Let’s Play Pretend

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In my previous post I encouraged my readers to take part in a meditation practice. The practice allowed us to create a vivid image of a perfected world. To imagine and visualize as concretely as possible a newly painted canvas of the world. To recall this image and continuously reform, reshape, and renew it.To begin to hope that the existence of such a world is truly possible. However for this practice to begin to take form beyond our imaginations and out into the world, unity is required. For humanities hope to slowly begin to transform all that we see around us there must be agreement about the object and aim of our future. Our hope must be directed towards and centered around a universal objective to become realized on earth today.

I want to suggest that our vehicle and object of hope is love. Love is the thing we must be directed towards and centered upon. The kind of love we see perfectly displayed in Christ. In Christ we find a concrete, vivid image of true love. Jesus is the exact representation and image of God. And God is love. The person, teachings, actions, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the thing that displays for us a love capable of transforming our world. The cross becomes the center of all our hope. It was on the cross that an entire new reality was inaugurated upon the earth. Through the cross humanity was given the potential to become the hope of the better world we envisioned. The resurrection made way for the Kingdom of God to be made manifest today–on the very soil in which you are standing. On the cross, all those things we removed in our imaginations from the dark and broken world have already been overcome. Our job is to see such a world. Our job is to live it out as if it was real right now.

Problems arise because this new and perfected Kingdom isn’t always obvious. In fact, more often than not it is completely hidden. (This topic is discussed in a sermon by Greg Boyd that I would recommend). Our image of a world centered around perfect love must be the hope we hold on with all our might. Without hope–without possessing a faith aimed towards perfect love–transformation will be impossible. If we lose hope, if we give up on the possibility of perfect love, and rather become convinced that the ugliness we see in the world today is the best we can do this side of death, we are screwed. In the book Courage to Be, Paul Tillich talks about such hopelessness; “Despair is an ultimate or “boundary-line” situation. One cannot go beyond it. Its nature is indicated in the etymology of the word despair: without hope. No way out into the future appears.” If we do not imagine ourselves becoming something better, by uniting in a common hope, we are essentially condemning humanity to an end defined by fear. Lucky for us, our hope, our direction, our objective is perfect love–the only thing capable of eradicating fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18

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In His Own Words: Teilhard on Hope Matters

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In a previous post I spoke about how too often Christians live a life of hope that tags on a “but” at the end of it. Here are some excerpts on this topic written by Teilhard in a book titled, Hymn of the Universe–an amazing compilation of some of his more poetic writings.

“‘“O ye of little faith,’ why fear the onward march of the world or become distant to it? Why foolishly multiply your prophecies of woe and your prohibitions: “Don’t venture there; don’t attempt that; everything is already known that can be known; the earth is grown old and stale and empty; there is nothing more for us to find. . .On the contrary, we must try everything for Christ; we must hope everything for Christ. Nihil intentatum (to leave nothing un-attempted) that is the true Christian attitude. Divinization means not destruction but super-creation. We can never know all that the Incarnation still asks of the world’s potentialities. We can never hope for too much from the growing unity of mankind.”

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Hope is a necessity if our joy is to be complete. … I want [hope] because I cannot help loving all that your constant help enables me each day to bring into being. A thought, a harmony, the achievement of a perfection in material things, some special nuance in human love, the exquisite complexity of a smile or a glance, every new embodiment of beauty appearing in me or around me on the human face of the earth: I cherish them all like children whose flesh I cannot believe destined to complete extinction. If I believed that these things were to perish forever, would I have given them life? The deeper I look into myself the more clearly I become aware of this psychological truth: that no mm would lift his little finger to attempt the smallest task unless he were spurred on by a more or less obscure conviction that in some infinitesimally tiny way he is contributing, at least indirectly, to the building up of something permanent—in other words, to your own work, Lord.

Teilhard, . C. P. (1965). Hymn of the universe. New York: Harper & Row. p. 114-115, 134-135

Hope Matters

Pin_HopeMattersThe word “but” is one of those words no one wants to hear right after someone says to you … I love you, I’m sorry, or I think you are a really great person. It is something I like to refer to as a “yes, but” statement. I’m sure you can think of people who have dropped the “yes, but” on you. I’m also sure you can think of a time or two you’ve dropped one on another–I know I can. It is easy to do. It is the having your cake and eating it too of interpersonal communication. We want to make the other person feel better, make ourselves feel better, or ease the tension of a conversation….but we also want to make sure our point is understood, our agenda is being met, or our conscious is left guilt free. The problem is a “yes, but” statement always creates a contradiction regarding the true emotions, feelings, or intentions of the speaker. It devalues the speaker’s credibility and confuses the hearer—who will likely end up unconvinced.

In my experience, I have found there to be a bit of a “yes, but” attitude among Christians today. It is an attitude that we all can be sympathetic towards. The world we live in is broken. We’ve all endured suffering. We’ve all experienced loss. It is tough to look at the evils that take place on this planet and not wish at times to just sink down to the ground and give up on it all. It is an attitude that is bound to wash over everyone once and a while. However, trouble arises when this attitude begins to cling to us, becomes natural to us, or is left unchecked and unconfessed for a long period of time. As our lives pass the fear of suffering, loss, death, evil, and ugliness in humanity slowly becomes the thing we expect. And if even more time passes, in which the incarnational truth and hope found in the New Testament washes away such pessimism, fear becomes the only outcome we will see as possible. Once a person comes to expect that for now fear/death will always prevail on earth, the gospel becomes a story about hoping in heaven, rather than placing our hope in our promised new earth and our coming resurrection.

Pierre Teilhard’s hope is that which continues to amaze me when read his works. This isn’t solely because of what he says or teaches regarding our future hope, it is because of the way he embodies such a hope. He is audacious enough to imagine a future in which humanity unites, loves, and manifests Christ on earth. Sadly, even as I’m writing about his hopeful ideals, I can feel a “yes, but” trying to creep into my preconditioned thoughts.

It sounds something like this: “While, of course I believe that Christians will someday unite, love, and fully manifest Christ on earth …. but it won’t ever fully be realized through us…well, at least not until Jesus comes back and finishes everything he didn’t finish on the cross” That last bit should feel like fingernails on a chalkboard and although you may never have heard a Christian confess such an appalling statement, it is what we are insinuating when we tag on a ‘but’ after speaking about Christ’s message of the Kingdom come, isn’t it? How is this acceptable to us? Christ on the cross is the center, the fulfillment, the reconciliation, the salvation, and the most beautiful act self-sacrificial love that will ever be known. Hope is found when we look at the cross, hear our Lord utter ‘It is finished,’ and then love one another so outlandishly that fear must flee from our presence. The hope Christ came to incarnate, teach, and die for simply cannot exist within a “yes, but” statement. To follow up the hope of the gospel with a “but” is to surrender our faith as hopeless.

I am a far cry from embodying hope the way Teilhard does. I also know that he struggled with this vision of hope after serving in WW1 (a topic I will discuss at a later time). I still struggle everyday to affirm the truth that on the cross it truly was ‘finished.’ I look around my life, the church, the world and find it hard to not to find it an impossible notion that God’s Kingdom could ever fully be realized on this very planet. There are times though, moments of fleeting wonder, in which even just for a few mere seconds I allow hope to overwhelm me. A true sense of hope, a pure and child-like hope, and such beauty has the power to take the breath right out of my lungs. It is akin to trying to imagine the end of the universe, eternity, or infinity. These times or moments most often come to me when reading Teilhard, in fact I’m not certain I had felt such hope ever before discovering him. His hope is contagious and intoxicating. Jesus came, lived, and died for a hope—the hope to see God’s Kingdom come to earth (not the other way around). Teilhard shamelessly mirrors this hope. I would give anything to live in such a state.

As I said earlier, Teilhard’s teaching doesn’t center on the idea of hope—it is more embedded in all his other thoughts. I continue to emphasize it however—especially early on in the series—because without a willingness on our part to try to imagine the incarnational hope of the kingdom come, we will never truly be able to open our minds and learn from what his message to us is. I want Christ-followers to become desperately hungry for such a Christ-like hope. If we say we have hope, but then claim our hope is in a ‘there’ rather than the ‘here’ it seems to me we are failing to preach the gospel.

“I believe that the world will never be converted to Christianity’s hopes of heavens, unless first Christianity is converted to the hopes of the earth.” Teilhard

Teilhard, . C. P. (1968). Science and Christ. New York: Harper & Row.p.127

Chardin: The Matter of Man

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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin lays the foundation of his theory regarding the evolutionary process currently happening all around with a poetic description of a new way to view the cosmos. Chardin paints a picture from one end of the materiel universe to the other with the hope of broadening our view of reality. He dares us to expand our preconditioned minds, from seeing only those things directly in front of us that are rooted in scientific fact, to imagine where it is we are going. Chardin challenges us to take the knowledge we have learned through science [in particular through evolution], combine it with the hope we find in the New Testament, and use these tools as a means of envisioning the direction we are driving towards in our eternal state of being. Teilhard wants to not only impart such a vision, but more importantly wants to encourage humanity to work together to help bring about that vision.

This vision begins with a fuller, more integrated view of the universe. Chardin bonds together the various ways we currently see reality, in order that the unified whole is replaced as that which is more naturally seen. As we stare out into the cosmos on any given night there are certain things that naturally arise in each of our minds—other solar systems with their own spinning planets, blazing suns being born and dying, black holes, and our dreams of the unknown. Alternatively, we see things in our mind differently when we glance around the very place we are standing or as we look into the eyes of another human. And then there is still another when we ponder those things on the atomic scale. There is space; there is what we see on the scale of the earth and the human race; and then there is the mysterious atomic and mostly undiscovered quantum scale. Teilhard lays this divided spectrum in front of us and then questions the usefulness of such a division. What if the way we viewed the universe could give us a fuller view of the hope we find in Christ? What difference would it make for Christians to regard the physical universe as a whole, rather than a spectrum of divided realities?

The New Testament declares that we are to be built up together to form the body of Christ. This same church that is being built up into Christ also rests upon Christ who is our cornerstone and from which nothing else can be done apart from. This biblical description is echoed in the very fabric of the universe we find all around us. From the smallest and seemingly infinitely divisible molecules, to the massive and constantly expanding universe, each part is both being multiplying and becoming a unified whole at this very moment and in each that follows. And each of these deriving from and hurling towards a singular point (a point later referred to by Chardin as the Omega point). As we begin to grasp the universe as a unified whole of physical matter, rather than in divided spectrums, we can turn our attention to the next layer of reality Chardin asks us to consider. A reality we must become more cognizant of if we wish to work together to build up the body of Christ—the reality of our consciousness.

I love the way the following quote from Chardin encapsulates the beauty that will arise as humanity begins to see itself beyond itself in hopes to become that which we have been called to become: “To see is really to become more … In such a vision man is seen not as a static center of the world he’s for long believed himself to be – but as the access and leading shoot of evolution, which is something much finer.”

I am the only son

This video only has some 30,000 views on YouTube.  I’m certain a couple thousand are my own.  It’s just so good, so very good.  Mumford and Sons are at the center of my musical world.  I don’t know with any certainty they are Christians, but I assume they are and don’t care if they aren’t.  Every song has a underlying message of grace, suffering, forgiveness, and love that are undeniable.  And not a romantic love; it’s love of a Christ-like nature.  Love that is immeasurable and unconditional.  I often view their music through the lens of my Christian heart and it’s something that produces hope in me.

Most of their songs are easy to see with a Christian viewpoint, but this one poses a challenge.  The Dust Bowl Dance is the song, and it’s a favorite of mine.  The core of the lyrics are in reference to the Grapes of Wrath, but it goes further than that, and I’ve had fun thinking over the possibilities.  The song is full of passion, incite, and justifiable anger.  This part always stands out to me:

Well you are my accuser, now look in my face,
Your oppression reeks of your greed and disgrace,
So one man has and another has not,
How can you love what it is you have got,
When you took it all from the weak hands of the poor?
Liars and thieves you know not what is in store.

There will come a time I will look in your eye,
You will pray to the God that you always denied,
The I’ll go out back and I’ll get my gun,
I’ll say, “You haven’t met me, I am the only son”.

Now, just to be clear, I have no factual reason to believe the only son is a figure of Christ.  But I like the picture it paints when you place Jesus into the end of the song as the only son (and yes, some lady in the audience is holding a song with incorrect lyrics).  But picture it … it’s judgment day.  There are people lined up to face Christ, realizing what they thought to be untrue is actually true, knowing they fell short (the same way we all have), hoping for redemption, and what does Christ do?  He goes out back and gets his gun.

Through the lens of a conservative Christian idea of judgment, Jesus pegging off non-believers with a gun could be the compassionate choice.  And yet, when I imagine judgment I don’t picture Jesus with a gun shooting people down, I don’t imagine him physically picking people up and throwing them into a fiery hell to burn in conscious never ending torture for all eternity.

How can there be a promise of an eternal kingdom that is free from pain, suffering, and tears (Rev 21:4) when eternal torture will still be present in that place after d-day?  I’m not staking any claims on my beliefs here, but it’s the thoughts that I thought today … and I thought I would share.