VI Easter, Year A
Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, "Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, `To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him– though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For `In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,
`For we too are his offspring.’
Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
1 Peter 3:13-22
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you– not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
Jesus said to his disciples, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
"I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
This is actually the first of the Paraclete sayings in the Fourth Gospel, but our final look at the Paraclete in the Fourth Gospel (FG). In Year B (Pentecost Sunday) we looked at some of the dimensions of a wholistic Trinitarian interpretation regarding the Holy Spirit. In Year C (Trinity Sunday) we asked about the work of the Spirit in the church/world today.
Mimetic theorists asking about positive mimesis and its origin in the Passion and the Paraclete could do no better than to turn to Rene Girard’s The Scapegoat. I am frequently asked why mimetic theory is so important. From my perspective, it is the only truly ‘scientific’ anthropological theory that I am aware of that explains so much data with such a concise formula. Its application across such a diverse spectrum of disciplines testifies to its breadth. Mimetic theory is the only truly post-modern theory because it is a theory that has no scapegoats, no hidden agendas, no deletions. It does not add by subtracting. It is self-critical by the very nature of its anthropological sources.
When Girard concludes that it is the very demystifying power of the gospel that has been at work throughout western culture, and this work has been accomplished by the One Jesus referred to as the ‘Paraclete’, we might sit up and take notice. Has the Holy Spirit brought about the current intellectual crisis in which we seem to find ourselves? Is there a day that goes by where the theme of violence, death, poverty, marginalization and scapegoating do not dominate the news? (The funeral of Pope John Paul II is the exception that proves the rule. For here we had a figure around whom we could all agree had lived a ‘Jesus’ life in some way, shape or form. His death has brought a respite from the tragedy of our world, but by the time you read this that will change.)
The world has no way of conceiving how the Holy Spirit could bring about the deconstruction of human culture. This does not mean that the Spirit ceases to reveal to the world, it means the world (the kosmos) has no way to receive her, it neither ‘theory’s’ the Spirit nor knows the Spirit from life experience. ‘Theoreo’ ‘to see’, has both a physical and an intellectual component. The world does not factor into its history the power of love. Authentic love will always remain a mystery to the world. Love is the expression of the character of God, it is the commandment (13.31-35) to be kept. In short, followers of Jesus are given a commandment against which there will never be a law, the commandment to love one another. Jesus commands positive mimesis, the mimesis of love.
How? By coming to us, each of us and all of us, as our model, our teacher, our guide. He does this in the sending of another just like himself, a counselor, a defense attorney, an advisor, a friend, a mentor. We not were not left bereft, nor forlorn and abandoned, we were given the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Spirit of the Father, the Spirit of Jesus. We hear his voice, he is our good shepherd. We ‘see’ him, we factor Jesus and the Spirit into our ‘theories’ (our seeing, our perspectives). And in so doing, we highlight the distinction between Christianity and religion; Christianity can never be a religion and if it becomes one it will deconstruct itself. Christianity brings the ‘krisis’ to religion. Christian faith on the other hand issues in a beautiful spectrum of spirituality, in which diversity in unity is affirmed in love.
We would observe once again the Trinitarian interweaving of Jesus and the Paraclete and Jesus and the Father. Significantly, another important element emerges within this Trinitarian history, the relationship of Jesus to his followers, to you and me.
Finally, Jeff and I would like to take this opportunity to offer congratulations to Rene Girard for his induction into the ‘academie francaise’ (the French intellectual equivalent of the Nobel), this past March 2005. It has been a thrill to work with Rene these many years and to be a part of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion. These brothers and sisters are some of the most genuine, selfless and committed scholars as one will find. Jeff and I wish Rene and his wife Martha many good years to come and hopefully a few more books from Rene!
None this week.
Who is this King of Glory? How shall we call him? Is not his name a name above all names? Has he not promised to come to us? Is he not with us? He most certainly is and he is taking humanity and all creation on a journey, a redemptive journey.
Do we take time in our lives to sense the Presence of his Spirit? Or does our metaphysics and intellectual dreariness wipe out this personal acknowledgement of a relationship to the Creator of the Universe through the Spirit-that-moves-thru-all-things sent by the Lord Jesus? The disciples that night were no more skeptics than we are, even though they were there and we were not.
But after the Sending of the Spirit, their lives were utterly transformed, were they not? Even so shall it be with the church. The Spirit is transforming the church, life by life, throughout the churches, all over the world. This transformation is coming to us all, for us all. It comes to all who dwell in peace, in the unity of love we name Trinity.
Veni Creator Spiritus……