Why is it so difficult to learn a new language? Not a foreign language, but a new way of talking about things. For the last seven years or so, I’ve been enamored with a renewed vision of my faith. Not an altogether different faith; it’s the same one I grew up with, only now things that were once grayscale are showing signs of color.
I still believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, only now he’s the God committed to seeing his creation fully restored, reuniting all things in heaven and on earth.
I still believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, only now he’s the Jewish King who brought Israel’s story to its world-renewing climax, and so bringing humanity’s story to its world-inheriting and world-reigning climax.
I still believe that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, only now his being God is more about God being faithful to the covenant he made with Israel, and his being man is more about Israel being faithful to the covenant they made with God.
I still believe that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, only now those things matter because of the kingdom agenda Jesus embodied from his birth to his death.
I still believe that he descended to the dead, and that on the third day he rose again, only now his journey from death to life launches the new creation God intends for the whole cosmos.
I still believe that he ascended into heaven, only now am I beginning to understand why that ascension subverts economic systems, political powers, and hailed ideologies.
I still believe that he will come again to judge the living and the death, only now do I see judgment as a thing of beauty, that glorious day when creation is finally liberated from all that has caused its ceaseless groaning.
I still believe in the Holy Spirit, only now am I open to his supernatural presence working through me and the entire church to bring God’s kingdom to bear upon this present age with great power and wonder.
I still believe in the holy catholic church, only now as more than a beneficiary of his transforming grace and love, but as an agent of it as well.
I still believe in the communion of saints, only now has this communion become a foretaste of the kind of community that is promised for all those who seek first the kingdom of God.
I still believe in the forgiveness of sins, only now these sins have grown to include systemic injustice, economic oppression, environmental exploitation, and religious arrogance.
I still believe in the resurrection of the body, only now it’s a resurrection not to heaven, but to a heaven and earth reunited, consisting of everything glorious in both the physical and the spiritual world.
I still believe in the life everlasting, only now it’s life as it should be, every human hope and desire amplified exponentially in the presence of God, among a flourishing people, and enjoying all of creation.
A new language is clearly required, but learning its syntax and phrasing is cumbersome. The words fail me. I can’t articulate what is resonating inside, how I sense the pieces coming together, and how this new story is able to integrate everything that awakens our souls.
How do you talk about this? How do you talk about all this color? The kingdom of God, all things new, flourishing communities, heaven and earth reconciled, peace and justice filling the earth, creation regained, a restored world—these are feeble attempts.
And then how do you talk about these things in relation to sin, to Israel, to the prophets, to the law, to Jesus, to the cross, to justification, to right doctrine, to grace? And then how do you communicate the integration of these ideas in a way that not only inspires, but is intelligible; in a way that breaks old patterns of thinking without undermining the truth imbedded in those old patterns of thinking; in a way that opens up a colorful world without disregarding the black-and-white outlines of that world?
It’s a constant frustration of mine, that this new language eludes me still. Just when I think I’ve found a rhythm, I stutter again and miss another opportunity. Is the gravity of those older formations too much for me to lift off the ground into a sky filled with a whole new vocabulary? Or is this new world too magnificent for any mere mortal to describe? Is it a battle that can be won, or one that will never end?
I keep trying.
by Wes Gristy