For several years I’ve made statements like, “My theological gravity well is in Eastern Orthodoxy…” and I did mean it, but I’m really only now discovering what that really means to me.
I have loved the Orthodox emphasis on the incarnation and the deep incarnational theology for a while now, though I would hazard to say that I’m just beginning to identify an internal shift within me to feel the significance of the incarnation and what it means to see it as what I will call the “hinge” or pivotal moment of the scriptural narrative.
As the vast majority of Western Christians have, I have always operated my faith and life in relation to the crucifixion being that pivotal moment of the biblical narrative. The Orthodox however choose the incarnation as that point, and it’s finally gotten down into me.
You see, it changes things when you make these kinds of shifts. I am not saying that the crucifixion is not a hugely meaningful and important event in the narrative. I believe it happened, happened as scripture tells us, and it had deep significance for our faith and life. I’m not even trying to convince you to think as I do… the last thing I want is some kind of fight over who’s got the best hinge passage or story.
But different things take on different hues and natures as we shift from one focus to another. For instance… God’s love, care and concern for all of creation become so much clearer and real when the event of God’s arrival is loosed to be the clarion call of our salvation, a salvation we share with all things created, not just human souls. Stop and recall that we read “For God so loved the world (kosmos)…” There’s more than a small problem with our crucifixion-heavy view of narrative which allows us to unthinkingly interpret that to an exclusively human experience of “For God so loved us…”
And it feels right to fully rejoice with the scriptural writers that “Word became flesh…” and “Now God has spoken to us through his Son…” and that “He humbled himself, taking the form of a slave…” The good news of Immanuel is self-evident and really doesn’t need too much explaining, “God is with us.”
A few weeks ago at CiB we made an attempt to capture gospel or “good news” in a way that we could live it and share it with our neighbors… we tired to gain a hold on the essence of the good news. What we landed with were three big ideas that we’d like folks to experience: 1) God is real, 2) God is near, and 3) God is love. That is the story of incarnation, the story of our salvation, in three terribly simple sentences. It’s a reflection of a titanic shift (hinge) in the biggest story of all, the time when God drew near.