I started out in ministry in the Foursquare, a Pentecostal denomination founded by an Ontario girl named Aimee Semple McPherson (Her Bio is a fascinating read). The mantra verse for the Foursquare was from Hebrews - Jesus the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Now for them it was a justification for the continuation of the spiritual gifts - I'm no cessationalist so I don't need convincing. But I have been meditating a lot lately on Jesus and history. So I thought this would be as good a place to start.
First of all let me say that I am not going to use history the way some of you will expect. When I talk about history I am referring to the story that unfolds for humanity in creation. This is a story that has a beginning and an end in God. It is also a story that we are very much a part of. In fact it is a story that God is writing (unfolding) in which we are often like these free radical paint bits that when thrown onto the canvas go in unpredictable directions to paint something beautiful that has never before been seen. Only God could effectively paint with such a medium.
Ok so we have a bit of common ground to work with. Jesus is related to history in some really profound ways. 2000 years ago Jesus danced onto the scene as God stepping into history, and He did some pretty profound things. He preached a radical message that even most of the Church ignores today. He willingly submitted to the most scandelous of deaths, that of a common nothing criminal (remember this is the same God who created the universe). He proved God's victory over death by raising from the dead. He sent His Spirit on the Church to empower it to complete the mission He gave to it before leaving. And there is more to come.
But what I want to talk about in this series of reflections is Jesus in relationship to our yesterday. I think we tend to focus a lot on the completed works of Christ and on the future hope of Christ. But a lot of the relevance to who we are today tends to get glossed over. I think part of it is that this stuff really demands a response (action) on our part, but also I think it is because we have lost a lot of the Jesus message in the church. Can you blame us we have had other agendas.
So what does Jesus have to do with my past?
How about everything.
The past sets the perspective for the present (we shall see that the future does the same as is illustrated in next Sundays reading from Sirach). How Jesus sees and deals with our past sets the trajectory for living in the now. Let us pull that assumption apart a bit.
When I first heard about Jesus I was told that He will forgive all my sins and wrong doings. I didn't really understand that at first, but one day driving down the road listening to Warnke's depiction of the crucifixion (Yes I know he was defrocked but that was what hit home) and it hit me like a tonne of bricks. I had to pull over and bawl because I realized that it was what God was willing to do for me. Later on I was struggling a lot with the sin that so easily besets men (at least most of the guys I know will know what I am talking about) and I went out into a field (there is a Loblaws there now). There the opening chapter of Ephesians bubbled out of me (I had been memorizing it) and I bawled my head off at the notion that in all wisdom and understanding Jesus died for me. It has been many, many years since those days and I still find that immensly helpful to remember.
Jesus sets a trajectory of forgiveness on two fronts in our lives. First with regard to ourselves. Because like it or not we are bound to screw up a lot in our lives. Sharon comes to me with the phone earlier today, the kids are screaming and I lost it and yelled at them. I immediately knew I screwed up and was going to regret that later. Yup, you betcha, when I was off the phone Sharon called me to account. So I apologized. But God had already begun working on me. I was on a trajectory of forgiveness. I didn't need to kill myself over it but I did need to deal with why I flew off the handle. So having the confidence of forgiveness allows me to actually face and deal with the issues within me.
Without this trajectory of forgiveness we are literally crippled to deal with the roots of our own sinfulness. When I refuse to live in forgiveness the problems never get better, only worse. But within the confidence of forgiveness is a promise of presence to continue the work of perfection (sanctification) in my life. In otherwords if Jesus was there for me when I didn't deserve it, while I was caught in my sin, then Jesus will be there for me when I need to overcome the roots that keep me bound in sin. Jesus sets a precident for an active participation in our lives drawing us ever closer to wholeness.
This trajectory also makes possible reconciliation. Sin hurts. It hurts us and often it hurts those around us. Yelling today hurt my wife. When I don't live in forgiveness (grace) I get even more defensive and try to justify my sin in order to "live" with it. But Jesus sets us free to make things right.
Which leads us to the second trajectory, forgiveness with regard to others.
Just as likley as it is we will sin, it is also that likely others will sin against us. I am struck over and over by how strongly Jesus preaches that we need to forgive. Todays reading in Luke 6 was all about how you need to live in the face of those who would sin against you. It is tough reading. Turn your other cheek, bless, give to those who steal from you. This is not easy stuff. (The funny part is we often extract "Do unto others" from here and miss the context completely). But that is the trajectory set by God's radical act of forgiveness to us. If God would go to the cross for a sin sick world, how can I live any less radically?
Well that is enough to reflect on for now. Next installment: Jesus - Today.