Grief, Ministry, Writing

One of Us

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our
weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we
are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so
that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:15-16, NRSV)

If God had a name what would it be?

And would you call it to his face?

If you were faced with Him in all His glory

What would you ask if you had just one question?


(Eric Bazilian, as recorded by Joan Osborne, "One of Us")

I believe I was in seminary before I heard the things I sort of knew described in this way: Jesus was fully divine and fully human.

That may seem surprising, but really, it's one of those concepts you spend a lot of time talking about in seminary and hardly ever trouble to unpack in church. A lot of what we "know" about Jesus comes not so much through teaching of scripture but through the singing of hymns and the repetition of whatever rituals have meaning in a particular tradition.

Some churches default to the divinity of Jesus, while it's probably more typical in progressive churches to focus on his wisdom and his kindness and his inclusion of the marginalized. The latter is fine for devising some life guidelines, but there are times when life frankly sucks and we enter the abyss of grief or the closet of despair or even the breezeway between identities. Some times in our lives defy guidelines, even the simple ones about loving God and neighbor. Some times in our lives center on questions: Why this? Why now? Why me?

In those moments, I'm glad I know that Jesus asked a question, too, about where God was at the crucial moment. I'm glad I know he felt the letdown of his friends' abandonment. I'm glad I know he got angry. I'm glad I know he made a mistake. And this doesn't begin to touch on the embodied experience, not really, of hunger and thirst and desire and tired feet and fear of death and boredom with the chronic complaining of others.

It comforts me to know that a person I think of as having been part of God and one of us became connected fully to God again, able to share the experience of being human. To me this says that the Cosmic Fund of love and goodness and creativity and justice contains our human perspectives and embraces our human flaws with the knowing of having lived those things and more. And while it may not fix what ails us, it's better than being alone.

Well, I believe it is. And this is what I want to know about God. I don't want to argue about what it means for Jesus to be without sin. I want to embrace the idea that beyond what we see, there is more, and in that More is an understanding of our humanity, and a love for it and for us, flaws and all.

5 thoughts on “One of Us”

  1. I’ve always struggled with the divinity side of Jesus, and at times in my life, I’ve felt “outside the pale” because of the way I’ve understood his identity. It makes me hopeful when I think of Jesus as being fully human, but also fully connected with God who is in all of us, and infuses all of us if we just let God take over. I believe Jesus to be a complete (perfect) human – the way we were all meant to be. He is “God with us” because he completely opened himself to God’s leading.

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  2. Deb, thanks for your thoughts. I expect if you prodded most Congregational UCC people, you would get a similar answer, though not put as well as your words.

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  3. Look at this! A community of people who believe in the Jesus I believe in! Why couldn’t you all be in Central PA?
    Anyway, before reading Deb’s comment, I just wanted to stop by to say how beautiful this post is, especially this last line: “I want to embrace the idea that beyond what we see, there is more, and in that More is an understanding of our humanity, and a love for it and for us, flaws and all.”
    Thank you for sharing this, Songbird.

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  4. I can’t count the number of times that it felt like all I had to cling to was the knowledge that God had put himself in position to experience life as I was experiencing it, the grief, the confusion, the heartache, the frustration. The older I get, the more dear this particular piece of theology becomes to me.

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