by Heather-Joy Brinkman
As revealed in Jesus’ non-violent life and his teachings in spoken parables, our God of Love is not omnipotent but is dependent on us to establish on earth Godʼs Kingdom of distributive justice and equality. As John Dominic Crossan believes, “enoughness” is for all; and this we do with a non-violent God in a non-violent collaborative effort.
As Christians today, how does this understanding impact what we do? How does it impact how we vote? How does it impact what we say? Where do we get the strength and the courage to do this? And critically, how does it impact how we pray?
As Pope Francis was recently reported by CBC Radio saying to fellow Christians, “Itʼs not what we believe that matters; itʼs what we do!”
Itʼs the greed of the powerful and their exploitation of the powerless and the environment that have created the shocking and growing social and economic injustices that exist today in our very own communities and the world, and that have existed since the beginning of what we call “civilization or empire” in ancient times. (K. Armstrong, Fields of Blood; Crossan, Eclipsing Empire; Paul, Rome and the Kingdom of God)
In time, as Richard Rohr explains, the listening/centering prayer of Jesus and Paul was gradually lost to petitioning prayer to an omnipotent God by a Church recognized and empowered by the Roman Empire.
The lure of empire, of recognition and power instead of persecution, became too strong for the Church and led church leaders away from the non-violent struggle for social and economic justice in the Kingdom / the Family of God here on earth.
The Church today, thanks to the on-going work of New Testament scholars in the Jesus Seminar, again realizes her prime call is to take up the passion of Jesus and Paul in a collaborative effort with our creator God to establish distributive justice in our communities through non-violent compassionate action, with advocacy to make structural change and to protect creation from on-going human exploitation.
As Crossan said, “Jesus and Paul realized that all this time we have been waiting for God to act, while God has been waiting for us.”
When we know that God is not an all-powerful being, we can no longer ask God to do it for us. Yet without the empowerment of divine unconditional love within us, we cannot.
In the words of Rohr, without listening to the divine within us and leading with our heart instead of with our mind, we are unable to identify with our true self and be empowered to act with the compassion and courage we need.
“Without listening/ centering prayer, we cannot overflow with the non-violent compassionate action for distributive justice that Jesus called for, and that he died for.”
Paul and other early Christians died for the same reason, as did more recent non-violent activists like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others.
Let us hope that we will soon be given real time and guidance to the practice of listening prayer in our church services and gatherings, with the language spoken in our liturgies truly expressing the faith of Jesus and the authentic Paul in our efforts to establish the dream of a vulnerable God in our communities here on earth.
This concludes her two part series. Read Part One here.