THE WISDOM OF JESUS
Let me tell you why you are here:
You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.
You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.
—Jesus of Nazareth
A New Reformation. Christians have been relating to Jesus through what is believed about him for over 1500 years. The 16th Century Protestant Reformation said that everything you need to know about your personal salvation is in the stories about the life, saving death, and resurrection of Jesus in the Holy Scriptures. Most of our old hymns still reflect that.
But here at Medford United Church of Christ, we’re acknowledging a New Reformation. We’ve found that maybe all this knowing about Jesus actually gets in the way of our spiritual growth as individuals and communities of people.
The New Reformation says that merely believing things about Jesus, or relating to Jesus as an other-worldly conqueror or judge, takes away from us the key tool that we need to truly connect with this figure that we think we know so much about. That tool is the wisdom of Jesus, the sayings and parables of Jesus, that have come down to us in the Gospels. Although they’re preached and revered, it seems to us that they’re rarely dug into and compared and contrasted to other wisdom teachers and other founders of religions.
The New Reformation asks us to set aside for a moment the notion of Jesus’ divine parentage, and all the other statements of faith about him. When we do, we’ll find Jesus of Nazareth at the very center of the ancient Middle Eastern Wisdom tradition.
Spiritual Transformation. Jesus, long before he was called Lord and Savior, was called rabbi, or master teacher. And what he taught was the Wisdom, the underground stream that feeds the headwaters of all the world religions, and is, in fact, their common ground. This Wisdom is concerned with the spiritual transformation of the whole human being, and of human beings in society.
Transformation from what into what? From our animal instincts and egocentricity, from judgment and exclusiveness and violence, into love, compassion, and understanding. From suppressed, repressed, and oppressed means of production, clones of parents and societal norms, to beings of great magnificence, beings who remember who they really are, and what they are here on earth to do. When we begin this transformation, we’re fit to be a part of what Jesus called the “Kingdom of God,” a realm of justice, compassion, and peace here on earth.
Jesus is not the least bit interested in who wins the big game, who writes up the big sale, whose church is the fullest. Jesus is not the least bit interested in preserving holy sites, or having scenes from his birth with plastic figures on the city hall lawn. Jesus is not interested in who calls himself a Christian and who doesn’t. He doesn’t offer a club to join.
Jesus is calling us to look beyond the surface differences, see with new eyes, and live a life out of this transformed consciousness, this shifted perception, this Kingdom of God perspective, and to live it now. It’s not just a state of being, but a reality that is already here, a reality we can live in.
We know that Jesus and his message belongs to the whole world. He belongs as much to Muslims in Morocco as to Baptists in Birmingham, as much to Copts in Egypt as to evangelicals in Carolina. We claim him, sometimes with trepidation, as our master teacher at Medford Congregational United Church of Christ.