Who is Jesus to Us?

Philippians 2: 1 11

September 15, 2013

by Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper
Senior Minister

This is the second in the series of top ten hits of our version of Christianity here at Judson. Last week, golden rule, this week Jesus. You had an experience that opened up a way of seeing Jesus already. You followed a path, on a road. It was only dripped yellow paint but you turned each corner and followed an artist as he noticed the street. The matter of Jesus is equally a path, a road, a way. Jesus is God’s art, if by art we mean placing form on matter in a particular way, one that we choose and that we think is beautiful.

Speaking of Jesus is a very personal matter. I hope none of you will know the same Jesus that I speak of here, in the same way that every turn on the downtown streets looked differently to you and to the artist at each turn of the corner. Forgive me if I intrude on your privacy, in speaking right now.

Remember also that our goal is to speak our faith to our children. We are under the mandate of our parents in Sunday School to say what we do believe rather than what we don’t believe. To be active rather than re-active. We have heard Judson folk one too many times say, “we’re not that kind of Christian,” as though Jesus was a wolf rather than a lamb. And indeed Jesus has been a predator to many souls, so often has he been so grandly and cruelly distorted.

Let us attend to Paul’s letter to the people at Phillipi first. This is called the great kenotic hymn and it deserves the KUDOS. Kenotic means self-emptying. Jesus is God’s empty or download into the world. Note that Jesus could have been up but he stayed down; exalted and humbled change places. The God we claim is one who chose down over up, low over high, humbled over exalted.

So first for the children. Jesus is an action figure who treats the enemy differently. He does not destroy the enemy but in the very refusal to have an enemy turns the wolf into a lamb. Jesus acts. He is an adventurer. But he acts differently.

Secondly, for the adults. Watch for the sneaky Trinitarian. Jesus is a child of God. So are you. Jesus is fully Spirit. Jesus is pre existent as in was there in the beginning in the eye or mind of God, as the ideal human, the full human, the complete human. Jesus is a way to track God. Jesus is God’s track, fully human and likewise fully divine.

Third, Jesus is comedy not tragedy, as Flannery O Connor articulated so beautifully. She said that tragedy is when your virtues go overboard. Jesus is comedy because his virtues remain under board. Fully human people, ideal human people, people who follow the track of God in their live to full blown Spirit as life, are rarely conceited about it. Jesus was an ideal human who didn’t know it. Sour saints rarely represent Jesus. Self-righteous people are off the track about Jesus. Know it alls are people off the track about Jesus. There is a quietness to Jesus.

There is also nothing wimpy about Jesus. He may be an action figure who refuses to have an enemy but he joins the wounded in order to heal. Again O’Connor: “A lot of people die in my stories but nobody gets hurt.”

I often speak of there being three major variations on the great opera of sin. One is that we miss the mark of our true humanity. Jesus hits the mark of his true humanity and therefore fails to die. Objective realized, death inconsequential. Secondly is that sin is distance from God. The remarkable thing about the true human is that God is primary to them. Jesus had only one best friend, the one he called Abba. He had many other friends but no one who competed with his love for God. I used to think that saying Jesus was Lord was an abomination. I no longer think so. When anything rivals the ultimate or the fundament or the founder or God, we get off track. It’s hard to get back on track when some body else – the President, the police, our partner, our sister, even our best friend – is calling the shots. Jesus is Lord means Jesus, and therefore God, is tops. The rest is commentary.

Sin is missing the mark of our true humanity. Sin is distance from God. Soul is hitting the mark or track of our true humanity. Soul is intimacy with God. Finally, Luther put it well when he said that sin is Incurvatus in Se or curved in on yourself. (I know you’ve heard me say this before.) The obsession with the self can be very distressing and scratch as much as any bed bug. True humanity is getting out of your own way. Sin is being self-possessed. Soul is being possessed by the universe, what some of us call God. Jesus hit all three marks and therefore is a primary soul. He achieved and completed himself, giving us a mark for our humanity.

One story and I will close. Yesterday I was at Brighton Beach. Warren was fasting all day at temple, and I find it very hard to fast between meals. By the way at our temple CBST, Friday night, Edith Windsor lit the Sabbath candles. You will know her as an action figure that was victorious for gay marriage in the Supreme Court last year. I don’t think you have to be Christian to follow Jesus. Nor is there any reason or need to believe that Jesus is Christ or the only path to God. There are many, many tracks to full humanity and full soul while avoiding the oppressive cage of self-possession.

Anyway, I was at Brighton Beach goofballing which is often my word for Sabbath. Just putting one foot in front of the other. All of a sudden I really had to pee and all the restaurants were closed. I went into the Jewish Home for the Aged. I used the facilities and came out to four women, two in wheelchairs, about to really duke it out. Two of the women, the ones in the chairs, were old, two were young. One of the older women was introducing the other older woman to her daughter and her daughter’s partner. Words had already been exchanged. The friend of what proved to be the mother of the couple SPAT at one of the women in the couple. She spat. A really good hurl too as the kids would say. I thought there was going to be a fistfight. Instead, the younger woman took the spit off her cheek and for a moment thought of doing something equally violent. You could see it on her face. Then she scraped the spit off her cheek and put it on the hurler’s blouse. She said, very quietly, “I don’t think this belongs to me.”

Jesus would have done something similar. He would give the world’s violence back to it. He lives from the inside out. He lives with great presence of mind. That’s why he is full spirit and full human. We can do the same.

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