“I believe in Jesus Christ.” This pivotal phrase, the nucleus on which the Nicaean Creed and all Christian doctrine and faith depends is so easily glossed over. But when we affirm, “I believe,” what is it that confirms that faith? Confirmation of that belief does not come from any of the Councils of the Church, or from our parents, or trusted religious leaders. Belief in Jesus Christ is confirmed by the powerful reality of Presence.
We know it in our inmost being – because we were made to know it. But what do we affirm when we say, “I believe in Jesus Christ?” Not just that, sure, Jesus lived 2 millennia ago, and, yeah, he was a really good man who said important things. But to say, “I believe in…
Jesus Christ, this Christ bit is super important. It means: Redeemer, Messiah, Anointed – ordained, set apart, Holy.
Today is Christ the King Sunday – it recognizes the “reign of Christ.” So, this Christ is also a king, and this king reigns for those who believe. To reign suggests governing, but it also indicates presence – just being there and knowing what is going on, knowing those whom one oversees.
Joan Chittister puts it beautifully:
“I believe in the Jesus who looked at a person who had been crippled, misjudged, and oppressed for thirty-eight years, ignored on the Hillside of the Healing Pool for thirty-eight years, called to fullness of life and denied it for thirty-eight years—all in the name of the Law—and, Sabbath or no Sabbath, [this Jesus] cured him. In that moment, law did not become lawlessness. In that moment, love gave law a new criterion.
Truly this one is of God. Through the humanity of Jesus shines the Divine. In Jesus, the Way becomes both clear and possible, plain and imperative [necessary – now]. We see in Jesus the mind of God. We also see that this great presence was a human presence. It is, therefore, a presence possible to us as well. More than that, it is a presence expected of us. Therein lies the difficulty.”Joan Chittister, In Search of Belief, 66-67.
Because, how can we affirm that we believe in this divine presence, the mind of God in Jesus and so in us, and believe Jesus is the Christ – redeemer, anointed – but look to other things, other people to save us from our daily discomfort, grief; or help us achieve our ambitions?
Our word of the day is another word that describes the position of one who reigns or governs:
- A powerful ruler; usually a monarch or dictator
- Anyone with unlimited power or influence
How often do we give over power, yield to others that have no intention of safeguarding it? How often are our gifts squandered under the feet of those who do not recognize them as gifts, or use them to their own advantage? How often have I crushed the spirit of another because I did not recognize the precious spirit, the priceless gifts of that person – God’s image bearer, and whose heart is the place where this Jesus Christ makes home?
We bristle at the enforcement of power over us. From early on: “You’re not the boss of me!” But how many times have I crushed the spirit of another because it felt uncomfortable to relinquish control? Or the times I remained quiet when companions belittled others in our conversation?
God, who created the heavens and the earth and everything in it. All of creation is, well, created! creative, active entity (s), each of us imbued with this Spirit of God. All creatives understand this well – and is a primary reason for substantial incidences of clinical depression among artists – when the result of one’s creative act is released into the world; it is lain bare. It is vulnerable to the critics, wide and far, who make claim to a privileged opinion – expert or no.
So the images I capture and process through my creative software, the slides I craft with words that inspire my sermon, the artistry – font choice, colors, placement, etc. – are guided by my spirit, personal. The words I write and then speak to you come from deep reflection, rewrites, inspired conversations with y’all, made practical in context.
For whom do I create? Well, for everyone who listens to what comes from my mouth and views the art I’ve crafted. Ultimately, though, I know I do all of this because I believe in Jesus Christ, and the project of Kingdom building – a kin-dom of all creation, perfecting, becoming… Opening hearts, opening minds, opening doors.
So why would I ever give potentate status to anyone other than Jesus? What convinces us that others’ opinions or disposition toward us should have unlimited power or influence over us?
Jesus asks “whom do others say that I am?” – this is a question of theology, academic; and then again, “whom do you say that I am?” – this is a question of faith, a personal, authentic experience of the reality of Jesus’ presence.
After a majority stopped following, Jesus asks the disciples, “whom do you say that I am?” These 12 (and a few others) who followed, left everything to follow, and remain with him now, have nowhere else to go – Peter answers, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69)
To say, “I believe in Jesus Christ,” ought to indicate that my life would display something of that belief. Christ, the Messiah, Redeemer – Anointed – is present, now. I believe this reality because I experience that nearness, the truth of Jesus’ voice and strength and love. And because if I don’t? where else can I go? everything about who am I will eventually fall apart.
“God created us for incorruption,Wisdom 2:23-24
and made us in the image of God’s own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.”
I experience life because I am made in the image of God’s own eternity – this God who is above and below, within and outside time-space. And I can know that life, experience life because of the reality of Jesus Christ:
“righteous branch” (from the Jeremiah reading)
“firstborn of all creation” (from the Colossians reading)
“He is the firstborn of all creation, 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. [potentate] 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”(Col 1:15-20)
For in this Jesus Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. God indwells Christ, abides with, and Jesus is God’s abode, dwelling place. And through Jesus, God reconciles to God All Things – making peace between us. And so dwells in us. In me. Jesus is God’s abode, and Jesus dwells in me – So this same Spirit, of the Anointed One, the Christ, makes an abode in me. In you.
Imani Perry writes this in her book, Breathe:
“In the Catholic tradition, there is a form of grace, the sanctifying one, that is the stuff of your soul. It is not defined by moments of mercy or opportunity; it is not good things happening to you. Rather, it is the good thing that is in you, regardless of what happens. You carry this down through generations, same as the epigenetic trauma of [violence]. But the grace is the bigger part. It is what made the ancestors hold on so that we could become.”Imani Perry, Breathe.
The sanctifying grace, the stuff of your soul, my soul – because Jesus Christ IS. And Is Good.
The good that is already in you – dwells in you, makes home with you. And we know this deep in our bones. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe it in my bones.
But let’s make one little tweak in this belief statement.
Howie saw this somewhere and shared it with me:
From a #tedtalk on depression and the role community plays in solving it. “We live in a machine that is designed to get us to neglect what is important about life.” … He went on to say that perhaps we should stop encouraging people to “Just be you, be yourself” and instead offer this advice. “Be us. Be We. Be part of a group.”
We experience Jesus uniquely. Still, Jesus Christ reigns in us. And we experience, and know it, and encourage each other to experience and know it, because you and I are a we.
So, to whom will we give our power, make potentate in our lives? How do we live it – together? What does that look like?
Joe, who noticed a new young man in our pews and intentionally sought him out to invite him to sit with the men at the table during coffee hour.
Deb, whose heart broke when she learned some of our teens despair to the point of desiring death over living, and is committed to help minister to them.
Maybe it means not looking to other “successful” churches to find answers to our problem of dwindling numbers, but look to the Presence, the Jesus Christ we claim to believe in, praying together for God’s leading, praying that we can be the light of Jesus in this world. Perhaps if we pray like we had nowhere else to go, we might even pray ourselves into truly believing it.
Call: Who is it that
Response: We seek the Lord our God.
Call: Do you seek Him with all your heart?
Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.
Call: Do you seek Him with all your soul?
Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.
Call: Do you seek Him with all your mind?
Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.
Call: Do you seek Him with all your strength?
Response: Amen. Christ, have mercy.
Declaration of faith
To whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life,
and we have believed and have come to know
that You are the Holy One of God.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ,
King of endless glory.
Taken from The Northumbria Community, Morning Prayer
Albert Einstein once said,
good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or
what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
– Matthew 16:26 (NIV)
We who are made in the image of God’s own eternity – eternal life, eternal living, real living, the Goodness already within us that impels us to hold on so the next generations can become – We believe in Jesus Christ, the Anointed one whom we know – in our bones – dwells within us.
To whom shall we go? The one who has the words of eternal life – so we can do some real living. Do you seek him with everything – heart, soul, mind, and strength?
Amen. Christ, have mercy.