Repairing the World


From Krista Tippett’s Becoming Wise [speaking here of a conversation with Rachel Naomi]: “In ruminating about the spiritual roots of her life, she told me about her Hasidic rabbi grandfather, and the Birthday of the World—the story behind the evocative, demanding Jewish teaching to “repair the world:” ‘This was my fourth birthday present, this story. In the beginning there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. In the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. The wholeness of the world, the light of the world, was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light. And they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day. Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world. It’s a very important story for our times. This task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew. It’s the restoration of the world.’”




From Wendy Farley’s The Wounding and Healing of Desire: “Weaving Heaven and Earth: “Augustine follows Plato in identifying desire with a longing to possess the Good forever. For him it is only the Good itself that can calm and satisfy desire: ‘Our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.’ For him, much of our misery is bound up in the power of small desires to obscure our great desire…Desire is a light in us, a ‘burning light’ that cannot be completely extinguished. Desire is the great seal on our souls, marking where we have been ‘oned’ with God in the instant of our creation. This oneing has nothing to do with the peculiarities of our individual lives, our particular hopes and longings, the afflictions and misfortunes we suffer. ‘Caught up in this world of many things’, we seem to have wandered far from this ‘precious oneing.’ But however far we seem to have wandered, desire is the beautiful, scathing brand that reminds us who we are and to whom we belong. This desire does not live on the surface of our minds, waxing and waning with particular wants and needs. It is the core and substance of our existence, the warp of our lives that stretches us from heaven to earth. We weave particularities of our lives against this warp, and in this way the sacred and the profane, the ordinary and the holy, become on cloth and flesh.”



From Shelly Rambo’s Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining: “To reconnect a person to the world in the aftermath of a traumatic event, it is essential to first reconnect a person to the movements of her body, enabling her to reestablish and navigate her physical connection to the world. Reconnecting people to their own breath is an essential first step in trauma healing. The pneumatological possibilities are rich here, given that I have imaged the Spirit as divine breath. For those who experience trauma, regaining access to one’s own breath is a gateway to reconnection. In the witness of Mary Magdalene, she does not recognize Jesus by direct access to any of the senses. Instead, there is a sensorium, a chorus of interaction between the senses taking place. The Spirit witnesses, enacting the senses—sight, sound, touch, and smell—attempting to align and orient her to a different way of being in the world…To witness…involves trying to grasp a sense of things in the darkness , attempting to move towards life without knowing its shape. The spark, the faint glimmer that remains, is the movement of Spirit, witnessing to the depths. A faint breath, a weary love, persists. If we conceive of Spirit as breath, we can think about each of these senses as powered by breath. The Spirit’s witness, then, is always a double movement of tracking and sensing, attending to what lingers of death and sensing life.”


Bondage and Freedom


From Wendy Farley’s The Wounding and Healing of Desire:”Weaving Heaven and Earth: “The focus of this hook is therefore on the obstacles we hear within us that prevent us from even wanting justice. The focus is not on sin but on the wounds that bind us to self-hatred, hatred, paralysis, meaningless self-sacrifice, illusion, misdirected patience, rage, violence, and the mutilations of affliction. I write as a Christian and feminist theologian but my adoration of the blessed Trinity compels me to seek that beauty and power in all of the cosmos and in every religious tradition. It seems to me a kind of blasphemy to constrain strain the power we name as Christ only within a Christian church, as if the infinity of love could tie itself to a narrow lineage of thought and history. Christ laid on us only one commandment, that we love one another. But imprisoned and wounded by the difficulties of life, we find this the most impossible of all. Instead, we throw up any number of obligations: to believe a certain way, to hold certain political views, to uphold particular moral positions, and so on. This impulse to despise ourselves and one another is so deeply rooted in our religions that we forget that nothing that forms us in hatred has anything genuinely religious in it. These impulses, even-or especially-when inculcated by Christianity itself, are only more wounds, more signs of the bondage that holds us so far away from our capacity for compassion. Perhaps reflecting on the interior dynamics of bondage and liberation will help remind us that there is only one freedom and one command and they are the same: to know ourselves beloved of God and to allow that love to flow within and through us toward all the world.”


The Emissary

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From Wendy Farley’s The Wounding and Healing of Desire: Weaving Heaven and Earth: “When, like Dante, we pass through this sweet, excruciating fire we come to the great emptiness where the divine burns beyond light and darkness in a purity and luminescence that nothing can stain. Desire is the thread that runs from this emptiness through fire, and through all the hidden recesses of our minds. We may not see it, a tiny star-flower hidden among the weeds and trash and holder flowers that bloom in our consciousness. But if we catch a glimpse of even the tiniest flash of this holy desire, we have found our way home. This desire does not require that we know the way home or that we master virtues that enable us to walk a way of perfection. Desire does not wait until we are free of illusion and anger. Desire itself will guide us, past and through all of our mistakes, pain, losses, and moments of despair. If we can connect with even the smallest hint of this desire, which emanates from the divine image deep within us, then nothing, not even ourselves, selves, can break this thread that leads us home. Desire does not protect us from the difficulties of the world. Far from leading us away from pain, it leads us through the demon-haunted wilderness that blocks us from the courage to love the world, to feel compassion for its aches, and to delight in its beauty. Desire does not prevent pain, but it ameliorates the tyranny of pain. With the confidence of true lovers, we can, like Psyche, throw ourselves into nothingness and find ourselves held up by Eros. Living in the world is difficult, and we hide from ourselves, from one another, and from the gracious Beloved that longs for us so earnestly. Desire is the emissary of the Beloved, and it lends us the courage and strength and hope we need for this work of healing.”


Roots of Justice

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From Wendy Farley’s The Wounding and Healing of Desire:”Weaving Heaven and Earth: “The work that follows focuses on dimensions of the human spirit that Protestantism, especially in the Reformation traditions, has tended to ignore. One of the virtues of at least some strands of contemporary Christianity is its attentiveness to issues of justice in the social and political realms. Because Christians are called to a vocation of love, and love is grieved by suffering, and much suffering is caused by injustice, attention to justice is integral to Christian tian practice. Attention to the interior landscape of human beings is not a rejection of the claims of justice. To the contrary, attention to our interiority deepens our capacity for justice. Or rather, it roots justice in the well-spring of compassion. Justice without compassion can make demands on us but fail to feed us. It can tend toward self-righteousness or hatred of opponents. There is nothing individualistic about seeking to understand why it is so much easier ier to feel indifference or disdain for others than to love them. Attention to interiority can resuscitate our capacities for relationship and ignite in us the desire for compassion and delight in life. In this sense it is integral to the desire for justice.”


God is Justice

From Michael Gorman’s Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation and Mission: “[J] ustice and justification simply name the right alignment of the world with God through the redemption of the creation,” and “ reconciliation is God’s act of aligning all things in their proper relationship to God through Christ’s cross.” …. For Paul, God is the God of justice, and the church is a community of justice; justice is both a divine trait and an ecclesial practice. Accordingly, justice is not an optional supplement to the Pauline and Christian gospel; it is who God in Christ is, and what the church in Christ is, and what it is becoming. It is the church’s name: “the justice of God.” Justification that is not inclusive of justice is un-­Jewish, un-­Pauline, and ultimately un-­Christian.”




From Frances Young’s Construing The Cross: “So in theatre, the “invisible becomes visible”; we find liberation from our ordinary everyday selves. This is what makes “the theatre a holy place in which a greater reality could be found,” often in the paradox of a loss which is also gain. Great tragedy probes for the meaning behind it all. It exposes the truth about the human condition so that it may be faced and ritually dealt with. So what I now want to suggest is that the cross functions like tragedy. The drama exposes the reality of human sin, the insoluble conflicts that so often lead to the suffering of the innocent, the banishment and destruction of what is good, the mobilization of the political and religious structures to eliminate change or challenge. Christ is thrust outside the camp, banished like the scapegoat. All humanity is involved in the shame of it. Yet the story of the cross is redemptive. For the things we fear, the taboos of blood and death, the curse of the most cruel and despicable punishment devised by humanity, these are sacralized—put in a positive context in which they can be faced and dealt with. The drama effects an exposure of the truth. It becomes a universal narrative, a story told by an inspired poet, not a mere chronicler or historian. As Aristotle put it, “poetry is both more philosophical and more serious than history, since poetry speaks of universals, history of particulars.” The terrible truth of human complicity in evil, of goodness snuffed out, of God’s abandonment, is exposed and faced, faced as in a ritual context: the thing that is taboo is turned into something holy, the sin we cannot bear to face is redeemed, the pollution we usually fail to observe is revealed, and katharsis , in the sense of purification or atonement, is effected.”



From Frances Young’s Construing The Cross:




its reach

its feet

on the ground

its arms outstretched embracing cosmic space

constricted though they be by wood and nails

pointing beyond yet printing its shape just here



in one



a single


in time

one victim’s


which somehow


all creation’s hurt

it showers

blood, sweat

and tears





its feet touch earth

its reach is infinite”


God is Love

5(12)From Wendy Farley’s The Thirst for God: Contemplating God’s Love with Three Women Mystics [speaking here of the medieval mystic Mechtild of Magdeburg]: “Mechthild uses royal imagery for God (empress, queen, or lord). But because she conceives of power as a form of love, she understands monarchial metaphors in a distinctive way. God’s majesty and omnipotence are qualities related to the divine desire for intimacy with humanity. For Mechthild, it is not sheer power that makes God divine. It is love. This play between love and power is evident in the preface of Mechthild’s book, where God claims authorship of the book. “I made [gemacht] it in my powerlessness [unmaht], for I cannot contain my gift.” This is a paradoxical way of describing divine power. Even God is powerless to contain God, but the distinctive display of power is inspiration and a redemptive word. God is powerless to stop giving gifts to humanity. Because the divine nature is love, to do so would require the unmaking of divinity itself. Theologians such as Augustine and Luther struggle to understand how to reconcile love and justice or divine omnipotence and human agency. This is in part because they think of power as coercive or univocal agency. But for Mechthild, God’s desire for humanity is incompatible with sheer omnipotence, not because God has less power but because it is a different kind of power. God renounces power as “might,” in favor of love. God is able to do precisely what God wants: create humanity for intimacy with the divine life and return it to that state when it falls. The ability to create intimacy is a different power than one that controls empires.”