Thursday, April 19, 2012

Above it all

Today's gospel opens with, "the one who comes from above is above all."

John more than any other gospel emphasizes Jesus's existence, not just from his birth, or conception, but from before the creation of the world. Jesus is the one who comes down from above.

Being a people who love the idea of democracy we naturally buck at the notion of anyone being above anyone else. We take a simple preposition that denotes location (above), and attach all sorts of positive and negative connotations to it. We see higher as better and yet in the name of equality we try and tear down anyone who appears to be higher.

If you want to see this in action, simply raise the topic of the Church being built by Christ as an hierarchical institution. We like the image of the church "built of living stone" but if you say it is built UP, that there is verticality to it, some people go wild. They don't want a building; they want a patio so all the stone are level. They confuse equality and sameness.

Height is a good thing; it gives perspective. When we live at ground level we can get lost in the weeds. We can only see what immediately surrounds us and act as if the part of the world I can see is all there is.

Any planning model recognizes that in any organization leaders must be raised up so there can be vision and perspective: the 50,000 ft view, 40,000 ft view, etc. Leaders need to be raised up and sustained, to build a future. We cannot continue to tear down our leaders to ground level and then complain about the lack of vision. Jesus knew what he was doing when he designed his Church, when he built it up, with himself at the the top.

Jesus is above all, we are told in today's gospel. Not that he is distant from us but he see our world, our history, our individual lives from a perspective that we can hardly imagine. Like the star that guided the wise men, we too must have the humility to look up and be willing to follow. We must be willing to admit that from where we stand we never really see the whole picture. Only God sees that.

Perhaps recognizing the limitation of our own view is the first step toward real wisdom.