It will likely come as no surprise at all when I say that people often respond to things I say or write. Partly because I actively encourage it. I always try to remind people that I’m expressing my thoughts and ideas and hope it will inspire them to think about their own. I don’t have the final, authoritative word, I just try to offer something that I think might be meaningful.
Partly, also, because I, well … I say stuff. Sometimes people don’t care for what I said or how I said it.
Both those things are good, I think, particularly when they inspire some meaningful conversation.
I recently had a phone call from someone who didn’t care for something I’d written in a column. They left a message on my voicemail and, to be more specific, it wasn’t about the content of the column, it was about the manner in which I referred to Jesus.
I wrote about Jesus telling the story of the pharisee and the tax-collector who go to the Temple to pray. It - the column, not the story - began “oh, Jesus. Sometimes you say the darndest things.” Later, I also say “good old Jesus, hanging out with the ‘wrong’ crowd.”
My caller was “saddened” by the way I referred to Jesus. They found “the casual way” I referred to Jesus as “almost blasphemous.” It was “disrespectful” the way I talked about “the Kings of Kings, the Lord of Lords” and “Holy God.”
I’m very glad they called and I’m actually honoured that they shared with me how they know Jesus. I mean that sincerely. I’m sure they’re not alone in how they felt and I appreciate they were bold enough to say so. Furthermore, it opens a door.
The church year ends this week (the new year begins with Advent) and, in many denominations, the last Sunday is known as Christ the King or Reign of Christ. It’s an opportunity to consider how we understand that image of the King of Kings and what it might mean for us today. Many of us will hear about Jesus showing us how to bring the kingdom of God here and how love needs to reign in our hearts.
Maybe it’s also an opportunity to consider how we personally imagine Jesus.
I know the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and I appreciate that image, though I might understand it differently. The biblical source is Revelation 19, though lots of people might know it best as “the other words” that are part of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. It certainly evokes a sense of solemnity, dignity and holiness. I grew up in a tradition where those things were most important and I respect the glory that those things extol.
But I’ve also come to know the Jesus who sat down in the dirt with people who were hurting. I’ve imagined the Jesus who would wade into the river to be baptized by John, the Jesus who wasn’t afraid of being “unclean” by spending time with lepers, the Jesus who, I think, would share food and conversation with people others would rather avoid. That Jesus would listen a lot, but would also be happy to tell a joke and share a laugh and even play with children. That’s the Jesus that would sit down next to you and say “how are you today, my friend?”
I’m not saying the King of Kings wouldn’t do that, I just think we all imagine Jesus in the way that allows us each the best way to connect. Sometimes we look up at the throne of glory, sometimes we look up at the cross and sometimes we look across the table at someone who’s just as ordinary as us.