For well-known reasons, Francis of Assisi is still hailed as the patron of creation. Others called him ‘the second Christ’, recognizing him worthy of such designation because of his devotion not only to adore Jesus, but also to imitate him.
Church traditions through the ages have acknowledged Christ’s unrepeatable achievement. And yet many Christians, like Francis, have nevertheless exemplified a continuity between their own life and the life of Jesus himself. Not called to be messiahs, but ambassadors instead, the poet of Assisi was quick to witness how the renewal of one’s character after Christ’s brought tangible – if eccentric – repercussions. (Not many among us would run away in underwear, as he did, as a symbolic way of renouncing his rich father’s inheritance.)
Bodies as self-giving worship. This summons to display Jesus’ moral makeup may sound obtuse in a blog-post that is supposed to speak into the concrete realities of climate change. I suspect this may be the case because we are prone to divorcing testimony from character, and intention from action. Our words betray us when we speak of worship as if that merely implied an intellectual or sentimental act of acknowledging God’s worth. In the vague and malleable stream of our digitalized societies hardly do we consider worship as a concrete act of offering ourselves to God in the power of the Spirit. And seldom do we recognize that Christianity means bodies, and that material bodies, matter.
Academically-speaking, I am a graduated student in theology. And for all my love of reading biblical commentaries and such I say ‘academically’ because theology is much more a reality of daily life than a bookish activity. This began to become clear to me during my convocation ceremony where both the keynote and a fellow graduate challenged us graduands to follow after Jesus. “Knowledge puffs you up; love builds you up.” The call to go downwards and stick our hands in the muck of things crystallized the realization that ours ought to be an unending quest of becoming practitioners of the gospel. Their question posed to us was not ‘will you succeed’, or even ‘will you worship’, but, ‘will you follow’.
As someone born into privilege, I felt reluctant.
But things have since softened up some; especially over these past two years when I’ve met several folk who take the call of Jesus seriously – joyfully, prayerfully, and imperfectly – but seriously nonetheless. Whether through unmediated immersions into the natural world, or by joining native communities in their struggles to curb extraction of bitumen or fracked gas, these acquaintances have put flesh and blood to what it looks like to follow after Jesus, the world’s Messiah who humbly but intentionally succumbed into the hands of his enemies. By being last among first and first among the last, like clay molded into a cast these friends of mine have allowed their bodies to be conformed to a different Way. They follow Jesus with their lives.
There is a saying that asks, ‘tell me who you befriend, and I’ll tell you who you are’. Day in and day out we need forgiveness, especially in an age like ours when honoring the God revealed by Jesus is awfully difficult. But for people of the gospel I suppose the question can be baptized and transposed, summoning us to consider how we live as a major clue as to who it is we worship.
Like Francis and countless others, these friends remind me that not all answers will leave us clueless.
ESasso // Earthkeepers