Back in August I wrote this post in which I set out my position on the whole question of "TRUTH", and got pummeled for my troubles. I find it more than ironic, then, that my wife's worship series for the season of Epiphany concerns discovering who this Jesus is whose birth we just celebrated with all sorts of pomp and circumstance. I say "ironic" because behind the series is the idea that we need to encounter Jesus today, right now, in the face of all the realities we face, most of which would deny to him significance or meaning for our lives. In other words, meeting Jesus is not a matter of asserting various doctrinal statements, but of encounter, of experience, and of making sense of what so much of our world insists is senseless.
We find ourselves, as Christians, in a situation similar in many respects to that of the early church. Ours is a world of many faiths, many religions, many demands upon our ultimate concern and for our consideration as answers to questions of ultimate significance. Christianity is not the single voice of the West; indeed, the only description of the west is a spiritual and cultural fragmentation encouraging either the intransigence of fundamentalism or the openness of pluralism. My own preference should be obvious, but there is no reason to believe that, in the end, we who live in what was once known as Christendom will settle for the pluralist alternative, especially as it offers few existential comforts in a world of competing loyalties.
Part of getting from where we are to where we might like to be includes learning, perhaps for the first time, perhaps just yet again, who Jesus is, or can be, and what he might have to say about our current situation. Part of this process will be to leave ourselves open to the very real, very live option that he might not have anything to say. We might find that a first century Jewish Messiah offers little or nothing for ordering our lives in the chaos of our (post)modern world. Encountering Jesus, whether again or for the first time, in real openness includes facing the reality that we might just need to bid him adieu.
Struggling with issues of faith in a post-Christian age include always keeping in front of one the possibility of true post-Christianity. We should face this squarely, and not shrink from it either in fear or denial. We live without the net of certainty that always existed underneath even our parents and grandparents, and we should face the fact that, walking as we do upon the blade of a sword over the bottomless pit of meaninglessness is where we are now. With all due respect to those of the fundamentalist persuasion, the constant assertion of various doctrinal positions and statements as eternally true might comfort one in the face of the realities we face, but should a slip occur, and one find oneself plummeting, the comfort one thought was a sturdy line will crumble to ashes and dust. We need to move beyond the platitudes of historic doctrine and discover what, if anything Jesus has to say to us today. And we need to accept that is the answer is "nothing", it might be best to set him aside and move on to that which satisfies.
Thus it is without fear, but with trepidation that we take this Epiphany venture, discovering who this Jesus might be for us, here and now. It is often repeated that God does not so much force us to meet on Divine terms, but comes to us as we are. This cliche had better be right if we are to discover in Jesus something worth guiding our steps in these days of multiple religions, of no religion, of easier, more accessible answers to questions that vex and confront us. If not, we might discover, deep in the heart of the Church, that we no longer have need of its soothing words that now are empty of any real meaning for us.
Are we up to the challenge? Do you want to really meet Jesus as he is, not as we wish him to be? The discovery might just be unsettling.