AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.
A 3-Minute Read
by Luke Boggs
On Sunday, Jordan spoke about “The Christ of Another Way,” a Christ who defied the expectations of his time and continues to defy the expectations of ours.
Four weeks earlier, John Ott talked about the way Jesus arrived in the world and what this says about the nature of God. Unlike other kings, Jesus arrived without fuss or fanfare. Defying expectations, he came in silence, in the dead of night, a helpless, vulnerable baby born in a stable in a small village on the edge of nowhere.
And to whom does Jesus first reveal himself? Not the powerful, the wealthy or the insiders but a lowly group of shepherds. Simple, everyday folks, working the overnight shift, tending and caring for their sheep, just as Jesus would do.
In time, the magi showed up, following a new star. These foreign stargazers were more learned than the shepherds, but they were no less outsiders. And yet they came and worshiped and understood, departing by “another way,” a better way.
This week’s gospel passage (Mark 1: 29-39) describes how Jesus began his ministry by caring for those he would later call “the least of these.” Broken people. Hurting people. From the outset, he comes to those in need, healing the sick, casting out demons and revealing a God who heals and renews his creation.
In Jordan’s words, “God has not chosen the halls of power or profit or politics to reveal himself. Instead, he scorns the high places, and he chooses to enter our world through the lowly places.”
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The church season of Epiphany is about the revealing of Jesus in the world. But it is also at least as much, I believe, about the revealing of God’s nature in the person of Jesus, the Christ of Another Way.
For much of my life, I’ve tended to think of God as unhappy and disappointed with his people, including me. I often felt inadequate, like life was a holiness competition and I wasn’t measuring up, couldn’t measure up. Perhaps you’ve also felt this way at times.
These days, I’m coming to a new and better understanding of our Creator, seeing God through the lens of Christ, not as an angry father but a loving father, like the one who races out to meet and embrace his prodigal son. Like Bunyan’s Christian at the cross, I’ve felt a great burden slipping from my shoulders.
As you might imagine, I’m also seeing people differently. The church, in my experience, has tended to emphasize our fallen nature, drawing from Genesis 3. Last year, through Jordan and others, I began to embrace the picture of humanity painted in Genesis 1, when God repeatedly declares his creation “good” and, at last, “very good” and explains that we, as human beings, are formed in his likeness.
To me, this means that, even as we are flawed and broken, we are also somehow, at our core, luminous and whole, sharing as we do in God’s likeness. As his image-bearers, we carry in some mystical way the essence of the divine nature. I think this is why, in our better moments, we’re able to see and celebrate the intrinsic dignity, beauty and belovedness of ourselves and all those around us.
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My wife Laura recently shared with me a passage from Brian McLaren, a pastor and author, about John 14:9, in which Jesus says, “To see me is to see the Father.” About this, McLaren explains:
“If you want to know what God is like,” Jesus says, “Look at me, my life, my way, my deeds, my character.” And what has that character been? How many people has Jesus excluded, rejected, marginalized, condemned, tortured or killed? The answer: zero. Jesus’ way has been compassion, healing, acceptance, forgiveness, inclusion, friendship and love from beginning to end.
For me, this is a new way of thinking about God. But it stands to reason, given the mystery of the Trinity. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one, even as they are distinct persons, communing with each other from everlasting to everlasting.
In other words, there is no separation, no distance between God and Christ. As John writes at the outset of his gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
In a personal season of epiphany, I am coming to see the nature of God revealed in the person of Jesus. And, like the magi, I find myself taking “another way,” a better way.