(This is the fourth week in a sermon series based on John Shelby Spong’s recent book, “The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic.”)
Who was this Jesus guy?
To those who believed in what he taught and how he lived, he was the Light of the World, the Living Water, the Bread of Life. He brought healing and wholeness through a ministry of love, compassion, kindness and forgiveness.
To those who were fearful of change and were determined not to believe, he was a sinner, a rebel and a heretic. He broke their most sacred laws. He included people who were considered unclean and unrighteous. And, he spoke as if he knew God intimately.This last was met with equal parts scorn, anger and cynicism.
At this point in my sermon series, we find ourselves in chapters 8 and 9 of the gospel of John. Tension between the followers of Jesus and the Pharisees who condemn him has continued to grow. Jesus has begun to speak openly about those who plan to kill him. Clearly, he says, “my message has found no room in you.” And so, despite the fact that he has brought them light – clarity, vision, a connection with the Divine – they would die separated from God and empty. Truth and freedom were offered, but they preferred their laws and their egos.
The final split of these two factions, Spong suggests, is metaphorically depicted in the story of the man born blind in John 9. Just as the blind man comes to see with the help of Jesus, refuses to deny him, and is subsequently kicked out of the synagogue for it, so it was for the followers of Jesus in the Johannine community circa 88 CE.
I suppose the message for us it two-fold. Where in our lives are we holding tight to old ways simply for the sake of security and fear of change? And where do we need to have the courage to risk rejection and isolation for standing up for what we believe in?
Will we choose darkness or light? Security or freedom? Blindness or sight? Laws or compassion? Ego or new consciousness?