Jesus: Revealer of God’s Presence Michael Morwood
What is generally called “the new universe story” brings mixed blessings to many Christians. On the one hand it brings an exhilarating sense of wonder as we contemplate images of galaxies and the birth of stars and the voyages of space crafts to distant planets. It dazzles us with the story of how life developed on this small planet. It draws us into deep appreciation and respect for the fine tuning here on earth that gave rise to the human species. On the other hand, it creates tension because we have a scientific “story”, available to people of all cultures and religions, that clashes with the worldview on which Christian doctrines about God and Jesus and “salvation” have been based.
The “new universe story” invites us to immerse ourselves in a faith perspective that discerns the Divine Presence throughout the universe - everywhere, at all times, from the smallest of the small to the largest of the large. This Presence “charges” all that is. It is never absent.
When we look back at Jesus now, we do so enlightened by a faith understanding that the Divine Presence was always present and active in the slow development of the human species. It was not watching on from afar, like a god residing in the heavenly realms. Jesus, like all humans, emerged from the creative, energizing activity of the Divine Presence on this planet where conditions are ideal for life to flourish.
Christian faith proclaims that Jesus “incarnated” the Divine Presence. That belief remains intact. What we are able to recover, however, is the understanding that Jesus embodied a Presence always here rather than a heavenly deity who had disconnected from humanity and closed access to his heavenly home. This understanding creates tension within Christianity because it differs from the traditional story of salvation based on humanity’s fall from grace and exclusion from heaven.
This tension will not be resolved readily. It is vitally important, though, that Christianity present Jesus to the modern world in the context of data, information and images that constitute reality for people. The “new universe story” cannot be ignored if faith is to be relevant, so the task is to find a way to anchor our understanding of Jesus in this story that is faithful to Jesus and what he was prepared to die for.
We have that way. It is found in focusing on Jesus as revealer of the Divine-with-us. It is found in contemplating Jesus giving human expression to the utter graciousness of the Mystery called “God”. It is found in appreciating that Jesus believed and taught that there was nothing more important than we establish the “reign of God” here on earth through giving everyday expression to the Divine Presence in our living and loving. It is found in reflection on the fact that Jesus was concerned with this world and with God here rather than with the heavenly world and God there. It is found in believing that Jesus reveals to us who we are - human expressions of the Divine Presence at work in the universe. This is a wonderful and challenging story, worth embracing and telling whatever tensions we find ourselves having to deal with.
The new universe story invites us to sing “Joy to the World” at Christmas not because an absent God came down to us, but because Jesus reveals to us the Divine Presence always here with us in our living and loving.