Over the past three days, we have gotten acquainted with three questions that I like to call the Trifecta of Truth—Who you be? . . . Where are you from? . . . and Whose are you? These questions are beyond the superficial responses that we have numbly become accustomed to and they transcend the defining and confining categories of this world that range from race, gender, and class to sexuality, religion, and political affiliation.
When Jesus–a dark-skinned Palestinian Jew living under the systemic injustice of Roman oppression–entered the wilderness, none of these categories that we spend our lives falsely exalting or unjustly debasing mattered. What mattered is that Jesus knew at the core of his being–not just intellectually–Who he be, Where he was from, and Whose he was. So, he was entrusted with, alighted upon, and led into the wilderness by the Spirit.
You see, the Spirit is the secret weapon of the Trifecta of Truth, and for Christians the third person of the Trinity–who, interestingly, has either been largely marginalized by the western church or minimized to something you catch on Sundays. When I was preparing to write my own credo or statement of beliefs in seminary, I could not find one creed that gave equal importance to the Spirit as they did to God and Jesus. Eventually I found one that came close, but it was very puzzling that the very power source that even Jesus needed and that Jesus gave us access to was not given equal prominence in these foundational documents of the church. When given prominence, the Spirit seemed to be something you caught–usually on Sunday mornings–and that was expressed as a fervent display of worship. The Spirit, however, is NOT the flu…the Spirit is NOT a cold…the Spirit is NOT something you catch.
Now, this is revealing, because while God transcends gender, the Spirit largely represents the feminine energy of the Divine, who is needed to balance out the masculine and to power the truth of our essence. Herein lies the “pink elephant” in the room, because the repression of the feminine energy of the Spirit does not particularly fit well within the patriarchal, colonialist, white supremacist lens through which much of western Christianity has been interpreted. The legitimate power of Spirit is in direct opposition to the illegitimate power of empire–the likes of which Jesus encountered in the wilderness. In Matthew 4, Jesus does not prioritize his self-interest by turning bread to stone but the food industry has prioritized profits over people by genetically modifying our food supply–that’s illegitimate corporate power. Jesus does not prioritize self-importance by creating a “disaster” to prove his superiority and privilege but white supremacists have created #trumpzilla to protect their delusion of superiority and preserve their privilege–that’s illegitimate cultural power. Jesus does not prioritize self-enrichment by sacrificing his soul for filthy lucre, but our flip-flopping and often spineless politicians give in to the idolatry of corporations and their lobbyists at the expense of the people all the time in America’s pay-to-play political system–that’s illegitimate congressional/political power. The bottom line is that everything is out of balance, because without Spirit, there will be no balance and there will be no power to operate in truth.
In John 4:23, Jesus says to the woman at the well, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” Spirit and truth are inseparable. Jesus was entrusted with Spirit at birth as he was conceived of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit alighted upon him after his baptism, the Spirit led him into the wilderness–the training ground for his ministry–and the Spirit was his companion and guide as he went about fulfilling his purpose.
The reality is that Jesus did not just come to die; we have all come to die. So, what is so extraordinary about coming to die? We all have an expiration date and if we are honest, “we are closer (to death) today than we have ever been”–to quote Rev. Dr. Lee P. Washington. No one gets out of death–not even the Son of God–but reducing Jesus’ purpose to his death–to his final hours–which has been normalized by much of the western church, negates his entire life and ministry. It basically says that his life does not matter, and somehow justifies the execution of this dark-skinned body at the hands of an unjust and oppressive legal system. I’ll let you sit with that as you consider the parallels of that statement with the whole #BlackLivesMatter movement.
The truth is that Jesus came to show us how to live. When he left the wilderness, he embodied the life he was created to live as prophet, pastor, preacher, teacher, healer, liberator, emancipator, mentor, coach, and so on, and he did so with humility and grace and truth and justice. Jesus came to upset the apple cart, to rock the boat, to disrupt the status quo. No, Jesus did not come just to die, but Jesus came to show us how to live . . . how to live in the Spirit of truth!
RECOMMENDED JOURNAL EXERCISE: Now that you’ve done a little unpacking yesterday, it’s time for a little disrobing to get to the naked truth. Take a few moments to reflect on the following questions and write your answer to each in your journal. Take about 5 minutes for each part of the question.
- How are you operating in legitimate or illegitimate power when it comes to:
Finally, spend at least 5 minutes in silence reflecting on your current life in the Spirit and envisioning the life that God is calling you to embody in the Spirit.
Tara LaShawn Seabrook is a self-proclaimed “free spirit,” a public, practical, and prophetic theologian; a spiritual and social justice activist; a creative and cultural artist; and a prolific teacher, speaker, and writer. Currently, she resides in Guatemala where she is finishing up a 2-year volunteer in mission commitment with a non-governmental organization before returning to her native Charleston, SC in the spring of 2017. Her book based on her original poem, “I Am She: The Anthology” will be released later this year.