There’s a courtesy in giving credit to people’s assertions of faith, particularly if we know them and consider them to be honest. We assume that what they suggest about their faith in Buddha, Allah, God, can be cashed out into words we can understand, if amd when we need them to do so. But because religious commitment is a minority pursuit in Scotland today, believers are given continued credit and rarely asked to pay cash. In a society filled with the lies of an aggressive capitalism – indeed a society where most mass media are engaged in persistent lying to dissuade people from seeking the truth – the truths of faith traditions may be helpful; and believers should be ready to state them in plain langauge.
So what have I got to say about Jesus?
1. The Christian tradition presents Jesus as a living person, who shares the life of God and the lives of human beings. He was a historical person who lived in Palestine, probably from 4BCE to 32CE when he was put to death by crucifixion. The tradition asserts that he was raised from death, and can be encountered in the human self, in the community of believers and in the “least important” of society. The tradition itself is a mixture of fact, faith, imagination and legend, and to accept it, as I do, involves appreciation of all of these.
2. Jesus’ teaching and public actions as recounted in the tradition, are focused on a God whom he calls dear father, and specifically on the creative actions of this God in the world. These creative actions are done through human beings such as Jesus, who discovered that the sick, the poor, the shamed and the rejected, were more open to God’s goodness than the rich and powerful. God wants all human beings to participate in his/her compassionate justice.
3. Jesus is my teacher from whom I learn how ro live. I encounter him in myself when I make an effort to follow his teaching. A great saint was able to say that his identity was longer as an ‘I”, but as one in whom Jesus lived. I can’t say that, but I’ve had glimpses of it, when my capacity for ordinary goodness apperas as a gift rather than an achievement. I act as if I were a child of God. Another way of describing this is that sometimes I act in the same spirit as Jesus acted, namely, in the creative spirit of God.
4. This spirit is intepreted by Jesus in his commandments to love the neighbour and the enemy, that is, to work for communal health and inter- communal peace; in his call to free oneself from the power and possession of wealth; and in his practice of healing and restoring people to full life. He also called this activity, the “rule of God” which he presented as joyful news that demanded a change of direction from everyone. The creative spirit is gentle to those who cooperate with it, ruthless to those who oppose it, but always kind.
5. Jesus directs me to God as the source of all goodness. God, he teaches, is not very interested in my sins. He forgives, gets them out of the way, so that I have no excuse for not living as a child of God. He forgives the “old” me for the sake of the “new” me. Jesus knew that his God could not be objectified and made into a another being in the universe. He/ she is beyond all worlds yet makes the sun shine and attends to the fall of a sparrow. He can only be spoken of in poetry and parable, in everyday poetry and bold parable, so that the God who cannot be defined can be part of the common language of his human children.
6. So the mystery of God is not that we cannot say anything about him, but rather that we name God as the source of life, love and goodness, who is passionately committed to the perfecting of all his creatures. The mystery, the beyond, is precisely this One who is also among us, acting and suffering in his creatures.Jesus models this presence for us in his readiness to act and to suffer for God’s goodness.
7. His resurrection is not a conjuring trick with a corpse, but the announcement of his aliveness and continuing ministry through his trusting communities in the world.
Maybe that’s enough cash for one day. I hope none of it is counterfeit.