by Laurie Gudim
Here’s the Great Commission at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
I can’t imagine that Jesus ever meant for us to strip other peoples of their ancient understandings and way of life, their culture and their religion, as Christians, in an attempt to carry out the Great Commission, have done – over and over again. These days we know what devastation it causes to lose language and tribal context. Every tradition is chock full of wisdom and its own ways of relating to the Holy, and when any one is lost, the world is greatly impoverished. At the level of being, where we are all one, despair over such a loss rocks us to the core.
When I was part of a multi-faith spiritual group, I learned that members of many of the world’s religions respect and honor Jesus. They think of him as a great teacher – or an avatar – a guide with a huge reservoir of wisdom and love to share. But for me that is not who he is. Christ is nothing less than the incarnate manifestation of God, God dwelling with us, showing us who God is and therefore who we are. If I were to share anything of him with others, it would be that understanding. So how do I share anything at all?
When I think about my personal responsibility to “go make disciples”, the story of the Ascension itself comes to my rescue. Here, the in-the-flesh Jesus is leaving his followers. And once he has gone away they will only find him again when they search at the core of their own souls. For, as Julian of Norwich puts it so beautifully, the Soul is a vast citadel, a blessed kingdom, in which our Lord, Jesus, true God and true man, reigns (Chapter 68, Showings, long text). Language is very tricky, of course, but the Christ who reigns in the human heart must be something way bigger and way more accessible than the Christian Jesus who is our Master.
Love’s rule in the hearts of all people brings the promise of relationship with a living essence. This creative, connecting, unbounded presence communicates with us to a greater and greater degree the more we open ourselves through prayer or meditation. What this means is that my job is to develop my relationship with Christ – over the long haul, over my lifetime. And then my job is to talk about it in whatever ways I can find. Writing icons, writing books, listening attentively to others, helping where I can, I invite those with whom I come in contact to explore their own relationships with the Holy ruler at the heart of the Soul and to tell me about it. In this way all of us become part of a community that grows in sacred understanding.
Laurie Gudim works is a religious iconographer and writer in Fort Collins, Colorado. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.She has recently published her novel, Loving the Six-Toed Jesus, available from Amazon.