Devotion: Jesus Christ Yesterday, Today and Forever
Here are the reflections spoken by Susan Palo Cherwien during the National Lutheran Choir's hymn festival on Friday and Sunday, May 3 and 5. Some variant of these reflections will also be part of the hymn festivals performed at Lutheran Summer Music (on Saturday, June 29 @ 7:30pm) and Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (on Monday, July 1 @ 7pm).
All reflections Copyright © 2013 Susan Palo Cherwien
Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers - all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the Church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
I. Image of the Invisible God
Christ is Alpha and Omega
He is Beginning and End
He is our starting point
And our destination.
Franciscan Richard Rohr writes:
"If God is Trinity, and Jesus is the Face of God, then it is a benevolent universe.
God is not someone to be afraid of, but is the Ground of Being and on our side."
God is a loving God and Jesus while on earth and the Risen Christ and the Spirit of God have been trying to convince humans of this for millennia. From the heart of God to the heart of Christ to our heart. God is love - God is a relationship of love - full of mercy and compassion.
And Jesus is the Face of God.
II. Firstborn of Creation
The Jesuit paleontologist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin wrote,
"There is no matter without spirit."
In quantum physics, Bell's theorem posits that all particles of matter are connected at a fundamental and deep level. Matter and spirit. Douglas firs in the Pacific Northwest nurture their seedlings by sharing much needed carbon the giant trees could easily consume for themselves Spirit and matter.
White rats will work to free a trapped and caged compatriot, even ignoring chocolate in an adjacent cage. There is no matter without spirit. Rocks vibrate with the memory of all of the earth's creating.
Matter and spirit.
And in Christ God revealed God's face -
in matter in earth
in water and bones and flesh -
God's self-revelation the Image of the Invisible God in a human body
capable of growth
capable of suffering
capable of relationship
capable of compassion.
Matter and spirit:
the Firstborn of creation
the Firstborn of the Dead
the Firstfruits of them that sleep.
III. In Him All Things In Heaven and On Earth Were Created
Jewish teacher Earl Schartz says that anytime the Hebrew Scriptures repeat something three times it would be wise to pay attention.
"And one seraph called to another and said:
Holy, holy, holy…
Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh!"
Scientists tell us that our universe is a space-time continuum.
We live in space which intersects time at all points.
We live in time which intersects space at all points.
Now the evidence we have of space is relationship.
Space enables relationship through the illusion of separateness.
And relationship makes possible both conflict and compassion.
Conflict can engender suffering; suffering enables change.
Now the evidence we have of time is change.
Change produces a sense of loss, because what is past cannot be regained.
Loss produces suffering, and suffering makes possible both compassion and transformation.
Thus, where time and space come together is a field energized for compassion and transformation, where the good road and the road of difficulties cross.
This is the field for our journey - where sorrow is as intrinsic as joy, loss as inherent as love.
It is the field for our journey.
And it is holy.
Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh!
IV. In Him All Things Hold Together
When the monks of St. John's Abbey enter the abbey church for worship they enter by twos. They bow first to the altar then they turn and bow to each other.
"You too are the dwelling place of God," they are saying with their bodies.
God is Holy.
You are Holy.
We are Holy.
Kadosh, kadish, kadosh.
Christ moves through all things - ta panta - all things.
And thus we are all connected -
not just to God
not just to Christ
but to each other
Fingers pressed against a pane of frosted glass appear to be five separate oval forms but if one looks from a different vantage point one sees that they are actually five fingers and those fingers connected to a hand
and that hand to an arm
and that arm to a body
and that body to a head.
In Christ all things - ta panta - all things hold together.
V. He Is the Beginning, the Firstborn of the Dead
"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies…"
For something new to come into being
something has to die
something has to change
something has to be let go
This is life in space and time.
(A computer-generated DNA molecule when viewed axially looks like a crown of thorns.)
"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies…"
Jesus, Incarnate Love,
Face of God, allowed his deep and intimate connection to the God of Love to take flesh in every aspect of his life on earth:
even if it led to suffering
even if it led to death.
And where anger could have justly been Christ's response,
And where righteous indignation or hatred could have been justified,
The Face of God.
And love does not deplete itself.
Like the light of the Paschal candle passed from candle to candle at the Great Vigil of Easter,
light gradually filling the whole temple.
Love is not diminished when divided and borrowed.
Something new has come into being in the darkness.
Filling the whole temple. Love does not deplete itself.
VI. For In Him All the Fullness of God Was Pleased To Dwell
We must understand this:
If we are open to Christ
If we have made space in ourselves for Christ
we become capax Christi
capable of Christ
we become capax universi
capable of the universe
"Greater things than these you will do", said Jesus.
From the heart of God through the heart of Christ to our heart
a letting go
a new thing.
We must ask this:
Of what use is it that we say we believe
that Christ was born
lived died and rose from the dead
if we do not also let go
if we do not also rise from our old selves
and become new
Life in Christ is not a Director's Circle with reserved parking and special privileges
but rather a radical willingness
to let go
to become new
to become more
to become Christ
to become Incarnate Love.
In the Hasidic Jewish tradition, it is said,
"Every person has around them a legion of angels proclaiming:
'Behold the Image of God!'"