Saturday, February 9, 2013

A heresy of sorts...

OK, my credentials should pass muster (what the hell does 'pass muster' mean? need to Google it....)

I am, after all, an Episcopal priest for 38 years--a 'professional Christian', if you know what I mean. But there is one heresy I'm especially fond of.....

I teach classes at U.Conn in Waterbury on various of the so-called Gnostic Christian texts. Someone always brings up that there is a sniff of heresy about them. When that happens, I do two things.

First, I make it clear that 'heresy' is what the Church has 'said' it is. Just as the winners write the histories of the wars, the 'orthodox' Christians, who won against the so called Gnostic Christians, wrote the history of what was heretical and what wasn't. God didn't say it was 'heresy', the Church did. Just to get that straight.

Then I prove to the group that they are all heretics of the first order, hell bent toward the gallows in a less gentle and more relevant time in Church history. I ask them, "who believes in 'the immortality of the soul'?"

Almost all the hands go up. Then I point them to the Nicene Creed that tells us 'orthodox' Christians believe, not in the soul's continued existence after death, but "the resurrection of the body..."

Heretics, each and every one of them.

Here's my heresy of choice: that Christianity is not a 'revealed' religion, but an 'unconcealed' religion.

"Revelation" is a big D-doctrine. It says that we know the Truth of God in Christ because it was 'revealed' to us through the incarnation and scripture and church teaching.

We know nothing, according to that, that God didn't whisper in our ear or shout from the rooftops in some way.

For me, the life of a Christian isn't informed by some revelatory knowledge but by un-concealing God in our midst.

For me, life is like wandering through a dark room with all the furniture covered in drapes and bumping your shin against something, wiping the blood away and realizing, in some way you can never quite explain or understand that you just bumped your shin against God.

God, for me, is not a Being that has 'revealed' its Being to me, but something I discover, uncover, trip over, bump up against and then, not knowing what else to call it, I call it God.

Sometimes I realize where my aching shin got the bump in the moment and sometimes it is hours, day, years later when I reflect and ponder that particular scar and realize, "Jeeze, that was God....."

Christians who believe our faith is only and always "revealed" are clear on stuff I'm rather foggy about. They tend to know how 'right' they are and how 'wrong' all the other stumbling folks like me are.

But here's what I think--bumping into God by accident rather than knowing up front what is God and what isn't, is a lot more exciting and intimate and lovely and serendipitous and full of grace than their way is.

Wander around a bit. Bump into things. Eschew assumptions and preconceptions. about Who, What, Where God is and how God shows up.

Look under the sheets and move the stuff on top. Dig down. You might just be surprised and even delighted to find God where you least expected God to show up....

A heresy well worth pondering....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.