The story that most of us in Western Christendom have received growing up goes something like this. Six thousand years ago, God created two literal human beings named Adam and Eve. They lived with him in a perfect garden until one day Eve was naughty and believed a snake who tempted her to eat a forbidden fruit. She shared that disobedience with Adam and both of them were cast out of the garden and punished with death and suffering. Because they were naughty and disobedient, all of their descendants had this “naughty gene” as a part of them, and all of creation which was initially created good became twisted and so all sorts of nastiness entered the universe.
Then, one day, about four thousand years later, God incarnated himself into an individual by the name of Jesus. Jesus was an overall nice guy who taught us all to be nice people to one another, and most importantly to repent of our sins continually. He then died on the cross to make a payment to his angry Father who was otherwise going to send everyone he had created to a nasty place called hell where the fire would never be quenched and the worm would not die. But for those very few who accepted Jesus into their heart, the payment would be effective and they would not have to go to that nasty place. As long as they kept being generally nice people who continually repented of their sins and didn’t do anything really bad like be gay or have an abortion. But for everyone else, it was fire. Sorry!
But what if we got the story all wrong? What if we focused on the part of the story that made us feel like we and our tribe were the chosen people and everyone else outside that we actually didn’t like already were really evildoers? What if we chose a story that allowed us to be okay with our own brokenness because we didn’t engage in the sins of “those people?”
Maybe, just maybe, if we opened our eyes and listened to the story that all of creation has told since the beginning of time, and that the scriptures have attempted to tell us from the very beginning, and that Jesus modeled for us in his life, death, and resurrection, we would hear the melody of a song that is very different and much, more beautiful.
In this story, a trinitarian God always in loving relationship with its other parts creates this universe 13.7 billion years ago by incarnating one part of the Trinity, Christ, in all of creation. This God is a lover, who, to paraphrase Richard Rohr, loves all things by becoming them. And God sees that the universe that God has created is good, good, good, good, very good. And into this universe, through processes of natural selection, God creates living things on at least one planet, and a very intelligent primate that can perceive the universe, it’s physics, and even God. Now, the universe is not perfect and this primate does terrible things to its fellow primates as well as to creation, but God incorporates the good with the bad for the sake of a master blueprint God has in store.
So, after 13.7 billion years, a specific incarnation of the Christ that has existed in all of creation from the very beginning comes into the world as a baby, Jesus of Nazareth. This baby grows as any human would, ultimately becoming a man (as Rohr also teaches and which rings true, with a feminine spirit) who is given a mission by God the lover to live a life in the shape of all reality. Jesus spends his three years of ministry loving EVERYBODY and especially the outcast, welcoming the broken, healing the sick and the spiritually and mentally oppressed, feeding people, and building a beloved community on earth. And he teaches this beloved community, and anyone who would listen, that they should do the same in order to be the first fruits of what God had planned since the beginning of time.
But the world liked the first story better. So after Jesus spent his three years in ministry, the religious leaders conspired with the empire to kill Jesus. But this, too, was part of the blueprint God had laid out since the beginning of time. On the cross, in solidarity with the imperfections and suffering of all of creation, Christ suffered and died.
But the blueprint also had one more part. After three days, the specific incarnation of Christ named Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected as the universal Christ. His resurrection was the first fruits of God making “all things new.” The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the pattern of all creation. The shape of all reality.
But again, we missed the point. Because after an initial period of the early church getting what the story meant, and with the exception of a few monks, nuns, and mystics who also understood the story, by and large the church decided it liked the first story better.