Sermon, July 17, 2022 – Rev. Stephen R. Carnahan

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus all the time

Colossians 1:15-28

How do you like this song we’ve been singing, “Shine, Jesus, Shine”?

I like it.

Like the music, the harmony

Like the lyrics.

Yes, I want Jesus to shine.

Jesus.  Who is this?

Simon at children’s time: Groan. It’s always Jesus, Jesus, Jesus here.

He’s got a point.  Why are we always talking about Jesus.

This person that lived 2000 years ago.

Why should that person matter to us today?

Such a person would have to be either unique or exemplary or both.

Big question about Jesus

Argument that has gone on for centuries.

At various times you could find yourself honored or matyred for you answer to the question.

You could even find yourself honored for being martyred or martyred for being honored.

My point being that this question has been debated, sometimes quite hotly, for all of the history of the Christian church.

Here it is:

Was/is Jesus divine or human?  Maybe some combination of both.  It also raised the question I mentioned.

Unique or exemplary.

 

Like just about everything else, there are two points of view on this matter.

Different churches look at the question different ways.

Some churches are clearly focused on the idea that Jesus was divine, the Son of God, and in this way unique.

Others focus on the idea that Jesus was human, a man like other men, and in this way exemplary, an example for us.

Churches of the first type often speak of Jesus as a miracle worker, and a miracle healer.  The idea that Jesus was able to channel some supernatural power was a central idea.  So it was that Jesus was able to heal, or to know things and predict them.  Here is an example that we talked about at Thursday’s Bible study.

Jesus knowing about the Woman at the well and her 5 husbands.

So it was that people were drawn to Jesus because he was radiating the power of God.  They could see that and sense that about him.  His disciples followed him because they sensed this also and they wanted to be close to such holiness and power.  There are several accounts  the Bible of the apostles also having such divine power.  There is an account of Jesus sending his disciples out to carry his message.  He seemed to delegate this power to them, so that they would have discernment, power to heal and power over demons they might encounter.

This is the unique Jesus.  There is no one like him.  No one else has ever had so much of God in them.  In fact, many Christians believe that in some way Jesus IS God.  How Jesus can be both God and human is a tough question that has been debated a long time.  But if the Christians I have been describing come up against this question, it’s easy.  Jesus is God.  Jesus is divine.  Jesus has the power to do anything because Jesus is God.  I have been in that camp, and perhaps you have or are still in it.

So we gather to worship Jesus who carries the fullness of God.  Christ’s being is divine, far above and beyond us.  Jesus Christ has all the power of life and death, of hope and fear, and we need to recognize that we are nothing compared to Jesus.  And yet, Jesus loves us.  Jesus loves us so much that he let go of his divinity and came to earth to be a human being, and died like we all will die, and rose again to bring us to life in the next realm.  And that’s why we are here. And that’s why it’s always Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

But there is another way to look at this, and maybe, for some of you, a more significant point of view.  It’s the idea of Jesus as the exemplary person.  One hundred years ago, even 50 years ago the thought that Jesus was a divine being, God, was commonly accepted.  It is much more difficiult to communicate that idea today.  While there are many churches that still teach the divinity of Jesus, there are also many that keep focused instead on the humanity of Jesus.  It was not his great power, not his miraculous power to heal and cast out demons, rather it was his human wisdom and compassion that draws us closer today.

To ask people to honor the divine, holy Jesus is a difficult sell today.  Much easier is the idea that Jesus was an example of love, compassion, wisdom and grace.  Of course this includes the idea that we are encouraged to do the same.

Many churches, then, talk about Jesus and the way he reached out to the people on life’s margins, the poor, the oppressed, the outcast.  We talk about the way Jesus stood up to and resisted the powers that be, calling us to resist the powerful in our own time, and to work to help the poorest and the weakest.

We talk about and honor Jesus for being a peacemaker, for being one who didn’t use violence, and didn’t even resist it.  We see a strong example in the way that Jesus gave sacrificially of himself.  The cross is a symbol for us of the way we should live, giving fully of ourselves to change the world for the better.

One of the good things about this way of understanding Jesus is that it is not that troubling for the people of this age.  While many people may choose not to believe in God, nor accept the idea that Jesus Christ is divine, they are able to understand and accept that Jesus was a great example of how humans are to love.  As soon as we start talking about Jesus as God, we lose them.

So maybe we feel it is not necessary to hold out this strange idea that somehow Jesus was a divine being.  We honor Jesus because of his good life, but we don’t worship him as someone above and beyond us.  Jesus didn’t read the mind of the woman at the well.  It’s not hard to imagine that Jesus could have known about this woman.  Maybe one of his disciples knew about her and told him.  Jesus was not so much a miracle worker as someone who observed and listened.

And which of these two ways is right?  Do you know?

It is up to you to decide.  It is up to you to seek to know the truth about Christ.  But you have some guides.  You have the Bible, and you have the other believers around you.

If you listened to the scripture reading today, you heard a great deal about who Jesus is:  the writer says that in Jesus all of God was living.  All of God, which is something we can’t comprehend.  The writer says that it was, in fact, Christ, who created the world and holds it together.  Every bit of it.

The problem for may of us today is that we are not fond of the idea of a being that is greater than we are.  Americans long ago over threw the idea of class by birth.  When Washington was elected, there was a debate about what to call him.  “Your excellency” was a popular idea.  But what did we finally decide on?  Simply “Mr,” or maybe soon “Madam.”  No different than any of the rest of us.

We do not like the idea that there is someone greater than us.  We reject the idea that we ought to bow down to someone.  We don’t accept the idea of Holy Men or Women, of spiritual masters.  We don’t bow to anyone.  We don’t bow to anyone! And maybe that’s our problem.

Christ as the scriptures teach us is that unique one. More than unique, Christ is God who touched the earth and brought it to life, who worked the plan from the very beginning with the goal of reconciliation—that it was Christ who is working to bring all of humanity together and to bring all of us close to God.

I can’t talk about this in a concrete way.  Words aren’t adequate.  But I can know something of God through knowing Christ, and I can know Christ – not just know about Christ, but KNOW Christ – and so know God.  And I cannot explain this this. But I believe I have met Jesus Christ, that he has been real to me and touched me with God’s healing power.

I cannot fail as a pastor to tell bout this:  to teach that in Christ we can know God, or at least know as much of God as we can understand.  And furthermore, that when we begin to understand this, we begin to understand who we are ourselves.  In Christ we can know both God and humanity and that’s part of why around here it’s Jesus, Jesus, Jesus all the time.

I am not a guru.  I am not some hermit or monk or visionary.  My life is ordinary.  I don’t hear God’s voice in my ear.  I don’t have any miraculous power to heal or teach or even understand myself.  But there have been moments of clarity when I have felt myself to be in the presence of Christ.  I can’t claim to have had any visions of heaven but I have felt the tingling of my soul in response to Christ.

However, I have clearly seen that we humans are here to carry on the work of Jesus.  The work of the very human Jesus who came to us to reconcile!  It was Jesus’ task, and the task he gave his disciples, to bring people together.  To break down the walls of hostility between us and teach us what it means to love one another.  It is not our task to make others bow to us, we are not deserving of that.  We are not here to rule each other, and we must remember that Christ was someone who was entitled to rule over others, and that Christ rejected that way.  It is the work that human Jesus did and he walked those dusty streets of the Roman empire, in a real, historic, actual place, and showed enough love that it brought people together.  So much love that all the cruelty and power of the great empire could not crucify it.  Could not bury it.  Actually could crucify and bury Christ, but could not keep Christ dead.  We are Jesus  Jesus Jesus all the time, because Christ the pre-existant creator of the world in whom God lived has also lived among us and show us how to do the work of reconciliation.  So today I praise Jesus and love Jesus Christ with all my heart, mind, soul and strength.