IncarnationPosted: July 8, 2013
I’m taking an online course on Dorothee Soelle, a German protestant who was a teenager during the holocaust and who spent her life writing, teaching, and working for social justice. The readings for one recent assignment centered on Soelle’s understanding of Jesus, and the instructor asked us to reflect on “Who’s Jesus for Soelle? Who’s Jesus for you?” What follows is the reflection I posted, with some edits for clarity in this different context.
I am proud (and honored) to be a member of the Episcopal church and part of the liturgical tradition. But the Western liturgical tradition (Episcopal, Lutheran, Catholic) has an interesting perspective. In my mind it goes something like this: “Yeah, Advent and Christmas, they’re nice and all, but what is really important is Lent, Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter.” I’m told that the Eastern church has a much stronger emphasis on the Incarnation, which I like.
Except when I wonder whether the incarnation is necessary at all. I am very much attracted to post-Second Temple rabbinic Judaism and its emphasis on one’s direct relationship with God. Why add Jesus as an intermediary?
Maybe Soelle has an answer. She wrote, “We have a part in the life of Christ…he heals so we may become as he is.” And that means, Soelle says, that we, ourselves, together, heal the sick, feed the hungry, and bless the children. Or stand outside the White House, as she describes in one passage, on Good Friday with a group of activists protesting injustice by holding placards portraying images of torture and murder in various parts of the world, with labels from the stations of the cross.
Maybe, as Soelle suggests, if Christ lived without protection or violence, it is possible for us to do so as well, and for us to follow in that example. Perhaps that is more than reason enough for the Incarnation.