A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHURCH OF IRELAND GAZETTE
25TH JANUARY 2002
We have been created in love, for love, and by a God of love. I see Jesus,
this self-effacing person, so loving of people, as pointing us to this belief.
For believers, Jesus is both human and divine and points to love as the ultimate meaning of life: of both human and divine life. The Holy Communion Service is about a costly invincible love, as the ultimate reality in life, symbolised by the meaning of Jesus for believers. His disciples knew of his deep faith in a God of infinite love and unconditional forgiveness.
I find it understandable that, at first, the significance of Jesus was expressed in the terms that we discover both in the New Testament and in the Creeds too. The Mediterranean world in which the Church was born had many religions and a particular social structure. There were many divinities, there were the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology, there were mediators and saviours between the gods and the human world; and there were animal sacrifices in many of these religions too as part of their worship. Society was structured so that those with great authority were only approached through intermediaries. It was the same (expect in Judaism) when people thought about how their god wanted to be approached.
So we find Jesus being presented as another 'divinity'; "To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 8 v.6); the title 'Lord' signifies divinity. We also find him being presented as the mediator between God and his human family, and his death is given a sacrificial interpretation, he is the saviour.
Many believers find that the stories of Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection have emotional and existential truth for them. These stories meet their deepest hopes and fears. I think many would agree both that they have assumed (perhaps from childhood) the intellectual truth of these beliefs, and that they have not examined the intellectual truth of these beliefs with all the 'tools' of modern theological research available today. See, for example, 'Reason to Believe' by Maurice Wiles.
Those believers today, who struggle to re-express the faith in the currency of 21st century thought forms, have the same fundamental belief that Jesus symbolises the meaning of life as love. Mystics pictured God as an ocean and people as waves, in that sense we all partake in divinity; but they also spoke of an 'I-Thou' relationship as part of the total picture. Here it is:
'Thou my great Father, and I thy true son; Thou in me dwelling and I with thee one'.
The Bible teaches that God rules, people matter, and faith works. God rules: his is a reign of love. People matter: they are of sacred and eternal worth. Faith works: if you believe and grow in love you will discover yourself becoming more truly human, created in love, for love, and by a God of love.
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