I recently shared a post on my Facebook page, (Facebook.com/texaspreacher I think?) where I mentioned looking at Jesus forward instead of backward. So what is the difference. (by the way I have been influenced by Brain McLaren, Richard Rohr, Dallas Willard, and others as I have come to my understanding)
When I was going through confirmation class back in 1980 or so we had to memorize one of the creeds, the 23rd Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer and a few other things. I of course wanting to be the most efficient memorized the shortest creed, The Apostle’s Creed. Hey, it is what is is. In the Apostle’s Creed we recognize God as maker of heaven and earth. Jesus is God’s son, conceive of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate… There, for me and some other’s I have been reading, lies one of the challenges. What happened between Jesus’s birth and suffering? Why wasn’t any part of his teaching or ministry mentioned? Sometimes I wonder if when the church became officially recognized by the Roman empire and adopted as the ‘religion of the empire’ was this when much of the gospel message removed? Wasn’t it shortly after this that the Nicene Creed was created? Would it be fair to say that part of the message became lost as the affirmations were created? I know this is controversial in some arenas, and quite likely the very one I represent as a pastor. Anyway, I read and wonder if that isn’t a reason why foot washing isn’t seen as a sacrament in the church. Can you imagine Emperor Constantine washing the feet of a prisoner?
We take our modern world, the mixing and interweaving of cultures, those who promote ‘turn or burn’ theology, showing a vengeful or wrathful God, waiting for the Left Behind series to take place in reality, an idea in and of itself less than 200 years old, And I can’t help but ask, “is that a misunderstanding of what the authors of the New Testament books were trying to tell us?” If we don’t have a part of our creed telling us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves I believe we are missing a significant part of the message we are to proclaim. So we look at what our modern theologians have seen, based on their understanding of the ones who came before them, looking backward through the eyes of Bonhoeffer and Barth, Wesley, Calvin, and Luther, who looked back at Thomas A Kempis, through Francis of Assisi, back through Benedict and Augustine, through Clement and Origin, and eventually Paul to see Christ. In that view it is easy to come up with the idea that Christ died so we can get into heaven for eternity.
Let’s turn it around now. If we start at the very beginning, God creating a world that is good, calling all things good, even very good. Then we go to the “Fall”, see the blog I shared here, which we make it a story that the Jewish readers, including Jesus, would have never interpreted that way. It was and is a story that tells of God creating a world full of “Goodness”. Then, humans are given the task of loving and caring for the good God has created. It was not a perfect world it was a good world. A perfect world would have been completed. What can you add to something that is perfect? If you add or subtract anything away from perfection, it is no longer perfect. By creating a good world God gives the apex of creation, a creature that bears God’s image, the tasks of being fruitful, multiplying, and subduing which means govern over it, that is to take care and allow it to flourish. In other words, continue to bring out the goodness of all God has created. If we start here and check through Abraham and the tasks given to Abraham, through Moses, and David, Isaiah and the prophets, what we see in Jesus is the perfect representation of what it meant to bring out the good of all of creation. It is in Jesus that being alive is given definition. It is in Jesus we are shown how to Love God, with all that we are and to love the neighbors around us. It is by living as Jesus did that we can find the gospel according to him fulfilled. That gospel is not about heaven after we die, but about living in the midst of God’s kingdom that surrounds us waiting for a chance to break into our reality.
So, what is my point? The message of Jesus Christ is about loving God and others so that the goodness God created will be revealed. It is a goodness we all have in us, all people!!!!