In our life of following Jesus, we never ‘graduate’ from him. Its not that Jesus is the first base of learning, after which we move on to other things. There are depths to him, especially to his identification as the ‘Christ’, that we’ll never be done fathoming, expounding and exploring, let alone exploring who is he is relation to the Trinity. This year I’ve been following Jesus for 21 years, a mere blip in the time-frame of eternity, but long enough to know for sure that there is so much more to know, experience and grasp!
Yet, there are things that we can know. There are things following him invites us to do and to be. If we’re part of a church, we’re primarily about being the community of Jesus…in theory. Perhaps, in practice, we’re not much like him at all. Perhaps in places he’s the head of the church in as much as the Queen is the head of the UK government…in place with titles, image and on paper, but when it comes to the day to day there isn’t much he gets to do. His teaching is filtered through our cultural prejudices and perspectives, our agendas, wether liberal or conservative, and he’s made to say things he’d perhaps never say himself.
This morning I found myself worrying about Jesus! Does he get a look in? Is he being taken seriously? Are we engaging not only with the stuff we don’t understand, but with the things we do, which are way more frightening? (Love your enemies, anyone?)
I’ve gradually learned, with many things in life, that its useless ruminating about things and instead to consider how I can act on the challenges I see around me. I believe that the church’s problem isn’t so much about relevance, or being modern, or being user friendly, or any such thing. I think it hangs around our unfamiliarity and distance from Jesus, our lack of exploration of what it means to be ‘in Christ’ and how we function as a Jesus community.
It is, as Alan Hirsch says, a season of time when the church would very much benefit from ‘re-Jesusing’ – keeping the life of our founder, inspiration and living accompanier at the very centre of who we are as individuals and as communities.
How might we do that?
1. Spend some time in the gospels, maybe even more so than the rest of the bible for a season. Take time to get familiar with what we see him doing and hear him saying, as reported by the gospel writers. Take the four together. What does each bring out? How does it translate into life, worship and witness?
2. Take time to listen to the Holy Spirit. Ask him to communicate Jesus to you. Ask for some insight on something you’ve yet to understand and take to heart.
3. Talk to other people about how they have understood Jesus. Together, we are the body of Christ each expressing together something of his life. See what you can learn.
4. Read. See what others are saying about him – there is plenty around. Listen for the agendas, the worldview that is speaking. Read outside your own tradition (i.e., if your Protestant, read Catholic or Orthodox etc). Read some of the historical stuff, some of the academic stuff if you feel you can access it.
5. Look for him in the world. In the patterns of the seasons, death and resurrection. In the faces of the children, the peacemakers, the poor, the marginalised. Enact some of his instructions in real life and find the echoes of his life in yours.
You may have your own ideas, thats great.
Let’s not commit the error of ‘graduating from Jesus’ as if we know better. Don’t leave him in the Sunday school with the children. Don’t let his voice get lost in the clamour of our customs and ways. Pare things back for a season that he might be heard, seen and known.