Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Scandal of the Incarnation

"It was the materiality of Christianity that fascinated me, the compelling story of incarnation in its grungiest details, the promise that words and flesh were deeply, deeply connected." (Sara Miles, Take this Bread, page 71)

There is a well known theological work (at least, well known in some groups of people) called, The Scandal of the Incarnation. In this book, Hans Urs von Balthasar, a prolific Swiss theologian and Catholic priest, thematically arranges quotes from St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon and martyr of the 3rd century. St. Irenaeus wrote passionately about the importance and scandalous nature of God becoming human. He was originally writing against some of the Gnostic views of the time which denigrated our material lives, our bodies, their needs, and their place in religion. 

Its funny how something scandalous doesn't seem so upsetting after two thousand years of getting used to the idea. As David Lose, President of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, writes, "Today the Incarnation seems about as scandalous as fruitcake, but in the fourth and fifth centuries, no issue more divided Christians than the assertion that in the babe and then man, Jesus of Nazareth, almighty God had joined God's own self to frail and fickle human flesh."

Thankfully though, God has become human. God does know what it is like to live on Earth, to be born, to be hungry, to be tired, to be happy, and sad, and angry, and in love, to stand up for one's beliefs, and to die, unhappily and innocently. This connection makes what we do in our communities, in our towns, in our normal daily lives, important to how we connect with God.