Sunday, November 22, 2009

Incarnational Theology 101

I know that Incarnational Theology is quite deep, but given the approaching holiday season that aims to celebrate this historical event, I thought I'd share a thought regarding one of the more simple deductions to made from the Incarnation.

All four gospels include the baptism of Jesus. This ought to give readers a clue to this event's significance. It is recorded that the clouds opened and God said, "Here is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased" (or a version of this). Also recorded is the sending of the Holy Spirit to live within or upon Jesus.

What is it about this seemingly minor event that contains so much theological weight for us?

In John 20:21 Jesus says, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." It's that tiny, little preposition that reveals the secret: "As the Father sent me, so I send you." It's like saying, "In the same way..." or "Just like I was sent..."

This is huge. This would perhaps seem to maybe imply that somehow we might possibly be somewhat encouraged to somehow be .... like Jesus!? Wuhhh?

What on earth is John getting at? Oh wait, yea, now I remember: Jesus sometimes asked people to "follow him" (or literally "immitate" in the Greek); the gospel writers did seem to encourage that an awful lot; as did Paul in his letters (cf. Romans 8:29).

Ok, so being like Jesus... yea it's a funky concept. Love and all that. So what?

John also wrote about Jesus' promise to send the Holy Spirit to live in us, guide us, and advise us (John 14:15-17). And then John recounts that promise happening to the disciples in John 20:22.

This whole sending of the Holy Spirit sounds a lot like Jesus' baptism. Which brings me back to the above said deduction about the Incarnation.

God's proclamation, "This is my Son, my beloved," is not just for Jesus. It's also for us. When Jesus invites us to be like him, to go AS he went, it's because we're being invited into the family of God, just like Jesus! God proclaims a cosmic "yes" to us as God's children. We are God's beloved.

Isn't this why Paul emphasizes our status as God's adopted children? Ephesians 5:1-2 reminds us, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us." (cf. 1:5 and 3:6 of the same letter)

This is the scandal of the Incarnation: It validates the worth of every human being in the world. Why? Because God looks at them and says, "My Son/Daughter, my beloved!"

But from the Gospels we learn that God does not stop there. God says something else about humankind in addition to claiming us as "Beloved." God also says, "My Son/Daughter, you are worth dying for."

This may seem relatively simple, but it's the basic theology of the Incarnation. It's what makes Christianity so unique and, in my opinion, so damn promising. It's all about realizing that I'm God's beloved. And so are you.

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