The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

We were setting up the chapel on base last Sunday night for the service. The chapel is large and the sanctuary can be configured for particular styles of worship. We don’t change much – move some flowers, place the Holy Communion vessels on the altar, and get the lectern ready are the main tasks. Last Sunday something was missing and it was the visual art focus that usually is high on the wall of the sanctuary above the altar – a crucifix or a cross usually. The chapel in good multi-purpose style can cater and so I asked Marie would she work out how to put the crucifix in place. Like a set of blinds, the various items are moved into place by pulling the right cord. Marie soon had the crucifix in place – very theatre-ish – just swinging into place – and I thought it unusual to see a crucifix swinging as it settled above the altar.

When the service was over and we were clearing up I asked Marie if she could put ‘the swinging Jesus’ back behind the curtain. Sometimes I open my mouth before the brain is fully engaged. Marie did so and did not question my flippancy – thank you – and my mind was wandering already to various tangents. Can we ever say that Jesus was ‘swinging’? How about ‘hip’? Is that ever appropriate or maybe it’s just inappropriate when referring to Jesus on the cross as op-posed to Jesus sitting with the little children when he told the disciples off for holding them back?

Will the real Jesus please stand up?

I have been around long enough now to sense how Jesus is described or dare I say ‘marketed’. I’ve seen the revolutionary Jesus, the hippy Jesus, the corporate manager Jesus, the military leader Jesus, the social justice Jesus and the personal friend Jesus. I’m sure there are more Jesuses around! I have met people whose views of Jesus seem, to me, to be more fairytale-ish along the lines of ‘Away in a manger’ where Jesus ‘no crying he makes’ and who always says ‘yes’ to them – agreeing with everything they do – because ‘he loves me’. I’ve encountered people who’ve said to me that Jesus is family oriented and I wonder whether they’ve ever read what Jesus did say about families? Overall I don’t find the films helpful be-cause they ‘flesh out’ the narratives we find in the Gospel accounts strongly so that the direc-tor’s version of Jesus is the one people imagine.

Like any meeting of someone, we meet a part of the person at a time. The longer we spend with people, the more we get to know them. So I can imagine the crowds who saw Jesus hav-ing a view about Jesus after they heard him teach or saw a miracle – and not all views were positive! The more people listened and saw Jesus, the more they understood him – as best they could – yet after feeding 5,000+ folk and teaching in the Capernaum synagogue many people didn’t follow Jesus after that – see John 6 for the details. It is only from the perspective of the cross and empty tomb that Jesus clearly comes into focus. So understanding Jesus is about understanding him as he is rather than as we would like him to be.

That means knowing Jesus through the Gospel accounts. When people want to read the Bible they are often told to start from the beginning and, treating the Bible as a book, people start with Genesis. No! No! No! The Bible is a library and no one uses a library by going in and tak-ing the first book on the top shelf on the left! You get the book on the topic you want. So I hope that people whether they know Jesus already or are curious about him are always reading Mat-thew, Mark, Luke, and John … every day … and when you’ve read them, start again the next day (in any sequence!). That is how the real Jesus ‘stands up’ and we encounter him and dis-cover who he is, what he’s like, and how – and better still, why – we should follow him.  — GS