Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Way, The Truth, the 21st?

This coming Sunday's "Gospel" has been, and is, the foundation for Protestant Christianity's understanding of God's "plan for salvation." Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6. Here are some thoughts for you to consider about this text though. If this message is so important for people to know, why is it only found in the Gospel of John? Why doesn't Jesus make this statement to Luke, Matthew, and Mark's Christian communities? Second, what's the appropriate aim of a Christian's life? Focusing on what will happen to our eternal souls (us?) when we depart this mortal life and/or concerning ourselves with the nature of this life so as to prepare for the life that follows our death?

You probably know that an organization, Family Radio Worldwide
has predicted the end of the world on May 21st. They make this statement on their webpage. God is the guardian of His secrets contained in the Bible and only He determines when or if His secrets are revealed. The Holy Spirit reveals to Christ's people the information needful for them not only to be ready, but also to warn the world, Christ is returning.

Such sectarianism is contrary to my interpretation of the Gospel. Apparently, I am not alone. Pastors and priests with significantly different understandings of scripture agree. Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX writes that such predictions "give non-Christians one more reason to discount the Bible" and " lead some people to make foolish decisions." Rick Morley+, Rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church - Basking Ridge (Cool Webpage!!!) writes: "I get uncomfortable with any version of our faith which turns Christianity into something that's all about us. There are far too many teachings on Jesus, salvation, and Heaven, which remake Christianity into a narcissistic cult. And that's the very opposite of the kind of faith that Jesus presents and compels us to follow."

I agree.

Alexander Ivanov's painting The Appearance of Christ to the People depicts a different understanding of Jesus' messianic mission. The painting focuses on John the Baptist's proclamation of The Messiah's arrival. John speaks to recently baptized people as well as to others who yearn to encounter God. Ivanov worked on this painting for 20 years. Jesus' "flock" includes young and old people alike. There are wealthy people and even a slave whose face, as Ivanov put it, "shows the signs of joy through habitual suffering".

Proclaiming Christ to be the perfect image and nature of God should not be exclusionary, should it? Our belief in Jesus' resurrection serves as a means to an end to bring others and ourselves to fuller and deeper understandings of God's love and compassion for all of God's creation. My sense is that Jesus the Christ's desire for all of us to believe in him as The Way, The Truth, and The Light is a divine invitation for us to encounter God through Christ mortally and constantly, now. There are quite a few more days in Easter-tide to experience the Risen Christ in the midst of our parishes (Christian communities), the sacraments, and the people around us. Our churches should unquestionably be places where newly baptized persons and "seekers" can experience our Risen Lord's love and fellowship. Let's not pack our bags for what is to come, just yet.

Blessings Along The Way,

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