Breakfast at our house includes reading the Otago Daily Times. On Monday I was reading the World Focus magazine, while my wife was reading the rest of the paper. “Castro” she blurted out, “did not want anything named after him. According to him, such individualism is wrong.” I looked up and commented, “That’s sounds very Jesus-ish.” - I doubt however, that Jesus would agree with Castro’s methods. At that point I was looking at the back page photos and saw the photo of the massive Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. My wife interrupted again and said something about “poverty in Zimbabwe.”
Like a cow chewing its cud, my mind chewed on these statements, the photo and Christmas. I got to thinking, would the real Jesus applaud the building of that cathedral in his name? Would the “real” Jesus like the endless adulation and unearthly glorification of himself in Church worship, in Christmas Carols and in the way we celebrate “Christ”mas? Would he be in tune with the “religious and worship focus” of the Churches?
I study the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I avidly read recent scholars and thinkers to seek to improve my understanding of Jesus of Nazareth then and now. As I read of Jesus he seems to say, “People of the world seek power, money and adulation, but followers of my way will be different, you will be servants in the world.” I suspect a cup of water, a serving towel and a caring touch are expressions of Jesus’ way, not towering Church buildings, endless adulation, creeds and worship without loving action. I find myself disturbed by priorities in our churches and by the way we celebrate Christmas. Maybe Jesus would sing with Malanie, “Look what they done to my song ma… it was the only thing I could do half right and its turning out all wrong, ma!” These days I prefer to call myself a “follower of Jesus” rather than “Christian”, which seems to me to carry too much distortion and unhelpful baggage.
I got a text from two fire fighters this morning thanking me for the "thought provoking letter" and one pointed out that I had won the paper's "Letter of the Week" prize! I had not noticed that. ... That is a surprise in this secular country and age. I came across a quote from the Dalai Lama. "If you want to make others happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." Pretty much sums up the message of Jesus for me.