In the Australian comedy film, ‘The Castle’ (as in the phrase ‘a man’s home is his castle’) there is a court scene where a well meaning but totally out of his depth lawyer is trying to argue a point of law. He fails to cite details, references, or precedence and resorts to generalities, the key term of which is ‘the vibe’ before an unimpressed judge. “In summing up, it’s the constitution, it’s Mabo, it’s justice, it’s law, it’s the vibe and aah no that’s it, it’s the vibe. I rest my case.” It is a funny scene. I think ‘the vibe’ has achieved almost an iconic cultural status in Australia.
From time to time I have conversations with individuals or groups, not counselling or teaching, just chats about life which can range from the mundane to the deep and meaningful. In church settings we all roughly know the landscape in which we are travelling – we see reality similarly (though often not identically). But in the com-munity I soon become aware that there maybe a few more Jesus-es and other gods in the conversation. I bring ‘my’ Jesus, too, of course. And I find myself meeting gods I don’t recognise (that I expect) and other Jesus-es that I don’t really recognise (and that sort of surprises me).
Of course a person’s relationship with Jesus, how they understand and relate to Jesus, is personal. But it is the Jesus they introduce to me, they share with me, they say ‘he believes’ or ‘he thinks’ that I often don’t recognise. The story of Jesus does get incorporated into our stories and I suppose we make Jesus in our own image. And so people can live by ‘the vibe’ (of Jesus) but I can’t teach by ‘the vibe’.
What makes ‘my Jesus’ the right one? I meet this response from time to time. And, as I try and get out of the way, step aside, saying ‘he’s not my Jesus’, I try and point them to the Gospel accounts and invite them to meet him themselves. What I say out loud often is ‘The Church teaches …’. And the Church hasn’t made it easy for me! After nearly 2,000 years Jesus has been incorporated into so much of history and the Church and its spokesmen (and they were also mainly men) have said so much – for their own ends, to align itself with society, things that centuries later have been challenged and changed – that today it might seem better to say little!
Saying little is probably best. Saying a lot is only heard if we’re genuinely invited to speak. Nevertheless we (well, I) can’t say nothing! ‘A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a set-ting of silver’ (Proverbs 25:11 ESV). So I’m looking for the right word for the moment, the con-text, and for ‘the vibe’! I need to be clear about who Jesus is and isn’t, what he said – and didn’t say, what he did and didn’t do (that’s a hard one) – and then align that with what the Church has said and taught over the centuries. It sounds complicated – and it is rather com-plex in the way that family history can be complex – but, I can trust the Holy Spirit to do his work, and draw people to Jesus.
I suppose there is a vibe in all this – that hearing the story of a cross and empty tomb, I become aware of my limitations – and those of this world – and of my failings and sins and wants and desires as I, also become aware that in Jesus Christ there is someone who will never abuse me, always care for me, but who is also not my ‘puppet’. And from that ‘vibe’ a wonderful relationship can grow.