SEEING JESUS IN A WORLD OF BLACK AND WHITE
Ten years ago, I came across a book that had just been released titled Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality and Politics. The intention of the book by Pastor Adam Hamilton (author of our book study last January, Half Truths) was to challenge Christians to engage in conversations about religion, politics and the issues of the day that were truly conversations. Conversations that were marked by a willingness to listen, to examine one’s own biases and assumptions, and a desire to grow mature spiritually as followers of Jesus. Hamilton is clear that seeing ‘gray’ is not some mushy compromise in the middle, but that area between divergent positions that holds truths and commonalities we tend not to see when we are polarized and polarizing. Seeing gray is holding convictions with a humility that resists labeling and stereotyping opinions, it refuses to use convictions like barricades intended to keep challenging information out, and it lays the groundwork for a mutual respect that fosters unity rather than division. That fall, September 2008, about 50 Mount Calvary folks gathered on several nights to discuss the book.
On Tuesday nights, January 16 through February 20, I will be leading a six-week book and Bible study on Seeing Gray as part of the CrossPaths Bible study. In worship throughout Epiphany season, we will focus on “Seeing Jesus in a World of Black and White.” Sermons will bring us into stories of Jesus and the early church where those who met Jesus and those who believed in Jesus wrestled with how being disciples informed who and how they were in the world, how to navigate difficult relationships and issues, and how to be a community where others “see” Jesus through the way a community offers grace, hospitality, love and service to the world. I invite you to consider signing up for CrossPaths or reading the book with your own small group, Bible study or book club. If you choose to read it on your own, I will be posting the weekly homework assignments and podcasts from CrossPaths on our church website.
Back in 2001, following the horrors of 9/11, one of our responses as a congregation was to resolve to talk ‘with’ people who differed from us rather than just ‘about’ them. We invited folks here to meet with us in a series titled “Open Eyes, Open Hearts” where people from different faiths and life experiences came not to debate but to share. We invited them to tell us about their faith, their communities, their “God moments” and a bit about what it was like to be them. On my sabbatical in 2004, I wrote a Bible study called “The Cross-Driven Purpose.” In my closing remarks I wrote: “I consider the Radical Center of the Christian faith to be the Cross. The Cross is at the center of Jesus’ purpose and message; the Cross casts its shadow over his works, teaching and life. The Cross is the place where God literally laid down his life and descended into the deepest hell of human existence—pain, suffering, rejection, abandonment, loneliness, character assassination, undeserved punishment, and death—to show how far God would reach in his pursuit of us in order to turn our ‘No’ into God’s ‘Yes.’ I see the church through the ages struggling to hold on to this radical message, as evidenced as early as Paul’s writings to the Corinthians and Galatians, and how early we came to regard as foolish such a radical statement of God’s love. I see the church through the ages going through various stages of legalism, institutionalism, triumphalism and expansionism that silently and stealthily began distorting our message and our purpose…The Cross is a statement about the human use of power and authority that attempts to deny or diminish or even destroy what God has created for good…and the resurrection is God’s answer that God’s love and purpose will not be thwarted.”
The promise of Resurrection is the promise that we will see Jesus. Resurrection is God’s definitive answer to any tendency to minimize, marginalize or muddy the ability to see, hear and follow Jesus in a challenging world. It is one amazing, life-giving promise!