The Birth and Death of the Church in the First Century - Part 1

Column by Dr. Carl Krieg on 10 November 2022 0 Comments

The history of the church in the first century is both well-hidden and well-studied, and no narrative is guaranteed to be true. The period demands our attention because what really happened then is absolutely crucial to our understanding of both Jesus and the subsequent 2000-plus years of those who would follow him.

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How is it possible to reconcile the beauty, awe, and mystery of the universe and the goodness of God, with the harsh aspects of nature (nature “red in tooth and claw”), the existence of disease-carrying viruses, etc.? Is it possible to reconcile the two?


It’s an important question, Alex, because it challenges us to look deeper into the nature of the cosmos and deeper into the nature of our souls.

There are many marvels to behold in the universe, as the new James Webb space telescope is revealing yet more abundantly.  But none can compare to the marvel that is love.  Somehow, this universe, churning with epic creation and stupendous destruction, has unfolded in such a way that - at least in our little local pocket of it - love has emerged.  Love is a marvelous paradox:  delicate, ineffable, but overwhelmingly powerful for those who experience it.  How did this precious force spring forth from a cosmos in which entire worlds are mercilessly blown to dust, and on this one, pestilence and greed and violence run rampant?  How did love come to be, much less to persist against so many odds?  Yet here it is, flowing between us and among us, binding us together, glowing from within us, manifesting in awe itself?

I can’t reconcile beauty with horror without besmirching beauty and downplaying horror.  The task is not a reconciliation but rather a displacement of horror by love.  Love is, at its essence, attention.  Attention not only to the pleasant, but also to the painful.  The pain does not go away when seen with the eye that is love.  But we cease to identify with the pain when we gaze at it with the awe that is love.  We identify ourselves with that love itself.  And from that point of view, the whole is beyond the sum of its often messy parts.

“We should identify ourselves with the universe itself.  Everything that is less than the universe is subject to suffering,” wrote the philosopher/theologian Simone Weil.  Cultivating a sense of awe, de-centering all else but love (who is God), identifies us with the cosmos as a whole – and enables us to put beauty and horror in their places.

The universe has evolved in such a way that awe-filled love is possible.  What a miracle!  So let us cultivate it, so that we can gaze at the cosmos with equanimity, and let kindness and compassion flow from this consciousness.

~ Rev. Jim Burklo




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