October 8: Who is Jesus Christ?

Who is Jesus Christ?

John 1:14 and Matthew 1:22-25 and John 11:43-45 and Mark 16:14 and Acts 1:9-10a

October 8, 2023 (Need five boxes and Muffin Mix and Muffins and Ingredients for Muffins)

          Who is Jesus Christ?

          That’s the question I’d like us to ponder today.

          Just to let you know, I’m a bit worried about this message. I encourage you not to leave the sanctuary or stop listening to me halfway throughway the message. Deconstruction can sometimes seem destructive, but I’m hoping we all can hear how I get to Reconstruction.

          For those who have not been with us during this series let me review an analogy I’ve been using.

It involves three stages and the use of boxes.

The first stage is Construction. It’s what we are originally taught. It’s a time to stack up the boxes. (Stack up five boxes)

The second stage is Deconstruction. It involves words that start with “D”. Doubt, dissent, disorder, disorientation, disarray and darkness. It means knocking down our carefully constructed boxes.  (knock them down)

The question we’re pondering during this series is this: After doubt and deconstruction, should you return to your original construction or should you move on to some new construction? In other words, do you go back to the way you were originally taught or believed, or do you move on to a new way of looking at it.

I’m suggesting the latter. The third stage is Reconstruction. The boxes come back together, but they are constructed differently than what you started. In other words, you come to believe something else, something that better fits who you are and how you view the world. (put back up the boxes in new order)

I had an experience with God while in High School. After this, I read the Bible cover to cover as well as listened to fundamentalist preachers on the radio. I was very curious to know the answer to the question: Who is Jesus Christ?

          This is what I came to learn and believe at the time. This is my Original Construction. Think about what you were taught as a child or youth. Does this match your experience?

          One, Jesus has been with God as the Son of God from the very beginning of the world. This same Jesus came down from heaven above to earth below as a baby on Christmas. (stack box)

          Two, Jesus has two parents. His mother is Mary who was a virgin at the time of Jesus’ birth. Jesus’ father is God up in heaven. (second box)

          Then, for three years at the end of his life, Jesus was involved in a ministry that involved miracles like walking on water, calming storms, multiplying food for thousands, turning water into wine, healing sick people so they instantly are healed, and raising people like Lazarus from being dead in a tomb to life again.  (stack box)

          After he died on a cross on a Friday, Jesus was buried in a tomb. But the body disappeared sometime before Sunday morning. This meant that Jesus was no longer dead, but alive. (stack box)

          Finally, after dying and coming back to life, Jesus appeared to his disciples who eventually watched him raise back up into the clouds of heaven above.

          This is what I was taught and believed. This is my Original Construction of who Jesus Christ is.

          In the past year, I’ve given myself permission for the first time in my life to honestly look more closely at this Original Construction. It’s been a time of doubt and deconstruction.  

          Here’s my personal story of deconstruction.

          First, I don’t believe in a literal three tier universe in which heaven and God is up in the sky somewhere and hell or death is down under the ground someplace. Therefore, I don’t believe that Jesus as God, the Son literally came down from a heaven located up there to earth. (remove box)

          Second, I don’t believe that anyone can give birth without both an egg and sperm. An egg from a virgin woman by itself cannot produce a baby. I don’t believe that God the Father impregnated Mary to give birth to Jesus. (remove box)

          Third, I believe that the laws of science and history applied to Jesus as much as they apply to you and me today. Therefore, I don’t believe the miracle stories we find in the Bible literally happened like it says in our gospel stories. (remove box)

          Fourth, I don’t believe that bodies can disappear after they die. Something happened on Easter, but it wasn’t a dead body coming back to literal life and walking around again in the flesh. (remove box)

          Fifth, to echo what I said in the first point. I don’t believe in a three-tier universe in which God and heaven is above. So, I don’t believe that the disciples literally watched the body of Jesus raise up in the air and disappear into the clouds. (remove box)

          That’s my story of deconstruction.

What have I got left?

 I know many have taken this same journey of deconstruction and therefore left the church and the Christian faith.

This is where I’m hoping that you don’t walk out right now.

 I choose not to leave. I also am choosing not to go back to my original construction. I choose to reconstruct instead.

          But how do you reconstruct when it seems like I’ve rejected what fundamentalists call the fundamentals of the faith?

 I think it goes back to something I shared a few messages ago about what I’ve come to believe about the Bible.

  First, I learned that human beings wrote the Bible. The Bible was written by people two thousand to three thousand years ago in the Middle East. As I read the Bible now, I keep in mind that these people are bringing their own perspectives and realities of their own time and place.

I also recognize that much of the Bible is more metaphorical like parables and stories rather than factual like a newspaper or encyclopedia account. I believe the stories are true, but not necessarily factual events. Instead of reading it literally as science and history, it’s about looking for the meaning of the story. Instead of figuring out what exactly happened, it’s seeking the intent of the Scripture.

 In other words, I believe that the Bible is closer to what we might call historical fiction. It’s based on true events and filled with truths about life and God.

Let me apply these thoughts to Jesus and the four gospel books we find in the Bible.

I’m going to use another analogy. Could Cassidy and Connie come down here to help me?

There is a big difference between a muffin mix and a muffin. Connie and Cassidy, show us the muffin mix and then the muffin.

The muffin mix is the historical human Jesus. It’s what we start with in this recipe. I believe this historical human Jesus had compassion for the marginalized. I believe this historical human Jesus was a good teacher who preached about God’s kindom of love and inclusion. I believe this historical human Jesus died because the people in power were threatened by his gospel of non-violent resistance.

But the muffin mix is not the same as the muffin.

The muffin is the Post Easter Divine Jesus Christ we find in our Bibles.

The muffin mix is the historical human Jesus who lived between 3 BC and 30 AD. But the muffin is the biblical Post Easter Divine Jesus Christ the four Gospels write about.

How did we get this muffin?

That’s where Cassidy and Connie come in.

We start with the muffin mix – the historical human Jesus who died in 30 AD. (put it in the bowl) We add some cranberries – this represents the people telling stories about Jesus for forty years after Jesus died. (put it in the bowl) Then we add in water – this represents the author of Mark who wrote in 70 AD. (put in bowl) Then vegetable oil – this represents an unknown author people call Q who wrote around 75 AD. (put in bowl) Then we add in some eggs for the other three gospel writers. (break and add eggs)

We mix it altogether. Then we bake it. This takes more time. The result is some tasty muffins.

The muffins represent the gospel accounts of Jesus we find in our Bible. They were originally based on the historical human Jesus (the muffin mix), but they have become samples of the post-Easter Divine Jesus Christ.

This is the same Jesus Christ that Paul says he experienced around 50 AD. This is the same Jesus Christ that Christians continue to experience during the next 2000 years. This is the same Jesus Christ that I experienced when I was a youth and prayed to God. This is the same Jesus Christ that we can experience being alive and with us in our day, even today in this sanctuary.

What about all those references to a three-tier universe with God being up in heaven sending Jesus down to earth? What about the virgin birth of Jesus? What about the miracles of Jesus? What about the Resurrection of Jesus?

I believe those are all metaphors of story tellers and gospel writers to point to the ways that Jesus’ love is divine, of God. Jesus’ love is an example of God’s love. Those amazing metaphors are not meant to be taken literally, historically, or scientifically. They are to be taken into our heart.

This all leads to the most important part of this message. It’s the critical part of my Reconstruction. This is what I want you to reflect on during the coming days.

All those metaphors point us toward the divine love we can experience from Jesus Christ personally, today.

Those metaphors help us move from just thinking about the wonderful person that the historical human Jesus was to thinking about the Post Easter divine Jesus Christ who is alive and with us.

I love this Jesus Christ, my divine friend, who walks with me and talks with me and tells me I am his own.

Who is Jesus Christ for Mike Tupper? They are my friend and companion. They are also the Way, the Truth and the Light pointing me to God’s kindom on earth. Who is Jesus Christ for you? What images of Jesus Christ are important for you today? Who is this Jesus Chri

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