As well as having to use a well-known saying to make a comment about Englishness for my next assignment on the pioneer mission leadership training course, I am required to re-write a biblical story or passage for a sub-culture that I have observed and sought to engage with. I have chosen to attempt a paraphrase of Colossians 1: 13-22 for my pagan friends. This is because when I visited a pagan group in Kingston a few months ago, one of them mentioned that they used to meet in a pub with ‘a nice picture of the Green Man’. Having done some research into the myths surrounding this figure, I had an idea of Jesus as the green man, a pagan symbol of spring and rebirth, present and involved at creation suffering death and resurrection so that we can enjoy life free from the threat of endless winter and futility. I have, therefore, used a passage which relates Christ’s involvement ‘in the beginning’ (Gen. 1:1) and goes on to talk about what he accomplished for us through his death on the cross. I have avoided the use of a masculine pronoun for God because this alienates those who acknowledge the feminine in the divine and it is perfectly consistent with scripture to assert that our deity is both male and female (Gen. 1:27). I have also tried to redefine what are well known theological concepts contained in the passage in a language that will resonate with pagans and other spiritual seekers. So here goes…
The divine spirit whose breath brought forth life in the cosmos has rescued us from the never ending darkness and barrenness of winter. Rather than the constant chill of death on our bones we can again be dazzled by the brightness of the sun and revel in the warmth and verdant lushness of spring. This has been actualised through their only offspring, the very incarnation and embodiment of the deity who gave birth to the universe and all that is in it. He was the green man there when it all began, both seeing and participating in the divine act of creating newness and beauty out of nothing – whether tangible in the physical realm or supernatural and invisible requiring second sight to be perceived. Everything was made for him and he ensures the life force is constantly regenerating the earth’s vegetation, sustaining animal existence and securing human diversity.
The creative inspiration who initiated all this delighted in giving everything to their heir and planned that we might know him as our own personal spirit guide. Then we too could have eternal access to the source of all fertility and goodness. However it could only be achieved by allowing that very offspring, so loved and integral to the continued existence of life on earth as well as that beyond our current experience and understanding, to be sacrificed and die at the hands of the creatures that were made to channel the life-giving energy which set it all in motion. This was necessary in order that the human capacity for insatiable greed and a rampant desire for domination, which pollutes and distorts our relationship with the natural world and one another could be neutralized and eradicated once and for all by the son’s resurrection. A definitive moment in time, this event inaugurated a new age characterised by the hope of rebirth for all who seek him out as their guru leading them into all wisdom, peace and reconciliation.
It is amazing how taking a section of scripture we must have a read a hundred times and reframing it for a different audience or purpose brings it alive in new and startling ways! I hope that maybe having read my paraphrase you too will feel able to celebrate the green man along with me and my pagan companions as we journey together towards experiencing more of Christ.