Saturday, April 22, 2023

Making Jesus our Foundation

 1 Corinthians 3.10-11

"By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."  (NIV)

 “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord” – as the hymn goes.  When writing to the Corinthians, St Paul was very keen to ensure that Jesus remained the focus of that new church’s life.  This is an important issue for us, too.  Without a constant and deliberate effort to re-focus our church life, and our personal lives, on Jesus, we can find ourselves heading down rabbit holes of well-intentioned, but ultimately fruitless endeavours

So, what does it mean to make Jesus the foundation of our personal lives?  A common mistake is to imagine that by asking Jesus to be our foundation, or to come into our lives (as an evangelical might say) he will help us with all our problems.  In other words, some folks come to church to ask for God’s help, with their suffering, or their finances, or the health of a loved one.  This, my friends, is a common mistake.  It is the same mistake made by everyone who thinks of God as some sort of Father Christmas figure; someone who will grant favours in return for the right prayers.  It’s the same mistake that the Israelites made in the wilderness when they started to worship a golden calf.  It’s the same mistake that all religions make when they erect statues of gods and then ply those statues with gifts of food or riches, in an attempt to receive a blessing.

When we make Jesus our foundation, or ask him into our lives, we are actually saying that we want to become more like Jesus.  He is the model, the pattern, for the perfect human life.  He is the image that we need to copy, or to emulate, in order to attain the promise of a fully lived life, in sickness and in health, in poverty or in plenty.   From the life of Jesus we learn how to live simply, to love extravagantly, to forgive constantly and to rest frequently.  From his death, we learn the value of sacrifice.  From his resurrection, we learn that all deaths and disasters can be overcome, transformed and reshaped by God’s power.  By making Jesus our foundation and focus, we learn how to live life to the full. 

When I was a young Christian, I used to wear with woven hippy-bracelet with the letters WWJD on it.  ‘What would Jesus do?’.  It’s a really good question to ask ourselves in every circumstance of life.  If I’m feeling angry, or afraid, what would Jesus do?  If I’m feeling greedy or lazy…what would Jesus do?  If I’m suffering, or if I’m celebrating, what would Jesus do?

But there is a danger to navigate when we ask this question.  The danger is that, unless we KNOW Jesus, there is always the danger that we will create him in our OWN image.  That’s what happens when people who claim the name of Christian say or do hateful things.  Nationalism, for example, is not a Christian idea.  Hatred of foreigners, is not Christian.  Trolling people we disagree with, on social media or in person, is not Christian.  Refusing to forgive someone who has wronged us is not Christian.  Oppressing women, causing the poverty of others, exploiting the planet’s resources for our own pleasure and convenience, is not what Jesus would do.  The accumulation of vast personal wealth is not what Jesus would do.

But how shall we know?  How shall we tell which attitudes and decisions we make are really Christian, and which are not?  Only, my friends, by spending time with Jesus.  The main way we have been given to do that is through the pages of the Gospels.  Only by soaking ourselves in the attitudes, teachings and life of Jesus in the Gospels can we ever hope to be wise enough to know what Jesus would do.  So, let me ask you this:  when did you last open a Gospel and read it – and really soak yourself in it?  I suspect that for many of us, the answer to that question might be a bit challenging.

I’d like to suggest a tiny change in the language we Christians use.  The work ‘Christian’ gets banded about a lot in our society.  We are told that we live in a ‘Christian’ country (though some argue that actually we live in a post-Christian one).  The word Christian is, to our shame, associated with all sorts of horrible things.  At best, Christians are perceived as naïve fools who think that prayers to an invisible deity will be answered.  Or we are associated with gluttonous levels of spending on fine buildings, gold and silver ornaments, and the wasteful refurbishment of crumbling ruins, while millions starve.  At worst, the word Christian is associated in the public mind with hateful anti-gay rhetoric, or the oppression of women, or at the very worst, awful cases of sexual abuse within the church.

But I want us to reclaim the word.  So, whenever the topic comes up, I choose to use the phrase ‘CHRIST-ian’ (with the emphasis on Christ).  I won’t say that I’m a ‘Kristjen’ – no, I’m trying to be a CHRIST-ian – someone who is deliberately and diligently aiming to base my life on the teachings of Jesus Christ.  That takes work.  It takes a willingness to continually renew my knowledge about Christ, through the Gospels, so that the question of what Jesus would do becomes easier and easier to answer.  It takes effort to build a strong foundation for my faith, and for my life.  Will you join me in that effort?  Amen.

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