Updated: Apr 12, 2019
By the Bathroom Theologian.I always love it when there is a confluence between news and religion. Unless you are a news junkie like me, you may have missed it. This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday. We all know that the Passion is the subject of the Palm Sunday gospel readings. Unfortunately, the other readings are often lost in the shuffle. This Sunday’s Epistle is Philippians 2: 5-11. Its subject is nothing less than the core belief of Christianity. What is the nature of Jesus? Is he man? Is he God? Or is he something else as some experts on this particular Bible passage offer up. Using a Readers Digest version of the text: Jesus is the form of God taking on the likeness of man. A lawyer could have written that. Lots of wiggle room.
This week the Event Horizon Telescope…a collection of massive telescopes located around the world…published the first picture of a Black Hole. A Black Hole is a star that has collapsed on itself with a gravity pull so strong that nothing can escape it, including light, which is why they are difficult to see. It is an amazing picture. It is also is a little disconcerting because what we are seeing is a picture of what the Black Hole looked like 53 million years ago. It is 53 million light years away from earth.
Think about. When we look into the heavens and the vastness of the universe, we are looking back in time. Chances are that much of what are seeing isn’t there anymore. Here is a picture of something that existed 53 million years ago. It is beyond human capability to imagine time and space and the age of the universe in any meaningful manner.
Our denomination of Christianity covers the gambit of beliefs. There are some that hold to strict interpretation of the Bible. At the other end of the spectrum are those like Bishop Spong who have pushed the limits of Christian beliefs into dangerous territories…but thought provoking, nonetheless. We Episcopalians are nothing if not cerebral.
Which brings me full circle back to this week’s Epistle. What is the nature of Jesus? The Nicene Creed, which we dutifully and oftentimes mindlessly recite each Sunday, says:
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
We know what is says…but what does it mean? The traditional view, and my view, is Jesus is both man and God. But this Sunday’s Epistle, and that amazing picture, gives one pause. Maybe there is something that we are missing. Minimally, if Jesus was and is truly man and God, is our human perception incapable of perceiving the magnitude of such a concept? Is there something more? In the end, does it make any difference? Is his message of love and promise of salvation enough on its own merit? It’s enough to make a cerebral Episcopalian’s head spin.
If we can’t get our minds around a picture of an object as it looked 53 million years ago in an unending universe in a cloud of infinity, how are we to understand the true nature of Jesus?
Maybe the answer is faith.