Reading the Epilogue

Q-1Different gateways into the one garden:  Every era has its insights.  Today, different theologies are glimpsing God again, not by deducing all there is to know  – the Holy will never be available to us in this way – but by illuminating the presence of the divine mystery in our own  times.  Rather than discussing one aspect of the divine, each particular approach amplifies the meaning of the whole – like different gateways opening into the one garden.

By listening to where the Spirit is moving in people’s lives today, by paying attention to others’ experiences, and interpreting them creatively in the light of biblical faith – and by calling for a universal practice of justice – these theologies shed new light on ways to know the divine.  They also bring us hope.

The fact that voices from around the world – including many outside the centers of established power – are contributing to our understanding of God indicates the dawning of a truly global Christianity.  So the quest goes on, and will continue to go on, as long as the unfathomable mystery of God calls human beings into the future.  A beautiful soliloquy from Christopher Fry’s A Sleep of Prisoners speaks of this mystery:

The human heart can go to the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now.  The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move,
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul men [and women] ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise
Is exploration into God. 

Christopher Fry, A Sleep of Prisoners

Jesus, remember me

Jesus remember me

Luke 23:33-43

Jesus is not alone on the cross.  There are three men and three crosses – all surrounded by armed soldiers and a milling crowd.  Some in the crowd watch in silence; but others shout like fans at a football game, inspired by their cheerleaders. In the uproar one of the dying men joins the crowd in shouting at Jesus, but the other man defends him and says, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

What does it mean, to ‘remember’?  There’s a difference between what the word meant to the people of the Scriptures, and what it means to us today.  We think of a ‘memory’ as a thought we carry around in our own heads; and we think of ‘remembering’ as the process of searching our brains for things said and done yesterday or long ago.   But for the Hebrews, memory was communal (shared by everyone through story-telling); and concrete (it was not a mere mental exercise, but restored a living relationship with the original people and activities).

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What happens when we die?

Job's Redeemer

Last February, Heaven is for Real – a book about a little boy’s near-death experience – reached #1 on the best-seller list.  Proof of Heaven, a much more complex book written by a neurosurgeon, has sold more than two million copies since it was first published last year.  These two books are not the only best-sellers about near-death experiences and the afterlife, because all of us are drawn to the perennial question: What happens to us when we die?

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The First Witness

Mary Magdalene

Magdalene preaching
Mary Magdalene proclaims the Resurrection
illumination from the Albani Psalter – Germany, 12th century

Who was I?

The Scriptures say I came from Magdala, a little village on the Sea of Galilee.  They say I was one of the many who were healed by Jesus.  They say that after my healing, I became one of the disciples who followed Jesus (and yes, the scriptures say women followed him, too).  If you read the New Testament, you will see that we were respectable women, and some of us were wealthy; we helped provide for him as he traveled through Galilee and Judea.

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Martha the Worker

Martha icon
Martha: a traditional icon

Inspired by the Gospel of John, chapters 13-17

We were all there, you know. When John told the story, he spoke about Peter and Andrew, Thomas and Philip and all the others – even Judas was in the story – but he didn’t mention us. (Not that we expected to hear our names, that wasn’t the way it was done. The women were always there, but our names were never included.)

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