Savior of the World is indeed a little boy.

Maybe Mary will send a printout of the ultrasound to her cousin Elizabeth who—now nursing her newborn baby John-the-B—will scotch-tape it reverently on the door of the fridge. And when her husband Zechariah comes home from work, he’ll see it there and say…awwwwwww.

Last week, a friend who knows me well sent me a YouTube video she knew would charm me. It was an MRI movie, incredibly detailed, taken of a 20-week-old human fetus moving around inside his mother’s womb. He seems to have a fair amount of space in there—he’s “chillin’ as my friend put it, sitting on his little bum with his little legs stretched out before him. He’s waving his little hands around as if preaching (“the meek shall inherit the earth!”) He reaches forward and grabs onto his own toes. Watching that film, I experienced a physical sense of deja vu, a vivid muscle memory of babies, wriggling and turning inside me.

According to NPR (online) “In the journal Current Biology, the researchers report that [when red light is projected into the womb]…fetuses seemed to turn towards and follow … red dots [arranged in the pattern of a human face] more frequently and for longer than they did when the lights were flipped upside down and looked nothing like a face…”

And, also from NPR: “A new study of over a thousand recorded cries from 30 French newborns and 30 German newborns found differences in the cries’ melody patterns. French cries tended to have a rising melody, while the German cries tended to have a falling melody.The finding suggests that newborns just a few days old may already be trying to imitate the prevailing intonation patterns of the language they heard while still in the womb.”

So…where’s Jesus now?

He’s never nowhere, right? He’s always somewhere.

He’s a little baby, crying after his circumcision; he’s an adult dying on a cross; he’s an adolescent, skipping away from the group of pilgrims and getting lost for days, scaring his poor parents to death; he’s a teacher talking to Mary Magdalene while Martha whips up supper; he’s a man climbing a mountain with a couple of sweaty disciples, and a man in shining garments waiting for them at the top; he is a twenty-week-old fetus playing with his own toes…

Last year, around this time, I learned that the transfiguration of Jesus was not what I’d always thought it was, a miracle in which Jesus was transformed.

Jesus didn’t change. He was who he was…and is and ever more shall be: zygote, blastula, gastrula, embryo, fetus, baby, kid, man…fully human. Fully divine.

It was the disciples who changed. It was the disciples who were able to see what they had not seen before, able to know what they thought they knew already.

And: This happens. Not necessarily on a mountain top. Sometimes it happens in a university classroom, or during a conversation with a stranger, or while watching the news. Sometimes it happens in a doctor’s office, when the ultrasound technician passes a wand across your pregnant belly and you see an image on screen and realize…that there are not just two human beings in that room, but three are gathered in God’s name, and God is there too.

I love knowing that Jesus—because he was fully human not because he was divine—was a miracle gastrula, wildly dividing, being and becoming, turning, dancing and swimming inside his human Mum. Because he was fully human, he gestured with his hands and then laid his own hands on his own, very small feet.

I love knowing—not thinking, imagining or even believing, but knowing (scientifically!) —that because Jesus was a human being, he emerged from Mary’s body already attuned to the rhythms of her language and already looking for her human face.

This is the ordinary mystery that the divine enters into, the miracle of ordinary life that is changed when we change; that becomes what it is when we are willing to see who we are, and to know each other and love one another…as Children of God.

Amen.

Published in Religion & Philosophy
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There are 30 comments.

  1. Thatcher

    Lovely, Kate! Thanks so much!

    • #1
    • February 11, 2018 at 10:21 am
    • 3 likes
  2. Member
    Kate Braestrup Post author

    PM me your snail mail, Nanda?

    Glad you liked it!

    • #2
    • February 11, 2018 at 10:38 am
    • Like
  3. Thatcher

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    PM me your snail mail, Nanda?

    Glad you liked it!

    Will do, momentarily…

    • #3
    • February 11, 2018 at 10:44 am
    • 1 like
  4. Thatcher

    Lovely, indeed. I suspect some of your congregants were squirming in their seats. /-:

    • #4
    • February 11, 2018 at 1:32 pm
    • 3 likes
  5. Member
    Kate Braestrup Post author

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):
    Lovely, indeed. I suspect some of your congregants were squirming in their seats. /-:

    I was filling in at my little, local Congregational church, so maybe a little less squirming than might have happened at my own church. Lot of enthusiastic comments on the way out, with two people telling me it reminded them of the Advent sermon I preached about Jesus’ Diaper…

    • #5
    • February 11, 2018 at 2:39 pm
    • 4 likes
  6. Member

    My favorite part s the detailed description of Jesus as an ongoing reality. More than I often hear at otherwise biblically literate churches. Thanks.

    • #6
    • February 12, 2018 at 10:41 am
    • 2 likes
  7. Thatcher

    We don’t want to get sentimental, but if membership gave us one “Love” this post each year mine would be used right here.

    • #7
    • February 12, 2018 at 4:48 pm
    • 2 likes
  8. Member
    Kate Braestrup Post author

    Quake Voter (View Comment):
    We don’t want to get sentimental, but if membership gave us one “Love” this post each year mine would be used right here.

    Wow! Thank you, @quakevoter!

    • #8
    • February 12, 2018 at 4:55 pm
    • 2 likes
  9. Coolidge

    Love this!

    • #9
    • February 12, 2018 at 5:23 pm
    • 2 likes
  10. Member

    Beautiful.

    • #10
    • February 12, 2018 at 11:27 pm
    • 2 likes
  11. Member

    Fantastic Kate.

    • #11
    • February 13, 2018 at 1:29 am
    • 2 likes
  12. Member

    I understand that you’re making a point about abortion, but theologically I’m confused.

    I thought Unitarians didn’t believe in the divinity of Christ? Or is your sect more like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who believe Jesus was God, but are non-Trinitarian, so Jesus is also the Jehovah of the OT and the Holy Spirti is not an actual being?

    If one is a Christian, the central miracles of the faith are incarnation, the Word become flesh, and the Resurrection. Those are the two news! items of the faith. ( the reason for “Indeed” is the liturgy: celebrant announces “Christ is risen,” and the congregation response, “Risen indeed!” It’s also the traditional Easter morning greeting among the faithful. )

    All individuals develop from a zygote. All individuals die. If that were all Jeus had done, it would not be in any way remarkable.

    But rising from the dead? That’s different! 

    The other milestones in Jesus life, like Mary’s realization that she has conceived, his period of gestation, his bar mitzvah, his baptism, his crucifixion, his three days dead…..those things only happened once, at a specific point in historical time. All those events are something that was, not something that  is. Christians commemorate them, but they don’t define who Jesus, to the faithful, is NOW.

    He was  dead. He is risen.

    • #12
    • February 13, 2018 at 5:28 am
    • 1 like
  13. Member
    Kate Braestrup Post author

    Hypatia—great questions.

    First, Unitarians (or rather Unitarian-Universalists, tho’ it’s a mouthful) have moved beyond their original non-Trinitarian theology (for the Universalists, it was Universal Salvation) and evolved into a non-doctrinal, non-credal religion. Or, at least, theoretically non-doctrinal: doctrine has a way of creeping in unannounced, as I’ve lamented before on this site.

    But anyway, in the relatively new UU (half a century old, but never mind) one can believe in the divinity of Christ though one doesn’t have to. One can be an atheist, or a Buddhist, or a Jew, provided that one is willing to share a pew with, or perhaps hear a sermon from, someone who is Quaker, Christian or Humanist.

    So I am a UU, but I am Christian. Which is kosher. Or so I still desperately believe.

    Having said that: the sermon was working with (and within) what is to my mind a fruitful interaction between three meshed gears: present time (America, 2018) liturgical time and Bible time. It is true that the events of Jesus’ biologically human life were distinct, discrete and temporary. When the bris was over, it was over and Jesus never had to go through that again! If this were not true, Jesus would not be fully human.

    However, if you engage in Christian worship, you encounter those events again and again in stories told as the church marches through the liturgical year.

    They are familiar—though I am not the pastor of a church, I have nonetheless preached on the Transfiguration more than once—but we can encounter them as new because our own lives and the life of the world is marching along as well. It is that interaction that allows for the rendering of real life into metaphorical life, and this allows us to catch a glimpse of eternal life. Or, perhaps, to fail to catch a glimpse of eternal life.

    • #13
    • February 13, 2018 at 7:04 am
    • 3 likes
  14. Member
    Kate Braestrup Post author

    Hypatia (View Comment):
    He was  dead. He is risen.

    I agree and like your whole comment. I’d just suggest that Jesus’ death has “isness” in the liturgy: Why do we enact mourning on Good Friday, with the darkened church and sepulchral music? Because, in that moment, Jesus IS dead. We are to enter into the story of the Passion as if we didn’t know Easter was coming.

    • #14
    • February 13, 2018 at 7:11 am
    • 1 like
  15. Member
    Kate Braestrup Post author

    I suppose I should admit, here, that I am not as moved by the Resurrection as I know I’m supposed to be. Another post, perhaps?

    • #15
    • February 13, 2018 at 7:15 am
    • 1 like
  16. Member

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):

    Hypatia (View Comment):
    He was dead. He is risen.

    I agree and like your whole comment. I’d just suggest that Jesus’ death has “isness” in the liturgy: Why do we enact mourning on Good Friday, with the darkened church and sepulchral music? Because, in that moment, Jesus IS dead. We are to enter into the story of the Passion as if we didn’t know Easter was coming.

    I am told by a Jehovah’s Witness friend ( who is almost the only,person I’ve ever met who knows the scriptures as well as I do, she said modestly) that the celebration of Good Friday is the ONLY occasion God (as Jesus) actually commanded believers to commemorate. JWs do not celebrate anything else, no Christmas, not even individual birthdays. Major-league glum, in my opinion–I feel so sorry for the kids!

    I think the only “isness” of Jesus death you find in th eliturgy is in the Eucharist: Christ our Passover “is” sacrificed for us.

    And again ,Rev, (I dky I can’t resist arguing this stuff, but) re your Comment 15–

    are you kidding?

    I can see not being moved by the Passion–but a Christian, not moved by the Resurrection? Without it Jesus was just a guy, a “great teacher” at most–which brings us back to whether your sect believes in the divinity of Christ, or whether you do. A sect that says, “you can,  but you don’t have to” wouldn’t be considered Christian at all by the Christians I  have in mind.

    • #16
    • February 13, 2018 at 7:36 am
    • 2 likes
  17. Member

    Thank you so much @katebraestrup. I needed that.

    • #17
    • February 13, 2018 at 8:25 am
    • 1 like
  18. Coolidge

    Hypatia (View Comment):
    are you kidding?

    I can see not being moved by the Passion–but a Christian, not moved by the Resurrection? Without it Jesus was just a guy, a “great teacher” at most–which brings us back to whether your sect believes in the divinity of Christ, or whether you do. A sect that says, “you can,  but you don’t have to” wouldn’t be considered Christian at all by the Christians I  have in mind.

    I’m reminded of CS Lewis, a paraphrase here. “There are three ways to look at Jesus. He’s a lunatic, a liar, or Lord. If he knows he is not the Son of God, yet says that he is then he’s a liar. If he says and believes that he’s the Son of God yet isn’t then he’s a lunatic. If he is the Son of God then he is Lord.”

    The choice is easy.

    • #18
    • February 13, 2018 at 8:38 am
    • 1 like
  19. Member

    Hypatia (View Comment):
    are you kidding?

    I can see not being moved by the Passion–but a Christian, not moved by the Resurrection? Without it Jesus was just a guy, a “great teacher” at most–which brings us back to whether your sect believes in the divinity of Christ, or whether you do. A sect that says, “you can,  but you don’t have to” wouldn’t be considered Christian at all by the Christians I  have in mind.

    Could this be an issue with what it means to be moved? Emotionally-centered vs. spiritually-centered? Maybe the ships are passing in the night, so to speak.

    With regard to the UU’s take–or any other sect’s take–on a particular topic, aren’t we Christians all members of an Agree to Disagree Society on matters great and small? Good heavens, we have groups of Baptists with 95% doctrinal overlap with other groups of Baptists and the two barely recognize the existence of the other. We have churches with syncretistic practices that don’t resemble their siblings.

    We vote with our feet. Be active in a church that works for you. We can’t fix our own problems, how could we possibly take the mote out of the other group’s eye?

    • #19
    • February 13, 2018 at 11:02 am
    • 1 like
  20. Member

    @johnniealum13, you re the kind of Christian I had in mind. I don’t know whether I would say the choice is easy, but what is very clear is that there is a choice to be made. Is Jesus God, or not?

    And @typicalanomaly, I get what you’re saying about the proliferation of sects, but I think, last time I checked, a belief that Jesus is God is kind of a sine qua non for Christianity.

    • #20
    • February 13, 2018 at 11:41 am
    • 1 like
  21. Coolidge

    Hypatia (View Comment):
    @johnniealum13, you re the kind of Christian I had in mind. I don’t know whether I would say the choice is easy, but what is very clear is that there is a choice to be made. Is Jesus God, or not?

    And @typicalanomaly, I get what you’re saying about the proliferation of sects, but I think, last time I checked, a belief that Jesus is God is kind of a sine qua non for Christianity.

    Without the Resurrection, we have nothing. As Saint Paul says in first letter to Corinth:

    But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faithThen we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.

    -1 Corinthians 15:12-19, NABRE Translation

    • #21
    • February 13, 2018 at 1:28 pm
    • Like
  22. Thatcher

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    I suppose I should admit, here, that I am not as moved by the Resurrection as I know I’m supposed to be. Another post, perhaps?

    Yes, please! Is it thought of as a supernatural case of resuscitation, thus rather routine? Or?…

    • #22
    • February 13, 2018 at 1:41 pm
    • Like
  23. Member
    Kate Braestrup Post author

    Hypatia (View Comment):
    @johnniealum13, you re the kind of Christian I had in mind. I don’t know whether I would say the choice is easy, but what is very clear is that there is a choice to be made. Is Jesus God, or not?

    And @typicalanomaly, I get what you’re saying about the proliferation of sects, but I think, last time I checked, a belief that Jesus is God is kind of a sine qua non for Christianity.

    I love discussing this stuff too.

    Functionally speaking, I can be a Christian in a UU church and be as Christian as I want to be. Unitarians considered themselves Christians for thousands of years (and were willing to be roasted by other Christians) and of course, Universalists did/do too. I’ve been told that a belief in Hell is necessary for a Christian because, otherwise, what is Christ saving us from?

    A lot of things that seem really obvious and straightforward actually aren’t. To agree that “Jesus Is God” may not be to agree on the definitions of “Jesus” “Is” or “God.” Same for “Jesus Is The Son of God.” Each of those words has multiple interpretations, and the differences between them can create schisms or start wars.

    Or…not. In Chaplain World.

    As for the Resurrection…it always feels as though it presents a solution to a problem I don’t actually have. I’m not worried about death or what happens afterward. I don’t believe in Hell anyhow. I don’t need Jesus coming back to life to persuade me that he is the Christ. (Note: there are a few people in scripture who managed to see Him as He Is long before the crucifixion let alone the resurrection. So it’s not just me.)

    Meanwhile, neither the Resurrection of Jesus, nor the prospect of one’s own eventual resurrection and reunion with dead loved ones doesn’t provide much help or comfort in times of sudden or violent loss and grief. At least, not in my experience.

    “Oh, no! Your loved one was just drowned/ murdered/died in a plane crash. Well, cheer up, Jesus was resurrected on the Third Day! What? Um… no… sorry, that doesn’t mean that your boyfriend will come back Sunday morning… Your loss is permanent. Or rather, it is at least until you die yourself, hopefully of old age. Maybe then you’ll hobble across the threshold of heaven to be met by your still-nineteen year old loved one…”

    Yes, I know. That sounds so simplistic. But things get pretty plain and simple at the scenes of sudden and often violent death.

    Perhaps this is a surprise? But the resurrection just isn’t that useful to me.

    • #23
    • February 13, 2018 at 1:47 pm
    • 2 likes
  24. Coolidge

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    But the resurrection just isn’t that useful to me.

    I would love to this as a separate post. I have a few things that I’d like to raise, but I don’t want to derail your whole post here.

    • #24
    • February 13, 2018 at 2:00 pm
    • 1 like
  25. Member
    Kate Braestrup Post author

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    I suppose I should admit, here, that I am not as moved by the Resurrection as I know I’m supposed to be. Another post, perhaps?

    Yes, please! Is it thought of as a supernatural case of resuscitation, thus rather routine? Or?…

    I can only answer for myself, Nanda!

    Most UUs probably don’t worry all that much about it, because many UU churches not only cherry pick the Bible, but pick other cherries out of other world religions. There are some advantages to this, but there are disadvantages too.

    The advantage —in theory at least—is that free and unfettered dialectic is made possible where otherwise it might be stifled by the fear of heresy.

    Plenty of disadvantages…

    • #25
    • February 13, 2018 at 2:02 pm
    • 1 like
  26. Thatcher

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):

    I love discussing this stuff too.

    Functionally speaking, I can be a Christian in a UU church and be as Christian as I want to be. Unitarians considered themselves Christians for thousands of years (and were willing to be roasted by other Christians) and of course, Universalists did/do too. I’ve been told that a belief in Hell is necessary for a Christian because, otherwise, what is Christ saving us from?

    A lot of things that seem really obvious and straightforward actually aren’t. To agree that “Jesus Is God” may not be to agree on the definitions of “Jesus” “Is” or “God.” Same for “Jesus Is The Son of God.” Each of those words has multiple interpretations, and the differences between them can create schisms or start wars.

    Or…not. In Chaplain World,

    As for the Resurrection…it always feels as though it presents a solution to a problem I don’t actually have. I’m not worried about death or what happens afterward. I don’t believe in Hell anyhow. I don’t need Jesus coming back to life to persuade me that he is the Christ. (Note: there are a few people in scripture who managed to see Him as He Is long before the crucifixion let alone the resurrection. So it’s not just me.)

    Meanwhile, neither the Resurrection of Jesus, nor the prospect of one’s own eventual resurrection and reunion with dead loved ones doesn’t provide much help or comfort in times of sudden or violent loss and grief. At least, not in my experience.

    “Oh, no! Your loved one was just drowned/ murdered/died in a plane crash. Well, cheer up, Jesus was resurrected on the Third Day! What? Um… no… sorry, that doesn’t mean that your boyfriend will come back Sunday morning… Your loss is permanent. Or rather, it is at least until you die yourself, hopefully of old age. Maybe then you’ll hobble across the threshold of heaven to be met by your still-nineteen year old loved one…”

    Yes, I know. That sounds so simplistic. But things get pretty plain and simple at the scenes of sudden and often violent death.

    Perhaps this is a surprise? But the resurrection just isn’t that useful to me.

    Dear friend and colleague, in Chaplain World, it sounds like your sticking-points re: the Resurrection arise (largely) from the horribly-inept use people make of the concept in an effort to deny/obscure/shut down real grief, honest doubt, and the discomfort of encountering others’ suffering…For me, it’s a reminder that I’m an embodied and ensouled being; that this life is a learning experience that I need to fully-embrace daily on my way Home. It doesn’t need all the pretzel-logic people impose on it to make it a source of hope (not optimism) but a fierce, active and engaged hope “that does not disappoint.” Anyway, would love a post re: either version of the Creed sometime…

    • #26
    • February 13, 2018 at 2:04 pm
    • 1 like
  27. Member
    Kate Braestrup Post author

    Johnnie Alum 13 (View Comment):

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    But the resurrection just isn’t that useful to me.

    I would love to this as a separate post. I have a few things that I’d like to raise, but I don’t want to derail your whole post here.

    Okay! Note: Saying its not all that useful to me isn’t to say that I think it’s all hokum, or that other people shouldn’t find it hopeful and wonderful. I’m aware that it is a quirk of mine!

    • #27
    • February 13, 2018 at 2:04 pm
    • 2 likes
  28. Member
    Kate Braestrup Post author

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):

    Hypatia (View Comment):
    @johnniealum13, you re the kind of Christian I had in mind. I don’t know whether I would say the choice is easy, but what is very clear is that there is a choice to be made. Is Jesus God, or not?

    And @typicalanomaly, I get what you’re saying about the proliferation of sects, but I think, last time I checked, a belief that Jesus is God is kind of a sine qua non for Christianity.

    I love discussing this stuff too.

    Functionally speaking, I can be a Christian in a UU church and be as Christian as I want to be. Unitarians considered themselves Christians for thousands of years (and were willing to be roasted by other Christians) and of course, Universalists did/do too. I’ve been told that a belief in Hell is necessary for a Christian because, otherwise, what is Christ saving us from?

    A lot of things that seem really obvious and straightforward actually aren’t. To agree that “Jesus Is God” may not be to agree on the definitions of “Jesus” “Is” or “God.” Same for “Jesus Is The Son of God.” Each of those words has multiple interpretations, and the differences between them can create schisms or start wars.

    Or…not. In Chaplain World,

    As for the Resurrection…it always feels as though it presents a solution to a problem I don’t actually have. I’m not worried about death or what happens afterward. I don’t believe in Hell anyhow. I don’t need Jesus coming back to life to persuade me that he is the Christ. (Note: there are a few people in scripture who managed to see Him as He Is long before the crucifixion let alone the resurrection. So it’s not just me.)

    Meanwhile, neither the Resurrection of Jesus, nor the prospect of one’s own eventual resurrection and reunion with dead loved ones doesn’t provide much help or comfort in times of sudden or violent loss and grief. At least, not in my experience.

    “Oh, no! Your loved one was just drowned/ murdered/died in a plane crash. Well, cheer up, Jesus was resurrected on the Third Day! What? Um… no… sorry, that doesn’t mean that your boyfriend will come back Sunday morning… Your loss is permanent. Or rather, it is at least until you die yourself, hopefully of old age. Maybe then you’ll hobble across the threshold of heaven to be met by your still-nineteen year old loved one…”

    Yes, I know. That sounds so simplistic. But things get pretty plain and simple at the scenes of sudden and often violent death.

    Perhaps this is a surprise? But the resurrection just isn’t that useful to me.

    Dear friend and colleague, in Chaplain World, it sounds like your sticking-points re: the Resurrection arise (largely) from the horribly-inept use people make of the concept in an effort to deny/obscure/shut down real grief, honest doubt, and the discomfort of encountering others’ sufferingFor me, it’s a reminder that I’m an embodied and ensouled being; that this life is a learning experience that I need to fully-embrace daily on my way Home. It doesn’t need all the pretzel-logic people impose on it to make it a source of hope (not optimism) but a fierce, active and engaged hope “that does not disappoint.” Anyway, would love a post re: either version of the Creed sometime…

    Ah! I like that. And, as I said, I’m not opposed to the Resurrection (the way I’m actually opposed to the doctrine of Hell) it just isn’t one of the stories/images that arises in my own experience of God.

    • #28
    • February 13, 2018 at 2:07 pm
    • 1 like
  29. Member

    Hypatia (View Comment):
    And @typicalanomaly, I get what you’re saying about the proliferation of sects, but I think, last time I checked, a belief that Jesus is God is kind of a sine qua non for Christianity.

    Perhaps I’m operating on an assumption you don’t share… Since the thread had moved to questions on sectarian differences, I assumed you understood sects/traditions/groups who use the label “Christian” don’t do so with permission from a governing body.

    We were created by the Divine, given revelation by the Divine and were visited by/are being visited by the Divine. But all the church/sect stuff, that’s all on us. You can say the Spirit is among us, but you can’t get all of us to see the Spirit’s role and presence the same way.

    Why then would the divinity of Christ be any different? For some, it is a requirement. Others think not. Who authoritatively says what is Christian in our world? We can come to consensus if the right people are in the rest room temporarily, but only in groups, never as one.

    You said yourself in #16 certain beliefs “…wouldn’t be considered Christian at all by the Christians  have in mind.” What about the people who call themselves Christian whom you did not have in mind? Does anyone have the authority to say they aren’t Christians?

    I actually agree with you, but have arrived at that place after many stops at other Christian places. We Christians are indeed a worldwide society of those who must of necessity agree to disagree.

    • #29
    • February 14, 2018 at 7:58 am
    • 2 likes
  30. Member
    Kate Braestrup Post author

    Thank you, Typical Anomaly—nicely put!

    • #30
    • February 14, 2018 at 7:07 pm
    • Like