Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Incarnational Tradition – 6 of 6

This tradition brings the earlier discussed traditions together in understanding “how all these components function in ordinary life.”[1] This tradition is about the very Presence of God everywhere, and the significance that fact brings to life each moment we live.

Jesus lived, breathed, walked and talked the same as everyone. He was a real living person. But the real brilliance of his humanity and obedience set him apart from everyone.

John Wesley’s mother, Susanna, is placed up there as an example of this tradition; she endured much and typically sought God in every trial, “to make true use of all disappointments and calamities in this life,” so they (the trials) would unite her heart more closely with God’s. She lived “sacramentally in the most common ventures of life.”[2] She epitomised holy living and holy dying.

We can’t discuss ‘incarnation’ without forever coming back to the Incarnation itself; the event and the person, Jesus. This is not to understate the role that Mary played in the time and the event. Everything in the prophesy, conception, pregnancy and birth of Jesus underscores the miraculousness of the Incarnation.

This sacramental tradition is, at its base, “the relationship between spirit and matter.” God comes to us in real, visible, material things.[3] And God loves the material world; after all, he created the bases of it all.

This life is essentially about the melding of our religious practice with normal everyday life. Religious practice is merely the important beginning. Without integrating our religiosity with our ‘everyday’ we become hypocrites. We say but we cannot do.

This is the antithesis of the Christian’s goal under this integrative tradition.

How we deal with difficulties within marriages, homes, families and workplaces punctuates our progress according to this tradition. It’s where the rubber hits the road. Jesus, our risen Lord, is our Place in all these. We become like him. We follow him; he leads us. We imitate him. Jesus teaches us every moment of life, from the personal to the professional, and beyond.

Martin Luther appropriately linked baptism as the continual metaphor of the incarnational life--the continual dying to ourselves and rising again to life through Christ.[4]

Becoming like Christ has nothing hypocritical about it, if we’re serious and present in it. This venture requires us to ‘invite’ God unconditionally into every aspect and dimension of our lives; we invite him to heal us--continually.

A glimpse into this life presents us with a sense of calling; of responsibility to use our God-given talents for his glory; of freedom from guilt and burden; of creativity that transmutes us in alignment with our souls; of dignity to value people more highly than efficiency and things; of community and the value of life lived together and in harmony; of solidarity with the poor and to empower the underprivileged; of meaning and purpose to know we’re “working in cooperation with God.”[5]

The incarnational tradition of the sacramental life is about a “life that makes present and visible the realm of the invisible spirit.” We should explore it because “through it we experience God as truly manifest and notoriously active in daily life.”[6]
[1] Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith (London, England: HarperCollinsReligious, 1998), p. 237.
[2] Foster, Ibid, pages 243, 245.
[3] Foster, Ibid, p. 260.
[4] Foster, Ibid, p. 265.
[5] Foster, Ibid, p. 270.
[6] Foster, Ibid, p. 272.

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