“When Inspiration Becomes Transformation” May 7, 2023
“When Inspiration Becomes Transformation”
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
Some years ago at our old church in Montana, I found myself in a conversation with the church pianist and organist about Jesus: most particularly about the divinity of Christ, when out of the blue she said to me, “You know, if somehow it could be proved to me that Jesus was not the son of God and that he was not of divine origin; if you could prove this to me, I really don’t think it would make a bit of difference. I would still consider the life and the teachings of Christ to be of God and of tremendous value both in how I live my life and how we live together in our communities and in the world. It really wouldn’t change things.” she said. I don’t remember what I said to her; probably something dumb like, “, Oh that’s interesting.” But I have to admit that this one little personal profession of faith has rattled around in my head ever since. The worst part of it all, at least for me. is that it prompts the question, “Does it really matter?” Does it matter that Christ is of God. Emmanuel. God in the flesh? Or was he nothing more than a prophet as many have claimed? Does it matter? Does it make any difference? The answer, I believe, is yes- enormously.
After all, the foundation of our faith rests in the belief that to know Jesus is to know God, for they are one and the same.
There is bound to be confusion when we separate the two and Jesus speaks to that in today’s conversation with Phillip in the gospel of John. (vs 9) How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I have spoken to you I don’t speak on my own . The Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Trust me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or at least believe on account of the works themselves. 12 I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask for in my name, so that the Father can be glorified in the Son. 14 When you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.”
Now at this point, you might say to me. “It sure sounds like the father and the son are two different entities here,” and I would agree: it sure sounds like it. But if you add the Holy Spirit into the mix, You have the Trinity: three in one; God manifested To us through the father, the son, and the spirit, and of all the mysteries of our faith, this is the one that we can embrace with open arms. Once again, verse 11 reads “Trust me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,”
So think about that for a moment; and I might add, that every translation I looked into, including the King James, reads the same way: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” this is not some slick haired television evangelist spouting off about how God spoke to them concerning this or that. And this is not the prophets of old Speaking the words that God placed upon their lips. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,”
this is God in the flesh, God with us, Emmanuel, the promised Messiah.
You know, I have to believe that everyone wonders. Whether they have been raised in the faith Or call themselves agnostics or even full blown atheists – everyone wonders. Everyone wonders :”What is God like? How do I see, how do I understand, how do I get a sense for this deity that we call the almighty; the creator of heaven and earth?”
Unfortunately over the years, too many in the church have gravitated towards an angry God: a God who is quick to judge and quicker still to punish. Many rousting sermons have been preached while fists pounded the pulpit warning the faithful that : “God’s gonna get you for that,” to quote the old song. Unfortunately, this depiction of what God is like has met with considerable success. I know that I’ve said it before, but the words of Bishop Gene Robinson bear repeating as he said, ““It’s funny isn’t it? that you can preach a judgmental and vengeful and angry God and nobody will mind. But you start preaching a God that is too accepting, too loving, too forgiving, too merciful, too kind… And you are in trouble.”
Last week, if you’ll recall, We talked about the ‘why’ of the presence of Christ In the 10th chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus explains it perfectly when he says: Jn 10:10 I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed”
“I came so they can have real and eternal life” so I ask you, are these the words of some ethereal boogeyman who lays in wait for the moments when we mess up so that he can drop the hammer on our poor helpless little heads? Not hardly.
In fact, when Phillip asked Jesus to “show us the Father,” I’ve got a feeling that this disciple already held some fixed ideas on what to expect,
he had been taught from birth the law of Moses and the words of the prophets. Philip hadan idea, but Jesus meant to show him otherwise. To coin a phrase, “if you want to know the father, then get to know the son.”
Which brings us back, in a roundabout way, to our original question: Does it matter that this carpenters son who came from the dinky little town of Nazareth – does it matter that the one we call Jesus was not just an extraordinary man who did extraordinary things, but was, in fact, the embodiment of the everlasting God? Jesus the man is an inspiration. We still wear necklaces and bracelets with the letters WWJD: what would Jesus do? And the stories of his love and compassion are forever etched in our hearts. But Jesus the divine is meant to do far more than inspire; it is meant to transform. It is meant to transform because through Jesus we can truly come to know the heart and the mind and the soul of our creator. We come to know God.
The mission statement of the United Methodist Church is short and sweet: ‘To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.’ We all know the familiar hymn, : What a Friend we Have in Jesus,” And this is true. But in the Christ, in the son of the living God, we also have a Redeemer, a sanctifier, and a clear calling into the heart of God.
The redeeming love of a divine Christ can be a powerful thing or, to quote another familiar hymn: “In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north,/
but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.” One great fellowship of love; now that it’s inspiring.
Amen & shalom