I started reading Neil Cole’s Organic Church this morning.
I am highlighting like a fool, but one line caused me to stop and pick up my phone to blog:
Before one speaks about starting or growing churches, one simply must wrestle with this question: “Who is Jesus to you?”
Maybe what struck me so much about this is that less than a month ago, I heard that same phrase. A new pastor took up her post in our community and her first sermon answered this question.
She was inspired by a pastor, retiring from his church who ended his ministry with such a sermon. A parishioner came up after and said: “That was wonderful… Why did you wait so long to share with us who Jesus is?”
As a pastor, I talk about Jesus all the time.
I teach about his life and ministry.
I use big theological words like atonement and justification.
I share what Jesus asks us to do and be.
But, have I ever preached on “who Jesus is to me?”
To me, Jesus is God in the flesh. Immanuel, God-with-us.
One reason I was so excited to be serving at Immanuel UMC is because their very name captures who Jesus is to me.
I shared a few days ago about how much I love being an aunt and getting down on my hands and knees to play with the kids and that is what I feel Jesus has done for me. Jesus comes to us, wherever we are and meets us there. The love I have for them… My willingness to do just about anything for my niblings… is but a pale reflection of the lengths Jesus went to show his love for me. He suffered and died to save me from myself.
And that is because the relationship is always the most important thing with Jesus.
More important than rules or right answers, more important than our histories of successes or failures.
I didn’t earn God’s love… It was there.
I can’t do anything to lose it either.
God-in-the-flesh met me where I was… a young woman, full of plans for my life, naïve, hopeful, everything and nothing figured out…
But that’s not where it ends. It isn’t just a nice feeling of warmth and comfort and safety. Love means wanting the best for someone, and God’s love saves us.
From false realities.
Love is full of expectation and dreams.
And somehow God kept nudging me to where I needed to be.
Jesus opened my eyes to see the broken of this world: some by their own making, others by the sin of others or our corporate betrayals. And Jesus asked me to love them… like I had been loved.
So what does it mean to be like Jesus? To follow this Jesus?
Jesus asked me to do whatever I could to challenge the things and people and structures that tear us apart. To be willing to put my life or safety on the line to meet another person where they are.
Jesus asks me to be in relationship with others. Because relationships are the center of our faith.
Jesus is God-with-us… He is relationship.
And as the Body of Christ, we are called to follow together. A community of accountability and hope that holds on to God’s expectations and dreams for our world. People who love and challenge one another and who seek to always build new relationships… Especially with those who have none.
That is who Jesus is to me.