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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

669 Christ has no body now but ours; no hands, no feet on earth but ours

Day 669 Friday, January 14, 2021

Christ has no body now but ours; no hands, no feet on earth but ours

An Epiphany: A Reflection by Jack Jazreel

The author, Jack Jezreel, is the founder of JustFaith Ministries.

In the spirit of starting fresh in the new year, I thought I would make a confession. Over the course of the last two years, I have, well, binged. To be completely honest, until 2020, I’d never been much for television. But, with few meetings, no get-togethers, and no gardening at night, I went down the road of ruin and started watching television.

But that’s not really the story I wanted to tell you; this is: so, our daughter let us use her Netflix account because Maggie and I are too cheap to pay for it, and I switched on a show. It’s interesting enough and I’m waiting to see how it ends. Only it doesn’t. It doesn’t end. It’s like episode #6 of a ten-episode season. AND, this is season four. So, if I want to really understand the story I just watched I have to watch 47 other programs before and after, and there’s still no guarantee that the story will end because no one knows how many seasons there are going to be.

And that made me wonder . . . what episode are WE in?

In the Christian orbit, I think it’s possible for you and me to listen to the scriptures on any given Sunday and come away with the conclusion that THE MAIN STORY happened two thousand years ago. On the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, we Christians read the text from Isaiah (60:1-6) as a kind of anticipation of the Christmas story (I say “we Christians” because the Jewish people do not read this text this way, obviously). And, then, we read our Gospel story (Matt 2:1-12), traditionally described as the Visit of the Magi or the Three Wise Men, as kind of pre-episodes to THE MAIN STORY of Jesus’ birth, life, teachings, death and resurrection.

So, you and I, just two weeks into 2022, are sort of living in the afterepisodes. THE MAIN STORY is done. Paul, for example, was sure that the world was about to end in the first century because THE MAIN STORY had happened.

With that frame, in 2022 you and I are trying to tidy things up a bit, as the world unfolds in the direction of the beloved community, what you and I might call the second coming of Christ.

And, yes, I believe THE MAIN STORY. I believe that there is fundamental, universal truth in the Gospel story. For me, there is something rock-solid about the myriad touchstones and themes running through the story of Jesus and how the Christian community, over the centuries, has engaged the story of a Palestinian Jew navigating both the harsh reality of the political oppression of Rome and a co-opted and decayed religious system, and doing it with brilliance, insight, fidelity and personal risk. We conclude, in faith, Jesus was the son of God.

But WHAT IF? What if this isn’t really the crescendo, but just equipment—the “starter” wisdom—for a bigger chapter, an even bigger challenge, with even more at stake?

On Tuesday, December 14, 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released 2021’s Arctic report card. I will give you a summary: the world as we know it is ending. A bit more detail in one paragraph: while it is well documented that climate change is happening on the planet, the poles are warming even faster than the rest of the planet.

Reduced snow cap means less reflection of the sun’s rays and even warmer temperatures. Warming of the poles means the disruption of weather patterns, putting at risk everything on the planet that relies of the predictability of seasonal changes.

The thawing of glaciers—happening at record pace and accelerating—will likely mean a two-foot rise in sea level, resulting in hundreds of millions of climate change refugees. Weather patterns of increasing heat, drought, flood, winds and the consequent fires, hurricanes and tornadoes will mean agriculture will suffer or even become impossible in many, many places. Vastly depleted food sources will mean starvation and violence on a global scale. This paragraph, which I am going to deliberately and abruptly end, could go on for another thirty paragraphs of nonstop, already-happening-and-getting-worse, worrisome stories.

This is not exactly new news. It’s just the news that has been predicted for a long time that we had hoped could be avoided. This is news that when mentioned in conversation (or in a reflection like this one) seems to suck the joy out of the room.

For the previous week, while my two-year old grandson was in town, I made myself stop thinking about this news; it’s simply too hard to hold this news and hold his little body at the same time. But I refuse to live in fantasy. And now you and I need each other.

We—everyone of us—needs to think through with our colleagues and kindred spirits what to do, and then do it. As one member of the staff of the NOAA is quoted in the Washington Post, “We have a narrow window of time to avoid very costly, deadly and irreversible climate impacts.” So there seems to be a sliver of hope.

We need to be able to tell our children and grandchildren that we did everything possible to build on that sliver of hope.

Would I be right to say, in 2022, that symbolic changes are important, but not adequate? Am I at fault to dare suggest that small changes are good, but not good enough? Am I wrong to urge that we need to be part of something that will change the course of history? And, to complicate matters, we can’t wait for Covid to go away to get started.

So, THE MAIN STORY of human life on this planet is: Can we figure out how to live on it?

How might the Gospel inspire us and CAN the Gospel inspire us to take steps scaled to the task? Is there enough wisdom gathered from 2000 years of walking in the steps of Jesus that will allow us to rethink our identities as human beings?

While we have relied on the earth to make our lives more comfortable by mining, drilling, logging, clearing, fishing, damming, and polluting, we’ve done this without understanding the consequences. Perhaps we are innocent of malice, but we are responsible, nevertheless. We need a new way of thinking about ourselves.

Going forward, I will offer this observation. I have noticed that when human beings come to grips with their pending mortality--their death--they often do remarkable things: they, for example, reconcile with their family; they discover generosity; they find courage to do what they had never before imagined.

Charles Dickens wrote a popular Christmas story about this very thing. I think that’s where we are. Our planet—the Ghost of what is to come, if you will—is pressing upon us. We can try to hide, or we can deny, or we can lean into death and resurrection. To die in Christ is to die for love.

If you believe, as I do, in a God of love and generosity who gifted us with the wonder of nature, the pleasure of breath, the delight of food, the miracle of love and affection, the immeasurable joy of children and grandchildren, then let’s just see what we can do to help this planet recover.

Plant a million trees? Organize and advocate? Run for office? Give up our cars? Buy nothing for a year? Everything is on the table. We know we can’t go on with business as usual. But I do know this: we can do a lot more together than we can apart.

Finally, if you are looking for God to intervene, I believe God can, but only with this understanding, given to us by Teresa of Avila: that “Christ has no body now but ours; no hands, no feet on earth but ours.”

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