Going Deeper 1-13-20

From our Gospel reading, the final verses: And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."   Thus far our text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
From before the beginning through to beyond the end—in other words, from eternity through eternity—it has, in a way, been all about Jesus.  This is not to suggest that Jesus is in some way superior in status or power to the Father and/or the Holy Spirit (see the Athanasian Creed if you want to review that Trinitarian theology).  But in terms of the story of God’s creating, saving, and relating to God’s children, Jesus is at the heart of it all.
We heard this in the words of last week’s Gospel reading from John 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. … From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The Word which became flesh was and is Jesus the Messiah/Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and our Immanuel-- God with us.  You see, it’s all about Jesus.
The Bible is, in the big picture, all about Jesus.  This is one of the vital things I learned from the Crossways Bible Studies.  The core purpose of the written word is to reveal to us the Living Word, Jesus, and to connect us with God our Abba through Jesus, all empowered by the Holy Spirit of God.  And The Bible Project affirms this by stating over and over again that we do well to see the Bible as “a unified story leading to Jesus.”  Yes, it is all about Jesus.
And let’s be honest-- the Bible can be extremely challenging to understand.  I would actually go so far as to say that the Bible is impossible for us to completely understand… which makes a lot of sense when you think about it.  The Scriptures were written over the course of thousands of years by dozens of Holy-Spirit-inspired authors, each with unique perspectives in unique situations addressing unique audiences.  There is much about the process of how they were inspired, passed on, written, selected, and translated which remains a confusing mystery.
As we struggle through our reading of the Bible, it can be easy to get not only confused, but sometimes lost.  As I continue to pray and read and struggle my way through some parts of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, I often get confused about God and His ways.  And again, that makes sense, as I am a very finite being seeking to more adequately comprehend an infinite God.  At times I feel like a tiny ant crawling around on Horsetooth Rock seeking to comprehend the entirety of the Rocky Mountains.  In truth, trying to comprehend the entire universe.  I am simply not adequate.
This means I need help in order to better understand my Creator, and the Scriptures are the main means through which the Holy Spirit of God helps me to understand and believe what I truly need to know—that I am a dreadfully broken but fully redeemed child of God who has been reconciled to my Abba Creator through Jesus by grace, and called and gifted for a special purpose.  And as I seek to more adequately comprehend all of this, that Spirit of God draws my attention to Jesus, who, according to the New Testament, is the clearest revelation of God.
When I am confused, I look to Jesus as promised through the prophets and revealed through the Gospels, and whose ongoing work is proclaimed throughout the writings of the New Testament.  You see, it truly is all about Jesus.
Of course, this is true of our theology as well.  Theology literally means “study of the God.”  Theology is how we seek to support and summarize our understanding of God and of His ways, as revealed primarily and most clearly through the Scriptures.  And the theology of the Church and of church bodies and denominations and of individual churches and individual Christians has become very complicated—even convoluted—over the millennia, to the point at which we often struggle to theologically see the forest for the trees.  
Therefore, we need to sort it all out, and the most helpful way to do so is through Jesus, and seeing that at the heart of all of our study and discussion and contemplation of God, we see and understand Him most fully through the person of Jesus… through Jesus’ teachings and life and death and resurrection.  When it comes to our theology, it truly is all about Jesus.
And here is another way of understanding the centrality of Jesus among us: the Church.  As you have heard, the Church is the body of Christ.  More personally, as Paul wrote to the members of the church in Corinth, “Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.”  This is not an analogy.  The Church is not in some ways comparable to a body; the Church is the body of Christ, an organism, not an organization.  The Church is God’s presence in this world.  
And you and I—both individually and collectively—are part of that body of Christ.  It is in and among and through us that God becomes present in this world, and that presence is clarified in Jesus.  And just like seemingly everything else, the Church can seem complex and confusing, and as it is comprised on imperfect people, it is all too easy to lose our way or to reject the concept of “Church” altogether… which more and more of the people around us are doing.
But we must not lose sight of the fact that as imperfect as we are, we remain the Body of Christ, and individually members of the whole family of God on earth.  As a matter of fact, this is to be seen and understood as being our core identity.  We are children of God through grace.
Finally, let’s get very personal.  My ongoing transformation as a child of God is all about Jesus.  It is all about me coming to know Jesus in an increasingly real and intimate way, and through Him connecting more and more profoundly with my Abba/Father, increasingly filled, inspired, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God who creates and sustains and grows faith within me.  And the end goal of it all is this: that I might become more and more like Jesus each and every day, in all I think and do and say.  Because… it truly is all about Jesus.
I will close with my paraphrase of the final verses from our second reading, drawn from the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus: Of this good news we have become servants according to the gift of God's grace that was given us by the working of his power. Even though we may be the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to us to bring to others the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known … in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.  Amen.