Benediction Online

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Who is Jesus to you?
Matthew 16:13-20

I’d like you to take a minute now to compete the sentence Jesus is… several times and if you have a pen, jot it down on the paper.

Jesus Is Lord was the first one that came to me and I wondered what we mean by it. What does it mean that Jesus is Lord? I can’t think of another context where I use the word Lord so I thought about what ‘Lord’ means and other words we could use instead. In feudal times the lord of the manor owned the land and all the resources. He didn’t own the people but he might as well have done. Today in England we still have the House of Lords and some of its members are wealthy landowners but many are not. I cat think of any equivalent in today’s America for the term Lord. Nor an equivalent for Messiah or Anointed One. Multi-millionaire is probably as close as we can get, because in our culture money can buy power and prestige in a way that inherited position no longer does. Unless of course you’re Mafia but ‘Jesus is the Godfather’ doesn’t work well either!

So we have to use the imagination of our hearts and our experience of Jesus to recreate for ourselves an understanding, an understanding that must have been simple in the days of the early church and probably for many centuries afterwards. The Good News was simple - Jesus is Lord! Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah! The identification of Jesus with the Messiah or Christ was in and of itself the Good News. Which is why our gospel accounts are stories of Jesus rather than philosophical or metaphysical statements.

Jesus is the incarnate God. Jesus is the crucified Saviour. Jesus is the Cosmic Christ. Jesus is the great High Priest. Jesus is our soul’s lover. Jesus is Lord.

Let’s look at each of those briefly.

Jesus is the incarnate God. In Jesus the almighty God became human. God experienced the limitations and temptations of being Human. God the immortal experienced death. God the Creator became part of Creation. No longer can we think of Creation as totally separate and different from God because in Jesus God became incarnate, took on flesh and bones, became part of the molecular structure of the world. The great mistake of Gnostic thinking is to separate mind and body, spirit and matter, and to suggest that spirit is better, is more holy than matter. Jesus is the living proof that Creation is good enough for the Creator. We do not have to transcend our bodies in order to know God, we can know God through our bodies and that is why we have sacraments which involve our physical senses as well as our spiritual senses. Because Jesus is God Incarnate.

Jesus is the crucified Saviour. It’s a contradiction in terms. A savior is someone who saves. The savior is the person who jumps into the river and pulls out the drowning child, not the person who gets tossed into the river and drowns. It doesn’t make sense in human terms that the one who was sent to save the world from death, died. Yet that’s the point. Jesus on the cross seems to have given up, to have reached the bottom of the pile where everyone has more power than he. But it is at precisely that moment that God’s power is being made manifest. The incredible paradox. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. It is when we are most helpless that power is most available to us because when human power comes to an end God can step in. When human power comes to an end, God can step in. I’ll come back to that later.

Jesus is the Cosmic Christ. The risen and ascended Jesus is now all powerful and seated on the throne and all things shall be put in subjection under him. Once again it’s odd archaic language, it’s the language of fairytale and myth. The Cosmic Christ who brings God’s plan to completion by redeeming everything and everyone. The Cosmic Christ in whose presence we realize how often we have failed but in whom we have the victory over sin and death.
Changing the imagery, Jesus is the great High Priest, the one who comes into God’s presence and intercedes on our behalf. He is our representative in the court of Heaven. It is through Jesus that we have access to God. We pray in and through the Name of Jesus because it is through Jesus that our prayers reach the Almighty.

And now we move from the cosmic, the majestic to the extremely personal. Jesus is the lover of our souls. Jesus is the Prince Charming who comes to wake up and to woo and to win the Sleeping Beauty of our souls. St Augustine wrote, ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.’ Our hearts, our souls are restless, are longing, or are sleeping unconscious until kissed by the love of Jesus, until taken into his arms and given rest. We tend to overlook this aspect of Jesus because Christianity has become so commonplace that we think our soul Prince will surely come in more exotic clothing, perhaps as a Buddhist, or a sage, or walking out of a beautiful sunset. So we read metaphysical books, we go to ashrams and seek out new teachers or new practices because our souls are restless. And all the while Jesus is waiting, waiting for us to turn and recognize the one our souls’ desire above all.

But when we do, when our souls turn to their true lover, there is but one response. ‘Jesus my Lord’. This is the alchemical marriage, the coming together of masculine and feminine into a unity of creativity. This is the crucible where transformation occurs. It can only happen when we are willing to surrender entirely to God. It can only happen when we stop thinking we can do it in our own power and realize that we are powerless.

This is the key to the 12 step program. The first three steps:
“We admitted that we were powerless and our lives were unmanageable.”
“We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
“We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God as we understood God.”

The crucified Jesus has surrendered and in that surrender comes resurrection and new life. The soul surrenders to the divine lover and in that surrender comes transformation and new creation. The addict surrenders to a high power and in that surrender finds new life and new hope. When human power comes to an end, God can step in.

I hope that you will take your piece of paper home with you and ponder in your heart this week, who is Jesus to me? Have you recognized, will you recognize, the lover of your soul? Are you willing to surrender yourself to the one who waits quietly but in whom is the peace we long for, the peace which passeth understanding?


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