This blog is a summary of the Bible study last Friday night. The study was inspired by my recent reading from two books. Primarily, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch's book reJesus but also Dan Kimball’s book They Like Jesus but Not The Church.
The movement that birthed God’s Squad claimed to have Jesus at its centre (the Jesus Movement or Jesus Revolution) but we sought to ask the questions what ongoing role does Jesus the Messiah have in the self understanding and role of God’s Squad? And a second question can a rediscovery of the Biblical Jesus renew the lives of God’s Squad people and its mission? I am not sure how far we got but I hope those who come after me will develop these questions.
We did a little exercise that a theologian, called Harvey Cox, once did, with a group of 600 Christian healers and counselors. He asked this group, after reading the story of the healing of the Roman Centurion’s slave, which character in the story they identified with? Very few chose Jesus, yet they claimed to be his representatives. Few of our little group also identified with Jesus. While we might be wary of claiming to be like Jesus, is not our task to become like him, to be little Jesus’? Our very name, as Christians, identifies us, as his followers. Should we not know what the Jesus of the Bible was on about? It’s fine to where a bracelet with WWJD on it but that assumes you know what Jesus would do.
If, as current choruses and hymns constantly allude too that it's all about Jesus, which Jesus are they talking about? Is it the meek and mild Jesus as is portrayed at Christmas? Or is it the Jesus, that is used to affirm racist policies such as those of Apartheid South Africa or those of the Ku Klux Klan or indeed of the Nazi regime? Or is it just the Jesus of the prosperity movement within the Christian Church? Does it matter, which Jesus, we pray to, or indeed, does it matter if our prayers are focused in somewhat a fantasy of Jesus? As exampled by the character Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights played by Will Ferrell (recently in Australia), in a typically over the top way, asks Jesus to use his baby Jesus powers to heal his friends leg while others challenge this Ricky insists he like baby Jesus best. Perhaps the Jesus’ of the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition might suit our political or military agendas?
While I believe that Salvation is by grace alone through faith in Jesus and I will not speculate on a persons salvation because of their theology or doctrine I do believe it matters a great deal both as to how others see Jesus and the effect of our discipleship as to which Jesus we are following.
We then asked the question how we picture Jesus and looked at a few pictures of Jesus. The Jesus of the renaissance painters, or the dark Jesus of Pasolini in The Gospel According to Saint Matthew or pictures of Jesus as a revolutionary or as a normal Jewish man of the times may have looked (According to a BBC computer) or perhaps even more radically as bearded woman or a black man. Indeed a picture of the crucified Jesus with Happy Birthday Jesus under it created quit a stir in the early days of our movement from which God’s Squad developed from. While such pictures can never be complete they also speak of the struggle to understand the Jesus who was human and yet fully divine and perhaps more recently the import of his teaching vision and life. Certainly an oft used phrase of our movement “where you stand determines what you see” is appropriate here. It seems to me rather than allowing the Bible to speak of who Jesus is that many of these pictures impose world views onto Jesus.
So too the Bible once again to discover Jesus.
We then looked briefly at the transfiguration story in Mark. In this story, Peter, James and John given the ultimate spiritual experience on the mountain, where not only is Jesus made exceedingly bright but Elijah and Moses appear as well. And what is Peter, James and John’s response? They seek to build tents to contain what God has done. A spiritual experience, such as this cannot be contained and is beyond in our limited understanding. Indeed such an experience must translate to real discipleship at the street level. When they come down the mountain top experience to everyday life, mission success does not just happen. There are disciplines (fasting and prayer in this case) needed to be developed and nurtured so this experience of God can be translated for others. This X-Files experience, as the Rev. Dave Fuller coined it blows them away. Such is the experience of God for us as Christian bikers how do we not even get blown away, or seek to control this experience for our own purposes? How do we not take this Aslan (The Lion god-figure in C S Lewis’ The Narnia Chronicles) for granted and lose this wild sense of Otherness that is constantly beckoning us on towards the Upside Down Kingdom. How do we fit in with Jesus’ agenda rather than our own?
It is only after we discover the vision and mission of Jesus and what it meant then that we can put our experience of Jesus today in context. If you like a paradigm or lens through which we can view things and decide then how shall we live. Indeed our own history cannot be ignored and we looked a few examples of the difference the presence of God made in our ministry. We are also encouraged to read On the Side of the Angels and so understand God’s Squad and John Smith’s story.
Our mission (how we practice what we believe in the world) is informed by our Christology (our understanding of Jesus the Christ). If we leave such Christological questions just to the experts then we are indeed likely to be following some other Jesus than the Jesus of the Bible. Of course once discovered it might overwhelm us but God has sent us a helper, the Holy Spirit to help us. It is only as we, individually and as a club takes seriously the gospels of Jesus and indeed the whole of God’s word and seeks to live those things discovered out that its mission becomes authentic. In but a brief way we sought to do that on Friday night, this was the mountain top and what followed was much prayer as we then went to a clubhouse to be his representatives, to be little Jesus’ to the biker world.
From Marc Billing, International Exec, GSCMC