I love and am consistently drawn to paradox. Perhaps that's why I enjoy space/time paradox books and movies....
I have recently finished reading Wayne Jacobsen's new book, Finding Church. It describes exactly where I find myself these days. I have gone through the deconstruction and rubble-clearing stages and have begun looking for the pattern of healthy reconstruction. So, his book is a helpful bit of confirmation of what the Spirit has been on about these past eight years. Just as all his earlier books have been important steps along the path of my journey. I am so grateful to God for Wayne.
I just started reading Kathy Escobar's new book, Faith Shift. I am looking forward to finding new ways to understand what I have been experiencing, looking through her eyes and trying on her words. Stay tuned....
I know that Wayne's book is one that I will need to give to friends and family who just don't understand my current experience outside of institutional Christianity. I have a feeling Kathy's book may need to join it. I am grateful to God for this brother and sister, their lives, ministry, blogs and books. I was blessed to spend time with Wayne five years ago, and I'm looking forward with hope to meeting Kathy in a couple of months. Stay tuned for that, too....
What this added up to this morning is the realization that I have come around...again!....to the power of the simple/complex concept of covenant keeping centered in the Hebrew concept of cHesed.
I know you're surprised. Not.
There is a Covenant Formulary that Dr. Mont Smith made in his book What the Bible Says About Covenant. [Note: this book is out of print, but copies can be found through various internet sources. I have a couple dozen of them myself for use in teaching situations. Someday I hope to reformat it for digital distribution.] It is the definition of what it means to faithfully keep covenant. The formulary goes like this: In Christ + Like Christ = With Christ.
When I first learned this over 20 years ago, it was presented as a kind of two-sides-to-a-coin thing. The In Christ side was the faith side and the Like Christ side was the works side. The Faith plus the Works added up to the fullness of life With Christ. And that fit with my thinking at that time.
But that was before the deconstruction began...and as my mindset broke apart, it could no longer hold that concept. What was I going to do now?
I had to let it go...and trust that the Spirit would return it to me when the time was right.
Apparently, that was this morning!
Because in the meantime, the Spirit was immersing me in the spoken and written words of Dr. C. Baxter Kruger...hammering out the concept of perichoresis that has been floating around in my brain for quite some time. And while that was happening, the other shoe dropped, as it were. I found that Perichoresis remained "out there" -- just beyond reach -- until it was connected with cHesed.
So, I have been processing Perichoretic cHesed through most of 2013 and 2014. Today the old formulary was transformed so that it is real again. It looks like this:
- Perichoresis is that wonderful dance of mutual interpenetration without loss of distinct individuality, where the Father and Son are in one another through the power of the Spirit. It is into this Great Dance that we (all of the cosmos, actually) have been drawn by the finished work of Jesus, the Father's Eternal Son. It is this reality that is represented by the component of the formulary known as "In Christ". Everything is now In Christ, who holds all things together. This is true whether we know it or not...whether we accept it or not. It is Reality.
- cHesed is the attitudes and actions of perichoresis. It is the very steps of the dance. We learn them by dancing with Father, Son and Spirit. Their attitudes toward each other and us are revealed as we partner with them, as they lead us in the dance, as we relax and follow their lead. These attitudes of cHesed are gracious loving-kindness toward one another and manifest in specific actions: deliberate affection (love that submits), unmerited favor (grace that serves), and kindness mutually owed (mercy that leads). To follow Jesus' lead and dance the steps of gracious loving-kindness with him is to be "Like Christ".
- Perichoretic cHesed is the Great Dance in its fullness...the dance of covenant keeping. It is a covenant dance where everything depends on the very nature and character of God as Father, Son and Spirit. They dance the covenant faithfully with each other -- submitting, serving and leading according to the best interest of the Other -- and have done so for Eternity...from before Creation. And by creating the Cosmos, they widened the scope of the dance so that we may join them. This is what it means to be "With Christ" -- to know the love, grace and mercy of Father, Son and Spirit intimately and to dance the steps of submission, service and leading in step with them. When we are "With Christ", his faithful covenant keeping becomes ours. We cannot do it on our own, we do it with him. It's a gift we share, not a skill we hone. It is not about us...it is all about Jesus Christ and his relationship with the Father in the Spirit...and our inclusion in that relationship.
But as we learn to accept that we are fully included -- done deal -- In Christ, and relax into the arms of Jesus and let him lead us in the Dance -- Like Christ, we will finally have peace and rest -- With Christ.
We will be Home.
Listen to Aslan as he calls the faithful into Narnia...to come further up, come further in. [Time to read The Last Battle again. ;^)]
My journey seems to be one of climbing a spiral staircase. As I go further up and further in, it seems like things I've recognized in lower rungs become clearer as I climb higher. They are not new things I am seeing, but each time I come back around, I see things with better -- renewed -- vision. The more that I am confident of my place In Christ, the more I begin to see and perceive Like Christ, the more I am at peace With Christ.
The Already/Not Yet Paradox. It will remain until all things are made new. But I don't have to wait until then to dwell in the Shalom of Perichoretic cHesed and participate in the Great Dance.
I am already a New Creation In Christ...I am participating in the Dance Like Christ...but I have not yet arrived at the top of the spiral staircase that is my Journey. The Spirit, however, is continually calling me to repentance for my poor theology, renewing my mind, and cleaning the mist off my glasses, so that I see more and more clearly.
It is an awesome view...one that I want to share with those God brings across my path. It's a process of hope and courage. Stay tuned!
With immense gratitude as we American's approach our Thanksgiving....