The Expressions of Jesus in Our Time – Introduction
Scripture: I Corinthians 11: 23 – 26
- Prelude – “I Am His, and He Is Mine,” arranged by Rachel Sawyer, Pauline Olsen, organist
- Welcome – Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 715 – “Rejoice the Lord is King,” by Charles Wesley, Dr. Jerry Wright, vocalist, Terry Reitz, bell accompaniment, Donna Grubbs, pianist
- Special music – “Holy Spirit Living Breath of God,” by Keith and Kristyn Getty, Janice Parks, pianist and vocalist
- Scripture – 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26, Deacon Kathleen Charters
- Message – “Expressions of Jesus in Our Time: Introduction,” Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 593 – “Here I Am Lord,” by Dan Schutte, Ruybe Knodel, Vocalist, Donna Grubbs, pianist
- Postlude – “The Way of the Lord,” by Franklin Ritter, Pauline Olsen, organist
The first time I walked into the sanctuary at Trinity I was overwhelmed. Yes, it is a beautiful, filled with light, open sanctuary but that’s not what took my breath away. Yes, the doors are overwhelming in their own right, but it wasn’t the doors. I certainly loved the stained-glass windows that surround the room; those from the old church. But those weren’t what did it. It was the upper stained-glass window, the rose window, the one above the altar table. It was the central piece of the old church and is certainly a central piece of this beautiful place. At certain times of day, certain colors and certain elements jump out, but in different ways at different times. What I love most is the central theme of the window. It is Jesus holding a lamb. I believe, if you could look closely at the picture, you would be able to see the love in his eyes, and the gentleness of his hands. His touch is strong and secure but loving. There is comfort. The sheep are looking toward him, and resting comfortably around him. The water in the background reminds me of the Dungeness River this time of year. And of course, the mountains and hills look an awful lot like the foothills and mountains of the Olympics.
The shepherd’s crook he’s holding is also there for a reason. It serves two purposes.
The first is to rescue. The crook or curved top is used to lift a sheep that has fallen, or is in the water, or can’t otherwise be reached. The second is for protection. The shepherd will risk his life to keep the sheep safe. Yup, I love that picture and it was my favorite as a child. So, what was your favorite as a child?
This week begins a seven-part series about the expressions of Jesus in our time. As we seek the face of Jesus, as we read the stories, as we think about our own lives and our own expressions, we find a multitude of ways we can understand and interpret his. In other words, we can see all manner of expressions for how the gospel was and is to be lived. That brings me to my favorite current picture of Jesus. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures of Christ. The one that stands out for me is what is called “The Laughing Jesus.” I find pure joy in that picture, and it’s a side of him we don’t often talk about. Remember, Jesus was fully a human being. He loved. He got angry. He lost his temper. He got lonely and frightened and frustrated. He had compassion. He expressed emotion. We know he wept, and because of that, I’m pretty sure he laughed. He was like us in so many ways. So, why shouldn’t he laugh?
I remember when I was in youth ministry, I would try and tell stories about Jesus that would make him more understood. One was called, Jesus and the water fight. I won’t tell the whole thing but I can’t imagine, given his traveling companions, that he didn’t have a sense of humor. I think Jesus liked to have fun, particularly with his most trusted friends. So, to help youth relate a bit more to him, I talked of him walking along the edge of the Jordan River, intentionally falling to the back of his merry band of disciples. Quietly he then snuck to the edge of the river, reached in, and formed a mud ball. It was small, squishy so as not to hurt anyone, and very wet. It happened to be young John walking about four paces in front of Jesus; who took aim and then tossed the mud ball. It hit John perfectly in the back of the neck. The mud-splattered, John yelped, as the mud began to run down his back. It was sticky, gritty, wet, slimy, and cold.
John turned, ready to pounce, but seeing that it was Jesus, decided that he had just gotten permission to do the same to the other disciples. The problem was that it was Peter who was right in front of him. Peter was big. Peter was passionate. Peter had a temper. In spite of all of that, John made the mud ball that much larger. He heaved it with a little more heft, and it hit Peter just at the top of his head, and in such a way so that part of the mud went over the top of his head making mucky paths down his face. The other half went into his hair and down his back.
Yup, passionate Peter turned and went after John. He lifted that young disciple up and threw him not so gently into the river. John’s brother, James, seeing his brother thrown, entered the fray and pushed Peter into the river. It was then that everyone got into the act. It took the whole group to finally get Jesus heaved in, but they did, and there they were splashing and dunking each other as only good friends could. Exhausted, they finally climbed out and lay on the banks of the Jordan as Jesus talked about the joys that can be found in life, and that remembering our baptism is a way to help us live Godly lives. So, why a story like this?
Friends, Jesus needs to be approachable. Jesus needs to be real. Jesus needs to be a friend who walks with us in all aspects of our lives including our joy. If the only picture we have is the somber, dying, angry, sinless, overwhelmingly holy Jesus, how can we or anyone else possibly relate to that? It’s hard for me to relate to a savior who doesn’t have a sense of humor. It’s hard to relate to one who doesn’t love me in ways that relate to my life; ways including my hope, and my need, particularly today, to laugh; thus my love of the laughing Jesus. The miracle of this man, this man who became Christ, is that he also holds us like he holds the sheep in the rose window; gently, lovingly, with compassion and protection. He continually seeks to guide us, even today, with that gentle touch of love, and most certainly wants us to find joy, and laughter, and humor in life.
At the same time, the life of Jesus is as complex as any I’ve studied. He lived in a complex, tough, and challenging time. He was surrounded by death and disease. Surrounded by officials, particularly religious officials, who were taking advantage of their power. He lived in a time of oppression. They were under the thumb, or maybe the foot of Roman occupation. It was a time of almost constant revolution, of often overwhelming disparity between rich and poor. In the midst of it all, he was able to touch the lives of everyone with whom he came in contact…everyone of every station in life. In each case, he sought to make them whole, alive, filled, fed, healed, and loved. So, today we look at the most beautiful and simple example of how he was.
So much of Jesus is also represented here in the bread and cup. It is the expression of the way he chose to live sacrificially for others. This is the expression of being renewed by him, being made whole by him, of our willingness to be defined by him. It is about being broken, but it is also about being made whole. How is that possible? All we need do is look again at the life, the teachings, the healings, the sacrifices, the confrontations, the death, the joy, and the wholeness of Jesus; not simply as some man who was a good teacher; but one who was and is the Christ, the Son of God, the savior (remembering that that word can mean so many things). But we need to seek what he has to offer us, find it, and live it, today.
I’m thinking that for those of us who are retired, it means that within retirement we seek to find ways to be Christ’s hands and feet in and around our community. Whether it’s cleaning up the Discovery Trail so that others might find peace there, or serving in the Senior Center or on the School Board, whether it’s helping stock the food bank or working on beautifying this community. If we don’t find a way to be Christ in the community, I think our souls tend to grow smaller, even weaker. And, for those of us still working, it may mean that in this crazy time we continue to seek to connect with those with whom we have influence. We see ourselves as serving, even if we’re in leadership, and examples of Christ’s life. So, what does this all mean for us, specifically – that’s coming in the next six weeks.
And, just a reminder that, for those who are in the group studies or who want to go deeper as we examine the expressions of Jesus, for this series I’ll have questions you can work through every week. You don’t have to be in a group. You can walk through them as individuals, as couples, as families, as friends, in neighborhood groups, or Bible studies. To begin, see if you can come up with a copy of your favorite picture of Jesus when you were a child. Then, see if you can find and print your favorite picture of Jesus now, as an adult. For this morning, this is another example of how we view Jesus as Christ. This bread and this cup remind us of the expectations he has for each of us. It was Paul who wrote these words to help remind us…