Summary: A sermon on the world’s perception of the church vs the authentic Jesus.
“Converted on a Cross!”
(Many of the ideas for this sermon come from Everything Must Change by Brian Mclaren)
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, Soddy Daisy, TN
The Rock Band Jethro Tull has a song entitled Hymn 43 in which they sing the following lyrics:
“If Jesus saves—well, He’d better save Himself
from the gory glory seekers who use His name in death.
Oh, Jesus save me!”
I think these words echo much of the outside world’s sentiments.
People see Jesus’ name invoked to justify all kinds of atrocities and it really turns them off!
The writer of the song I just read cries out: “Jesus save me!”
And I believe the world is making that cry as well…whether they know it or not.
But as they see the “Body of Christ” involved in so much judgment, war-mongering, and greed…
…they wonder, “Where can I find the Jesus Who saves?”
There is a very good book out entitled: They Like Jesus, but Not the Church.
As a matter of fact, there are a lot of good books out these days by Christian authors who sense that there is something wrong with the way Jesus Christ is being portrayed by Christians to the world.
Author Brian McLaren sums it up well in the title of his newest book: Everything Must Change.
We are the Body of Christ!
And we are to represent the Authentic Jesus.
And through our representation of the Authentic Jesus…Jesus will draw all people unto Himself.
But Who is the Authentic Jesus?
Three years ago, referring to the Iraq war, a popular Christian preacher made these statements on CNN:
“we’re doing the right thing. We’re looking for them, we’re searching them out. We’re killing them when we find them.
And that’s the only cure for barbarians….
I’d rather be killing them over there than fighting them over here….And I’m for chasing them all over the world.
If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord!”
I’m not here to take a stand on the war or to take a political position…
…whatever our political leanings…
…what are we telling the world about Jesus when we make statements such as, “If it takes ten years, blow them away in the name of the Lord!”?
I interpret that sort of language to be what it really means to “take the name of the Lord in vain.”
These words starkly contrast with the words spoken by Jesus when, hanging in agony, from the Cross He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Jesus’ way goes completely against human nature…
…Jesus’ way goes against many of the strongest arguments as to how one should respond to one’s enemies.
But, Jesus’ way is the “message of the cross” which Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians is “foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
“If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord,” or “Father, forgive them…”?
Which interpretation of Christ’s Good News are we going to live into?
Which interpretation of Christ’s Good News will draw outsiders into a relationship with Jesus Christ?
The security strategy of Jesus clearly involved a radical break from that of Rome and of the various parties in Jesus’ own nation…
…whether we’re talking about the violent zealots…
…the accommodating Sadducees and Herodians…
…the blaming Pharisees…
…or the withdrawing and isolating Essenes.
Jesus calls us, as His followers to be actively devoted to peacemaking—walking the second mile, turning the other cheek, giving freely to our enemies as well as to our friends.
Jesus is telling us that we need to choose another type of fighting: instead of fighting against each other, we must fight the Good Fight with each other against injustice, for the good of all.
Instead of fighting for dominance or revenge, we must fight for peace and reconciliation.
As one author puts it:
“So replace your craving for security with a passionate hunger and thirst for justice, and you will be immune to the temptation to snort the tempting white powder of war, or shoot the mysterious yellow syringe of war, or swallow the sparkling, bubbling, golden champagne of war.”
Jesus replaces one craving with a better hunger and thirst.
A hunger and a thirst for life, life in the Kingdom of God, which is a life that Jesus describes as life “like streams of living water” flowing from one’s inmost being.
Jesus’ sign and wonder of turning water into wine gives us an image of this transformation of our lives as we live in the Kingdom of God.
Life in Christ is like going from a life which is plain, mundane, tasteless, and flat to something dynamic, spirited, and alive!!!