Monday, April 29, 2013

Heavy Lifting

Reposted from my old blog, Steve+Theology. Originally published 12/18/12.

Currently I'm preparing a sermon for this coming sunday. I use the lectionary which is a calendar of Bible passages laid out over a three year cycle. This week is one in a series of passages where a theme is who Jesus is. There is certainly a focus on how powerful Jesus is, being God incarnate as far as most Christians are concerned. As I am preparing, I am reminded of just how many sermons I have heard that talk about how powerful and awesome Jesus is. I'm also reminded of how much of a pet peeve it is for me.

I suppose for me it comes down to a "so what?" Perhaps it's something I need to be reminded of from time to time. On the other hand, it's just a fact that I'm always left wondering what to do with this information. To me it seems like someone trying to impress me with muscles or card tricks. It's cool, it's great, but it's really not the heart of the matter, is it? I only need to be told how powerful Jesus is once in a while and I'm good. It's like saying "Canadian winters are really cold." I only need to be told once to be aware of that fact, and maybe reminded in early December every year so that I get my winter boots out of the basement. I think it's the same with Jesus. I know he's powerful. I suspect most people who don't consider themselves Christians are at least aware that we think he's powerful. Why don't we talk about something else?

Currently I'm trying to decide why I think Jesus power is overdone. I suspect that the vast majority of people in the vast majority of churches that I have been involved with are at least as aware of Jesus' power as I am. They are there because they believe or at least want to give believing a chance. They have the information that Jesus is powerful, now they want to know what that power is capable of. So the question to answer here is "now what?"

I also suspect that our society is unimpressed by power. Before people jump up and down on me, let me explain. We're impressed by powerful people or things but I don't think it's the sheer muscle they have but rather what they have the potential to do, are doing, or have done. I'm reminded of a contestant on Survivor a few years ago. He...was...built. This guy was in great shape, everyone suspected great things of him and yet he got the pants beat off him in every challenge by the flabby middle-aged people. So Jesus has big muscles, or at the very least Christians say Jesus has big muscles. The question to answer here is "therefore what?"

Lastly, I wonder to what extent Jesus' contemporaries were impressed by Jesus' power. I'm sure they were impressed by his abilities but the fact of the matter is there were other people around claiming similar abilities. There were always new supposed messiahs popping up everywhere. Perhaps if there were fewer of these supposed messiahs around Jesus wouldn't have had such a tough time.

So what I'm getting at here is not that Jesus power is unimportant, it is important, but it is a means to an end and we focus on the means far more for some reason. So for Christians, let's focus on the end not the means some more. For non-Christians, I promise I'm going to talk about the end rather than the means and I want you to know there is more to Jesus and God that omnipotent and sublime muscles. I'd love to hear comments on this, please go ahead and do so. Godspeed.

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