A vulnerable God and empowerment of listening prayer

Heather Brinkman
Photo: Frans Brinkman

by Heather-Joy Brinkman

What do you mean your understanding of God is changing?

Do you mean “God” is for you no longer an omnipotent God?

Well, most of us will agree.

Our God is still infinite, imminent, intimate and loving, as Jesus taught.

Franciscan Father Richard Rohr describes God as vulnerable, the creator God within all of creation and God of unconditional love.

In his emailed Daily Meditations, Rohr explains our concept of God is evolving, and is better understood more as a verb describing action than as a noun describing being.

The purposeful creative force that post-modern science has discovered operating in the universe has always been understood by Christian mystics, and mystics from other religious traditions, as the creator God of spiraling relationship and mutuality—the creative force of unconditional love within all creation and in us.

“Progressive Christianity … is all so exciting, so liberating—like a breath of fresh air”

The problem is the majority of us are not in an active relationship with the divine love within us, that is, with our true self.

The human species has been endowed with free will—the power to be good /wise stewards of the planet earth—so fundamental in the cultures of Indigenous peoples. We, the powerful, have chosen to continue to destroy life on this planet and wipe out even our own species, the most destructive species on earth.

Why does mankind choose to destroy God’s creation?

According to Rohr and the wisdom tradition, we are greedy and are good at depriving and exploiting others when we are misguided by our false concept of self.

The false self triggers a fear of “the other” and a national or in-group needs to survive at all costs maintaining power over “the other” through violent action that in turn incites more violence that will ultimately destroy us.

As Christians we are offered another way. Instead of becoming fearful and arming ourselves against the imagined threat of “the outsider”, we can choose to follow the non-violent way of Jesus.

We can do this when we are empowered by the divine within us, our true self, through the practice of listening/centering/contemplative prayer.

We have a clear movement in progressive Christianity towards a return to the radical teaching of Jesus and the authentic Paul. It is all so exciting, so liberating, like a breath of fresh air.

According to John Dominic Crossan, our foremost modern New Testament scholar, the prayer of Jesus was listening or centering prayer.

Despite Jesus being under threat of arrest and charged with treason against the Roman Empire, listening prayer empowered him to overflow in non-violent compassionate action for the many poor, dispossessed and sick in Roman occupied Judea.

His disciples wanted to pray as Jesus did so they could be so empowered, and asked him to teach them.

John Dominic calls the Jewish Jesus’ radical understanding of God’s Kingdom or the Household of God as a present reality through a non-violent collaborative effort, between a loving God and people, to counter the extreme violence and oppression of the empire.

Jesus’ teaching of the need for a collaborative participation in establishing God’s Kingdom in their midst, in the now here on earth, empowered his followers, including some who were more well to do, to alleviate the oppression of other men, women and children in any way they could in non-violent resistance to the systemic injustices of the Roman Empire.

Does this understanding of the passion and God of Jesus change what we do and say, and how we pray as Christians living in the empire of the 21st century?

More to come later.