I’ve been reading biblical genealogies: Genesis 5, 10, 11, 22, 25, 36, and 46; Numbers 3 and 26; Ruth 4; Matthew 1; Luke 3.
I’ve noticed a pattern.
It’s a line. A man penetrates a woman (usually unnamed), and another man emerges, grows up, and goes on to penetrate another woman. Another man emerges –
Each son is a new man, and in a certain sense, a replacement for the man who came before.
I see a similar pattern in the rise and fall of civilizations, as illustrated in Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
I see a similar pattern in much of white, American Christianity, and I think it is because we do not believe in resurrection.
Christianity without resurrection isn’t just focused on the death of Jesus. Christianity without resurrection requires death. Any religion requiring death brings death.
In order to survive, Christianity without resurrection needs for its “competition” to be utterly annihilated (or erased through conversion and assimilation). Christianity without resurrection seeks the end of the world so that it might escape the world. Christianity without resurrection functions on earth as a system of violation, of oppression, of destruction, and of murder.
This pattern is the pattern of human history, and we find that this is an ancient pattern, present in all our systems, evident even in creation. But this is not the only pattern.
Each morning the sun penetrates our world, breaking into our consciousness as it rises above the eastern horizon. Each evening the sun penetrates the underworld, sinking down through the western horizon, leaving behind – at least for a time – its gentle afterglow. Every day, it is the same sun.
God also rises and sinks, penetrating both what is above as well as what is below.
“Therefore it is said,
“‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.’
“(When it says, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)”
I’ve read that last line several times. If God fills all things, then God doesn’t need to delete anything in order for there to be space enough for God. The very existence of God disrupts our efforts to conquer and vanquish.
God even interrupts human genealogies. God penetrates a woman’s womb. God emerges from the same womb.
This, then, must be why it is that the Roman centurion – a living representative of the empire that has penetrated the Promised Land – is also the eyewitness as darkness comes over the whole land. As the sun’s light fails. As the curtain of the temple is torn in two.
God breaks into the world. God also breaks out. And God returns: in the garden, in the upper room, on the road to Emmaus, on a beach cooking fish over charcoals.
The line of domination is broken. And we are called, not to destroy hell, but to break in. We are seeds, nurtured in the belly of the earth, growing up into trees large enough that the birds of the air might come and make nests in our branches.
Then, as the morning sun penetrates our world from the eastern horizon and slowly but surely climbs the sky, all people might gather together beneath our branches, where God fills all things.