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Center for Action and Contemplation

Treasures Old and New

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Jesus: Modeling an Evolving Faith

Treasures Old and New
Sunday, December 30, 2018

Every disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who draws out from their storage room things both old and new. —Matthew 13:52

As we come to the end of this year, we begin a new theme for the Daily Meditations. Over the next twelve months our focus will be “Old and New: An Evolving Faith.” Today’s world faces so many challenges. Christianity is supposed to heal suffering and mend divides, yet it has often exacerbated the problem. Is such a religion even worth saving?

While there are unhelpful and even harmful parts of what has passed for Christianity that we need to move beyond, I believe there are many good, beautiful, and true gems well worth saving—and living. It is of no use to anybody if Christianity is just a museum or an antique shop where we prefer to collect old things for their own sake. Yet we can rediscover many good old things that are perennially valuable. We would be foolish to reject them.

My life and the Center for Action and Contemplation’s work are guided by eight core principles. [1] The first might surprise some of you: The teaching of Jesus is our central reference point. We all need a North Star to orient us toward meaning and purpose. As a Christian and Franciscan, for me that is Jesus, who revealed the Eternal Christ. Over the next several weeks we’ll become better acquainted with Jesus, whom Christians believe is the totally inclusive “Child of God” who includes all of us in his cosmic sweep. He is the Includer, and we are the included. We’ll then spend some time looking at Christ, the eternal, ongoing union of human and divine, present in and evolving all of Creation since the beginning of time, who moves that inclusion to everything in the Universe.

Because Christianity is the path I love and know best, I teach primarily through this lens. However, the Center’s fifth principle—We will support true authority, the ability to ‘author’ life in others, regardless of the group—points to the Perennial Tradition. If it’s true, it’s always been true; truth simply shows up in various ages and cultures through different vocabulary and images. Throughout the world’s religions and philosophies, recurring themes point to humanity’s longing for union with Divine Reality. There are many paths to union.

You may ask, why does Jesus say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)? I’ll return to this when we explore the difference between Jesus and Christ. But for now, I’ll simply say that Jesus is not talking about joining or privileging any group; he is describing the way by which all religions must allow matter and spirit to operate as one, which indeed is the universal way for all people.

As we’ll see, Jesus revealed a God who is in total solidarity with humanity, even and most especially in its suffering. Shane Claiborne writes, “Jesus came to show us what God is like in a way we can touch and follow. Jesus is the lens through which we look at the Bible and the world; everything is fulfilled in Christ. There are plenty of things I still find baffling, . . . but then I look at Christ, and I get a deep assurance that God is good, and gracious, and not so far away.” [2] Let’s be honest: that is all we need to move forward.

[1] See Richard Rohr, “The Eight Core Principles,” Radical Grace, vol. 25, no.4, (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2012), 10-11, out of print, see

[2] Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo, Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said? (Thomas Nelson: 2012), 7.

Image credit: Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery (detail), Nicolas Poussin, 1653, Louvre Museum, Paris, France.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The way Jesus tried to change people was by loving and healing them, accusing only their accusers. Why did we not notice that? His harshest words of judgment were reserved for those who perpetuated systems of inequality and oppression and who, through religion itself, thought they were sinless and untouchable. Jesus did not so much love people once they changed, but he loved people so that they could change. —Richard Rohr
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