Our Vision of Jesus:  A Prophet, A Wise Teacher, The Messiah, Lord & Savior?

Scripture: Mark 8: 27-30
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
January 17, 2016

I had just returned home for the summer from Divinity School.  The doorbell rang and my father went to answer the door.  As he opened the door, he found a young, well-dressed man clutching a Bible to his chest with one hand and carrying a brief case full of spiritual literature with the other.  The Holy Spirit has sent him, he said.  My father invited this man in and said, “I have the perfect person for you to talk with.”  My dad came into my bedroom and said that there was a young man waiting for me in the living room.  I proceeded to walk into the living room and instantly seeing a man with a Bible in his hand, I thought “uh-oh.”  He greeted me with a gleaming smile and then asked, “Are you saved?”

“Well, that depends on what you. . .”

“No, I guess not,” he said, writing something down on a pad of paper.

“Do you want to be saved?” he asked eagerly.

“Well, sure,” I said.  He leapt into action, quoting scripture verses, and drawing an illustration of my predicament on his pad.

“Here you are,” he said, drawing a stick figure on one side of a chasm.  “And here is God,” he said drawing another figure on the other side.  “In between is sin and death,” he said, filling the chasm with dark clouds around his pen.

“Now the question is, how are you and God going to get together?”  he asked.

“Well, umh. . .” And before I had a chance to complete my thoughts, he drew a bridge connecting the two sides of the chasm in the shape of a cross.

“That’s how,” he said with great enthusiasm.  “Jesus laid down his life for you to cross over.  Do you want to cross over?”

“Well, sure” I said, and with great enthusiasm he then told me to repeat after him, I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and I ask him to come into my life.  Amen.”  Then, he got up, shook my hand, congratulated me, and left.

The whole thing took less than 15 minutes.  It was quick, simple, direct.  You are here, God is there, Jesus is the bridge.  Say these words and you are a Christian.  Abracadabra.  Amen.

It was an amusing experience, but afterwards I had to wonder, “Isn’t living the Christian life more than repeating a prayer about Jesus being our personal Lord and Savior?”

I believe that the writers of our Vision Statement certainly thought so.  Our Vision Statement says, “We are called by God to follow the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.”  Unlike the Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed, the RUCC Vision Statement does not define who Jesus is for us.  In this congregation, it would be difficult to define exactly who Jesus is for each of us.  Some believe him to be a wise teacher, others a prophet, others the Messiah, others call him Lord and Savior, others call him the Son of God and still others may declare that Jesus is indeed God.  The writers of our Vision Statement, however, do not define who Jesus is for the people of RUCC.  What we call Jesus does not seem to be of utmost concern in this place.  Rather, the Vision Statement urges us to “follow the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.”

What stands out in the life of Jesus is that he practiced what he preached.  So, what did he preach?  What did he teach?  Jesus took the 613 Jewish laws with the 10 commandments and summed it up this way, “I give you two commands:  Love God.  And love your neighbor. If you follow these two commandments, you fulfill the other entire law.”

Last week we talked about what it means to love God.  Today, let’s talk about what it means to love our neighbor.  Some say that loving our neighbor means following the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”  The Golden Rule was popular in Jesus’ world – in fact, it could be found in 21 different religions in one form or another.  But Jesus takes the Golden Rule to an entirely extra level.  Jesus doesn’t stop at the Golden Rule.  I used to think that gold was the best.  There were albums when I was growing up called solid gold.  But I found there is something better than gold.  What is it?  Platinum.  The gold American Express card went from gold to platinum.  Jesus goes gold in Luke 6:31, “Do unto others as you would do unto them,” but Jesus goes platinum in Luke 6:32.  Some like to call it the “the Platinum Rule”.  

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that?  Even sinners do the same.  But love your enemies, do good, expecting nothing in return.   Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

What does it mean to “follow the life and teachings of Jesus”?  It means that we go platinum with our love for one another! We love others; we show compassion to others; we are merciful to others; we are kind to others just as God loves, shows compassion and mercy and kindness to us.  The Golden Rule says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” but platinum says, “My behavior is not dependent on what you do to me, my behavior is dependent on what God has already done for me.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. followed the Platinum Rule.  King said, “Probably no admonition of Jesus has been more difficult to follow than the command to ‘love your enemies.’ Some have sincerely felt that its actual practice is not possible. It is easy, they say, to love those who love you, but how can one love those who openly and insidiously seek to defeat you?   Jesus, they say, was an impractical idealist.  Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world. Jesus is not an impractical idealist: he is the practical realist.”  

I would like to share a story of another African- American man.  His name is Rev. David Anderson. He was the one who coined the phrase “The Platinum Rule.”  When he was 9 years old, his father moved the family from a small brick house to a nicer neighborhood.  David said, “Wow – where we came from and where we were going – it was like The Jeffersons – we were movn’ on up to the east side.  We finally got a piece of the pie.  We drove up to the house – there was a chain link fence around the house with our own yard, and we even had a driveway.  Not a carport, but a driveway.  And the end of the street didn’t go through.  It had a circle.  My sister called it a cul-de-sac.  I thought, ‘They even have their own language up in here.’  This is awesome.”  

The family moved into the house.  David was so excited – he even had his own room.  He got up the next morning with exuberance and went into the kitchen to greet his mom.  There was a big bay window and there were police cars in the front yard.  David’s dad was out there.  David says to his mom, “What is going on out there?”  David’s dad was a preacher.  His mom said, “Dad is dealing with the police because someone put a cross in our front yard, son.”  David said, “Well, Dad’s a preacher, a cross is a good thing.”  His mom said, “No, not this time.  It is a symbol of hate.”  

As she is trying to explain this to her 9 year old son, the phone rings.  David can tell that there is a vicious voice on the other side of the phone.  His mother said as sweetly as ever, “Thank you very much.  God gave us this house and we are staying right here in this neighborhood.  Thank you very much.  Bye, bye.” Click.  David asked, “Mom, who was that?”  She said, “The welcoming committee.”

It was time for David to catch the bus and go to school.  And every day on the bus, he would see this other boy – who always called David the offensive N word.  Over and over, the N word, the N word, the N word.  Whether they were on the bus or off the bus, the N word, the N word, the N word.  Week after week after week.  David said, “One afternoon when we got off the bus, I having a bad day.  The guy kept saying the N word, the N word, then N word.”  So, I jumped on him and there he was lying down on the ground.  I said, “Take it back.  Take it back.  Take it back.”  The guy said, “O.k. I take it back.”  David got up and let him go.  The guy went down the block and turned and called David again the N word, the N word, the N word.  David chased the guy down, again jumped on him and said, “Take it back.  Take it back.  Take it back.”  The guy says, “O.k., I take it back.”  David lets the guy go.  The guy gets another block down the street, turns around and calls David the N word, the N word, the N word.    David begins to chase him and thinks, “This is going to be a long exercising kind of day.”  David jumps on the guy and this time hits him in the nose.  A little blood came out of the guy’s nose.  David gets scared, immediately jumps off the guy, and lets him go.  

About an hour later David gets home.  He walks through the front door.  His mother said, “David Anderson (he knew it was a bad day when his mom used his whole name), David Anderson, you’ve been fighting.”  “What are you talking about Mom?”  “You’ve been fighting.”  “How do you know?”  That boy came by our house and told me you punched him in the nose.”  “But Mom,” said David, “he’s calling me the N word.  I thought you would understand.”  “No David – we’re Christians and that not how we respond.  You go to that boy’s house and apologize to him and his mama.”  

David said, “It was the longest walk of my life, but I did it.  Mom did not know the phrase ‘The Platinum Rule’, but one thing she knew – if you are truly a follower of Christ – then you do what is right  not because someone has been golden to you, but because God has been platinum to you.” (Story told by David Anderson at the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly 2013).

Our Vision Statement says, “We are called by God to follow the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.”  May it be so.  May it be so.