By Kathleen Staudt
As I prepare to lead various Lenten experiences inviting people into prayer and deepened reflection, I have been noticing how the season offers us, if we wish to embrace it, a “time out from doubt.” Not that doubt or questioning are in themselves bad things – an openness to questions is part of what has kept many of us in the Episcopal Chuch. But I’m thinking that Lent is a time to stretch our faith — to live with these familiar stories, which we’ve called Good News. Take a break from questions about what may be “factual” or accurate and ask “What if it’s all true?”
What if it’s all true? What if (to begin), the Ground and Source of our being, our life, our connections with one another and the earth, is real and alive, though beyond our ability to name it. What if this Reality is best described and apprehended in personal terms, through our human images of love – mother-love, father-love, the love of devoted friends, the love of an artist or a gardener for what she has made or nurtured, the love that desires, above all things, the well-being of the beloved. What if it’s all true? What if the heart of Reality is that love?
And what if it’s true, as we Christians claim (set our hearts to – as the word “credo” implies) that this Love became human, took on fully our experience of bodily life, limiting itself (himself/herself – for this is a personal Reality) to a person in history, with parents, friends, enemies, a culture, a community.? What if Jesus is the Word made flesh, “Incarnate,” as we say. A mystery beyond our understanding, perhaps: but what if it’s true? What if, fully human, he experienced what it is to be loved and cared for, and to be oppressed, rejected, betrayed, killed. And what if the witness of all those early disciples is true – that death could not contain him: that the life Jesus lived and brought and called us to is actually eternal life, and has already begun, even in a broken world?
And what if it’s true that that Life and Love cannot be killed. What if, in the life of Jesus, in companionship with him, we can re-learn that love at the heart of Creation, and embody it in our lives here and now?. What if he really does live on in the gathered worshipping community (ekklesia/) that we call the Church. It seems so unlikely, and yet what if, through all our divisions, abuses, human distortions, abuses and misunderstandings of the good news, his life still lives in us. What if we are held, despite it all, in something that could be called “the Divine Mercy”?
And what if it is still possible to somehow be, in this world, that risen body of the Holy One, through our life together, through our relationships, through the choices we make for ourselves and for others. And what if there is power available to us, beyond what we can find within ourselves, to become what we were made to be – whole, and just and loving, bearers of the divine Love. What if there is a Holy Spirit, working through us, that really can transform and change? What if the whole thing is a whole lot bigger than we thought? What if it’s all true?
What would it be like, truly to live in the hope that it’s all true?
Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt keeps the blog poetproph, works as a teacher, poet, spiritual director and retreat leader in the Washington DC area. She is the author of two books: At the Turn of a Civilisation: David Jones and Modern Poetics and Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture.