In this gospel narrative Jesus is circumcised as all Jewish boys were required to be under their religious laws.
When even Jesus himself was circumcised it becomes much clearer to me just how radical the early church was in abandoning the rite so quickly and emphatically (along with kosher food rules and ritual cleanliness etc), especially as in their religious scheme of things it represented entering into a covenanted relationship with God.
But even in saying that word covenant I begin to see the inherent problem. Nowadays we would use a word like “contract”. As a group the Jews had a contract with God. You do certain things and I (God) will do certain things in return.
The paradigm is one of requirements and rewards. Quid pro quo. But then along comes Jesus and he ushered in a new way of dealing with the divine. No longer was it a case of requirements eliciting a positive response from God. It was based fairly and squarely on a deep experience of a transcendent God and a life lived in a dynamic working relationship with the divine. That relationship was an intimate one, so intimate that Jesus referred to the source and ground of all things as his “Father”.
You see that the dynamics have changed completely. Dealing with God is no longer about being a member of a club or organised religion – no longer about fulfilling certain conditions or following certain rules to get a reward at the end, like God is a cosmic slot machine.
God is about you and your relationship to him and to all things. It is intimate and here and now. It is not about pleasing him to get a positive result, it is about entering in to a relationship with him and living life in co-operation with him in both the good times and the bad times.
So for that early church, they were bold and radical. Out went circumcision, food laws, Temple sacrifices, ritual cleanliness, and observance of strict rules to be replaced by an intimate inner knowing of, or communion with God’s spirit which is what Pentecost represents. Hierarchy was out because we were all children of the same God – brothers and sisters – made in the image and likeness of God.
Unfortunately the Christian church over the centuries has abandoned Grace in practice, (whilst continuing to pay lip service to it) and tried to re-invent Christianity as just another religion of requirements and rewards, of following rules and requiring membership in order to win a reward when we die. It was never meant to be like that.
God is your birthright. He is yours. The Roman Catholic Franciscan writer Richard Rohr puts it like this. He is the first word on your lips when you are born and the last word on your lips when you die. This is so because God’s spirit is like breath and the Hebrew word for God – I AM – Yahweh – was originally like a breath. Yah – Weh. When I meditate I focus my mind on my breath with is focussing my mind on the name of God
But I’ll leave the final words to Paul and his short offering today;
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the spirit of his son into our hearts crying, “Abba! Father”. So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.”