We finally started lecture on Monday! Our schedule is beginning to look like it will for the rest of the lecture phase – the next three months. This week is “Jesus week” and I love our guest speaker. His name is Trent Sheppard and he’s completely normal. Haha he made the point that we, as a society (and even sometimes as Christians), have this stigma that somehow as we become more and more like Christ we’ll become more and more…well, weird. They give him this big introduction about how he explains the humanity and reality of Jesus so well and how he’s done all this stuff and has all these credentials and, it’s true! I fully expected some weirdo existential “deep” person to walk up there. Well. He does have a ponytail, but he got up and talked about his family and his kids and how awesome and funny and adorable they are. He talked to us and asked us questions like, “What was your favorite band when you were 13?” He was sweet and fun and funny! Cool.
Then he listed three things to keep in mind while he was speaking. 1. Questions are allowed at any point. It is intended to be a conversation rather than a lecture. 2. Standing up to stretch and stay awake is encouraged and will not offend him. 3. He could be wrong.
And at that point, he had me. I will listen to someone who admits that they may not have all the answers. In fact the whole team has encouraged us to come with Bibles and run everything we hear by the scriptures to check it out for ourselves. They fully acknowledge that, although they’re all doing their best, of course we all get things wrong. That makes me so much more comfortable!
Our first lecture was basically about the humanity of Jesus. Which of course, I take for granted since it’s been emphasized all my life. (If you’re not aware, I grew up in a Unitarian church. I.e. although we believe in all three elements of the trinity – God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the holy spirit, we do not believe that they are one and the same. Thus Jesus was born fully human, and only after his ascension was glorified and made Lord over all.) Yet even though I’ve grown up in that, he definitely had some amazing things to teach me.
One of the defining questions of existence, and, according to Trent, one that drives the narrative of scripture, is, “What are humans meant to be?” God answered this question not with words or with rules but with a human, His Son. That’s so cool to me! You know how it’s always better to show than tell? (At least, that’s what my teachers told me.) God didn’t tell us what we were meant to be, He showed us a perfect example!
He (Trent) said that recognizing that Jesus was 100 percent human does three things: first, it increases our faith to follow him; second, it makes us more at home in our own skin; and third, it transforms how we see God. How? For the first part he used the example of Jesus (and then Peter) walking on water.
Matthew 14: 25, 28, 29 (ESV)
25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea… 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.
We see this and think “WOW! Peter had so much believing! How did he get to that point?!” I mean, HE WALKED ON WATER. Only two people have ever done that (although, I learned yesterday, others have tried haha). Well, Peter believed he could do it because there was another human already out there doing it. To Peter, Jesus was a miracle worker and healer, yes, but also his teacher and his buddy. What’s more, he had said to follow him. Students are supposed to follow and imitate their teachers! If a teacher is good, his students should not only be able to do their works, but greater. (Sound familiar?) So Peter was just being a good student. If we think of Jesus not as JESUS, some great legend who inspired stories and changed the world (although, obviously, he is that and we do continue to the honor and glory he’s due as Lord), but as a person, we can actually start to see ourselves following in his footsteps. The Son of God lived his life more perfectly than we ever will, but the same Power that worked in him works in us, and we have the ability to do every. single. thing. that he did. Woah.
To the second point, we discussed the record of Jesus discussing the law at the synagogue when he was 12, and his first miracle of turning water into wine. His first, first miracle occurred just before “his time,” so probably just before he turned 30 (ish). Guys, if that was his first miracle, he lived nearly 30 years miracle-free. There is only the one event in the synagogue recorded from his childhood. It tells us that he was certainly aware of who he was, and very bright, but otherwise probably relatively normal. Other than never sinning. He was a person who did person things and learned carpentry and had brothers and sisters and aunties and uncles and lived life. It’s easy to feel like, if we’re really doing the works of Christ, we should be performing a miracle a day and always evangelizing and reading scripture and praying day and night. But a large portion of his life was life. And he was still being the Son of God. That didn’t start when he was 30. His whole life was holy. Much of our lives may be routine, but we can be comfortable with that. The Son of God himself spent more than 90 percent of his life growing up. There will be seasons of intense activity and miracle working and evangelizing, but there will be quiet seasons too. And it’s ok.
Thirdly, I found out I have an advantage over many Christians in not having grown up believing that Jesus is God. Many Christians, it seems, take what they think they know about God from their experiences or theology and try to fit Jesus into it. But, according to the Word, Jesus Christ should really be the most vivid image to us of who God is.
Hebrews 1: 2, 3 (ESV)
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high
He is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” !!!?!! I really wish I could express in words how amazing this is! And he said himself that he revealed the Father.
John 14: 8, 9 (ESV)
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
The Word reveals to us who God is. But Jesus Christ was the Word made flesh (John 1:14). The best thing we can do if we want to know more about God, His nature, His love, His characteristics and thoughts, is study Jesus Christ. He is “filled with all the fulness of God.” And really, this puts a new imperative in the study of Jesus’s life. He lived (in part) to reveal the Father to us. Every moment and detail of his life (and death and resurrection and current position) recorded in the Bible reveals something about God. Ahhh! Guys, I’ve been giving him so much less credit than he deserves!
In summary, I think I’ll like the lectures. And the people I’m meeting continue to impress me. Lots of big, beautiful hearts around. People are funny and beautiful (I have a working theory that Christians are prettier than non-Christians) and come from an astonishing array of backgrounds. We have people from something like 30 countries, some from this island, and some from literally halfway around the globe (Germany, Denmark, South Africa). I’ve met a taco stand worker turned ballroom dancing instructor, former military, plenty of students, a fire fighter, cross fit instructors, teachers…the list goes on. We even have a few married couples and families. And people are from all sorts of denominations, from Catholic to Presbyterian to non-denominational to free range Christian. It’s pretty cool. This was a long one, sorry. Stay tuned to find out where I might be headed! We had the big reveal today! 😀