The Jesus We Haven't Followed
When will Christians take his teachings seriously?
Received from Bruderhof Peacemakers Guide:
This article is excerpted from a sermon Alvin Alexsi Currier preached to expatriated Americans at St. Andrews Anglican Church of Lakeside, Jalisco, Mexico on August 21, 2005. He writes, "The sermon was very well received by about half of the congregation. Another third or so remained sort of neutral or didn't quite understand what was happening. And about twenty percent exploded. Actually they ended up by shooting themselves in the foot, in that they forbid that the sermon be posted on the church website or published in hardcopy. This censorship is stirring up a bit of a storm, with people seeking copies of this 'censored sermon' to see what it is all about."Teachings about Jesus are alive and well in our churches. What haunts me this morning is the question of what has happened to the teachings of Jesus?
Is he not the one who warned that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God? Is he not the one who admonished Peter: "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword"? Did he not command us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves?
What has happened to these teachings? The answer to this question is disturbing, for the truth seems to be that we as Christians have preferred to focus on what Jesus did for us, rather than follow what he preached, taught, and commanded us to do in his name.
The reason for this is clear: The teachings of Jesus are radical. And because his teachings are so challenging and radical, it is much more comfortable to focus on a quiet, private, personal relationship with the Lord than it is to follow his teachings that call for a public prophetic witness.
The teachings of Jesus are radical because Jesus took the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and pushed the definition of who is our neighbor, out, out, and still further out, until it reached to the ends of the earth and included all of humanity -- all of God's children.
We do a fairly commendable job of loving our neighbor in the next pew or row of chairs, and we do a fairly decent job of loving each other of us who live together here in this expatriate community. And actually, we do a rather admirable job of loving and serving the Mexican world all around us. But the teachings of Jesus reach out to encircle a world much wider, broader, and deeper than these little concentric circles of our community.
The good shepherd is not content with the ninety and the nine; he goes out, out, out, until the last of the lost is found. Foxes have holes and birds of the air have their nests but the Son on Man, goes out, out, out, and has no place to lay his head.
The world is awash with the hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, sick, and imprisoned, and Christ calls us to go out, out, out, even unto the least of these our brothers and sisters.
What is radical about the teachings of Jesus is that he took the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and once he had extended that command to cover the whole of the human race, he commanded us to go down, down, down to the least, last, lost, and poorest one of these our brothers and sisters.
Down, down, down to the wounded Samaritan lying unconscious beside the road. Down, down to the woman taken in adultery encircled by the mob yearning to stone her. Down to the thief hanging on the cross. Down to the starving, fear-ridden faces on the scorched earth of Darfur. Down to the destitute hopelessness of those trapped in the sprawling slums of a hundred festering cities. Down to the terrified faces of soldiers and civilians alike caught in the bloodstained carnage of war in Iraq.
Yes, the teachings of Jesus are radical. The simple truth is that the teachings of Jesus pull us inescapably toward confrontation with the explosively loaded and emotional issues of our lives, culture, nation, politics, and the world.
A Christian community that confesses Jesus Christ as its Lord and King and yet shies away from wrestling with his teachings will soon atrophy and dwindle away into irrelevance. It is a testimony to the health of this congregation that it recently faced, both courageously and boldly, the issue of homosexuality.
It is an undeniable truth that the teachings of Jesus commission us to this prophetic ministry. It is an equally undeniable truth that obedience to this prophetic ministry is one of the hardest parts of our Christian calling.
I am not a hero. I confess to wrestling constantly with potent insecurities, but as I was given this text to preach on, and as I came to struggle over the last three weeks with what it means to confess Jesus, both as the Son of the Living God, and as my Lord and King, suddenly, but very simply, it became utterly clear to me what I knew I had to do.
All of us live daily with the escalating horror of the war in Iraq. Whether we are citizens of the United States or the United Kingdom who have armed forces that are fighting over there, or whether we are from the countries such as Canada or Mexico that have refused to join in the conflict, all of us cannot escape from a daily confrontation with that scene of horror, carnage, and death.
I went to Germany as an exchange pastor some forty-six years ago. One evening while I was visiting with the young German pastor with whom I was exchanging, he told me about his experience in his home city of Karlsruhe on Kristalnacht, that infamous night in November of 1938 when Nazi thugs and mobs all over Germany smashed and burned Jewish synagogues. He said that when he arrived at his school the next morning his teacher entered the room and spoke only one sentence. Shaking with emotion he said: "What happened last night is wrong, wrong, wrong!" Then he dismissed the class.
The incident behind that story took place nearly sixty-eight years ago, but throughout my long life it has always been my own personal example of the prophetic stance and personal witness that our Lord might someday call us to.
Now my time has come.
As I wrestled with this text and this sermon over the last weeks I became convinced by both my conscience and my heart that I was called to raise with you this morning, and from this pulpit, the following question: If we confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, then must we not also follow his teachings?
And does not following his teachings mean that we must also question our support for, or our failure to condemn, the horror, carnage, and death of the war in Iraq that was initiated, and is now being prosecuted, wholly or at least partially, in our name?
And as I wrestled I also became convinced by both my conscience and my heart that I was called to bear a prophetic witness from this pulpit, this morning, to my own personal conviction that in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and following his teachings, we must now boldly cry out to the world that this war in Iraq is wrong, wrong, wrong. So help us God. Amen.
-- Alvin Alexsi Currier