Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Jesus Take One
At the center and core of the Christian faith we meet Jesus. Just as there is a vast variety of names and ways people dance around the divine of God, the same can be said in our encounters with Jesus. For some, Jesus is a teacher...a rabbi. Someone who shows us a moral life. For others, Jesus is savior, the One who is able to help reconcile our relationship with God. For others, Jesus is a Spirit being who is mysterious. Even our own Scriptures present Jesus in different ways through the four Gospels. In Matthew, Jesus' life echoes Moses' life. Jesus, just like Moses, has to go to Egypt. Jesus, just like Moses, preaches a new understanding of God from a mountain. Jesus, just like Moses, is set to liberate a people. In Mark, Jesus is constantly on the move. Mark loves the word, "immediately". Jesus also confronts a variety of storms in this gospel. In Luke, Jesus is on the road. And when he is not out preaching, he is at a table eating. In John, Jesus encounters distinctive people and it is in their conversations that we gain key insights. We might want to cry out, "Would the real Jesus please stand up?" Is Jesus the One who ushers in a new way and new covenant? Is Jesus the One who helps us weather the storms of life and even our own deaths? Is Jesus the One we meet out on the road of ordinary life? Or is Jesus the One who comes to us in our relationships and conversations?
Short answer, "Yes".
Longer answer is that just as God will not be confined or contained by any one box, neither is the One God sent to live among us.
For me, it is important to begin and the beginning. Jesus' birth, the incarnation (literally means the "enfleshment of God."). This is an act of vulnerability. For God to enter the human condition not as a bull in a china shop, but as One in a manger...in a barn...born to two parents who were not even married yet. There is more scandal in the declaring God was born than perhaps we realize. God entering in...not for the first time...but in a way that God believed we could recognize and relate. God has always been about relationships. God walks in the garden in Genesis 3 while Adam and Eve are hiding out among the fig bushes with their make-shift clothes. God chats with Noah, Abraham, has the vision of a ladder for Jacob, and calls out to Elijah in a still small voice. Yet, as several Hebrew Scripture scholars point out, God increasingly grows quiet as the Hebrew Scripture moves from book to book ~ until we reach the gospels.
To start with the mystery of God coming to us and known to us as Emmanuel, which means God with us and God for us. God's very name makes a theological statement in the birth of Jesus. But that is what God has been trying to get across from the beginning. In Genesis 1, God says, "Let us (notice the plural there) make human kind in our image." We are created and crafted for relationship. But relationships are complex and complicated. Relationships get messy and don't ways have happy endings. That truth is one of many that we encounter in the Bible. God who longs for us to respond in full relationship. As a mystic once said, 'There is a God-shaped hole in us all.' But because the ache of that God-shaped hole continually longs, we can tend to try to fill that space with all sorts of other things. From alcohol to drugs to shopping to being a workaholic. But the steady ache persists and insists. The struggle is that because the word, "God" is so big, we often find it difficult to relate to a being that we cannot see, taste, touch, or sense. Which is exactly why we start with Jesus as the incarnation, God in the flesh in our midst. And not only then and there two thousand years ago, but here and now in our very midst. The sacred there in the eyes of a family member or friend. The holy moving in our midst as we listen to music. Grace and love, not as abstract, but found in the beauty of creation or in a holy conversation. Christ as the One who came to remind us that we too embody God's presence. We too know what it means to make God's presence real. We are formed and fashioned in God's image.
What is it that you make of the birth, the incarnation, or the coming of Emmanuel? Is Jesus someone who saves or someone who teaches or someone who shows us a way to life? Again, it doesn't have to be a false, forced choice. It can be all the above and so much more. Prayerfully ponder who Christ is to you and for you in these days. And may those moments open you in real ways to more than a trace of God's grace.