Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As God has sent me, so I send you.” -John 20: 21
Jesus’ first word to those who loved him, after the terror of his execution and the inexplicable reality of the empty tomb, was “Peace.” Then– do this too! These words seem to summarize Christianity, and shine a light on all the ways the Beauty Way of Jesus has yet to be lived.
Meggan Watterson, in her awesome book on Mary Magdalene (Mary Magdalene Revealed: The First Apostle, Her Feminine Gospel, and the Christianity We Haven’t Tried Yet) claims that Christianity is an experiment yet to be tried. Gandhi would have probably said something similar, in his refusal to become Christian, even though he meditated on Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount for hours every day. When asked why not just convert, he clearly loves Jesus, turning to him as a model for living, he would say something like “your Christians don’t look much like your Christ.”
The more I get to know Christ, the more I see with eyes stripped of the illusions of patriarchy and dominant empire, the more I understand– Christians have largely gotten it wrong, still trapped by the lies of a systemically unjust culture. It’s subtle, but significant– we’ve been taught to worship someone else. To put our own power and sovereignty somewhere else. To displace the source of our salvation and forget it lives in our bodies, in our actions, in what we create and codify in this world through our thoughts, choices, and movements for change. Jesus, it seems, was turning us back again and again– to our own hearts. To our own lives. To the power to heal we innately carry in our beings. To the kin-dom of God within each of us and woven in and through every relationship. To all we are here to do and be and save in this world.
He never came to be put on a pedestal and worshiped– he came to show us, each and every one of us, what it means to be human, infused with the life of the God. To build communities of true inter-dependent humanity. How utterly sad and frustrating that institutional church– a force that could be incredibly transformative in this world– has created disempowering and codependent structures deflating human beings and diminishing their power, actively moving us as a collective away from what this world so desperately needs– salvation. Which is just a fancy way of saying “whole-making” or health.
Jesus’ heart’s desire, made clear over and over again in these post-resurrection gospel narratives, was that we might do what he had done– live fully into our humanity, be people of love and wholeness, act with grace and generosity and justice in this hurting, broken world. To not look for change elsewhere, in the clouds of ascension or somewhere-else salvation, but right here, on this earth, here and now. To be the change we wish to see in the world.
This last week I was wrestling with this moment of Jesus’ ascension– not yet upon us in the season’s gospel readings, but coming. Spirituality everywhere right now seems to be obsessed with ascension– you hear it in new-age circles too– the “ascended masters” and Akashic records, connecting with star-beings from the Pleiades and multidimensional galaxies. The aesthetic is white and golden, with a sense of somewhere else, away from this, in wispy clouds and angel’s wings. This is an ages-old temptation– to escape. To bypass. To reach for a fantastical explanation because it’s so hard to make sense of this insanity. To go somewhere else because this shit is so hard and so messy. It’s difficult to believe, much less practice, that THIS is where grace and glory finds its home. That THIS is sanctified and holy. That THIS is where God dwells. But it is! She does! And moreover that WE are the ones sent to heal this land, to create something new with God, to sanctify, to forgive, to love one another into being.
In the Acts of the Apostles, at the moment of Jesus’ ascension, his disciples watch him disappear into the clouds and they continue to stand there gaping at the sky, thoughts drifting further and further away. Two messengers of God appear and ask them, “Why are you standing there looking up at the skies?” (Acts 1:11)
Jesus has to go, and he promises the Spirit of Love will remain. He has to go because it was never about him anyway. He came to point the way, not BE the way. And really, there’s only so much he can do. He needs the Body of Christ– us, the collective, interdependent humanity working and loving as one. He seems to be saying, in these liminal days of here-but-not-here, as he dances between the veils waiting for them to really grasp it– get on with it. Do the work that’s here to do. Transform this world with your love and your presence and your devotion. Quit looking at the sky!! It’s not somewhere else– it’s right here. The Holy Spirit is with you. She is in you. She moves AS you.
Christianity is an experiment yet to be tried. What would happen if instead of displacing all power and authority to Jesus the human who lived 2,000 years ago, we actually lived with His Spirit infusing us, in all our sufferings, all our joys, all our choices and all our actions to build the kin-dom now, on earth? What if we did the thing he commissioned us to do, all those years ago? What if we actually started being Christians in the world?
Erin Duffy-Burke is a contemporary Catholic priestess of Sophia Christ. She does powerful sacramental soul work with individuals, small groups and communities. You can find out more about her work at erinduffy-burke.com and sophiarising.org. You can donate to her writing and work at PayPal.me/ErinDuffyBurke