Friday, November 19, 2010

Will the real Jesus please stand up?

The Three Christs of Ypsilanti is a book written by a psychiatrist at the state hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He had three schizophrenic patients all claiming to be Jesus Christ and, in a somewhat sadistic move, he decided to put them together and force them to interact with one another. In this experiment the patients were confronted with each other’s conflicting claims. I think it was the psychiatrist’s intention to break through their delusions, but all that really happened was that each one became even more convinced that he was Jesus Christ and the other two were mental patients in a hospital.

It reminds me of the conflicting ideas about Jesus that are present in the world today, especially among Christians. I certainly have my ideas about Jesus and they don’t coincide with the ideas a peddler of the prosperity gospel has about Jesus as a good luck charm who will make all your dreams come true. Nor do I share the ideas of Jesus that you might hear from a preacher who is all about the blood of Jesus washing away your sins so you can get into heaven someday. How can we follow such different Jesuses? Sometimes I wonder if maybe I’m the one who’s being delusional.

This Sunday we liturgical-types will be celebrating the festival of Christ the King. At Holy Trinity, for our gospel procession we’ll be singing the hymn that proclaims, “Crown him Lord of all.” In between verses of that glorious hymn we’ll hear a passage about a guy who was nailed to a wooden cross. My hope is that the juxtaposition of the two will strike our worshippers as bizarre. After all, what kind of a king is this? He’s a king who showed us that the life abundant we so long for is a life given in love. He’s a king who offers us an alternative reality to the one that so obviously dominates our world of fear, hatred and violence. When he taught us about that alternative reality he called it the kingdom of God.

It seems to me that worshipping Christ the King may not have a whole lot to do with what we believe about Jesus. We may not all see Jesus in the same way. We may not agree with the preachers we see on T.V. or even our family members we’ll be sharing Thanksgiving dinner with this week. But Christ is King whenever and wherever we are about the business of living into the kingdom of God that he inaugurated. That kingdom is not some future utopia, but it’s here and now for all who recognize it as a radically different way of being in relationship with God and with one another. Do you see it? Are you a part of it? Is it a part of you?

1 comment:

Linda Faltin said...

Many years ago on my Psych rotation in nursing, I encountered a young Jewish man, son of a rabbi, who was convinced that he had met Jesus Christ in the psych ward at Bellevue Hospital in NYC. And the only reason he was not being discharged from our hospital was because he believed this was really true and would not give it up as a delusion/illusion. One day I sat with him, talking about all this and he finally said to me, "Well, where do you think Jesus would end up if he were here today and claimed to be himself?" And all I could think- from my 20-yeaar-old wisdom- was, "He'd be admitted to Bellevue."