A friend of mine told me a powerful story of a young girl who was holding a sign that read, “I am hungry, please give me food.” She stood on a corner while people kept walking by her without stopping. Some people didn’t notice her standing there. Finally, a homeless lady, pushing her cart, gave this youth her bag of lunch. An observer, watching the whole thing, gave the homeless lady $50.
This story reminds me of the narrative in the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John in which a man born blind receives his sight. This narrative is much more than a miracle in which Jesus cures a man of his blindness. It also reveals a blindness that Jesus couldn’t cure in everyone – not if they didn’t want to be cured, or even know that they were blind.
“What blindness is that,” you say? It’s insisting that you’re righteous. It’s making a harsh judgement about someone else being unrighteous while insisting that you are completely righteous in every way possible. It’s judging other people and driving them away as a basis of keeping your own status. It’s our acts of expulsion, such as in our practices of racism, prejudices, violence, and injustice to the poor. We have always based our coming together into community on being over-against someone else. We have been blinded by our self-righteousness, and convinced that we are right to do so.
A second blindness is to not see God among us. Unfortunately, for the vast majority, God is still “the man upstairs,” a substance (noun) more than an active verb. In my opinion, this misunderstanding in partly responsible for the quick expansion of practical atheism and agnosticism we see in the Western world today. Rational and sincere people wonder, “If God is almighty and all-loving, then why is there so much suffering in the world?” But once you experience God as all-vulnerable, then perhaps God stands in solidarity with all pain and suffering in the world, allowing us to be participants in our own healing. This doesn’t make sense to the logical mind, but it somehow does to the awakened soul.
The Christian Trinitarian God is a fountain of love and mercy. Imagine three buckets on a moving waterwheel. Each bucket fills and empties out, then swings back to be filled again. The Father empties into Christ of the universe, nothing held back. Christ empties into the Spirit of God, nothing held back. The Spirit empties fully into the Father. The reason they can empty themselves out is they know they will be filled again. They know that the center of the universe is infinite love.
Imagine yourself as a bucket on that divine waterwheel. If you don’t believe that love is the center of the universe, you live in a scarcity model where there’s not enough – food, money, security, health care, mercy – to go around. You can’t risk letting go because you’re not sure you’ll be refilled. If you’re defending your own image and identity, then you’re ego remains full of itself, which is the opposite of living in the eternal, divine, and generous self-empting love of God.
I have experienced God as all-vulnerable. Only the vulnerable understands the vulnerable. (Consider the story mentioned above: God can be seen there!) As long as you show up with some vulnerability, the Holy Spirit and God in Christ can keep working with you. Self-sufficiency makes experiencing God impossible! God’s power comes through humility, all life-giving, and a flow of love. The Christian God is much more properly called all-vulnerable, which we should have suspected and intuited by the shocking metaphor “Lamb of God” found throughout the New Testament.
Rev. Tom Cici is the pastor at First Christian Church of Hoopeston (502 E. Main St.). Please go to www.fcchoopeston.org for inspirational sermons and much more.