Glory in the desert

Trinitarian theology. Even the creeds have not quite done it for me. Never been great at this aspect of theology… Maybe I am more of a tri-theist (heretic!) than I like to admit; maybe more of a let’s just simplify it all and Jesus is God, touches of the old ‘Oneness’ theology there. Ontological trinity, economic trinity… OK I am just about settled on the social trinitarian model.

The Trinity is important for the ‘unity amidst diversity’, the diversity being both difference / distinctiveness but certainly not separateness; and the unity not denying the distinctiveness. Anyway as I wrote at the start, never been too good at this aspect of theology.

So I need to move on as I am such an expert in almost every other realm – as if!! But moving on. The Trinity certainly somehow is a pattern for humanity, after all humanity is in the image of the Tri-une God. Unity and diversity.

The glory of God is not simply something other, but also relates to humanness – true humanness, that true humanness that to a large degree evades us all, that is tarnished because of sin, for ‘we have all fallen short of the glory of God’. I essentially understand this to mean that the essence of sin is to fail to be truly human, to fail to reflect and represent God. Hence only Jesus is truly human, the one in whose face was revealed the glory of God, full of grace and truth.

Jesus remarkably said that the glory he had received he had given to the disciples (I think therefore this maybe also includes us?). And he gave it so that:

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one (John 17: 22).

Glory is not a reward for being one, it is the essential means by which we will be one. We do not work on our unity and then God says ‘good people have some glory’… We need his glory to be one, and s/he has given that glory to us, whether we are one or not.

If we have the glory of God, even if that glory is veiled, what does that gift look like? And one more ‘if’ clause… if glory is tied to humanity, of being truly human, we have to know that more glory is revealed when I am truly myself, not in some individualistic self-attainment state, but in a fullness of relationship. Unity then is truly possible the more I am distinct.

A lot of unity is an expression of uniformity. We are already alike and so more or less get on. Glory releases difference, distinctiveness, and so glory can only be seen as difference becomes visible. To pull into a narrow base reduces the visibility of glory.

So back up to the Trinity. I veer toward Tri-theism and to Oneness. Tri-theism because Jesus is not the Father and not the Spirit (etc…) and Oneness because Jesus is the fullness of revelation of the Trinitarian God.

Now I really need to get back on track here or this post will be truly drifting off into the cyber world. Glory, humanity, social relationships. Yes the need is for diversity, for distinctiveness in the context of unity. Or to tie this down, we need a context in which unity is found. That context needs to be that of ‘the whole of creation’. In the beginning God – God is not creation – but the context in which s/he is described, discovered and appears is that of the whole of creation, for in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The diversity of humanity is essential. No person, no group can be the revelation of God in the earth, but together there is so much potential. It is not simply ‘no size fits all’ when we look at church, it is that every aspect, of the ekklesia being the ekklesia that will reveal glory.

Unity, that they may be one, can only be possible in the context of a wholeistic desire and working toward transformation. Unity is not a religious framework but a political one, the tragedy being that if the followers of Jesus do not get this where can we go? The body of Christ should be at the forefront of promoting diversity within the context of a whole world creational perspective. From there unity is a possibility. Take away the context and uniformity and smallness is possible; glory defined in a religious way.

All the above can be summed up in:

The multiplicity of the small and
the richness of diversity.

God save us from the next ‘big thing’; save us from ‘humanity has to be created in my image’.

And save us so that we can become and in becoming open up possibilities that there will be multiple becomings all around us. In the desert place we look to see the glory of God arise. Hope in the desert – oh yes.

We beheld his glory

We beheld his glory, full of…

John suggests that his glory had content. The glory was more than an existential experience. It was touchable and touchable in an observable way. So time to look up the Greek text and come up with a good translation? How about:

His glory was full of grey – and black and white…

Not really suggesting that is the translation, and I do not want to cheapen the word ‘grace’, so tentatively am going to run with ‘grey’ to make it very concrete. If we use the word ‘grace’ it can be religionised away and truth – well we all know what that is. In a recent post I suggested that we are better to be solution focused rather than answer focused and this is a kind of follow on. So forgive me for the translation!

The classic response of Jesus to the woman caught in adultery: ‘I do not condemn you’ shows a measure of greyness. Grey / grace was the solution to the situation that was a bad one from the start. The deck was stacked against the woman (where was the man?). There was probably the prevailing belief that the woman was the seductress and so what else was the man meant to do. That belief skews any judgement, even a judgement based on biblical texts. We face situations that should never have occurred, but we face them because they started out wrong. Our true judgement does not get us too far with many of those situations. The wealthy person walking past the person sitting on the street and refusing to part with a few coins as they will only use it to buy booze or drugs… yes we can walk past and then at the weekend go and buy some booze, and now even more sadly drugs as well. The black and white judgement against the ‘sinner’ just does not always cut it as there are so many other factors.

Tighten legislation against abortion might well be necessary, but when there is such a connection between abortions and social deprivation, we can tick the box of ‘right move’ but not go deep enough. Grey… not pretty.

I like the word ‘grace’, a nice theological category but grey – I just don’t like it. Yet so many situations that God comes to he comes into the situation that was started wrong, and the solution is sometimes a grey. He walked among us, he did not set out rules from a position away from us. He touched what was wrong, and in touching it solutions, ways forward were manifest. Glory is not to be pushed simply into the transcendent realm of out there and up there somewhere. Maybe though we think that is the only realm where glory is found because we are not able to allow it to manifest among us. He (Jesus) walked and we saw glory… we saw again and again a greyness to those on the margins. They did not face a strong ‘repentance’ call, but words of hope. Grey is not the colour of religion!

Grey, strangely a mixture of black and white. His glory full of grey, but stick with it and we will see that he is not pushing ‘anything goes’ as a response. In the midst of it all there was a black and white (truth). How anyone can hold that together is a mystery, and whenever it takes place, for sure, we see ‘glory’.

Show us your glory is a great cry. Show your glory through me is a most challenging pathway. Truth / black and white will be involved I am sure, but right at the forefront, the leading edge will be grey.


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