PROFOUND . . . "I AM" - Imagining the Bread of Life
I confess; I am an Olympic addict. Whether it is the winter or summer games, I watch as much as I can. I greatly admire the dedication and dignity of all the athletes as they compete and the amazing abilities they showcase. There is such excitement, artistry, skill, drama, and trauma. I am particularly fond of curling and short track skating this time around and not so much the figure skating competitions but it’s all good. I also thoroughly enjoy the stories of the athletes or others connected with the Olympics shown each day during the TV coverage. These stories are human, personal, and heartfelt. They capture your attention and bring you into the lives of the athlete such that you can’t help but cheer for them.
Watching every day one sees the common and recurrent themes in the broadcasts and commercials. Two have caught my attention. The first is the frequent promotion of an upcoming NBC special presentation of the Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, featuring John Legend. This is being billed as Legend’s greatest role and who wouldn’t be labeled as such when playing Jesus Christ. The second is the use of John Lennon’s iconic song, Imagine. It was part of the opening ceremonies, used in commercials and was the music for one of the figure skater's long programs.
As we continue in our Profound series, it is clear and has been clear for 2000 years, Jesus Christ is “in your face” challenging us to decide who He is. This past weekend’s message focused on Jesus’ statement that “I am the bread of life” in John chapter 6. In essence, He is saying I am the ultimate sustainer of all that is good and worthwhile in life. As Pastor Ed stated, “Jesus doesn’t have resources, He is the resource.” We must choose for ourselves if He is the God of the Universe, Creator, Sustainer, and Savior. I mention the promotion of Jesus Christ Superstar and Lennon’s Imagine because each depicts a response to Jesus’ challenge. Please do not take away from this post that I am objecting to either or calling for their rejection or their ejection from the airwaves. I simply use them to make a spiritual point that each has made a theological, philosophical and personal choice about Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ Superstar when boiled down to its essence states that Jesus is simply a man who achieved “rock star” status. But stripped of the hype, he is a flawed man, like all of us, who is caught up, believes in and is swallowed up by the acclaim. He is not the Great I AM, the Bread of Life, or the Resurrection and the Life. He may have had good teaching and proclaimed lofty moral goals but in the end, he is simply a man. Lennon asks us to imagine a world where there is no God; No heaven or hell, just the sky above us with all the people living as one and simply living for today. It is very obvious in this song, Jesus Christ is not the Great I Am. He is the great I Am Not. Therefore we see two responses to Jesus as old as the days when He walked the streets of Jerusalem and as new as the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
As finite human beings it is difficult not to come to another conclusion than propounded by Weber-Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar or Lennon’s Imagine when we consider the mass shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida or think of nuclear-tipped missiles in North Korea a mere 50 miles from the Winter Olympics or the great political divisiveness that engulfs our American society. God must be non-existent or Jesus is simply a man with nice teachings but no power for change. Do we as Christ-followers succumb to similar thinking? Do we react to Jesus as was depicted by King Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar as he sang, “So, you are the Christ, you're the great Jesus Christ. Prove to me that you're divine; change my water into wine. That's all you need do, then I'll know it’s all true.” Not unlike those waiting for Jesus to feed people again with miraculous bread and fishes but all soon left. So what are we to do? How do we impact a cynical world? It comes down to us understanding that it is not about me but all about Jesus, believing then and giving Him the credit by telling our God stories. We may not have the forum like the athletes in the Olympics but telling our God stories, one person at a time, is powerful. Heartfelt stories in the context of a relationship can move mountains. And I didn’t say preach or debate but tell our stories. Perhaps it would help Christ-followers instead of singing Lennon’s Imagine, sing along with Mercy Me and belt out the song, I Can Only Imagine.