Exploring the Word:
Sermon – August 21, 2005
14th Sunday after Pentecost
Exodus 1:8 – 2:10
We are not unlike the disciples in today’s Gospel reading. We too find it much easier to recite what we know about Jesus from others. Maybe it’s the biblical quotations that we memorized from Sunday school. Maybe it is what the Preacher said on a Sunday morning. Maybe it’s from a book we have read. Most of us have no problem doing this. But when it comes to defining who Jesus is for our selves, many of us go into a panic. Even people who are comfortable in speaking in public will freeze up when they are asked to tell us who Jesus is for them. Why is this so hard for many of us?
There are more people willing to risk asking this question of who Jesus is for them. Thus, we are hearing this question being asked more and more these days and not just in the church. Just a few years ago Time Magazine had a cover story that asked “Who was Jesus?” The article was in response to a very controversial movie that had come out, Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ. The article goes on to offer “a diversity of Jesus’s,” and encouraged the reader to takes one pick.
A few years ago the then Moderator of our church, Bill Phipps’s, made what was for many a controversial statement about Jesus. He said that Jesus was not fully God. Thus God was much more than Jesus. When I first read his statement I was not shocked at all because this is exactly what I believed. I believe along with Bill that Jesus was probably the most God conscious person to have ever lived. But for many his statement was sac religious because he went against tradition that said that Jesus was totally God. Even though this caused some discomfort in our congregations it got not only United Church people talking about whom Jesus is for them but got the whole community talking about it. For the first time in recent times people from all walks of life were being encouraged to reflect on who Jesus was for them.
Is there one true image of Jesus? I doubt it. William Schwein goes on to say: “Perhaps no person in history had more labels and names associated with her or him than Jesus: Itinerant sage, Hellenistic cynic, apocalyptic prophet, inspired rabbi, and so on. Even his enemies had a variety of descriptive terms: blasphemer, false prophet, and madman. There are as many ideas and images about Jesus as there are people, it would seem. Maybe the question is really, “Which Christ?”
The Minister’s Annual Manual For Preaching and Worship Planning 2005-2006 Logos Productions Inc Inver Grove Heights MN P.G. 34
What image of Christ do you have at this time in your life? How has that image changed over the years, or has it?
There are more and more books out there to help us to discover who Jesus is for ourselves. One such book is “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time” by Marcus Borg. Marcus like many of us grew up with a very traditional understanding of Jesus. He says
“by the end of childhood, the ingredients of the popular image of Jesus were in place: Jesus was the divinely begotten Son of God who died for the sins of the world and whose message was about himself and his saving purpose and the importance of believing in him. Indeed, John 3:16, that verse I memorized as a preschooler, expressed this childhood image perfectly: Jesus is the divine savior in whom one is to believe for the sake of receiving eternal life.”
Meeting Jesus Again For the First Time by Marcus, J. Borg Harper San Francisco P.G. 6
However, as Marcus grew up and learned more about the Scriptures his simple understanding of his faith became meaningless. He was now hungry to have a faith that connected with all of who he was. It was a faith that would grow out of his very being. This was not an easy journey. This was the big aha that opened him to experiencing Jesus in new ways; that God is present in all of us.
This transformation in my understanding of God began to affect my understanding of Jesus. I now was able to see the centrality of God (or “the Spirit,” to say the same thing) in Jesus own life. I began to see Jesus as one whose spirituality — his experiential awareness of Spirit – was foundational for his life. This perception became the vantage point for what I have since come to understand as the key truth about Jesus: that in addition to being deeply involved in the social world of the everyday, he was also grounded in the world of the Spirit. Indeed, as I shall observe from several perspectives in this book, Jesus’ relationship to the Spirit was the source of everything that he was.
Thus, for Marcus Jesus comes alive through our relationship with the Holy Spirit. It is a relationship that is growing and changing, never static. It is a relationship that leads into doing things that one never dreamed of. It pushes us beyond the limitations that we and our societies put upon ourselves.
So who is Jesus for you? I will begin the dialogue by sharing who Jesus is for me. For me Jesus is one of most God/Spirit conscious persons to have lived. At this time in my life I see Jesus as both healer and liberator. Jesus has shown us the way to the Spirit who helps us to discern what we need to do and how to go about doing it. Most importantly Jesus through the Spirit heals anything within and around us that may be blocking us from living out God’s love in the world. We can trust that Jesus will do his part, but will we do ours? What is our part? For me our responsibility is to willingly open our hearts to God and then have the courage to live this love out in everyday life. We then reflect God’s healing love wherever we go. I could go on much longer, but it is time for you to take a moment in silence to begin to reflect on this question.” Who is Jesus for you?
Love changes us whether it is shared between people and/or God. Love calls us forth to be more fully ourselves. It allows us to come out of the cave of fear, allowing the light of God to shine on us and transform us. To love and be loved by Christ requires to have an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit and thus reflect the compassion of Christ wherever we go.
So, who is Jesus for you? What is he inviting you to do? Surrender all that holds you back and allow Jesus and the Holy Spirit to keep working through your heart. May each of us find the abundant new life in Christ!!!!