We must realize that we are all wounded with the deep wound of loneliness. It is for this reason that we find it hard to be alone, we have discovered a big silent world staring back at us. What we must do, is as Jean Varnier says is “realize that this wound is inherent in the human condition, and that what we have to do is walk with it instead of fleeing from it. We cannot accept it until we discover that we are loved by God just as we are, and that the Holy Spirit, in a mysterious way, is living at the Center of the wound.” -Jean Varnier sourced from The Imago Dei Community. First seen in Living Gently in a Violent World by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Varnier.
This world is wounded, it is weak and it is broken, and we its inhabitants are no better off. However, as Christians, the challenge is to imagine the world as it is in and through Christ. The world really Changes when Jesus enters the picture, as the old saying of evangelical Christianity goes, “If He is not Lord of all, He’s not Lord at all.” I suppose the entire project I’m getting at is one that shys away from glaring legalism on this statement and moves towards a reconciliation of the imagination as part of what it means to have salvation.
If i had to describe what I’m trying to do as a theologian with one Statement here it is: Trying to undo the idea that God doesn’t matter for the way we see every detail of the world, and not just in our own moral choices and actions. That relationships to the world and to others matter and that personal relationship with Jesus doesn’t actually save anyone if it is not transforming their relation to the world and to others.
Some might see this as a dangerous enterprise, but i think not. I think theology needs to be daring and have the courage to break away from the over staunch rigorously idiotic nature of American culture in the churches. Some think I have abandoned the idea of personal relationship with Jesus in favor of a more universal and communal approach, and mayhap I have, but not without closely reading the scriptures and attempting to know the God presented in their witness to Jesus Christ.
This world is truly broken, and if we are all supposed to have a hand in its restoration, we must begin with our thoughts, and it will not do to have weak imaginations about a God who shows up on the scene some far off day in the future. No, instead we have to brave the waters and find God in our midst right now. I think Varnier is exactly right to make the statement about the Holy Spirit’s place at the center of the wound.
If we can learn to think of God at the center of our despair, in the sense that, He Himself is with us at the center of our despair, we will be consoled far more readily. If we understand that nail scarred hands provide the bread of life, and that glory is inseparable from Love because they are the same beatific vision, we will be near to the kingdom of Heaven. God’s glory is not divorced from Christ’s compassion, and any system of thought which actualizes this divide is simply not the God revealed in Father, and Son and Holy Spirit.
The task of the Church is to be a revelation of God, and where better to do it than in her weakness? “My Strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12.9) The Church has the imaginative task of finding and articulating the ineffable God at the center of the wound. This is why the church of prayer will sometimes meet with painful and sorrowful “groans too deep for words.” If we are to unveil the bastard nature of power and prestige in our societies, there is no better way to do it than for churches to become unpopular. I do not mean abusive or mean spirited, but I do mean, unpopular, looked at with suspicion by the wider world who cannot understand exactly the unveiling taking place in the midst of people gathered around this Jesus and His body.
That churches should be unpopular seems a strange suggestion, but it is something I have become convinced of, and am becoming more and more convinced of. The emerging churches are carrying out another round of breaking away either from what it means to look like a church, or from the old confessions of faith which are now obviously* outdated. The mainline Calvinists make arminians and all others sound like another religion entirely based on some sort of pelagian works righteousness, and the arminians tend to run around as confused as all get out because of the largely tepid concerns for doctrine or unity among them.
But, I am convinced that there is a Christian way to be unpopular. As the early churches were ridiculed for eating babies and being incestuous because of their practices, I think it is incumbent upon us to learn to express ourselves in such a way that we too might learn to live with this ridicule. That Christians eat flesh and drink blood is not a matter of contention or pagan ritualism brought into Christianity, it’s a matter of the ancient faith’s confession and practice. It would be foolhardy to think we know better than martyrs, many of us seldom fast at all.
The reason I turn to the Eucharist is precisely because it is unpopular. Among orthodox churches it may be the most celebrated aspect of their worship lives as churches, but for the rest of Christianity it is contentious or accepted at best, and reviled as the doctrine of the hellspawn worshiping the antichrist at worst. It is the unpopularity of this doctrine among evangelical churches which for me makes it the central doctrine we must recover in order to establish a way forward from idiocy and speculation into concrete knowledge of what it means to have faith in the God Who is at the Center of the Wound.
I think it is the latter reaction which we must learn to live with, not because it is the opinion of some crazies, but because it is the opinion of a world who would thus react if they really knew what we were claiming about this bread and this wine. We declare that in it God is with us, and apart from it, we are not celebrating Him at all.
When we celebrate the Eucharistic feast, we are most precisely declaring that God is at the center of the wound, and that he bears it until the day of completion. We must declare this with the full force of conviction and turn to this bread as our guiding light with the Spirit, because He Himself infills and transforms it, as He infills and transforms us. That it might cost us something real to live Chrsitianly, and not just sinful habits is precisely what I am pressing for. That we have much more to offer than pornography and cigarette habits is what I am saying.
There is a whole wide world that is wounded and we will only be able to rush into it with Jesus if He is actually in our midst, and He is in our midst, we must learn, precisely at the center of the wound.