I’ve been thinking, of late, about my own core beliefs.  And I find that there are, perhaps, three places from which I’m inclined to begin.  The first is Jesus’ story of the two brothers and their unreasonably indulgent father.  (Luke 15:11-32.  We usually call this the parable of the prodigal son.)  The second is Jesus’ summary of the law (see Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:25-28 — but also Luke 10:29-37, usually called the parable of the good Samaritan).  The last is John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”).  You probably have to look at John 3:17-18 to give this a fuller context.  I guess I’d also have to add something about the incarnation (Jesus as fully human, not just God) and the resurrection (God’s power restore and renew even what seems lost forever) – and you can only talk about resurrection when you also talk about crucifixion.   I’m still thinking about this.  But this would form the core of my good news.

Most, if not all, of this is connected to narrative.  Which is fully appropriate.  Listening to some Christians, you might not know this.  But Jesus was a story teller, not a law giver.  Moses was the law giver.  Jesus was always trying to invite us into a story that made us think about what life with God was like.  I really like that about him.

I’ve already addressed Jesus incarnation in How God Made a Home, where I said:

God is looking for a new way to come into the world.  God is looking for a new way of working in the world.  He finds his point of entry in the person of a young woman.  We’d probably call her a girl.  My best guess is that she was 12 or 13 years old.  Marriage documents seem to have been signed between her and an older man.  I’m guessing Joseph could have been anything from about 15 to about 30.  They were living apart, with the marriage unconsumated — probably because they were giving her an extra year to grow up first.  And God sends a messanger to her (Luke 1:26-38 — our gospel reading).

God asks her to make a home for him.  God asks her to bear a child and call him Jesus.

I addressed it more directly in my Merry Christmas message, where I said:

Christmas tells us that God comes to us, not from on high, but from down below.  Jesus is born to an unknown woman from a subjugated people.  He comes to us as a baby — and there just isn’t all that much needier than a newborn baby.  Jesus comes to us from a position of dependence, not authority.  In my mind, in Jesus, God comes to invite us, even to court us, not to lord it over us.  There is an assumption of equality on God’s part that draws me into a very different relationship than it would to a God who came down from on high to make demands of me.

And that, for me, may be the most important thing there is to know about God.  God chooses to approach us by invitation.  God chooses to invite us into the beauty of holiness.  God chooses to share our condition, the human condition, and experience all the joys and trials and tribulations of our lives.

That probably says enough about my sense of the importance (centrality) of incarnation.  I’m expecting I will try to say more about other beliefs that are core beliefs for me in the near future.

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