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The Incarnation is God

The Commission on Racial Justice & Reconciliation, in recognition of Indigenous People’s Day, would like to share the following excerpt from the book*, "The Four Vision Quests of Jesus", by the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston. It illustrates how much we can learn by seeing the Gospel through the eyes of Native American tradition.

"The Incarnation is God’s vision quest.

That sentence is the most concise way to express the doctrine of the Incarnation from the Native American viewpoint. The Incarnation has all of the classic elements of a quest. God experiences a time of preparation (the first vision quest of Jesus). God expresses a need for the support of community (the second vision quest of Jesus). God endures a test on behalf of all people (the third vision quest of Jesus). God makes a transforming lament that heals the world (the fourth vision quest of Jesus). From the perspective of Native American tradition, the idea that God would take human form to experience the vision quest makes sense. Jesus becomes one of the human family, the tribe of the human beings, in order to do the work of transformation that a quest is designed to do. For Native people, contact with God does not occur only in the abstractions of the mind, but in the everyday physical engagement of the body. The sweat lodge is physical. The vision quest is physical. The experience of God is physical. The Incarnation, therefore, is transformation made tangible.

The human quest is the risk of intimacy with God. It is going out to attempt to discover God and enter into communion with God. But without the Incarnation, that level of communion would remain as disembodied as relationships on the Internet. A message might be passed between us, a kind of cosmic photo of God shared on the digital screen of spirituality, but the flesh and blood intimacy of physical contact would elude us. God would remain a dream, not an experience. The graphic story of the gospels tells us how God lived through the quest. The New Testament is a vision quest story, an invitation to us to step into the vision quest of God. This quest is transformative. Because of God’s vision quest, our quests can take on a deeper dimension. We can follow the story of the incarnate seeker to focus our own search into an interior geography of faith that can bring us closer to our goal, intimacy with God. No matter where we are, we can step into the space once occupied by Jesus and find a real presence there to speak to us. God’s quest can transform us, not by lifting us out of ourselves but by grounding us into the joy and struggle of being human. Therefore, walking the way of Christ is walking the stations of the quest as much as those of the cross. We follow Jesus into the place of transformation."

*With permission from the author.


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