Monday, April 18, 2011

Who Is This?

“Who is this?” the crowds ask this morning in our Gospel reading.
This seems like a good question for us to wrestle with this morning.
Since Holy Week is coming it is good for us to consider who Jesus is for us.
I would assume this morning that if I took a survey I would get a variety of answers.
Just like the crowd in Jerusalem when Jesus rides into the city on a donkey we all have different answers to this question.
How we answer it depends on how we grew up, what we were taught, what types of sermons we have heard.
More than this we also have all been influenced by popular culture and what they have told us about Jesus.
But this morning I want you all too really think about this for yourself.
Who is Jesus?

Surely since Jesus ascended into heaven people have been struggling with this question.
The early church was filled with people with different answers.
In our own day there are thousands of different denominations of Christians each having a different answer to who Jesus is?
Some Christians see Jesus as a prophet who brought a message of repentance.
Some Christians see Jesus as a teacher of the law.
Some Christians see Jesus as bringing a spiritual revolution.
Some Christians see Jesus as bringing order to our lives.
Some Christians see Jesus as bringing us a choice between God and the devil.
Still others see Jesus as starting the church and the institutions we have come to rely on for spiritual direction.

Certainly in the crowd on that first Palm Sunday there were a number of people who probably had different answers.
This morning we see that Jesus brought with him the expectation of being a great prophet and a king.
“Hosanna to the Son of David!” they shout.
“This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Jesus was expected to bring in a new rule, to save the people from the rule of Rome and synagogue.
But Jesus was different from any of those expectations.
Jesus was more than a prophet or King.
I understand the desire to have Jesus be a social revolutionary.
I too see the world and how messed up and backwards everything is.
I see that baseball players get paid 154 million dollars over 7 years to play a game, and school teachers are derided because they make $40,000 a year for teaching our children.
I see that millionaires get bonuses when they tank the stock market, and a janitor is fired for messing up.
These are the times I wish Jesus was more of a revolutionary.
Just the other day I had a young man who I help out sometimes show up at my door on Friday night looking for help.
He was homeless and he was only wearing a t-shirt on a night when the temperature was about to go down to 15 degrees.
If you knew this young man’s story you would know that it was filled with heartache and pain.
Most of what happened to him is not his fault.
I don’t know if he found a warm place to sleep that night.
It is time like those that I want so desperately for things to be different.
I want Jesus to fix it and make it all better.

But the truth is that wouldn’t be Jesus.
That would be Superman.
Superman is the one who takes away all the bad and at the end of the movie restores order and justice.
So if Jesus is not a revolutionary set out to fix all the problems of the world who is he?
Who is this Jesus of Nazareth that we all came here this morning to worship?
Who is this Jesus who we sing hymns of praises about?

I was thinking about who Jesus is for me these days.
For me Jesus is not about being Superman in my life.
I don’t believe that Jesus can magically make all the problems of the world go away.
I also don’t believe that having faith in Jesus somehow makes me superman.
That because I am a Christian or because I go to worship that it means that I have somehow reached some level of perfection.
Instead, for me Jesus is my companion, my comforter, my friend.
This has its own theological flaws, but I have learned in my faith journey that trying to be better never works out for me.
Instead, I just want everyday to be human, to live in the grace of God.
This comes from the way I was raised.
I grew up in a house that was more religious than most.
Our week revolved around church activities.
My parents every Wednesday night would go to choir and my friend Kevin from church would come over and hang out.
On other nights of the week one of my parents would be out at some church function.
And then Sunday was an all day event.
We would be there early for Sunday school and be the one of the last to leave.
After church we would often get together with church friends for a meal or we would have family time.
Here is the thing it never felt weird to me.
My parents were normal people.
They did normal things.
My dad loved to watch sports and drink beer.
On many occasions I heard him tell an inappropriate joke.
My mom kept the house, loved to watch soap operas, and movies.
My dad was a Reagan Republican, my mom a born and raised FDR democrat.
My parents like to have people over and play cards and laugh.
We were taught right from wrong but it was never put to us that this really had much to do with God.
We treated people with respect because that is what people should do.
God was about grace.
God was about giving us strength to meet the challenges ahead.
God was never presented as the one to solve problems, never the big man in the sky who was looking down and taking notes on all the bad things we were doing.
Christianity has morphed into something that at times I can’t identify.
It has become this thing that tells us that the world is a big bad scary place, and we better run from it or we will be crossed off the good list.
I am not interested in that Jesus.
I am not interested in the Jesus who makes everything better.
I am not interested in the Jesus who is anointed king.

I am interested in the Jesus who died on a cross.
I am interested in the Jesus who knew that entering Jerusalem with a big crowd was going to cause a stir.
I am interested in the Jesus who kicks over the tables of the money changers because religion was ruining people’s relationship with God.
I am interested in the Jesus who does not run from the world, but who is willing to fight in it for all that is good.
I am interested in the Jesus who gets his hands dirty and eats with sinners.
I am interested in the Jesus who people called a “gluten and a drunkard” because he spent most of his time eating and drinking with the undesirable people of the world.
You can have Superman and I will take Jesus.

This week as we hear the story again of Jesus death and resurrection let us remember that it was all done for us.
It was done for a greater purpose then merely some religious piety.
It was done so that we could be normal, fully human, and live in this world.
Jesus is not merely our prophet reminding us of the ways God will punish us.
Jesus is not merely our king who brings revolutionary utopia.
Jesus is our savior, who takes away sin and death so that we might live.

Who is this Jesus?
This morning I have shared some of who Jesus is for me.
But every one of you has your own relationship with Jesus and all of us in our faith have to wrestle with this question.
Every one of you has to come to terms with who Jesus is for you.
And the thing is that at any given time that answer might be different for you.
It is not my job to tell you who Jesus is for you.
It is not my job to tell you what is right and wrong.
Those are things that you have to discover on your faith journey.
It is my job to remind you every week that God is there with you on that journey.
It is my job to remind you that while you struggle to fight for what is good and do what is right that God’s grace is sufficient for this day.
As we enter this Holy Week and the drama of the last days of Jesus’ life let us see in the story the God of grace who came not to make everything fine, but so that we might know the depths of God’s love for us.


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