Clothed in Christ's Humanity

    Then let the servant Church arise,
    A caring Church that longs to be
    A partner in Christ’s sacrifice,
    And clothed in Christ’s humanity.
    (LBW Hymn #433 vs. 3)

In pondering the words to the above hymn, I was struck by the phrase ‘clothed in Christ’s humanity’. What does it mean to be ‘clothed in Christ’s humanity’?

We live in a culture in which the norm is busyness. The cultural messages that we receive push and prod us to move at a dizzying pace. We have cell phones, PDA’s, laptops, and the like. We are connected at all times – just not necessarily connected to the people and things immediately around us!

Our relationship to time is complex at best and chaotic at worst. We exist within a continuous series of moments of time. Unfortunately, however, we are often racing through these moments at maximum speeds – speeds that serve as an amnesiac for the present moment. The present moment is the only time that we live within and quite often we find ourselves disconnected and unavailable in the present.

    “Time talks. It speaks more plainly than words. The message it conveys comes through loud and clear. Because it is manipulated less consciously, it is subject to less distortion than the spoken language. It can shout the truth where words lie.”

These are the famous opening lines of the book The Silent Language by the cultural anthropologist, Edward T. Hall. In his book, Hall explores the relationship between time and culture. He defines time as the silent language that is spoken by every culture – the key component of the underlying structural foundation of any given culture.

If ‘time talks’, what is our approach to time and our cultural propensity to busyness telling us?

Is all this busyness really a problem?

Is it at odds with being ‘clothed in Christ’s humanity’?

David Whyte identifies and defines the problem clearly in his book, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity:

    “The great tragedy of speed as an answer to the complexities and responsibilities of existence is that very soon we cannot recognize anything or anyone who is not traveling at the same velocity as we are. We see only those moving in the same whirling orbit and only those moving with the same urgency. Soon we begin to suffer a form of amnesia, caused by the blurred vision of velocity itself, where those things germane to our humanity are dropped from our minds one by one. … as slaves to speed, we start to lose sight of family members, especially children, or those who are ill or infirm, who are not flying through the world as quickly and determinedly as we are.”

You see when we move through the world at great speed, people get left out. ……..Needs go unnoticed, including our own. We lose connection with our own human limitations. We lose connection with the world around us.

Perhaps, then, we should expand our original question.

What does it look like to be ‘clothed in Christ’s humanity’ in a culture that is busy and promotes moving at dizzying speeds?

First and foremost, being ‘clothed in Christ’s humanity’ means accepting our human limitations and working within them. We need rest and food. We need companionship and time apart. We need time for prayer. We need to balance our physical needs, our spiritual needs, our work, and our ministry.

Jesus provides the model for us. Jesus’ ministry doesn’t occur at a frenetic pace. Jesus models a balanced approach to working within the context of both the physical needs and the spiritual needs that are a reality of the human condition. Being ‘clothed in Christ’s humanity’ means accepting and working within these limitations.

Being ‘clothed in Christ’s humanity’ means slowing down and grounding ourselves to time as experienced in the present moment. It means neither moving at break-neck speeds, nor moving at a reasonable pace while distracted by the next item on our To Do List……

When the late poet, John Ciardi, was asked, “What are human beings?” He answered, “We are what we do with our attention.” …….. Herein, I believe, lies another big part of the answer to being ‘clothed in Christ’s humanity’. “We are what we do with our attention.”

Are we attentive and approachable?

In the 9th chapter of Mathew we find a wonderful example of attentiveness and approachability in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus is approached by Jarius. His daughter has died and he wants Jesus to come and lay his hands on her ‘that she might live’. Jesus gets up and goes with Jarius followed by the disciples and others. Just then a woman who has been subject to bleeding for 12 years came up to him and touched the edge of his cloak. She thought to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.” The woman was healed from that moment. Jesus continued on to the house of Jarius and took the hand of the Jarius’ daughter and she rose up, alive. (Matt 9:18-26)

In this story we see that Jesus was both attentive and approachable. Jesus was approachable in that he was open to Jarius and went with him when requested. Jesus was attentive, in that he noticed the touch of the woman – even in the midst of the crowd pressing in all around him. Jesus was approachable in that he did not chastise the woman for interrupting him (he was on a mission of death and life, after all!). Jesus was open to the interruption and dealt with it as it came. The interruption was incorporated into his ministry.

Attentiveness and approachability what wonderful clothing to wear as we move into our world! Wearing them insures that we will be conduits of God’s love and hope in a world hungry for God.

Pastor Alexander Jacobs (an ELCA interim minister in Wisconsin) outlines his ministry of approachability and availability in an article entitled “Loitering for the Lord”. Jacobs intentionally spends time just ‘hanging out’ with the purpose of building relationships and being available and approachable to those whom he makes contact with. Jacob tells us, “the apostolic loiterer is one who waits for the moment when the student or teacher is ready to ask the question or hear the call or enter the dream. … the other person sets the agenda.”

Thomas Kelly, in his A Testament of Devotion, summarizes things so well:

    “Paradoxically, [as we allow ourselves to be ‘clothed in Christ’s humanity’],we are torn loose from earthly attachments and ambitions – contemptus mundi. And we are quickened to a divine but painful concern for the world – amor mundi. [God] plucks the world out of our hearts, loosening the chains of attachment. And He hurls the world into our hearts, where we and He together carry it in infinitely tender love.”

What a wonderful paradox, while God is busy ‘plucking the world out of our hearts’, He is at the same time ‘hurling the world into our hearts’ in order to enable our ministry!

Let us pray:

    I cry out with the Psalmist, “Oh God, my times are in your hands…” (Ps 31:15, NIV). Take my time and order it to your Divine purpose, Lord. Teach me to lay down my need to be busy as well as my tendency toward mindless, frenzied activity. Help me to shut out the messages of the culture that shout to me that I am what I do. Help me dwell within your divine rhythm of time. Help me to be still and know that you are Lord. Help me to sort through the “shoulds” and listen for your direction. Open me to the wonder of the world around me. Teach me to be fully present and fully available in every moment of time. Help me to approach time as the sacrament it is – a sacrament that is with me each and every moment of my life. Amen and amen.

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