Ephesians 1:15-23 NRSV
On this Sunday after Thanksgiving, I am most thankful for Jesus, for I truly believe with all of my heart that Jesus is the answer.
Now, I know how cliché, cheesy and bumper-stickery that sounds, but I can’t help it. It’s the God’s honest truth. Jesus is the answer.
And you must know that I dislike few things more than bumper-sticker theology! It tears my nerves up when people try to reduce something as miraculously mysterious as faith in the Holy Creator of all that is into a few pithy words to slap on the back of a vehicle.
As Jimmy Buffet sings about some of the Fruitcakes who have hijacked Christianity these days, “The god’s honest truth is it’s not that simple.”
“Jesus is my co-pilot.” If Jesus is merely your co-pilot, I suggest you switch seats. Because Jesus wants to be your pilot, the one who makes the decisions, charts the course, and steers the ship.
“Honk if you love Jesus.” Please don’t do that. If you truly love Jesus, please, never toot your own horn. If you really love Jesus, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, love the outcast, forgive the sinner, care for the dying and be a friend to the lonely.
“Got Jesus?” We need to learn Jesus cannot be “got.” It is Jesus who wants to get us. He wants to get us to deny ourselves, pick up a cross and follow him. We don’t get Jesus to meet our needs. Jesus wants to get us to meet the needs of the world. We don’t get Jesus as some sort of ticket to heaven. Jesus wants to get us to bring heaven to earth.
“Jesus is the reason for the season.” Shouldn’t Jesus be reason for all of the seasons? Jesus wants to be the Lord over every season, every month, every day.
“Keep Christ in ‘Christmas.” Why don’t we first try to keep Christ in “Christian?” The reason so many people are turned off by Christians today is because many Christians act nothing like the Christ with whom they identify themselves.
I am thankful that faith in God cannot be condensed into a few simple words that will fit on a bumper sticker. Yet, this Sunday after Thanksgiving, I still am most thankful for the truth that Jesus is the answer.
On this Christ the King Sunday, I am thankful for these beautiful words of Ephesians:
God put this power to work in Christ…far above all rule and authority and power and dominion…And [God] has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Jesus is above all and is the head over all things.
That is why we celebrate this “Christ the King Sunday” on the last Sunday of the Christian calendar. In the end, when it is all said and done, in the final analysis of it all, it is all about Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the answer.
This is particularly good news for me as I am one who readily confesses that, when it comes to faith and theology, when it comes to this grace that we call life, I have far more questions than I have answers. In fact, over the years I have discovered that the more I know the less I know.
For me, life is as mysterious as it is miraculous. The very existence of God, and the specific revelation of God through Jesus Christ, is even more miraculously mysterious. God, the creator of all that is, is so incredibly large that I will never be able to wrap my mind around God. I will never understand the height, the depth and the breadth of the love of God.
My mind is not only very small, but I believe it is also very flawed. Whether one blames it on “original sin” or “the Fall of Humankind” or just “being born in an imperfect world,” we can agree that all of creation is seems to be fragmented. Consequently, as a creature on this earth, I will always understand God and God’s will for the world and my life as “seeing through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13). My understanding will always be limited, imperfect and incomplete.
The other day, someone asked me if I thought we were “living in the last days.”
Honestly, I don’t know much about such things. All I know is that life is precious and fleeting and none of us are guaranteed that today is not our last day.
On the days before Halloween someone asked me about the role of Satan and demons in the world. Again, I know very little about that. I believe demonic evil is real and personal. I have experienced it. But I don’t really know where it comes from or exactly why it exists in this world.
People have asked me the same questions about angels. Some people believe they have guardian angels that have intervened in their lives, sometimes saving their lives. Again, I don’t know much about that.
People ask me if God created it all, then who created God? Who was Cain’s wife? How did that fish swallow Jonah? How can God be both God and Jesus? If Jesus was God, how does God pray to God? Why do some people seem be blessed and others seem to cursed? Why are some people healed while others suffer and die? Do all people who do not accept Christ as their Lord and Savior go to Hell? What about people who have never heard of Jesus? What about two-thirds of the world’s population who were born and raised in another faith? What really happens to us after we die? Does the soul leave the body immediately and go to heaven? What does the Bible mean when it talks about the dead being raised on the last day? Again, I know very little about such things.
And there are many people who agree with me on this. And they say that this is one of the reasons that they find faith in God so difficult. They don’t have all of the answers. Consequently, they call themselves agnostic. I respect that. In fact, I can oftentimes get along better with an agnostic than a Christian who believes they have all the answers.
However, for me, living in this fragmented world, I cannot imagine life without faith. Without faith, it’s difficult for me to understand how my life would not be devoid of meaning. There would be nothing to define my life, steer my life, fulfill my life, to give my life hope other than my own selfish desires. So to give my life meaning, I choose to believe that God is not completely mysterious.
After all, I do know some things. I know that I did not do anything to earn or deserve my life. I know life is in an inexplicable gift of grace. And I am compelled then to express gratitude for this gift. And the only way I know to do that is through a life of faith in the Giver. Therefore, I have chosen a meaningful life of faith in God as opposed to a meaningless life of agnosticism.
Furthermore, I have specifically chosen a life of Christian faith in God. I have chosen to make the God, that is revealed in Jesus Christ, my God and my Lord. I often wonder if I would have chosen this faith if I was born to parents in another part of the world. Nonetheless, I am very grateful that I have had the opportunity and the grace to make this choice, and I am grateful for the way that this choice informs my beliefs and enriches my life.
Consequently, my limited understanding of who God is, how God acts and what God desires is derived from the words and actions of Jesus as revealed in scripture. In other words, Jesus is the answer.
I don’t know much. I don’t have all of the answers. However, on this “Christ the King Sunday,” on this Sunday after Thanksgiving, I am very grateful that for me personally, Jesus is the answer. The revolutionary way of Jesus recorded in the Holy Scriptures—the radical way Jesus elevated the status of women, lowered himself to wash the feet of others, befriended the lowly, welcomed the stranger, learned from the foreigner, sought justice for the poor and the marginalized, brought wholeness to the disabled, fed the hungry, defended and forgave the sinner, embraced the untouchable, welcomed the children, told extravagant stories of grace and love, healed the sick—the scandalous way his selfless love for others led him to suffer and die on a cross, the way he sacrificially gave his body and inclusively poured his life out for all people, is more than enough to build my life around, to give my life purpose, meaning, direction and hope.
Question: Jarrett, what if we are living in the last days? Answer: I am just going to keep serving Jesus, keep doing the things that Jesus did, keep loving the people Jesus loved.
Question: Dr. Banks, how real and powerful is the demonic? Answer: Not as real and as powerful as Jesus.
Question: Rev. Banks, do you believe angels can save you? Answer: I believe Jesus saves me and that is enough for me.
Question: Rev. Dr., why do people suffer? Answer: Jesus suffered, thus when we suffer, I believe Jesus compassionately and intimately understands, and that is all I really need.
Question: Preacher, where are we going when we die? Answer: We need to be more concerned about where we are going while we are living, to the places and to the people Jesus went.
Question: Clergyman, what is the meaning of life? Answer: Jesus said that the greatest commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Question: Minister, what will it take to make the church relevant in the 21st century? How can the church be revived to make a positive impact in the community, throughout the region and around the world? Answer: Jesus. Jesus is the answer.
I know it sounds like a bumper sticker. But you know something? I really don’t care. Because for me, and I believe for every one of you, for people in every land, in every place, in every time, Jesus is the answer.
Jesus is my king, my lord, my savior, my friend, my guide, my hope in life and in death. I pray he is yours.
Let us pray together.
O Christ, may you reign in and through our lives, our church and reign in our world forever and ever. Amen.
Invitation to the Table
This is not my table or even the church’s table. This is the table of Jesus. Therefore, we invite those Jesus invited to his table. That’s everyone! And we exclude those Jesus excluded. That’s no one. Let us now prepare ourselves to receive this grace and experience this love in such away that it will give purpose, meaning, direction and hope.