Nine years. Between earning my bachelors in theology from Sacred Heart University and working towards my masters of divinity at United Lutheran Seminary. I have been in school nine long, crazy, maddening, tedious, fulfilling and wonder-filled years. As the spring semester winds down, I can’t help but glance back to see how far I’ve come. In August 2014, I began to earnestly follow my call down a road I could not see to a place I did not know.
This past semester, I took a class in Christology and spent thirteen weeks reading and discussing the dual nature of Christ. What does it mean to be fully human and fully divine and how does Christ show up in the world? From the earliest church writers to modern ones, everybody had their definitions and delineations, as though we can ever begin understand such a sublime mystery. My margin notes typically were as follows: Huh? Where did that come from? Who gets to say what is fitting for God?
I’ve done a lot of papers and projects over the last nine years: everything from an ethnographic study of 17th Century Highland Scots to crafting a prayer service for caretakers. But I dreaded what the final might be in this Christology class because if it’s one thing I’ve learned over the last nine years it’s that “They just made that shit up,” does not make for a great thesis statement.
You can imagine my relief when the final assignment was this: write a prayer. That’s it. As simple and as complicated as that. And somehow, all the definitions and delineations came together to create something new: a dialogue – or, at least, the start of one.
Who are you Lord, really? Do I know you?
You asked your disciples: Who do they say that I am? Who do you say that I am?
And churchy people have been trying to figure that out ever since.
They’ve created boxes and insisted that you would only operate within those boxes.
They’ve argued and fought that you’re more God than human or more human than God.
They say you’re the sacrifice necessary to appease an angry God and they say you’re the loving bridge to open the way for reconciliation with our Creator.
They say you’re the Mother God, loving her children with great tenderness.
They say you’re the Mighty Lord, who will not tolerate any slight, intended or unintended.
They say you’re the Christ, who comes to us, covers us, and fills us with grace beyond our ken, freeing us from the bonds of sin and the chains of works righteousness.
They say you’re the Liberator, the hope of oppressed, the enslaved, the mistreated, the impoverished, the starving, the terrified.
They say you’re the One who works at the margins, bringing love and healing to those beyond the walls of the church, outside the boundaries of a so-called ‘polite society’ that has been defined by whites, straight, cisgender middle class men. They say you’re the One working at the intersections and all along the spectrums.
They say you were a good Jewish man who grew up learning his Torah and became a great teacher.
They say you angered the empire, and that’s why they killed you, to get rid of you and your dangerous ideas about love, freedom, and grace.
Me? I think you are all of those things and probably a bunch more we haven’t defined yet. I think you are the flawless, beautifully faceted diamond, covered in the dust and grime that comes from being wrapped up tightly in 2000 years’ worth of fading ink and moldering paper that was meant to protect and define you, the One who needs no protection and is beyond definition.
What I do know is you are the one who calls me forward and makes a way where I do not see one. You are the one who walks beside me and calls me Beloved Friend.
But still, I wonder, as we walk – who are you, Lord, really? Do I know you?