vision, hymnody, and improbability
Philippians 2:6-11 holds one of the earliest pieces of Christian poetry still within reach, known commonly as the Christ Hymn.
As a musician, I’m partial to this sort of theological presentation because of art’s ability to connect beyond our rational processing. We can talk about faith in any myriad of ways, but the ways that make us feel the significance, that enable us to grasp the tangible truth, those kinds of communication foster inspiration within us.
Take, for instance, the vision of this hymn, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Such a hope seems incredible and yet improbable, practically impossible in our post-Christian world.
But sing this truth in something like the Christ Hymn, and the improbability becomes contextualized within the vision. In other words, of course it seems ridiculous that our sinful, imperfect world might come together in unity within the Kingdom of our Creator. Yet, that the dead might rise after suffering on a cross seems equally improbable. That God might descend from the heavens to become human and redeem humanity seems equally improbable.
Improbability doesn’t stop God from accomplishing the good work in store for all creation. The Christ Hymn doesn’t run from the improbability, but rather names it and places it precisely within the context of God’s vision for the world.
Belief does not mean denying the realities we see, but rather, seeing our reality through the lens of Christ. Art can help us to see the world in this way, to grasp on to God’s improbable vision and embrace the palpable hope that Christ provides for the redemption of this broken world.
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Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.