Pastor Pat Bailey: Insights, The Cosmic Face of Christ”

Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church

Pastor Pat Bailey: Insights, The Cosmic Face of Christ”

Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church

Pastor Pat Bailey

During the season of Advent, I have been conducting a sermon series entitled “The Many Faces of Christ.” We have talked about the historical face of the human person Jesus of Nazareth, the confessional face of the Christ found in the New Testament accounts, and the credal face of Christ given to us in the third and fourth century creeds of the early Christian church. This approach assumes that our imaging of Jesus and the Christ have evolved and are still evolving.

Most of humanity’s enduring religious worldviews began as rather local phenomena, occurring within very narrow cultural perspectives. With time, though, their adherents came to recognize that their message was bigger than they had imagined, bigger than just their own experience, their own story, their own vision. Many accounts tell us that early adherents were often surprised to find that their message was inspiring and transformative to persons and cultures outside the original context or origin of the faith. So, the experience, the story, the vision was and is expanding and deepening in meaning and in its effect in the lives of people and of communities.

In that context, I can confidently say that Christ is an image for all humanity, or that all creation rejoices with Mary. I say that not in any imperialistic or absolute or exclusive sense, as in a claim that Christ is the only true image of God. Yet, Christ is an image or perspective on God that is deeply embracing of our humanity, but that also speaks to our relationship with the deeper Ground and Goal of who we are – and you don’t have to be a Christian to get that.

The term “Cosmic Christ” was coined by the evolutionary theologian Matthew Fox. For Fox, the Cosmic Christ is an image of divinity that includes and transcends all the cosmos, and not just cosmos in the sense of the material universe, but cosmos as in all reality, including matter and energy, including thought and consciousness, including the spiritual realms of cosmic life. So, it is an image of God, image of Christ, as big as the cosmos itself, which is also ever expanding and ever deepening.

Ultimately, though, the Cosmic Christ is the Christ that we experience within us and as us. Fox refers to the cosmic Christ in us who is not only the light, but is also the wounds. It is the Self that we are that is bigger than the self we imagine ourselves to be. So the Cosmic Christ is one way of talking about our transpersonal self who shares in the selfhood of all the rest and so shares too in the suffering of others.

The cosmic face of Christ invites us to recognize that the incarnation of God in Christ is representative of the incarnation of the divine in us all. So incarnation is also Christification, the realization of our deepest self as divine ground and our emerging self, or our self in the world, as a manifestation of divine action, divine desire, divine goal and calling.

So what does it mean for Christ to be born? What does it mean that we honor and celebrate such birthing here and now? What does that ancient story of glory and suffering tell us about our lives, our hopes, our sorrows, our fears? Is it just to say, “Here is a miracle. Believe it. Now go and live your life for God”? Well, on some level, that is how it can be and is experienced by some.

Does the image of a child lying in a manger, though, flanked by parents who believed unlikely promises announced by angels, visited by shepherds and sages, aglow with God’s presence, though helpless and vulnerable, small and insignificant, child of God nevertheless through whom God comes to us–does this image speak something more deeply too of God’s presence in our own lives, sharing our suffering, shining hope in dark nights, a glimpse of who we are and who we might yet be, the unlikely promise that we too are birthing Christ into our world, that we too are co-creators of peace on earth, blessing and goodwill to all of earth’s inhabitants the embrace of God’s favor and love?

The image is always bigger and deeper than we first imagined it to be, and still it continues to grow, continues to go deeper, expanding our lives, our hearts, our consciousness, inviting us deeper into the mystery of God, the mystery of life, the mystery of who we are.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Pat Bailey of Telluride’s Christ Presbyterian Church, is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1987. For 16 years, Pat served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army. He is also an Iraq War veteran. Pastor Pat holds several degrees: a Master of Divinity from Columbia Seminary, a Master of Theology in comparative religion from Emory University, and (recently) a Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary. His primary professional interests are interfaith spirituality, evolutionary consciousness, nature spirituality – and accompanying others in spiritual community. To that end, Pastor Pat has been blogging on Telluride Inside… and Out for years. His new series, “Insights” (formerly View from the Pulpit) continues weekly. The blog (above) was actually Pastor Pat’s Christmas sermon, preached to about 500 people at two Christmas Eve services. That’s a whole lot of people he blessed with his words in the toy town of Telluride.

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