On Sunday morning, we had a garden party. No one came over in a precariously perched fascinator or a floral dress but we did have good coffee. My husband has a plot at the community garden and every weekend, it’s harvest time these days so it’s Garden Party in the Kitchen time. We washed broccoli and kale (anyone want some kale? We have plenty), shelled peas and snipped beans, often noting how much better vegetables taste when you grow them yourself.
But while we were working, we got to talking about something that has been bothering me.
There are a lot of Jesuses running around.
There is the Jesus that wants you to find a good parking spot at the mall. There is the Jesus invoked at music awards and then the one raised like a flag to celebrate capitalism and affluence. There is Jesus drawing lines about who is “in” and who is “out” and there is the Jesus on both sides of the picket lines. There is the one in the slums and the one in suburbia and the one in Africa and the one in America and the one in Calgary. There is the Jesus that told Mother Theresa to touch the lepers and love with her hands, the one that lead the bravest and kindest of men and women all the way to the end, and then there is the Jesus that supposedly inspired manifestos of hate, crusades, murder and wars. And then there is the Jesus that likes everything you like and hates everything (or everyone) you hate and is quite pleased with everything about you. (I like that Jesus best sometimes.)
If you listen only to what people say about Jesus, you create another Jesus. If you listen only to what you want in a God, you create another Jesus.
It came up because I was at the kitchen table for my morning coffee with – you guessed it – Jesus, reading the Gospels again. I’ve been reading the Gospels almost exclusively for about a year now, just again and again, paging through them, making notes of what I see or feel or learn, asking questions of my resident theologian (aka Brian), taking the words of Jesus in particular seriousness to my heart and life and our world.
I was in Luke 6 (which, let’s be honest, is so full and rich and robust that you could pretty much camp there for the rest of your life and still have something to learn at the end of it) and by the time I was done reading the chapter that Sunday, I felt a bit mad.
I felt a bit ripped off.
Because this Jesus, the one here in the pages of my Bible, the one who speaks in red-letters, the one that I know in my heart-of-hearts and walk with every day? He is such a different sort of Jesus than all of them. He is in no box and is the property of no one religion, no one denomination, no one belief system, no one governmental system or financial system, lifestyle. He is bigger, wilder, more wonderful than all of that.
I finished that chapter, slammed my Bible shut and almost hollered at my husband, “This is the Jesus I know! This is the Jesus I love! This is the Jesus I follow!”
Yes. That one Jesus is the one reason why I never walk away from Him, why I know God, why I shape my entire life around this – whatever this is sometimes – and why I am learning. It’s because it’s not a way of thinking to me, it’s not a doctrine or a sermon or a preacher. It’s not a list of rules or demarcations. It’s not exclusivity or a church or political beliefs or a “path to a better life” or a anything like that.
I am following a person. And I will follow him, love him this fiercely, right until the end.
Once you know him – really, truly know him – you can (hopefully) spot the counterfeit Jesuses running around, co-opted for every cause and argument, bastardizing the message and representing a man that they don’t understand for everything from power to money to a smug feeling of being right while everyone else is wrong. It kind of makes me mad sometimes (which shows how far I have to go, how much I have to learn still) and other times it deeply grieves me, not only for those that hear or see it and think that somehow that’s my Jesus but for those that believe that it is and are even more to be pitied.
When I sat in my white wooden chair, calmly shelling peas with my hands while Brian snipped beans, I was thinking about every word of Luke 6 but most particularly the section about giving away your life. You know, when I read him for myself, when I talk to him myself, I know why women spilled their most precious perfumes and soaked his feet with their tears, drying them with their hair. No wonder the Bible uses the word “immediately” to describe how quickly fisherman dropped their nets and livelihoods to follow the man from Galilee.
And I almost wept into my thumbs because of this: No wonder we love the real him. No wonder people follow him.
No wonder we all lay everything down and pick everything up and our hearts break and our hands honour and minds are blown and every cell feels alive in the Holy Spirit.
No wonder everything is richer and eyes are finally seeing and ears are finally hearing and our hands are finally working and our hearts are finally free for the no-strings-attached loving.