Good News of God in Christ
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare THE WAY of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’
~ John the Baptist, Luke 3:4-6
The prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist both told people to prepare the way of the Lord – the way of Jesus. Jesus himself said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” For Christians, those who follow Jesus, he is the Way. The first Christians referred to their new community as the Way in the book of Acts for this reason. It was understood that the way to God, was the Way of Jesus Christ. In those early years following Jesus looked a lot different than the institutional church we know today. The focus was on discipleship; learning the Way of Jesus – how we lived, how he treated others, how love is the most important thing in this world. Ultimately, what Christ Church tries to do is to help people learn the Way and then to live it out in their own lives.
Why we follow the Way at all?
Who was Jesus, and why does he matter, to history and to us today?
Those are good questions, and to answer them, let’s back up and start at the beginning.
In the beginning, God created the world and everything in it, including us. We don’t know the particulars and the timetables, but we know the ancient stories of scripture that our ancestors told about the origin of our world through God’s creative touch. Because of those stories we believe that when God created us, God knew that what he created was good – that we were good. But good does not mean perfect. We have within us the God-given capacity to think and choose for ourselves, which means that at times we can choose things for ourselves that God may not wish for us.
Over many centuries and generations God’s people and God drifted further and further apart. Those who came before us thousands of years ago often described God as angry and distant and they had trouble relating to God in a positive and life-giving way. We often got caught up on rules and laws, which while helpful, do not a healthy, life-giving relationship make. Relationship is about interaction and closeness, and up to a certain point in history, a tangible relationship with God was elusive and mysterious. But God acted yet again, in response to the goodness of God’s creation and out of a love for us. Since we were having trouble finding our way to God, God found a way to us.
Our God is a great and mysterious God, to be sure. We talk about God as one, but in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, or in some circles: Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. We call God a Trinity in shorthand. All three persons of the Trinity have been active since the beginning of time, and as God took action to come to his people, we would get to know one of those persons really well.
God made the radical decision to come to earth in human form, an incarnate God alongside God’s people. We believe that that person, was and is Jesus Christ, who was both fully human and fully God. Christians believe that the clearest picture we have of God is found in Jesus of Nazareth who lived, died, was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven. Jesus was a real historical figure, and as a result of his short life, millions of people have found new life in God through a relationship with the risen Christ.
The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is the active presence of God that helps us connect to Christ and our creator through our prayer, our study and our worship. The Holy Spirit moves in and through us, and through Christ’s Church, letting us know the presence of God and God’s desires for this world. It is the Spirit that speaks to us as we read Holy Scripture and experience the presence of God in our worship.
How did people come to follow Jesus?
Why did people lose their lives in order to teach others the Way of Christ?
Jesus was a radical for his day. He was also faithful in keeping ancient traditions alive at the same time. Jesus’ teachings added up to a reinterpretation of God’s laws and God’s hopes for all people. Prophets had long tried to interpret God’s desires, but their teachings often fell on deaf ears, or were misinterpreted. Jesus’ message was one of service to “the least of these”; reaching out to heal the sick, touch the untouchable, love the unlovable and to seek peace instead of violence. It may not sound like a radical message to us, yet it threatened those who held power in Jesus day, as it still threatens the powerful today. People began to realize that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah – the one who would usher in God’s kingdom. Jesus was more than just a good teacher, and a seeker of justice and peace. Jesus was also God’s Son and his life, death, and resurrection accomplished something even greater than his example.
Ultimately Jesus was put to death because of his defiance of authority, both within the religious and the secular cultures of his day. He was sentenced to death by hanging from a cross as a punishment, and he did indeed die. His followers were distraught; this was not the way things were supposed to happen to the Messiah. Clearly they had been wrong. But they weren’t wrong after all. Three days after he died, Jesus was raised from the dead, and suddenly, the Way of the Messiah could be understood. It was not to bring God’s kingdom to bear through violence and force, but through love and peace. That love has never been more evident than in the offering of his life so that we could know life for ourselves.
One of the aspects of Jesus’ death and resurrection is that in doing so, all of God’s people were found worthy; all peoples then, before and since were redeemed through the life-giving love of Christ. Christ showed us that God loved us despite our failures and our shortcomings; despite our fears that we were unlovable, Christ showed us that we were loved more than we could ever imagine. This love is the basis of our understanding of sin and its place in our lives. Sin is a very real part of our lives. Sin is the name we give to those things that we do (or don’t do) that are contrary to God’s desires and expectations for God’s people. It is important that we can name our sinfulness – the places where we fall short and miss the mark – and that we can ask forgiveness for those sins. The assurance of forgiveness is already ours through Christ’s death and resurrection – a reminder that our sin is not enough to separate us from the love of God – a love displayed in Jesus Christ. It is important for us to realize and confess our brokenness and see and accept our wholeness in Christ at the same time.
So what is The Way?
The Way of Jesus is the clearest way to God that has been revealed to us. But what exactly is the Way? Jesus once summarized the laws of God very simply. At a time when the religious tradition of the day had thousands of laws to follow, Jesus was asked what the greatest of God’s laws were, and he said it this way: ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ (Matthew 22:37-40). The Way is about loving God and one another, learning from and sharing the love we have already received from God.
We who are followers of Christ and his Way seek to live lives of intentional service to others, to be faithful in prayer and worship, and to share the life in Christ we have discovered with others. We believe that it is in living into the example of Jesus Christ that we learn what it means to have an “eternal life”. Eternal life is not just some point in the future when we have died, but here and now. We believe that in following the Way, we bring God’s kingdom to bear here and now for those who so desperately need it. God loves us, and has always loved us, and we know this chiefly through Jesus Christ.
If you would like to know more about The Way of Jesus and how to live it out in your own life, come an join us as we journey together at Christ Church.
Some scripture passages that help us understand
what The Way is all about:
The Parable of the Man with Two Sons
“Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’”
Jesus Speaks about what judgment will look like
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”