Mike Morrell introduces us to Trinity’s Place’s current emphasis together – this was shared on the 9/9/12 gathering.
Welcome everyone. Today I’d like to preview where we’ll be journey over the next few months together. This direction has been planted in my heart for over a decade now, and talking to Bern, Mary, and others of you, I think I’m not alone.
We’ll be journeying through four motions – what I’m calling eating God, feeding God, seeding God, and – somewhat un-alliteratively – drinking God. Today is the bird’s eye view – the big picture.
My premise – which you are of course free to agree or disagree with; this is Trinity’s Place after all! – is that we have an inner capacity for experiencing and expressing the divine. We don’t need to settle for second-hand religion; if we invoke a paradigm shift and a practice shift, we can actually taste and see God’s essence, God’s goodness – the God Who Is all things and transcends all things, who expresses Godself in and as each of us, and yet, Who is so much more.
A few years ago I was at the Raleigh Greek Festival at the fairgrounds; while there I picked up the icon to your left, known as The Hospitality of Abraham. It depicts, and visual form, so much of what’s on my heart, and what strikes me as the heart of Trinity’s Place – a God Who is relational - Relationship, even – sitting down and enjoying table fellowship with us, with humanity. Breaking down the boundaries we tend to erect between divinity and humanity, this God is calling us to the table as participants in a feast – as friends.
As we read in today’s lectio meditation: Jesus, as remembered by the author of John’s Gospel, makes a bold claim:
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.
In the various theological debates between modernists and fundamentalists, progressives and conservatives in the past century or two have raged on, people like to polarize, into what pinheaded nerds call “high” and “low” Christologies. Is Jesus a human being, or is he divine?
In my experience, the answer is “yes.”
But the subversive thing is, Jesus radically reinvents what divinity means in the hearts and minds of those who would dare listen. It’s not a stingy divinity – it’s a generous divinity – I might even dare to say, a promiscuous divnity. “Just as God’s energies fuel me – my life and teachings and actions – so those who feast on me will live because of me!” Jesus is into sharing, and this sharing happens through eating and drinking God, with each other, for the healing of a fragmented and alienated cosmos. That’s what we’ll be exploring over the next few months.
Next meeting, I want to share ways that I tangibly and practically practice Presence – the presence of God, the presence of myself in my body, the presence of all of you, and the presence of creation. But for now, let’s move on through the preview.
There’s a saying: “You are what you eat.” The medieval Christians mystics described the soul’s journey into a deepening awareness of God’s sustaining presence as that of illumination, purgation, and finally union. I’ve begun to see these as tasting, detoxing, and finally digestion, where the healing energies given in the unrestrained practice of Presence begin to culminate in a more gracious, spacious, unitive way of seeing life, the universe, and everything. (With apologies to atheist Douglas Adams.) We’ll go more into detail with these next time, but in transitioning I want to say that “You are what you eat” applies to the interior journey. If we’re eating God, we become God in a particular sense. I don’t think I’ll come up for a heresy trial in this room, but some have been burned at the stake for this realization. It’s a biblical idea, though: “We are partakers of the divine nature,” Peter writes. “Just as you, Father, and I, are one, so may they be One, with Us and each other,” Jesus prays in John 17. The East Orthodox Church calls this process of realization of our own divinity Theosis, or Divinization. 10 years ago at a postmodern Christian learning party called Soularize, one of Martin Luther King Jr’s daughters told us this process is known in the Black Church as Christing.
But so what? Is this just an inner spiritual power trip? A more rarified way of living our best life now? Well, here’s where it gets interesting. If we are what we eat, and we’re digesting God, then we are indeed living as Christ in the world. So in upcoming weeks we’ll explore stories of people who, living as Christ, begin to do what Jesus does – namely, throw parties and share meals with the least, the last, and the insignificant. We’ll look at how Jesus brought together all the wrong kinds of people – terrorists and government stooges, sex workers and even religious leaders – to his table revolution, the Kin-dom of God, or New Creation Ecology. We’ll look at some opportunities happening right here in Raleigh where we can participate in boundary-breaking meals, like the one I initiated last month called People Appreciation Day (in response to Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day) when I broke bread with a fundamentalist who de-friended me on Facebook.
From a renewed vision of table fellowship and party-throwing, we’ll then see how the Spirit stirs in our hearts to ask even bigger questions – what is the Spirit saying about the ways in which we grow, distribute, and consume food today? We’ll look at the absolute atrocities that are happening as poor farmers around the globe are being oppressed to the point of suicide by global Big Agribusiness; how these same mega-corporations are patenting entire categories of food itself using unproven, unsafe, and unsustainable genetic engineering, fertilizing, growing and harvesting methods that provide short-term gains to their share-holders while slowly poisoning our soil and weakening our food’s biodiversity; we’ll look at the painful paradox of how a billion of us first-worlders are now stuffed with endemic obesity while the planet’s bottom two billion are faced with epic levels of starvation or food insecurity. And then – big, deep breath – we’ll look at the patterns of resistance already being fomented by followers of Jesus and other spiritual activists around the world, and how we as a community can join in the resistance movement to create just, fair, healthy, sustainable, and fun food cultures that can change the way we as a world eat our food.
Finally: We’ll look at our global water crisis, which I don’t even want to go into right now, except to say that it’s dire. We’ll examine it against the paradoxical backdrop of Jesus, who both promised rivers of living water that would forever quench our deepest longings – and yet who, while dying by execution-by-collusion from Religion and the State, cried out in desperation, “I Thirst.” We’ll look at who else is thirsting, today – and the soft drink and bottled water companies who are re-writing the world’s laws in order to rob these communites blind of their most precious aquatic resources.
We’re going to need the inner resources of practicing Presence that we’ll explore in our first time together in order to sustain us as we confront prejudice and corruption at every level of our social in economic systems. Because frankly, what’s going on is depressing as hell. But tapping into the deep wellsprings of joy, gratefulness, and astonishment that nourished Jesus during his earthly life will sustain us too. I’m really looking forward to tapping into the collective wisdom present in this very room, this very circle, as we explore all of these things together in the upcoming months…Any questions?
For more of Mike’s reflections on these themes, see Evolution & the Two Trees in the Garden on his blog.