Friday, April 16, 2010

Gospel of Venkman

John 3:31-36
“He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.”


This evening we get a pretty good summary of John’s gospel in the mouth of…somebody. Who’s speaking anyway, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Nicodemus, Jesus? It really doesn’t matter, what matters is what is said. Essentially, the speaker says, God is God and the creation is the creation. The creation can’t comprehend God, God is utterly unknowable to the creation. Yet, God has revealed himself to the creation, to us, in Jesus. When we know Jesus we know God the Father.

This is the theme of John’s entire gospel. The writer never grows tired of saying, “The father and the son are one.” “All mine are yours and yours are mine.” “As you, father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us.”

What John sets up and reinforces throughout his gospel, from the beginning to the end and beyond, is that God’s holy spirit has been an ever-flowing stream in all creation, Jesus came to do the works of the Father and show God in the world, so that we might believe,
…and in believing…what? To receive the Holy Spirit and receive it without measure.

Bishop Spong says. . . and this will likely be the first and last time you will ever hear a quote from Bishop Spong from this preacher or this ambo, for that matter. But, Bishop Spong describes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as an overflowing tub of water in a basement, there is no controlling where the water goes, and it gets all over everywhere, splashing under things and into the darkest neglected corners. God gives the Spirit without measure, it is all, and I mean all, or nothing. God is extreme in this instance, wasteful, decadent.

So when we believe through Christ, we become identified with Christ through the Holy Spirit, and with Christ, God.

So we believe that God became a person through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. All Christians agree, I hope, that in Jesus Christ a bridge was made between God and humanity.
But that bridge. That bridge between God and us. Is it a one way bridge? Is the bridge between God and us just for the Holy Spirit to go down, from God to us? The ladder that the angels ascend and descend upon Jesus, is it just for angels or is it for us too?

What was Athanasius talking about when he said that, “God became human that we might be made god.”?

In the great American cinematic masterpiece, Ghostbusters, there is a scene that might have an insight.

It seems the Ghostbusters have tracked down the big bad, Gozer, a powerful lighting fingered demon-lady who greets the guys with, “Are you a god?”

One of the Ghostbusters considers the question and says, “No.”

Gozer answers, “Then die!” She zaps the guys thoroughly, leaving them hanging off a skyscraper.

Finally, one Ghostbuster says to the other, “When somebody asks you if you are a god, you say YES!”

We are all created in the image of God, and lest we forget, God is a trinity. The God image that we bear is the image of dynamic and spontaneous love. No matter what happens to us or what choices we make, that image of dynamic love can never be removed. But through God’s giving of the Spirit, without measure, just might make us gods too.

Now, before I get harassed for heresy. Let’s look at what capacity people might have for divinity. First we all bear the image of God. But since we are creations with a creator, we are distinct from God. God is outside of time and space and utterly Other. Yet this other God, reaches out to us.

The Orthodox say that we can know God’s energies, not his essence. We can seek and achieve union with God, yet we retain our distinctiveness, our personhood. Our union with God is sanctification, not annihilation. While we don’t become God in essence and nature, we can become divine by grace. By the grace of God.

In our western arm of the church, we would have been toast against the question, “Are you a god?” For our eastern brothers and sisters they say,”Yeah, that’s pretty normal.”
Of course we will all achieve our full deification upon the consummation of all things and us Anglicans love to proclaim the eschatological horizon of the church.

But Jesus, here in John’s Gospel, is repeatedly inviting us into the divine life NOW. Yes, we still sin, we still fall, but we don’t fall alone. We are made in the image of the triune God whose property it is to love; therefore our deification is possible when we live the Trinitarian life, a life with, and for others.

So, while we might not be fully ready to answer yes to the question, “Are you a god?” We might, through faith in the measureless pouring of the Holy Spirit, stand with Christ and say, “I’m with him.”

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