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September 16, 2015

What’s the Issue with Jesus?

Years ago in my seminary days, there was a growing mantra among students, “Why do we spend so much time worshipping and learning about Jesus, and so little time pondering God?”  Depending on your perspective, that was and is a question worthy of some thought.  All the titles … Son of God … Savior of the World … Christ … all give rise to justifiable questions.  Trust me, I’ve pondered these questions for most of my life. 

In the last while, I’ve found myself feeling a need to defend Jesus.  It seems the gospel narrative about him and his way of being in the world is fading on the world stage.  Up against a culture that seems to be moving evermore in the direction of “me, mine, what’s in it for me?” in a culture that can’t quite kick the idea we are what we buy, where the mall is the temple, where everything (including people) becomes a commodity serving the market, where the control of wealth is in fewer and fewer hands, the counter-cultural message of a peasant “king” changing the way the world does business seems to be fading.

A New Testament professor caught my attention one day, when he said to his students, “If the gospel isn’t gospel to you, then you need to look at how you are living your life.”  I wonder … are we all so entrenched in the “empire” … so caught up in its message of what brings meaning and value to our lives, are we such beneficiaries of the system, that the message of a leader who grew up in poverty, was a victim of torture, who stood on the side of those whose suffering was directly related to the economic system of his time, is either a threat to our way of life, or is just too far beyond the realm of our experience?

Do we so easily “pooh-pooh” Jesus because we can’t get our heads around a proposed cosmic system that includes a savior dying on a cross for our sins (one of a number of atonement theories), or is it that “the way” of Jesus actually invites and challenges us to take a hard look at how we are living our lives and how we respond to our neighbor?

If we take a look around, there are some hard things happening in our world … we have a system in our country that has made it very difficult to survive and thrive if you are a person of color … there are hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children who have had to flee their homes and travel many miles on foot because of war in the Middle East … and we know the list could go on and on.
That isn’t to say there isn’t much beauty in our world, much kindness, much goodness.  Of course there is.  There is much to learn from the earth, from people of different cultures, from different parts of the world … life can be a grand adventure.

But it seems to me that the “way of the gospel … the way of Jesus” is one of the most compelling ways to follow and be faithful if we want to co-create a world where little children are not forced to become boy soldiers, where children are not forced to flee their homes in fear for their lives.  I’ve said it many times … the way of Jesus, the way of systemic change so all might know abundance in their living …might just work, if the church didn’t water it down so much, if the human race ever decided to try it.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about!

Pastor Dan
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