Let me be the first to assure you that you have it all wrong. You’re ideas about God, Jesus, Spirit, whatever are bunk. Your passionate beliefs are misplaced. You haven’t got a clue. Merry Christmas.
Here ends the buzzkill. Sorry, but I just wanted to get that out of the way.
Last week on Darkwood Brew Skype Guest Bishop John Shelby Spong told our host, Rev. Chris Alexander, that whatever image any of us have of “God” – yes, I shudder to even type the “G” word – it’s wrong.
Two roads we can take with that. Utter despair or wonder and amazement. Spoiler alert: I support that latter. But you have to make up your own mind.
Let’s just suppose for a moment that you can know this God-presence-Spirit-whatever-Christ-divine-thing in some concrete way. You could read the book (just the one book, mind you) in a specific way and be one of the ones who gets it. If that happens to be the case, you’re way ahead of me because I find it primarily a confusing tangle…but that’s another blog. Let’s just say you can know God in that specific intellectual and accurate kind of way. You’re done. Slam, bam, etc. Congratulations on your good fortune and what do you do for an encore?
On the other hand, you may be like me. Basically grasping at straws to make any sense out of this life, but absolutely in love with the process. If that’s the case, here’s what you can expect:
1. Great conversations and insights from people of a variety of faith traditions…and of no faith tradition
2. The ability to be surprised and amazed at any moment
3. The freedom to envision the divine presence and then re-envision the divine presence (repeat as often as necessary)
4. A faith beyond belief. Literally. Faith without dogma. Faith where the word “right” is unnecessary
Just a note. If you’re thinking, “OMG, that is so spiritually lightweight!” I get that. I like to think it’s a bit deeper, and I’d be happy to share my exegesis, but this blog is going to be long enough already with a second literary buzzkill.
And, yes, I did learn some cool church words like “exegisis” from my clergy friends.
I’m so lucky to have met many of our Skype guests outside of the little rectangular box. A few of them I consider to be friends. Janet Mckenzie, our Skype guest this week for our final Wait Training: Heaven is the Road episode is a friend. A friend in that funny sort of new century way. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually spoken to her. I’ve never met her in person. However, we’ve had a long email friendship inspired by her amazing artwork. I got to know her when was editing the Dream. Think. Do. Be. videos for Living the Questions and we used many of her paintings in the series. So our typed conversations started with the typical “We’d like to use this painting and that painting to illustrate this and that and so on and so forth…” and progressed to some much more interesting chats about art and the creative process.
I think Janet’s work fits so well into that idea of an ongoing, open-ended conversation with the divine. Her work helps us re-envision and rethink familiar players. Consider her famous image, “Jesus of the People.”
“Janet McKenzie’s painting, “Jesus of the People”, was selected winner of the National Catholic Reporter’s competition for a new image of Jesus at the Millennium by judge, Sister Wendy Beckett, art historian and BBC television host. Her interpretation of Jesus pays homage to two groups usually left out of such imagery, African Americans and women. In the words of Sister Wendy, “This is a haunting image of a peasant Jesus – dark, thick-lipped, looking out on us with ineffable dignity, with sadness but with confidence. Over His white robe He draws the darkness of our lack of love, holding it to Himself, prepared to transform all sorrows if we will let Him.”” – From the website janetmckenzie.com
Please visit Janet’s web site before the show this week if you’re either unfamiliar with her work or simply to get a renewed visual fix. Janet works in that area that doesn’t beg to be right. Her paintings aren’t correct in any sort of way that asks us to verify the facts, ma’am. Instead, they evoke deeper truths. They circle back around to a more profound take on things. They aren’t afraid of being wrong, which is powerful stuff.
I like that stuff. I’m excited by the prospect of entering the last week in Advent, and any weeks I’m lucky enough to have after that, with an open mind. Hungry to know more. Seeking. Searching. Wondering. Blissfull. Trying to get it right but not afraid of getting it wrong. “Heaven ain’t no destination,” the lady reportedly said, “heaven is the road.” Amen to that.
Want to give yourself an early Christmas gift? Set aside 17:00 minutes and listen to an amazing story about the perseverance of art. Go to Stitcher.com and listen to writer Andrew Solomon’s story A Time of Hope from The Moth podcast. If you aren’t hip to podcasts and that sort of thing, this is an easy way to do it. Two clicks and you’re listening.