This week I am in Atlanta for a conference. Atlanta is, to me, the ideal place filled with nostalgia. It reminds me of all the wonderful things that have shaped my life in America. It is the place where my theological transformation began. Atlanta reminds me of my first experience with diversity and inclusion. It reminds me of the first time in my life that I was able to buy a box of cornflakes for 99 cents. Any trip to Atlanta is not only about a trip down memory lane for me, but it is also about a trip back to the source, the very place where life took off, the very place which became the soil for the seeds which were ready to grow.
The idea of the soil reminds me of the Parable of the Sower where Jesus talks about the seeds from the Sower which fell on many different spots. The seeds which bore much fruit were those that fell on the good soil. For me, Atlanta was that good soil.
Today, I am inclined to talk about Ad Fontes, a Latin expression that simply means ‘back to the sources,’ ‘back to the fountains,’ or ‘back to the basics.’
This phrase became popular during the renaissance and later the reformation. During the former, it meant a return to the classical sources, because there was the belief that there was life there. During the latter, it meant a return to the scriptures and to Christ - the foundation of the Christian faith and life.
In both these periods, the goal was a return to that one source-the one which was so life-giving, compelling, nurturing, sustaining, and transcendent that it was enough to transform anyone and everyone because it was the divine being itself, God.
The invitation to return to the source or fountain is for me, a return to God. For it is only in this return do we find out that everything collapses into God, and that on our own and by ourselves, we cannot lay claim to anything.
This sober reflection brings to the fore, especially as we conclude our celebration of Black History Month, the trial and conviction of the three men who violated the Civil Rights of Ahmaud Arbery, and the two police officers in New Jersey who, upon finding a White boy and an African American boy fighting, arrested the African American boy and not the White boy with whom he was fighting.
I do not know any of these people, nor can I judge their intentions or motivations. Heaven knows that I am not a psychologist. But what I can question is their actions, and what their actions reveal to me is one of a claim to something inherently superior - which, in a very real way, is very dangerous. Whatever that claim is, I totally and unreservedly reject it.
You know, Atlanta is the very place where I heard for the first time the beautiful words to the hymn, In Christ, there is no east or west:
In Christ, there is no east or west,
In Him no south or north
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth
That, to me, is the source, the fountain, the basics of our Christain faith, and the human narrative.
And so the question is, how far removed are you from this narrative? How far away are you from the fountain from which you can draw on the living water that freely flows? How comfortable are you with the basics of your faith which invites you to disavow any claim that questions the humanity of others?
The Bible tells a story of a Samaritan woman who met Jesus at a well. She had come to draw water. Jesus, upon seeing the woman, asked her to give him some water. The surprised woman questions Jesus’ request. In the midst of their conversation, Jesus promises her living water. This was the Samaritan woman’s humble response: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Indeed, how can you be thirsty when you sit by a well? Bob Marley rightfully reminds us: “In the abundance of water the fool is thirsty.” How thirsty are you? Ad Fontes, return to the source, to the fountain where we come alive in God.
The sad reality is that all that is going on in our lives, communities, and the world is driven by the desire to lay claim to something other than God.
To stem the tide of all these problems is to make a request similar to that of the Samaritan woman. That is the only request which reminds us of the one source who nourishes all, sustains all, transcends all, and nurtures all-for all have their source in Him, all meet in Him. Listen to the hymnist:
In Christ now meet both east and west,
In him meet south and north.
All Christly souls are one in him
Throughout the whole wide earth
Ad Fontes, a call to return to the God who is the source of all. Ad Fontes, a call to lay claim to nothing but God alone.
NOTE: In last week's Christ Church Gatherings article titled "Uneasy Deceptions," I misconstrued Obenawa's thoughts, and sincerely apologize for the error. ~Manny