The world seems chaotic lately. Filled with problems that I have no solutions for. There is a lot of grief being held by our community: for lives lost, for justice denied, for the felt loss of agency and certainty, loss of income and stability, for the loss of physical gathering and fellowship. Yet we do not grieve as those without hope. So I invite you to join me in remembering the story of our hope:
Before anything that humanity knows ever came to be, God was. Father, Son and Holy Spirit existing in an infinite, blissful dance of self-surrendering love with and for one another. Still, true joy and love can never be contained. They are always meant to be shared. So God made room. And in that room, God created. God looked at what God created and declared it good. In this declaration humanity, all of humanity, was gifted value. For the Creator is the only one with the authority to assess the worth of what has been made. The people were whole because they believed God’s declaration that they were good. They need not strive to be more than they were nor be afraid that they were less than another. They knew and participated in the love of God.
While all that was created was good, it was not good for man to be alone. So God created again. God’s creation of Eve is about God gifting us with community through the difference of an “other”. The triune God is imaged by community that is marked as both similarity, “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” and particularity: persons whose difference is not lost in participation within the community. This is the image of human flourishing and it was good.
It was very good, for a little while. Then Adam and Eve violate the limits that God had set for them. They hide from God because they fear their nakedness. Nakedness often connotes vulnerability due to a lack of covering. In a poetic way, Adam and Eve felt vulnerable because they had stepped out from under the protective covering of God’s declaration that they were “good.” It is not that the word was no longer for them but that in that moment they had lost the ability to hear and receive it. This results in the immediate breakdown of their community. When asked how he knows he is naked Adam blames Eve and God (who created Eve and placed her and Adam in community with one another) for his eating of the forbidden fruit. At this point they no longer identify one another by their similarities (“bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”) but by their difference (“the woman you gave me”). When we can no longer hear and accept God’s gift of worth and value (“it is good”) humanity feels the need to justify itself. Yet creatures do not have the authority to confirm the truth of our own value so we attempt to justify ourselves over/against one another. Difference is now twisted from the bedrock of community and the place of fulfillment of human life to the justification for division that allows us to prove our own worth by denying the worth of “the other.” Perhaps we have given up on proving ourselves “good” but we continually strive to prove ourselves “better than;” hoping that will suffice in the sight of a Holy God.
This is what makes the incarnation so profound. God willingly enters into our broken state. In the person of Jesus Christ, God makes space for the human experience within the very life of God. In becoming fully human, Christ fundamentally alters what it means to be human. Suddenly every act of humanity has been touched and transformed by the divine. Worth and value are once again gifted to humanity through the presence of God.
Being born is now a holy experience because God was born. Friendship, eating, laughing, and weeping are all part of the life of God. They are somehow deeper, more sacred than they were before. Through the incarnation, God subverts our expectations of what it means to be God and what it means to be human. God undoes the work of hierarchy by breaking down the divisions and expectations we have constructed.
Christ continually subverts the hierarchical expectations of the day. The King of Kings is born in humility, transforming our ideas of power. Jesus, a Jewish male, interacts meaningfully with a Samaritan woman. In doing so he transforms the social strata surrounding gender and race. Jesus reinterprets what is desirable in the Sermon on the Mount. He then demonstrates this new economy by eating with tax collectors, prostitutes and the poor. Christ reminds us that we were made to be with and for one another. Jesus restores the possibility of genuine encounter with God and neighbor. He creates a community of difference where tax collectors and zealots can share the same table because they are in the presence of God. Their worth is gifted to them rather than claimed by them. They are able to acknowledge the value and humanity of the other.
This is where we find our hope. That God is at work. The Spirit is active, mending the rifts we have created, knitting us together. Christ’s table is open and active, bringing healing in profound ways that we have yet to imagine. God is restoring us to community and giving us value. So do not be discouraged, dear one, God is on the move. God will be faithful to complete the work that God has begun.
May you be filled with hope today. Hope that does not disappoint because it is rooted in the work of a faithful, unfailing God.
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“The people were whole because they believed God’s declaration that they were good. They need not strive to be more than they were nor be afraid that they were less than another. ” How much more content would we all be if we would only believe this! Thank you, Sarah!
The Spirit is what keeps me going these days. God’s unfolding work in creation still gives me hope. Thanks Sarah!
Thanks, Sarah, for your devotional which I just read this afternoon. We all need just a little more hope these days, in fact, a lot more hope. At the moment, I am not feeling all that hopeful. I am wondering WHERE God is on the move these days? What exactly is God doing? How can you and I join that movement? If we were to do that, in what ways would your life and mine change? Some questions to ponder as we move from the sidelines into the game of doing the will of God on earth.
Jim, what wonderful questions. It takes a lot of courage to ask questions and to seek The Spirit out. In my experience, questions can be uncomfortable but being faithful to hold the questions opens me to see God, my neighbors and myself in new ways. I wish you a wonderful journey.
I know that your grandpa loves you and is proud of who you have become.
I do a lot of delayed devotional reading – but this was worth the wait. Thank you for your deep & inspired insights into this thing called HOPE.