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“Who?” Is the Question. What Is Our Answer?
Launch of Vision 2020

Pentecost 17, Common Lectionary Year B

Mark 8:22-38

©Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones

Thank God for the Faith Fiesta
and the launch of our Vision 2020
coming as it does on this 17th Sunday after Pentecost.
You see, if it weren’t for me fishing around in the
Gospel of Mark
for a story about “Vision” or “Seeing”
I would not have noticed how today’s lectionary passage
about the disciples not quite seeing Jesus
with 20/20 vision is actually meant
to go side by side with the healing story of the blind one whose sight is restored only bit by bit.

Now that I know they go together,
both stories make more sense to me,
and both speak more clearly to our experience as God’s people.
As she sees only gradually, so do Jesus’ disciples.

How many of you can describe Jesus?
How many of you know exactly who God is?
Who among us knows precisely what God’s Vision is for our individual or collective life?

Oh, we have some idea…. but it’s fuzzy for many of us isn’t it?

Some of us grew up with one idea of Jesus –
“What a friend we have….”
or “Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God”
or “The Son sent as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.”
But over time, and living through the experiences of life, that vision of who Jesus is for us may have changed…
for most of us, it’s fuzzy (like it was for the disciples).
Most of us are willing to have some vision correction.

The same can be said about God and God’s Dream.
We have some idea, but it’s not 20/20,
no matter how we might dress it up with a nice logo, or a 5 year plan. It’s our best attempt, through fuzzy lenses to see people and not walking trees.

But it matters.
It matters that we allow ourselves to be asked the question
“Who is Jesus for you, for us?
“Who is God for us?
“What is God’s Dream for you personally, for us as a community?

It matters how we answer it,
because we live what we know,
we live what we believe.

Let me give you an example pulled from contemporary Christian polarization:
Because of radically different visions of Jesus,
in May this year, Jim Wallis and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
and 23 other leading progressive and mainline Christian leaders co-signed a document called
“Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis”[1]
It has been signed since then unofficially by over 10,000 more – including me.
Yet, on Sept 9 this year,
4500 Evangelical Pastors (whose vision of Jesus is radically different) have signed a document
disavowing social justice as a mark of Christian faith.[2]

Who Jesus is for us, matters,
because it impacts the way we live our faith.

Here is where I can really only testify for myself before you.
I am not telling you what to see in Jesus,
but I hope you’ll trust my testimony as the result of over 4 decades of spiritual questing,
and nearly 3 decades of committed theological and spiritual study and inquiry.

I have come to believe that Jesus was a child of God,
a unique one,
one whose perception of God was acute, precise, vivid, and transformative and challenging.

I have come to believe that Jesus’
understanding of God’s Dream
for the world- for creation –
was for its flourishing, its eternal wellbeing and renewal,
through cycles of death and life, fire and wind, storm and peace.

I believe Jesus saw the Dream of God for humanity
as a desire for the flourishing of all humans,
not just men, the rich, the powerful, the successful.
God’s Dream of goodness and blessing and purpose
falls on everyone:
women, children, the poor, the outcast,
the ones outright oppressed by systems
that divide, segregate and alienate.

I have seen, through my study of the followers of Jesus
over two millennia,
that the Jesus Way claims the bounty and blessing of heaven and earth for all,
and does so in the simplest and most incarnate of ways: sharing bread, and healing of body and soul, and creating community around common vision.

And because I see Jesus in these ways,
I find myself living, putting my life on the line for,
spending my time, my talent, my money,
risking my integrity,
to see more clearly and follow more nearly,
this Jesus Way of living for the world.

This is my testimony, one I’ve lived among you over seven years, but I believe it is one that meshes well with the character of Cedar Park United through successive generations.

Ours together is an engaged faith,
one that is focussed on the fullness of life here and now.
We believe that the Dream of God
is eternally bound up in the present, our present.

And so the purpose of our Vision 2020 season,
is to perceive to see, through salved eyes,
to figure out, even if only fuzzily at first,
just how we will live the Jesus Way,
for the sake of the world, for the next few years.

Let me make a beginning
based on how some of the dream and idea bubbles from yesterday mirror the life of Jesus:

To break bread with the hungry
– to build a kitchen where we feed those starving for community, as well as for bread
– to address food insecurity and undernourishment among seniors, to teach families how to break bread together around their family table, this table, any table.

To seek out the lost and the lonely
– to build upon our capacity as caring community
so that seniors are not left isolated as family and friends die.
-and so children from birth to adulthood have a safe affirming community in which to share their hopes and dreams and their fears, and learn to see the world through the eyes of faith and hope and love.

To offer healing, body mind and spirit with the same intention and question and gentleness seen in Jesus in today’s story.

To share the blessings of God through sharing this ancient yet timely story in worship and study and prayer and with respect for the faith of others.

To free the prisoners and liberate the oppressed. And if that sounds political, it was in Jesus’ day and it still is. Liberating people from war and oppression through refugee support as we have just done is now a politically charged action, but the Gospel is clear:
“Welcome the alien and the stranger, for you were once aliens in a foreign land.”[3] “Welcome all, as you would welcome me.”

Yesterday’s Fiesta Visioning was a milestone step in our journey together as the People of God, as we welcomed new voices into our congregational discernment. We shared a visioning process with two year olds, with people for whom F4 is their communion table, with Sa’ed’s family, with Hispanic Catholics who love CPU. Our vision got a little closer to 2020 because of the insight and hope that these people willingly shared.

We will continue this process in the coming weeks, inviting every living soul who enters this building, to share with us their vision for CPU, their hopes for its flourishing, their dreams for our future together.

And as we do this, may we be like the Jesus we met last week, through Rev. Wendy’s wonderful sermon; a Jesus whose vision of God’s Dream was corrected, clarified, and enlarged because he heard a stranger, a foreign woman’s courageous dream, as nothing less than the call of God to share God’s blessing with the world.

May it be so for us. Amen.

 

[1] http://reclaimingjesus.org/ For the full document see http://reclaimingjesus.org/sites/default/files/downloads/reclaiming_jesus.pdf.

[2] https://onenewsnow.com/church/2018/09/07/45k-christian-leaders-reject-churches-social-justice-agenda. For this group, the ‘primacy’ of Scripture is the benchmark. See in particular how this plays out in section 2 of the actual statement: https://statementonsocialjustice.com/ . My point here mirrors what has happened with these two documents and their signatories – a line in the sand is being drawn, theologically, and in terms of Christian practice in the current landscape of North American Christianity.

[3] Deuteronomy 10:19 and Leviticus 19:24

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