Who is Jesus for You?

 

Exploring the Word:

 

Sermon – August 21, 2005

 

14th Sunday after Pentecost

 

Exodus 1:8 – 2:10

 

Romans 12:1-8

 

Matthew 16:13-20

 

 

 

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.

 

P.G. 15

 

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!!!!

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Courage to Lead

Courage

June 1 2014

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year A)

 

By Roland Legge

 

Acts 1:6-14

 

1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11

 

John 17:1-11

 

 

 

Back in Peter’s day the early Christian community was facing persecution, especially from Emperor Nero.  Nero after causing the great fire in Rome in 64 AD found a scapegoat among the followers of Jesus. He blamed the Christians for the crime and began a vengeful persecution. Tacitus the great Roman historian reported that the Christians who confessed to believe in Christ were, and I quote from In Clayton J. Schmit,

 

made subject of sport, being covered with animal skins and attacked by dogs, nailed to crosses, set on fire, even burned at night for the illumination of Nero’s garden parties.

 

Pulpit Resource Vol. 36, No. 2 Year A April, May, June 2008 by William H. Willimon “An Anti-Social Faith” by Clayton J. Schmit Logos Productions Inc Inver Grove Heights MN Page 21

 

 

 

In this context Peter was encouraging his folks to not let the persecution they were facing to get in the way of living out their faith.

 

 

 

Can you imagine what these early Christians were going through?  I think it is hard for us to imagine, because few of us have suffered terrible persecution for our faith.  The most we face is taunting and teasing.  I am not saying this is not unpleasant but this is nothing compared to risking our lives for our faith.

 

 

 

Yet in the face of this persecution Peter speaks with hope. He calls upon his people see their struggle as like the heat it takes to purify gold and silver; they themselves being, the gold and silver and the persecution being the fire.        Peter new these were not easy times.  But he had faith that God would keep leading them into the Kingdom of God. That nothing could stop this from happening as long as he and his people kept on proclaiming and living the Good News.  The Good News being that God is in control and not Caesar!

 

 

 

Peter wanted to do everything he could to help his people to remain faithful.  Peter gave his people profound instructions such as

 

  • Accept what you can’t control
  • Know that God will liberate you
  • Put your concerns to God and trust in the Creators care
  • Stay disciplined and alert to what is going on around you
  • Remember that you are not alone

 

Page 22

 

He goes on to promise his people that in the end, after the suffering is over, God will restore God’s people both in the world and in the world to come.

 

 

 

We are very fortunate to live in Canada.  Most of us, in this church, have it very good. We find it difficult to answer this question: how have you suffered persecution for Christ?  So how can we relate to this story?  But how about trying to answer the question in another way: Will we be called in the future to suffer for our faith?

 

 

 

I have no doubt we will if we pay attention to the Spirit.  There are Christians around the world today who suffer to inaugurate the Kingdom of God.  Some of these are life threatening and others like the one I am about to mention are more annoying and frustrating.  They are people like Cartoonist Johnny Hart, creator of the B.C. strip, who is well known for being a Christian.  The Los Angeles Times once censored three of Hart’s cartoons because of his message of hope and faith was too obvious.

 

 

 

On the more serious side there have been people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who risked his life to end the evil of Hitler and his regime in Germany during the Second World War.

 

 

 

There are people like Archbishop Oscar Romero who by speaking up for justice.  Here was what Romero said just before his death:

 

We have just heard in the gospel that those who surrender to the service of people through love of Christ will live like the grain of wheat that dies.  This hope comforts us as Christian.  We know that every effort to improve society, above all when society is so full of injustice and sin, is an effort that God blesses, wants and demands.  We have the security of knowing that when we plant, if nourished with Christian hope, will never fail.  This holy Mass, this body broken and blood shed for human beings encourages us to give our body and blood up to suffering and pain, as Christ did—not for self, but to bring justice and peace to our people.  Let us be intimately united in faith and hope at this moment.” Page 24

 

At this point the gun shot exploded and killed Archbishop Oscar Romero.  Why was he killed?  He was killed because what he stood for was threatening those in power.  He was killed for some of the same reasons that Jesus was killed for.

 

 

 

How are we called to suffer for Christ?  Jesus and God want us to love with a reckless abandon!   The Spirit wants us to speak for those who have little power and voice.  The Divine Source wants us care for the Creation.  Jesus, love incarnate, wants us to honor and respect ourselves.  Jesus and God want us to love our neighbor as we love our selves.  The Creator calls upon us to ensure that each us has enough.   The Wise One calls upon us to learn to resolve all disputes in non-violent ways.

 

 

 

 

 

You see, there are many paths to the Kingdom.  I encourage you to reflect on how faithfully we are living out our lives.  None of us will get it perfect.  None of us can do it all.  We each need to discern through prayer and contemplation what God is calling us to live out.  The good news is that the Creator promises to be with us as we do our best to make our world a more just and loving place to be for all of life.  Where has God called you so far?  What plans does God have for you today?  What plans does God have for you in the future?  Then go and continue to live it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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