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Too Jesus-y?

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This morning I am coming back to Wisconsin following a week of listening to 20(ish) amazingly amazing preachers, with an unlikely question. Last week I spent 6 days in Washington, D.C., at the Festival of Homiletics. Homiletics. One of those funny church words that my husband always accuses me of making up. As in, when I say “homiletics,” and he says “you are just making up words now…”

Homiletics. Preaching. From sessions entitled, “Preaching to Save the Soul of a Nation,” with Rev. Cynthia Hale, to “Jesus vs. Rome: The Biblical Politics of Gratitude” with Diana Butler Bass, to attending High Mass in the National Cathedral at which Father Richard Rohr spoke, to worshiping at the African Methodist Episcopalian Church at which the funeral of Frederick Douglass was held in 1895, and Rosa Parks’ in 2005. There, in the AME church, we listened to preachers, worshiped, and sang with the gospel choir. History. Theology. God. Jesus. Spirit. THESE were Pentecost moments, as we each heard the Word spoken in the faith languages that resonated deep in our souls.

As the end of the conference neared we—the 1,700 pastor-types that had been gathered together, being spiritually fed, preached at, and shaken out of our complacency—were invited to participate in a Reclaiming Jesus event on Thursday evening. The request came with the statement: “We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.”[1] Words such as “protest” or “non-violent action” were not used to define the upcoming assembly. No. This was to be worship. With revered leaders of multiple denominations.

I went. Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann, spoke. Father Richard Rohr, spoke. Again. As did Rev. Jim Wallis, Mariann Edgar Budde, and Michael Curry (who had just preached at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle the Saturday before). The worship service was then followed by a silent march to the White House. Approximately 2000 people carrying candles, silently, walking through the streets of Washington, DC, with police escort. And then, in front of the White House a rereading of the Reclaiming Jesus confessional and a candlelight vigil. Diana Butler Bass tweeted, “When your day ends at the White House with about 2000 amazing Christian leaders holding up candles like we are Dumbledore’s army resisting evil, well, that’s a good day.”[2]

So my question to you, UCCer’s, is… can something like the Reclaiming Jesus movement be… well… too Jesus-y?

In the opening passages of today’s reading from 2 Corinthians Paul states that “we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5b). We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. “Lord” was a term in the first century reserved for Caesar. And now this illegitimate son of Joseph, who had been a refugee in Egypt, from that “not very good” place of Nazareth, a simple tradesperson, is named Lord? Jesus Christ as Lord. How does that declaration strike us, you… me… sitting here in Fitchburg, WI, today?

The context in which this letter to the people in Corinth was set is not clear. Jouette Bassler writes that Paul’s second letter “… is rather disjointed, reflecting the unstable relationship between the apostle (Paul) and this church…”[3] It may be that what we have in the Bible today is a compilation of two or more letters that, “reflect different states in the tumultuous relationship between Paul and this church.”[4]

This we proclaim: Jesus Christ as Lord. Memorial UCC’s mission statement declares that “We are a community of faith called by God, to gather for worship and reach out in ever-widening circles as a witness to God’s all-inclusive love in Jesus Christ…”

Paul writes about being afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down—but also that they as Jesus followers were not crushed, not driven to despair, not forsaken, not destroyed. Bassler notes that this letter “…present(s) us with the challenge of how to claim a suffering Savior, a crucified Messiah. This is an ambiguous symbol. Some will find God powerfully present in it. Others may feel God’s absence. It is, in either case, a symbol that claims our attention and demands our reflection”[5]

With the distribution of bibles to the youth in 3rd grade today, I pray that they use these bibles…that they fold the pages… mark-up them up… jot down questions… and highlight them until they are tattered. In remembrance of today’s faith milestone in their lives, this week I pulled out the bible I received at the Plymouth United Church of Christ in Dodgeville when I was in 3rd grade. The Rev. Dave Roberts was the pastor. In the bible he presented to me, he highlighted this verse:

…in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15, RSV)

Through the years I often pondered “what does this scripture mean for me?” Jesus Christ as Lord? How am I to give voice to the Good News of the transformative love I have experienced in my relationship with God?

Just a few months ago, the Rev. John Thomas preached at my ordination to our time, our context, saying:


“…ultimately the ministry to which Kristin is called, to which the whole church is called, is the careful stewardship of this knowledge:  that we live in the love of God and with the overwhelming sense of God’s living presence among us.”

He went on to say:

“Kristin comes to this ministry at a particularly challenging time with chaos strewn across the landscape in daily tweets, established norms upended, threats to cherished values everywhere, commitments to justice and peace under assault, spirits demoralized by corruption, greed, racist and xenophobic claims, communities and families divided, the environment and its poorest inhabitants challenged by climate change and its denial, and human existence imperiled by nuclear saber rattling.  Voices beckon loudly from the left and the right, clamoring for our allegiance and the way ahead seems more uncertain than ever.”

…in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15, RSV)

The Reclaiming Jesus movement has additionally, “…commend(ed) this letter to pastors, local churches, and young people who are watching and waiting to see what the churches will say and do at such a time as this… Our urgent need, in a time of moral and political crisis, is to recover the power of confessing our faith. Lament, repent, and then repair… We believe it is time to speak and to act in faith and conscience, not because of politics, but because we are disciples of Jesus Christ…. It is time for a fresh confession of faith. Jesus is Lord. He is the light in our darkness. ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12).”[6]

But I wonder, and this is the question I alluded to earlier: Can a movement that strives to “Reclaim Jesus,” be a little too “Jesus-y” for us? As Jesus followers in 2018, is there such a thing, can there be such as thing as being “too Jesus-y”? And, as Matt Skinner wonders, “What does it look like when the Gospel (the Good News) takes hold of you?”[7]

It might surprise you to hear me readily admit that there was a point in my life when I did not feel comfortable proclaiming that I was a Christian. What? Me? A follower of Jesus? Really? One of THOSE people? It was communion… and in particular communion by intinction… coming to THIS TABLE, the particularly relational way in which we will take part in the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the juice in a few minutes that grabbed my faith. Not the solitary morsel that is ingested when we receive communion sitting in the pews… but that sensory revelation of God With Us in the relational tearing of the bread, the smell of the wine. The fullness of life embraced at the Open Table as I am welcomed into community with others on their own faith journey. Sharing in communion with others, in all the implications that are packed into that meal, has captured my attention, made me tune more fully into the presence of God in my life… and to yes… made me a Jesus freak.


The call to Reclaim Jesus affirms that:

“Jesus is Lord. That is our foundational confession. It was central for the early church and needs to again become central to us. If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar was not—nor any other political ruler since. If Jesus is Lord, no other authority is absolute… We pray, ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:10). Our faith is personal but never private, meant not only for heaven but for this earth.

The question we face is this: Who is Jesus Christ for us today?”

What does it look like when the Gospel takes hold of us here, in our faith community?  For we need an awakening. What Karoline Lewis calls a “…Sabbath awakening. We need to be told again and again that the Sabbath is not just for our personal well-being but for the abundant life of the other.” Feeding people. For our bodies, and our spirits, and our communities, are hungry. This is the time and this is the place to which God has called us. Jesus has led us.

And this is the time and place in which the Spirit moves us.

May we live in the love of God.

May we be Jesus-y.

May we reclaim the living Christ in our midst.

Can I get an Amen?


~Pastor Kris


Reflection offered June 3, 2018, on 2 Cor. 4:5-12 and Mark 2:23-3:6



[1] “Reclaiming Jesus.” Reclaiming Jesus. May 30, 2018. Accessed May 31, 2018. http://www.reclaimingjesus.org/.

[2] Bass, Diana Butler. Twitter. May 24, 2018. Washington, D.C.

[3] Bassler, Jouette M. Women’s Bible Commentary. Edited by Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998. 420.

[4] Ibid. 420.

[5] Bassler, Jouette M. Women’s Bible Commentary. Edited by Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998. 422.

[6] “Reclaiming Jesus.” Reclaiming Jesus. May 30, 2018. Accessed May 31, 2018. http://www.reclaimingjesus.org/.

[7] “Sermon Brainwave.” SB608 – Second Sunday after Pentecost – Working Preacher – Preaching This Week (RCL). Accessed May 31, 2018. https://www.workingpreacher.org/brainwave.aspx.