Saturday, March 8, 2008

Knowing God through Jesus

Yesterday was my birthday. I took my mom, Zed and Carmac out to lunch at a Greek Orthodox cafe, Cafe Alektor. I'd gone there about a year ago and had seen a pendent with an image of Christ that stayed in my head all this time. I really didn't think it would still be there a year later but I figured we'd go for lunch and I'd at least look. It was there for me and so I bought myself a birthday gift. I also got a small icon pendent of Mary Magdalene.

(as an aside-either the pendent shrunk a bunch or my eyesight has gotten a lot worse in the past year; I walked all over the shop trying to find enough light to see the image clearly. Yipes!)

I've been struggling with my understanding of God. I need to allow myself to open in my perceptions of what God is. I grew up Baptist and am now Quaker: No icons, images, idols; no saints or avatars of the Divine outside the trinity. The church I grew up in had a large, simple wooden cross (flanked by the "Christian" flag and Old Glory) and that was it by way of symbols. Nashville Friends Meeting sometimes has flowers and, very occasionally, a candle. To me, God is something extremely personal. Yes, the still, small Voice. The Light. But what else?

When I was a child, up to the point of rejecting any belief in the church of my childhood, I imagined God to be like an elementary school principal: kind and benevolent in a distant way; busy with important work until I messed up and got sent to the "office". As an adult I discovered God within me, sustaining and guiding me. The closest I can come to describing God is to say that I believe that we, each person who was ever born, were each made in God's image and God encompasses and is comprised of us but so much, much greater; that God is so Great that God can be whatever loving thing we each need to perceive God to be (this fits well with my understanding of the community of God being the "body of Christ"). But again, what does that mean to me?

The symbol for God that I remember most often from my childhood I reject: Heavenly Father (how many pre-meal blessings did I hear begin with that one?). I don't have a problem with Heavenly Parent, or Creator, or Mother/Father but I can't abide by the patriarchal idea of God the Father. I don't care for Lord, either; it smacks too much of feudalism. Holy Ghost I'm fine with-I liken it to Spirit-but, to me, it is vague and undefined.

Jesus, being an Avatar (or incarnation) of God, is better. Again, I've rejected a lot of the ways of relating to Jesus that I learned in my church of origin, but I accept Jesus-the Jesus I know by reading the Bible (not church teachings. Check out this hilarious spoof political video "paid for by 'Conservative Christians against the teachings of Christ"). Jesus the teacher, healer, peacemaker, friend and champion of the weakest members of society-women, the poor, sinners, and the sinned against- is why I am a Christian and Jesus is how I best understand God and God's love, at this point in my life.

Could be my eyesight, but when I first saw this little icon, my impression was of Jesus sitting in the lotus position with his hands in mudras and an halo around his head. It's an Eastern Orthodox icon, so of course, that's not how Jesus is being depicted, but that's how I choose to see it: Jesus as guide to transcending ego to truly living in God/enlightenment.


HysteryWitch said...

I also love the image of Christ as Sophia or as a breastfeeding mother.

Anonymous said...

Hello! I just found your blog via QuakerQuaker. I really enjoyed this post.

Your thoughts on what Jesus embodies are very similar to what I've thought. I found that (growing up Lutheran) several of my pastors espoused this view, but not many of my fellow church-goers. This was one thing that pushed me away from the Lutheran church and drew me to the Quakers.

(I also have to admit that I watched the video and found it very humorous. I'm going to post it in my blog.)

Chris M. said...

You wrote: "Jesus as guide to transcending ego to truly living in God/enlightenment."

This reminds me of Deepak Chopra's new book, The Third Jesus, which I just started. It seems to me as if he has (re)discovered the Quaker interpretation of Jesus, or at least one that many of us liberal Friends could generally identify with. (First Jesus = historical, Second Jesus = Jesus of the church, Third Jesus = Jesus as teacher of cosmic consciousness).

George Fox wouldn't have used such phrasing, by any means, and yet to me there's a resonance between Chopra's view and Fox's experience that "Christ has come to teach His people Himself."