A New Experience

Scripture: Week 1

A New Experience
Sunday, February 21, 2016

“Explanation separates us from astonishment, which is the only gateway to the incomprehensible.” —Eugene Ionesco [1]

The British-American author D. H. Lawrence said, “The world fears a new experience more than it fears anything. Because a new experience displaces so many old experiences.” New ideas are not a problem. The world “can pigeon-hole any idea,” Lawrence said, “but it can’t pigeon-hole a real new experience.” [2] A true inner experience changes us, and human beings do not like to change.

The biblical revelation is inviting us into a new experience and a new way of seeing. Evolved human consciousness seems to be more ready to accept the divine invitation, but have no doubt, the Gospel is a major paradigm shift, and there will always be “an equal and opposite reaction” and resistance to such things as simplicity, nonviolence, restorative justice, and inclusivity.

A major problem is that theologians and the Church have presented the Bible as a collection of mental ideas about which we can be right or wrong. This traps us in a dualistic and argumentative mind, which is a pretty pathetic pathway to Great Truth. Many people don’t expect from the Bible anything good or anything really new, which is how we translate the very word “Gospel”—good news. So we first of all need mature people who can read texts with wider eyes, and not just people who want quick and easy answers by which they can affirm their ideas and self-made identities. The marvelous anthology of books and letters called the Bible is for the sake of a love-affair between God and the soul, and not to create an organizational plan for any particular religion. The Gospel is about our transformation into God (theosis), and not about mere intellectual assurance or “small-self” coziness. It is more a revolution in consciousness than a business model for the buying and selling of God as a product.

Some scholars, interestingly enough, have said that Jesus came to end religion. That’s not as bad as it might sound. Archaic religion was usually an attempt to assure people that nothing new or surprising would happen, and that the gods could be controlled. Most people want their lives and history to be entirely predictable and controllable, and the best way to do that is to try to manipulate the gods. Low-level religion basically teaches humans what spiritual buttons to push to keep our lives and God predictable. This kind of religion initially appeals to our lowest levels of egocentric motivation (security and group status) instead of moving us to our highest (generosity and trust). Jesus had a hard job cut out for him!

For most of human history, God was not a likable, much less lovable, character. That’s why every “theophany” (an event where God breaks through into the human realm) in the Bible begins with the same words: “Do not be afraid.” People have too often been afraid of God—and afraid of themselves as a result. When God appeared on the scene, most people did not see it as good news, but as bad news with fearful questions arising: Who has to die now? Who needs to be punished? By and large, before the biblical revelation, most of humanity did not expect love, much less intimate love, from God. Even today, most humans feel that any notion of a Divine Lover is quite distant, arbitrary, and surely impossible to enjoy or expect.

This fear-based pattern is so ingrained in our hardwiring that in the two thousand years since the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, not much has really changed—except in a rather small percentage of humanity which is still growing toward a critical mass (Romans 8:18f). In my experience, most people still fear or try to control God instead of learning to trust and return the love of a very loving God. When one party has all the power—which is most people’s very definition of God—all you can do is fear and try to control.

The only way this can be changed is for God, from God’s side, to change the power equation and invite us into a world of mutuality and vulnerability. Our living image of that power change is Jesus! In him, God took the initiative to overcome our fear and our need to manipulate God and made intimate Divine relationship possible. During the next two weeks I’ll explore how we can trace the thread of God’s loving-kindness throughout Scripture—which is simultaneously a history of humanity’s resistance, denial, and rejection of that very loving-kindness, reaching its climax in the crucifixion of Jesus. This movement both forward and backward is the story line of the whole Bible.

Gateway to Silence:
Astonish me with your love.

References:
[1] As quoted by Rosette C. Lamont, Ionesco: A Collection of Critical Essays (Prentice-Hall: 1973), 167.

[2] D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature (Shearsman Books: 2011), 41.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 7-10;

and New Great Themes of Scripture (Franciscan Media: 2012), disc 1 (CD).

Image Credit: Photograph by mercucio2

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