Saturday, January 16, 2016
Sermon Summary, Jan 17, 2016, “The Humanity of Jesus”
Christians make the claim that Jesus was both divine and human. To us, the incarnate Christ makes all the difference. Yet in the world of reason, where is the line drawn and what does it matter?
What do we need to believe to be a Christian. Wesley often said, “In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” Then he neglected to tell us the essentials. We talked of two of them last week: Jesus was a historical figure who lived among us; and two, the Gospels can be relied on to portray who he was.
But what do we need to believe? Jefferson did not believe in any supernatural aspects of Jesus. How Jeffersonian can we be? Need we believe in the Virgin Birth? Probably not an essential. Yet as one who believes in the Virgin Birth, I don’t think it was one of God’s great miracles, adding a little genetic code, DNA, the language of God to Mary’s. And in search of the human Jesus, “being born in human likeness,” Jesus was born of woman. Actually, the story is less about genetics and biology that it is about who Jesus is, a part of the Trinity.
Another question of humanity, was Jesus married? Not a question most of us would ask until Dan Brown challenged it in The Davinci Code. He would argue that all good Jewish young men married. It was expected. Yet we find John the Baptist (nd the Essenses with whom John probably lived), as well as Saul (the Pharisee a good Jew, who became Paul) who never married. Not essential, yet had the gospels been written with a married Jesus, it probably would not have mattered.
And what of Mary Magdalene who Dan Brown said was his wife and mother of his child? Mary who was portrayed in “Jesus Christ Superstar” as loving Jesus. Mary was one of the most important characters in Scripture. Mary from whom Jesus cast out seven demons. Mary at the foot of the cross. Mary at the tomb. Mary who announces the Good News, ‘I have seen the Lord!” Mary who more that likely loved Jesus. And since Jesus was human, we might have expected him to have feelings for her. But there is nothing in the Bible or any first century documentation to think he was married.
It was from the humanity of Jesus that we come to know his compassion and passion, the compassion of Jesus that cares for us, the passion of Jesus that sacrifices for us. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them…” (Mt 9:35) And all of the stories tell of his patience and compassion for the people.
It is the humanity of Jesus that has compassion. It is the Universal Church that gives compassion to the world in his stead today. That’s us. Thomas á Kempis says, “We must imitate the life and conversation of Christ.” We do that with our compassion for the world, the ones Jesus would have compassion for today.
Saturday, January 9, 2016
Sermon Summary, Jan 3, 2016, “In Search of the Historical Jesus”
Thomas Jefferson, a product of the “Enlightenment,” was a follower of Jesus, but could not accept the “supernatural.” He rejected angels, miracles, anything that beyond the common understanding of nature. To Jefferson, Jesus was human, but with wonderful teachings. He used a razor to excise the supernatural from the gospel stories and then published it as “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” It begins with the journey to Bethlehem (no angels, visitations, or shepherds), and ends with the stone rolled in front of the tomb (no resurrection).
At least he believed Jesus is real. Atheist and agnostic internet posts would insist otherwise; however the preponderance of historians believe Jesus lived and walked among us. Josephus and Tacitus, first century historians tell his story, The question for us becomes, in two parts, “Do our present day Gospels accurately represent what was written in the first century?” and two, “Does what was written reflect who Jesus is?”
First, we have 24,000 New Testament manuscripts in various languages written in the first millennia. By translating and comparing came from various language trees, we can determine what the source stories were. In addition we have fragments of some that were made within 10 to 20 years of the original documents that are identical to what we read today.
Second, the Gospels, written in the late first century were written on the shoulders of the oral and preaching tradition that began immediately after Jesus ascended. Pre-gospel sources existed within 10 to 20 years and were recited in the hearing of the eye-witnesses. Most importantly, most of the storytellers and authors were persecuted and died for their stories. As I tell you every Easter, no one dies for a lie. Some might die for a falsehood they believe to be true, but no one knowingly dies for a lie.
Here’s our task for the next five weeks: To seek the truth. One of my favorite books is Stephan Carter’s Integrity in which he says the hard work of integrity is discernment. We can fervently believe something and be dead wrong. Discernment is hard work. In so doing, remember, we have evidence outside the Bible that Jesus lived; and the authors of the stories of Jesus were willing to die for what they knew to be true.
Rosemary and I have a friend who faith has been challenged. Yet rather than setting it aside, he is actively striving to restore it. He writes, “It is good to actively question and to seek the truth.”
We are seeking to answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” When we do, what are we going to do with him?