Mr. Bowden was our church organist in Fremont in the 80s. He played the organ for us into his nineties and died with an alert mind and a bellowing voice. He practiced his organ just outside the door to my office and I could never sneak past him without him turning on his stool and posing to me some searching question of the day.
"Paaaastor," he resounded, pointing his feeble finger at my heart, "Do we really know who Jesus iiiiiiis?"
If the finger was still on my chest, I had learned, it was not time to answer. It was time to ponder. If he had wanted a glib answer, he would have lowered his hand. Actually, he would have never posed the question.
Ralph Bowden wanted me to go deeper. He wanted my to understand that while I could know Jesus, I could not contain Him in my mind. I could not summarize His life. I could not box Him up and package Him for mass distribution. This great man who had lived more years, read more books, and thought more thoughts than I have until this day wanted me to understand that I would never fully understand.
He was encouraging me to become a life-long seeker.
It Seems to Me... Bruce Alderman is meditating here about the basic core issues of belief in his own life - namely why he believes in God and why, further, he embraces a belief in Jesus Christ.
It Seems to Me...: "So who is right and who is wrong? Isn't that what religion is all about? In a word, no. It's not fundamentally about being more right than anyone else. It's about responding to God's call and being faithful to that call, however the call comes and wherever the call leads."
Rightness and wrongness might appear to be essential questions, but Bruce suggests that the relational question trumps them.
It is what E. Stanley Jones called, "The Divine Yes."
We start there with God and we can sort out the details as we go along. (See also; Pastor Tom's Journal)
Ralph Bowden would have approved of Bruce's mediations.
The Friar in Monastic Mumblings rephrases a familiar question:
" ... Pilate once asked, "Who is this Jesus, why is He different"?
This question has been the central question of our Faith for Centuries. Now all around the world as people who are just trying to survive look at richly blessed American Christians - Who is the Jesus they see? Do they see the Gentle Teacher of the Beatitudes, or do they see the American Christ?
I am sadly afraid it is more the latter than the former."
Are there any other options, I wonder? Certainly He is the Gentle Teacher, but He is also the fierce lion who takes the form of a spotless Lamb. He is the Christ of paradox who will not be contained by our imaginations.
He is certainly not the Grand Master of American civil religion though.
He is more than I can conceive of. He is the Master who will not be mastered by my intellect.
A High Priest
Henry Neufeld in his Participatory Bible Study poses suggests that the problems we have with the humanity of Jesus which cloud our thinking and rob Him of His priestly function:
"I believe that many of us have trouble with the humanity of Jesus. It’s easier to present Jesus as totally divine; that doesn’t risk his holiness, his sinlessness, and his otherness. And all of those elements are important, as I have discussed before. In the atonement, Jesus brought infinite, holy, omniscient, omnipotent God into contact with a humanity that was anything but those things. It’s really hard to imagine. I believe seeing Jesus as truly human is much harder than it is to see him as the divine coming king." Study of Hebrews
So, He is the Lion/Lamb who calls us to Himself, the Divine and Human High Priest who has been tempted in all points as us, yet without sin.
I was speechless that day with Mr. Bowden, just trying to get to my office to do something trivial. I have long since forgotten every other activity or thought of that day. I will never forget that encounter or the great man's booming question.
"Do we really know who Jesus is?"
Not entirely. We know what we've been told in the scriptures and what we have discovered in relationship, but that is just the tip of a gigantic iceberg.
See The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancey and anything else you can find by Yancey for that matter for a fresh approach to merely every topic he addresses.
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