Putting the head of the incarnate above the institutional parapet!

Dear associates in CCMJ,

Each year in April/May we appraise the witness of CCMJ.

In anticipation of that voluntary self-audit and shared appraisal, and as a rallying cry, I’ve appended two single page Meditations with crucial significance for our CCMJ quest to interpret “Thy kingdom come – thy will be done” in terms of public policy. It would be of great value if you, as one of the 87 associates receiving this, could reflect on these two pages, relating them to how we both singly and together tackle the societal havoc wrought by:

A) Uncontrolled Exploitative Usury
B) Legally allowed and economically encouraged Theft of the Commons
C) Power exerted over others when enhanced by powerful, largely unrelentingly rigid institutionalised hierarchies.

Between us we pursue many significant and urgent PALLIATIVES – that is, necessary pastorally-inspired reforms within a dying system that relentlessly entrenches those 3 embedded faults. There is far less concentration on a collaborative modelling and application of a genuine CURATIVE – a system regime change based on universal and therefore inclusive principles.

We need to help each other understand and then maintain the creative tension of both-and, many PALLIATIVES and a single collaborative critical mass designing a CURATIVE. We are trying to generate a critical mass to advance observance of universal principles and then their local application in public policy. We can tackle PALLIATIVES within the scope of our own talents and opportunities, but need co-operation in modelling the CURATIVE. PLEASE give some ‘CCMJ-time’ to reflect on these two pages…. AND MAKE A RESPONSE.

INCARNATION: Thursday, January 25, 2018 (Feast of St. Paul)

Incarnation should be the primary and compelling message of Christianity. Through the Christ (en Christo), the seeming gap between God and everything else has been overcome “from the beginning” (Ephesians 1:4, 9). [1] Incarnation refers to the synthesis of matter and spirit. Without some form of incarnation, God remains essentially separate from us and from all of creation. Without incarnation, it is not an enchanted universe, but somehow an empty one.

God, who is Infinite Love, incarnates that love as the universe itself. This begins with the “Big Bang” approximately 14 billion years ago, which means our notions of time are largely useless (see 2 Peter 3:8). Then, a mere 2,000 years ago, as Christians believe, God incarnated in personal form as Jesus of Nazareth. Matter and spirit have always been one, of course, ever since God decided to manifest God’s self in the first act of creation (Genesis 1:1-31), but we can only realize this after much longing and desiring. Most indigenous religions somehow recognized the sacred nature of all reality, as did my Father St. Francis, when he spoke of “Brother Sun and Sister Moon.” It was always hidden right beneath the surface of things.

The dualism of the spiritual and so-called secular is precisely what Jesus came to reveal as untrue and incomplete. Jesus came to model for us that these two seemingly different worlds are and always have been one. We just couldn’t imagine it intellectually until God put them together in one body that we could see and touch and love (see Ephesians 2:11-20). And—in Christ­—“you also are being built into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). What an amazing realization that should shock and delight us!

The final stage of incarnation is resurrection. This is no exceptional miracle only performed once in the body of Jesus. It is the final and fulfilled state of all divine embodiment. Now even physics tells us that matter itself is a manifestation of spirit, a vital force, or what many call consciousness. In fact, I would say that spirit or shared consciousness is the ultimate, substantial, and real thing. [2] Yet most Christians, even those who go to church each Sunday, remain limited to a largely inert materiality for all practical purposes. Such emptiness sends us on a predictable course of consumerism and addiction—because matter without spirit is eventually unsatisfying and disappointing.

Matter also seems to be eternal. It just keeps changing shapes and forms, the scientists, astrophysicists, and biblical writers tell us (Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1). In the Creed, Christians affirm that we believe in “the resurrection of the body,” not only the soul. The incarnation reveals that human bodies and all of creation are good and blessed and move toward divine fulfillment (Romans 8:18-30).

Death is not final, but an opening and a transition for ever new forms of life. An Infinite God necessarily creates infinite becoming. God is the one who “brings death to life and calls into being what does not yet exist” (Romans 4:17b).

[1] This is the theme of Richard Rohr’s forthcoming book on the Universal Christ (to be released fall 2018).
[2] For more on quantum physics and incarnation, see Diarmuid O’Murchu, Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1997, 2004). Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2003), 117-119; and Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 17.


The Realm of God – 26-1-18

Jesus clearly says the kingdom of heaven is among us (Luke 17:21) or “at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). This realm appears to be his singular and constant message. Without this utterly new and absolute frame of reference, it is hard to know what Jesus is talking about. It’s sad that many Christians made it into a reward system for a very, very few (if we believe our own common criteria); or as Brian McLaren says, we made the announcement of the Reign of God into “an evacuation plan” into another world. [1] As Frederick Buechner observed, “Principles are what people have instead of God.” [2] The Judeo-Christian God wanted to give us Godself, but we preferred ideas and laws. The greatest saints I have ever met eventually had to sacrifice their self-exalting principles in order to love God and to love their neighbour! This is the final and full death of self, which Jesus exemplified on the cross.

The price for real transformation is high. It means that we have to change our loyalties from power, success, money, ego, and control to the imitation of a Vulnerable God where servanthood, surrender, and simplicity reign. Of course, most people never imagine God as vulnerable, humble, or incarnate in matter. We see God as Almighty, and that vision validates almightiness all the way down the chain. Look at history to see Christianity’s role in affirming oppression and violence.

When Christians say “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20) or “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3), we are actually announcing our commitment to Jesus’ upside-down world where “the last are first and the first are last” (Matthew 20:16) over any other power system or frame of reference. If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not! If Jesus is Lord, then the economy and stock market are not! If Jesus is Lord, then my house, possessions, country, and job are not! If Jesus is Lord, then I am not!

This implication was obvious to first-century members of the Roman Empire because the phrase “Caesar is Lord” was the empire’s loyalty test and political bumper sticker. Early Christians changed “parties” when they welcomed Jesus as Lord instead of the Roman Emperor as their savior. A lot of us have still not changed parties. In fact, political parties are many American Christians’ major frame of reference today. This is the “realm of silliness” that is nowhere close to the Realm of God.

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “It is merely that when a man [sic] has found something which he prefers to life itself, he then for the first time begins to live.” [3] We are all searching for Someone to surrender to, something we can prefer to our small life. Without such a lifeline of love, the span between God and the soul is not bridged.And here is the wonderful surprise: We can surrender to God without losing ourselves! The irony is that we find ourselves in a new and much larger field of meaning. Jesus’ metaphor for that larger field of meaning, purpose, and connection is “The Realm of God.”

[1] Brian McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World (New York: Jericho Books), 211.
[2] Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (Harper & Row: 1973), 73.
[3] G. K. Chesterton, Wit and Wisdom of G. K. Chesterton (Dodd, Mead and Co., 1911), 188. Adapted from Richard Rohr, Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr: Daily Meditations for Advent (Franciscan Media: 2008), 15-16, 72-73.

Thank you for giving this significant challenge your attention: respond to: peterchallen@gmail.com

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