I continue to talk about us and our stories, as well as the stories of others, as ways to encounter Christ.
Colossians 1:27 identifies our hope in glory as “Christ in us”. This points to the presence of Christ not just as under the stones or within the log we cleave with an axe, as St Thomas is said to have remembered Jesus saying in his Gospel, but within ourselves.
Just as the Cosmic Christ is present in every creature from the tiniest atom to the largest alligator, the squirming worm to the splashing whale, so in our lives Christ is present, living and active.
In its own this is what Psalm 139 recognizes, as it beautifully suggests to us our whole lives are lived within God:
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.”
Like a fish is ever surrounded by the ocean, yet has its water ever flowing through its body, so our lives are lived within Christ as Christ is present in all creation. As Jurgen Moltmann suggests in his books God in Creation and The Source of Life, one can legitimately picture God in Christ in these verses as being depicted like a mother in whose womb we exist like children. While in our earthly mother’s womb, we are surrounded by her, yet she also fills us. For it is her air, her nourishment, her body’s strength that fills our own while we dwell within her. Likewise the Psalmist pictures God as so near us in Christ that w we live in, with, and surrounded by Christ in every place, with Christ being the life, strength, and nourishment flowing through us. Is it any wonder St. Julian of Norwich pictured Jesus as the Cosmic Christ as existing as our Mother when she wrote,
“It is a characteristic of God to overcome evil with good. Jesus Christ therefore, who himself overcame evil with good, is our true Mother. We received our ‘Being’ from Him and this is where His Maternity starts And with it comes the gentle Protection and Guard of Love which will never ceases to surround us. Just as God is our Father, so God is also our Mother. And He showed me this truth in all things, but especially in those sweet words when He says: “It is I”.
“As if to say, I am the power and the Goodness of the Father, I am the Wisdom of the Mother, I am the Light and the Grace which is blessed love, I am the Trinity, I am the Unity, I am the supreme Goodness of all kind of things, I am the One who makes you love, I am the One who makes you desire, I am the never-ending fulfilment of all true desires. (…) Our highest Father, God Almighty, who is ‘Being’, has always known us and loved us: because of this knowledge, through his marvellous and deep charity and with the unanimous consent of the Blessed Trinity, He wanted the Second Person to become our Mother, our Brother, our Saviour.
“It is thus logical that God, being our Father, be also our Mother. Our Father desires, our Mother operates and our good Lord the Holy Ghost confirms; we are thus well advised to love our God through whom we have our being, to thank him reverently and to praise him for having created us and to pray fervently to our Mother, so as to obtain mercy and compassion, and to pray to our Lord, the Holy Ghost, to obtain help and grace. I then saw with complete certainty that God, before creating us, loved us, and His love never lessened and never will. In this love he accomplished all his works, and in this love he oriented all things to our good and in this love our life is eternal. With creation we started but the love with which he created us was in Him from the very beginning and in this love is our beginning. And all this we shall see it in God eternally.”
(From Revelations of Divine Love by Juliana of Norwich (1342-1416), (LIX, LXXXVI)).
I often picture this all-embracing presence of Christ around us and within us, like an all-surrounding womb to an unborn child or like an ocean to a fish, through the following prayer, in my work as a minister and chaplain:
“Oh Lord, who is nearer to us than the air that we bring, or the cool breezes that refresh us in summer heat, your word to us is always love. It is your love that births us into this world, and to your love we all shall return. Your love is what gives us strength to stand on all of our days – from days of overwhelming wonder and joy which nearly floor us with delight to days of crushing pain and heartache which make our knees knock and legs tremble, to every kind of day between. And when we cannot stand, it is your love that lifts us up like a child in their mother or father’s arms to carry us on”.
This all embracing presence of love, compassion, and grace that ever surrounds us, strengthens us, and guides us is the presence of the living Christ. Because we are both surrounded and filled by this loving presence, we can know wherever we go, whatever we face, Christ is always, ever around us and with us.
This all-surrounding presence is so beautifully pictured by the prayer of St. Patrick :
“Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”Amen.
Your progressive redneck preacher,