I BELIEVE IN THE GOD WHOM JESUS KNEW ©

 
I believe in the God whom Jesus knew.
I love the God to whom Jesus prayed.
I follow, but erringly, the God
For whom John’s Gospel says
He spoke and acted (John 14:10),x
By whom and for whom he lived
With all the passion in his being.
That was why he came. (1)

God, he would have said to us, today,
Is not an idea or a thing, but
“God is Spirit,” (John 4:24)
And is in us when “in truth,”
That is, “genuinely,” we pray.

The Spirit is not something that God “has,”
That God produces and possesses
In abundance.
We often pray for God to send the Spirit,
But we are really crying:
“Come to us, God!
We are hungry, open, and ready to receive you!” (2)

The Spirit is God, inexhaustible.
It has always been God’s very Self
That God has given us.

Surely it was Spirit that flowed out of Jesus in laughter
And was the source of his amazing joy
And his power to touch, heal, and speak
Words which can never be forgotten.
He was called to life on earth by God
And conceived by the Spirit. (Luke 1:35)
God’s life was in him, through him,
Escaping from him –
From his very beginning.

The Hebrews knew of Spirit as
Breath, Wind, Fire, and Dove,
Energy, Life, and Wisdom.
The Spirit did not wait to come to earth
Until the birthday of the Church
When the Gift was so graciously renewed. (Acts 2)
It brooded over matter
Before and as the Earth was made. (Gen.1:2)
It spoke God’s will to life. (Gen.1)l
It entered the earthen form of Adam
(Whose very name, and original essence
Meant “clay” or “dust”), (Gen.2:7)
With God’s breath he became “a living soul,”
Inspired and healed and guided.

For centuries
It never left those people
Although they thought
They could contain it in a box
Which they carried before them.
“The Ark of the Covenant,”
commanded by God,
was, for them, the “shechinah,”
the place of the Holy Presence.
It was a visible “testimony”
of God’s faithfulness and power,
Leading them until
They found the Promised Land.(3)

Finally they saw the Spirit
In the form of a gracious human being,
And some followed him.

When he began to share with others
The things his “Father” taught him
As he listened in his receptive prayer, (4)
I imagine that
The Spirit pervaded the atmosphere
Around those who listened,
That it encompassed and sometimes
Even filled them, as they breathed it in
In the message that he gave.
Sometimes it even pierced the hearts
Of those who heard him speak.
And they were “different” ever after.

Once someone saw the Spirit
Gently light upon him as a dove.
The one who wrote about it said,
There seemed to be a great voice,
Speaking from the heavens, saying:
“This is my Son, the Beloved.” (Mark 1:11)

Another time, three who were with him
Saw him in glowing light,
Transfigured right in front of them! (Mark 9:2-8)
Again they sensed the same message
From the heavens,
But this time, the voice compellingly added:
“Listen to him!”

Otherwise, he walked and talked
Just as all folks do.

He was so approachable!
He had a band of friends, his pupils,
Which is what “disciples” means.
He revealed to them the Spirit
Which is always here.
Before he left, he offered it to them.
He breathed on them the breath of life
Which God breathed into Adam.
He asked them to receive it, (John 20:22)
(Not just believe in it)
And then, for awhile, he left.

Before that happened,
In the week before his death,
There was a time referred to as his Passion.
It was ended by his brutal torture and
A crucifixion such as the worst among all prisoners
Endured.
He had known what it would be. (Mark 9:12)

Agonizing as that Passion was,
He never could have endured it
Were it not for the Spirit
Burning in his soul,
Feeding him, giving him strength,
Reminding him of his One Great Purpose:
To bring all born from the heart of God
Back to the One who gave them life,
And to bring them seeing, knowing
The One to whom they ultimately belonged.

He was able to bear those hours only
Because the Spirit endured in him.
It was the Spirit
which saw him through.

And when he rose
It was the Spirit which was his resurrected life.
It was the Spirit which he left us.
It was the Spirit which he called on us to share.

He rose from death
By God’s life within him.
By the Spirit’s fire
He returned to live
Only for days among us.

After he was gone,
Many stories surfaced about him.
And the earliest theologians,
Like Ignatius and Justin Martyr
And Theophilus of Antioch, began to speak
About him as one of three, a “godhead,”
composing the Trinity.
Approximately between 150 and 230 CE,
In the work of Tertullian,
The theology of the Trinity was clearly formed.

Then, in 325 CE,
An ecumenical, that is, “worldwide,” council
Met in Nicea, Turkey.
It was called by the Emperor, Constantine,
Who needed the Church
To hold his far-flung State together.
He asked of the bishops a definition of Christianity
Which he could publish and insist upon as valid,
Thus binding his lands together.
Once again, in a second creed
Which followed the “Apostles’,”
God was put into a box,
This time a box of words.
It turned out to be impossible, too,
But it seemed the best that they could do.

The Nicene Creed was formed
‘Midst frustration and argument
And insecurity and pride.
Since that time,
It has become of great importance,
Being “confessed” at the most sacred services of the Church.
It has tried to explain
How a human being could “be God”
Instead of describing how God, as Spirit,
Could live within a person
And flow out from them
To teach and preach and heal.

The words of the Nicene Creed
Are more than anyone can fully comprehend.
Among those who repeat them,
Where is one who fully understands
The text which they profess?

The story is told that, then, even ordinary people
On the streets of Greece,
Debated whether “the Son of Man,”
As he called himself,
Was like God (homoiousios),
Or was God (homoousios).(5)
The difference in spelling
Was only one little “i,”
But the difference in meaning
Was enormous.

A theologian named Arius
Claimed the former explanation was correct.
And even the Pope agreed with him for awhile.
But, at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE,
The world’s bishops thought they had decided,
And the second explanation won.
(Yet it continued to be debated officially
For another 400 years!)

Why do we now try to explain God
By referring to “God in three persons,”
(Always leaving the Spirit until last?)

“Person” comes from “persona,”
And persona means “mask.”
God has many masks,
Many appearances,
Many, many ways of seeming to hide behind
All that God does,
So that some of us
Do not realize who is there.

Perhaps we could, at least,
In our many attempts to explain,
Say: “God in three aspects?”
(If not many more?)

God is not a person.
A person is an earthly being
With limitations which can be measured.
And Almighty God cannot be
“A being” among others,
God, the Spirit, must be Being, Life itself,
(as Paul Tillich taught).
Being we know as infinite.
And Life is the source of everything.

Is it not just as it has always been:
“God is Spirit” which breathes into our bodies of clay
God’s own Self,
The Spirit which is Life, (Gen.2:7)
To guide, inspire, and help us to forgive?
By the Spirit we are born as human beings.

Do we need another explanation?
Do we need to clarify the function
Of different “parts” of God?

God cannot be divided into “parts” or “pieces”
“Sections” or “persons.”
If we sometimes speak of the Trinity,
It cannot be by referring to three divisions of God,
But better, by three (and many more) dimensions.
Even Tertullian said: “three aspects.”

The infinite Lord simply IS.
And as such, is All in All.

St. Paul put it this way to the thoughtful Greeks:
In (God) we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:2)
We live inside God, and God lives inside us.
We experience, and we express
“God, (who) is Spirit.”
God gives God’s Being to us,
And we give God away
To give life to others.

That was Jesus’ task.
Compellingly, he announced:
“I have come to give life,
and to give it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

I believe in the God whom Jesus knew.
That God was not just a Trinity, but more;
A God of many aspects. (6)

The Trinity was not a frozen fact which Jesus preached.
For Jesus seems never to have thought of it
Or mentioned it.
The Trinity is a human way
For people to explain the immortal God
Whom we have met in Jesus
By the Spirit.

It is a concept which confuses many,
Including some who might otherwise be Christians,
As well as those of other faiths.

Jesus did not pray to himself,
Nor did he pray to a Trinity.

What shall we say about this theology?
Perhaps, instead of describing
That there are three persons, parts, or pieces,
We can say there are at least three ways
Of knowing God,
Of experiencing and perceiving God,
Three ways (among others)
That God responds to us
In a personal way.

We might allude to three ways
In which God, touches, moves and speaks
To us and in us.

God gives us life, as the Creator,
Lives and walks with us
As friend and Savior, and
Guides us on our path as Spirit.
God not only speaks and acts
To us and in us, but through us:
Bringing justice, creating beauty,
Helping us to understand each other,
Forgiving and being forgiven.
As God’s instruments,
We have been given purpose, hope,
Comfort and strength,
And more: God goads us on.

Such an understanding is not
Just a concept, a theology,
A picture or an explanation,
But is all of these: alive,
Living in and through us
In our time.

We could even say that
God might be envisioned as four: a quaternity, (7)
When we add “God in us,”
As the Creator planned, we recognize that we
Were created to do God’s work on earth.
We are in the picture too!
After all, were we not, for this reason,
Created “ in God’s image?” (Gen.1:26)

That cannot mean
Just to believe there is a God!
Or to think God
Looks like us!
(We talk in that anthropomorphic way,
Conceiving God in human form,
Using words that describe people,
Because our language lacks
Any other way of speaking!)

What can “God’s image” mean if not
To be enough like God
So that we can relate to each other,
Speak to each other,
And be able to hear
What the other says?
Does it not mean that we can
Sense each other’s presence,
That we can even move as one?

It may even mean that
You and I can participate
In the life of God!
What else is it when we do God’s work?

What was it when St. Francis
Hugged the leper?
Or you or I hug someone
(With a prayer in our hearts)
To help them heal
Deep in their being?

Our Orthodox friends
Call participation in God “theosis,”
And they teach that, in this way,
We “become” God,
Or “like” God.
In this way, we do God’s work.

Plotinus (a Greek Philosopher
Who greatly influenced St. Augustine)
Said in his “Enneads,”
“We become what we look at.” (8)
In other words:
We become like
What we pay attention to.

And St. Paul said in II Corinthians 3:17,18:
“All of us, with unveiled faces,
seeing the glory of the Lord….
Are being transformed
Into the same image
From one degree of glory to another;
For this comes from the Lord,
Who is Spirit.”

The God whom Jesus knew
Is bigger than we thought!
…………………………………………………..

I, like Paul, “see through a mirror, dimly” (I Cor. 13:12),
Yet, in gratitude, I can believe in the God whom Jesus knew,
To whom, in trust, he prayed,
Of whom he spoke,
And for whom he acted through the Spirit.

O Lord, my gratitude!
I love you and adore you!
Blessed by your image in me,
I am your child and servant.

~ Grace Adolphsen Brame, Ph.D. – August, 2017

Footnotes

(1) In the Gospel of John, Jesus is quoted as stating this purpose nineteen times.

(2) Surely our prayers are answered, not just by making a request, but by “waiting upon God,” listening with the heart and mind, and receiving God’s presence and God’s answers. Please see Receptive Prayer: Through Which God Nourishes, Heals, and Empowers by Grace Adolphsen Brame (Charis Enterprises).

(3) Exodus 25:22 reads: “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee.” We might think of it as the precursor to our church buildings where worshippers hope to sense the presence of the Holy. The lid of the Ark, covered with pure gold and the figures of two angels facing each other, was called “the Mercy Seat,” Its contents were the treasures of Israel: the Ten Commandments, a golden bowl containing manna, (their daily food in the wilderness), and Arron’s rod, believed to have once budded, revealing God’s almighty power.

(4) Again, please see Receptive Prayer.

(5) This approach is called “ontological,” and focuses on the “substance” of Jesus rather than the work of the Spirit through him.

(6) A truth recognized by all religions, but especially clear in Islam, which has 99 “names” for 99 ways of Knowing God. Muslims do not list 100 names in order to indicate that the qualities (or names) of God are endless and a number like 100 would seem to be final and complete.

(7) The psychologist, Carl Jung, introduced this term, referring to the being of God. But his quaternity included the person of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mine includes all people through whom God is “given away.”

(8) Plotinus, Book 4?, The Enneads.

This poem is copyrighted ©- visit Grace Adolphsen Brame’s website

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