Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sunday Sermon: What the World Needs Now

Just for a change, I thought I would post a sermon instead of a devotional...especially for those of you who may be up late trying to craft a sermon on John 4.

There’s a new book coming out, called the “Third Jesus.” It’s written by Deepak Chopra who is this generation’s equivalent of Von Daniken. He writes a lot of best sellers about spirituality, especially of the New Age variety, and I have no doubt that this book will soon reach number one on the Times best sellers list.

It’s sad that this kind of junk theology can become so popular and soaked into the precious souls of millions of modern people. They lap up this kind of godless garbage and pore over its contents without opening up the Gospels to find the real Jesus. They would rather read the warped interpretations of a Hindu guru-author whose cosmology makes them feel special. Chopra is a bit like Oprah when it comes to the theological world – it’s all about feeling good about yourself and discovering the god within you, instead of feeling good about Christ and the God around us.

Here’s what Deepak has to say about Christ, or more precisely the Three Christ’s that we know:

First, there is the historical Jesus, the man who lived more than two thousand years ago and whose teachings are the foundation of Christian theology and thought. Next there is Jesus the Son of God, who has come to embody an institutional religion with specific dogma, a priesthood, and devout believers. And finally, there is the third Jesus, the cosmic Christ, the spiritual guide whose teaching embraces all humanity, not just the church built in his name. He speaks to the individual who wants to find God as a personal experience, to attain what some might call grace, or God-consciousness, or enlightenment.

In other words, all that the world needs now is a Hinduistic Cosmic Christ and jettison the Christ whose church embraces and engages the world in the midst of its poverty, brokenness, and sin. For those of you who don’t know, this is classical Hindu teaching where the poor and miserable are neglected, whilst the priestly and noble classes are worshipped and exalted.

Deepak is so far off the beaten track as far as real Christianity is concerned. He’s falling into the old trap of syncretism – trying to get Christ to fit his theories instead of trying to fit his life into Christ’s ways. Deepak may be successful at selling millions of books with his meaningless mumbo-jumbo, but as far as doing the work of God’s Kingdom – well, let’s put it this way: you’ve got to be in it, to spin it.

Let me show you how today’s scripture reveals to us the One Complete Christ, and not the Three Jesus’ that Chopra is promoting.

Look at verse 6:
6 Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

What does this tell us about Jesus historically? It reveals to us that Christ was a human being. He was tired and he was thirsty. He had walked for several miles, going from one town to the other. It was the sixth hour, which meant it was the middle of the day. Christ’s energy was sapped from the heat of the mid day sun. He needed to rest his weary feet. He needed to stop and relax for a while. And he desperately needed something to drink.

This is the historical Jesus. This is a man who is weary and exhausted; tired and thirsty; hungry and all alone. What Jesus needs now is a kind word and a smile, and a refreshing drink of cold water.

Now we didn’t need Deepak to tell us that – we didn’t need his convoluted book to let us know that Jesus existed and was a frail human being just like the rest of us. All we had to do was read the Gospel and, lo and behold, there He is! In fact, Jesus is so human, so much of a pathetic, weary man that He has to turn to a woman to help Him out! Just another typical guy, needing a woman to take care of Him.

But what about this Second Jesus that Deepak writes about? What about this Son of God who institutes a new religion for devout believers?

Well, let’s look at the passage again. Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for water. Jews were not supposed to ask Samaritans for anything. It was beneath their dignity. Samaritans were unclean, unwashed, unholy people who were thought of as disdainful idolaters by the orthodox Jews. Because Jesus was a Rabbi, He should never have associated Himself with this Samaritan woman. And even worse, her own people didn’t even associate with her, which must have meant that she was immoral and adulterous, shameless and sinful.

But tired and weary as Jesus was, He wanted to reach out to this woman spiritually. Instead of being annoyed at her, Jesus says this to her:

10 "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

What does this mean? What is Jesus trying to reveal to her? He’s letting the woman know that He is not just a Jewish man looking for a strange woman in a strange land to help Him out. He’s beginning to minister to her, to rouse her curiosity, and to attract her soul to Him. He’s reaching out to this woman, who has been abandoned by her own community, with kindness and compassion, respect and dignity that she hasn’t known in such a long time. He’s having a conversation with her; He’s connecting to her heart and soul, not her body and beauty. He’s helping her to confront her past in order to heal her. He’s intervening in her life, in order to save her from herself.

And this is what Christ does through the church, in the world, generation after generation. His words, His ways, His work continues every single day through the life, ministry, and mission of His church on earth. Our dogma reveals to us that Jesus is the Son of God and through Him alone salvation is found. He institutionalizes and sustains the Church, in order to make the world a better place, a loving place, a compassionate place. What the world needs now is this Jesus who reaches out to the outcasts and embraces sinners, in order to bring them in from the fields of sin to the compassionate Kingdom of God.

You know recently I was upset with an American Episcopal Bishop who apologized to the Hindus in India for the 200 years of Christian mission in Indian society. “There are enough Christians in the world and we are sorry for trying to convert your people to our faith.” What a load of Universalist baloney!

I am not sorry that 200 years ago missionaries went to India to try to convince people that worshipping trees and rivers, stone idols and thousands of god and goddesses was wrong. I am not sorry that Christian missionaries stopped the sacrificial slaughter of babies to appease vengeful gods. I am not sorry that Christians sought to stop the acts of ritual suicide that took place, where widows old or young had to cast themselves onto the burning remains of their dead husbands. And I am certainly not sorry that Christian missionaries worked with and helped the millions of people who lived in the gutters of cities like Bombay and Calcutta and were treated as human filth and manure just because they were born as pariahs – outcastes – who had no chance of changing their inhumane treatment by the other Hindu classes.

Jesus is the Son of God and we are His church in the world, which is called to reach out into the world to bring His Gospel of repentance and restoration, compassion and confrontation to all people. The Historical Jesus is the same as the Institutionalized Jesus - we just have to keep reading the real Gospels, instead of the book-marketing baloney that Deepak Chopra and his New Age, Prosperity Gospel cronies keep churning out.

Finally, we come to this Third Jesus of Chopra’s book – the New Age Cosmic Christ – the One who speaks to individuals who want to have a consciousness of God, but as Chopra said on CNN the other day – not necessarily as part of a personal relationship, more of a spiritual awareness that God exists. In other words, giving us the ability to know of God, but not to be influenced, guided, or even judged by God.

When Jesus speaks to this woman at the well to engage her in a conversation and to eventually confront her sinful ways, He does so in order to affect a godly change in her life. He’s not doing it to pass the time of day or to wile away the hours in small talk, Jesus speaks directly to this woman to get her reconnected to God, to redeem her from her foolish choices, and to restore her to God’s love and favor.

Christ doesn’t talk to her to make her aware that God merely exists; He talks to her because, although God is displeased with her sin, He has not stopped loving her. This isn’t about merrily co-existing in the universe as Creator and creatures; this all about the reason why God created us in the first place – to have a loving, caring, and everlasting relationship with Him. That’s why Jesus says He has Living Water – water sustains all life on this planet – but God’s Living water in Christ sustains all eternal life in the Universe!

13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

This is the Cosmic Christ that Deepak mentions, but not a Cosmic distant, uncaring, uninterested Christ – that’s Hindu theology – this is the One, True and Living Christ – who gets thirsty on a hot day, who preaches to lost souls, who offers eternal salvation to all who come and drink with Him! There is no such thing as a Third Jesus – just as there is no such thing as a third World, another false Hindu theology – we’re all part of One World and we all are called to believe in One Christ – historical, traditional, and cosmological – all Three in One!

The rest of John Chapter 4 deals with the confrontation and conversion of this Samaritan woman. In Christ, she finds what she truly needs – the love, mercy, and forgiveness of God. She takes this message back to her own people, who have shunned her and made her an outcast. Eventually, her own people are converted as well. They say to her: "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."

In other words, they make the connection with Jesus and place their lives and souls into His saving hands.

The challenge we face today is this: are we willing to do the same?

Stushie is the pastor at Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee and writes the daily devotional "Heaven's Highway."


Jim Jordan said...

Excellent sermon. John 4 was an excellent selection to show the complete Jesus. Deepak Oprah must have missed that part.

EPLU... said...

ABOVE ALL, LOVE!' {to shorten my comment} Dear Pastor Stushie,It is my first visit to this blog, Presbyterian Bloggers - A community For Those Whose Blogging Is Decent And In Order (hoping my comment is both ), and maybe I stay up a little late listening to other forums and talk shows on late night radio stations, but when any of us awake and seek God's word sometimes it just doesn't seem to be found in print; that is that it may be exposed to us later in our day, or to the nature of our concern-exposed in its own way in its time. The post "Sunday Sermon-What The World Needs Now" , it caught me right today, as I hope to relate how without deviating from the messages it holds. Especially with being short on time to write. So,..Just when I thought I found a place to comment, and the right timing, it turns out to be on "a sermon instead of a devotional"; at least its still a blog! And here I go with a “A Dear Pastor Stushie,” , AND a “Thanks for the change.” I try to practice (religiously) to "Seek God First And Pray" everyday as I awake and face the world, or the day; in that, of many things I may forget, like just thanking God, or some praise to God for something, or for forgiveness and a little strength to being better the next time,...(I could go on...) This morning the same, and after starting my day, after my chores, I later turned to check my email too; in which was one of those kind of promises on level that offers some sort of sollution for success. Though simply ironic, the presentaion of my recieved email promotion as "Don't just say anything, say the right thing" & offered a course in vocabulary for a "so Many Words Away From Success...””to command” ". Now it happens that I have always felt since being babtized as a child in a Presbyterian church, and continuing for those few years of a start in different Presbyterian chuches as we moved to different areas, that "that made me "a Presbyterian", I guess", or at least always at heart. The purpose in note of that, is that its my closest in the tangent of "labeling"; this again is needed for me to add, to pull together some of the sermon's labels: Labels: Labels: Christianity, cosmology, Deepak Chopra, dogma, eternal life, God, Gospel of John, Hinduism, Historical Jesus, junk theology, New Age, religion, Salvation, the real Jesus, The Third Jesus, Von Daniken (many of which I know little or nothing of). The Presbyterian influence is that I never seemed to fully gather between many denominations, nor as many more wisdoms within the world which I TRY in search(not just the internet) for gain of a degree of the same understanding as my search results imply, to put those wisdoms to the test of God, Christ Jesus, The Bible, the wisdom and stories of the prophets, and the view and applicable to the current world as it is presented; and all in concidering Thy Kingdom Come that will if I had done or if I do or don't. The greatest commandment came to mind; so of the word command and to whatever goal or mission or gain in recieving the word, God I sought and have read your sermon for us and absorb as I ponder as you have said of it, "In other words, they make the connection with Jesus and place their lives and souls into His saving hands. The challenge we face today is this: are we willing to do the same?. " That was yesterday(now the day before), but to close that night, the gospel-talk on the talk-radio show was on topic of Ecclesiastes and very comforting and something as a compliment for me, it seemed to me . Then a little vanity crept in from efforts I made, as a goal, to at least add my comment by Friday, as if Leap Day was giving me an extra day. In all that I’ve mentioned, to point out that on top of what a gift it was to the woman, I give my praise for/to Jesus' working and what grace lent to a siund reason for inclusion of this-"But tired and weary as Jesus was, He wanted to reach out to this woman spiritually". Exausting as it seems now for me to continue any draft after so much time, and many tangents more like a bunch of wind; with my two nights from Ecclesiastes; my third day with scattered thoughts intertwined from passages from Ezekiel, Ezra chapters 7-9, and Danial; and another saturday lead in from Job; I decided to wait and rest on those thoughts before submitting a post, mostly to spare those seeking the newest sermon/devotional from something seemingly stuck in a past. Also there was some wonder if where I might have wondered would end up in some line with the new or current devotional; Connecting so far(I haven't read what the labels link to yet), only by some definition of Labels of Presbyterian devotions, credibility , dogma .. I would say my comment should also include creation, poor world cultures , other gods, the land that we work, predestination , authority, genesis, cosmology, astronomy ("Psalm 147:4 He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.") , and astrology, Cleaves to the dust, Psalms 119, Psalm 1 OR Psalms 1 , Exodus 12, and work instructions (which I cant find the exact link I saw..)..., faith, grace Many other things that I should save for a blog of my own, or if it be of more conclusive wonder and concise topic, any further here being sent by email. But just enough to ballance the bearing of my comment with that of the sermon, would include astrology and mythology to the most recent influences to the "New Age" and concientiousness of the conciousness (what i just see by the letters and words written ) is that it is not selfish of me that I explain it this way, nor am I advocating any tangent more than what scriptures of Jesus, and of Jesus, Our Lord, and also what is given through The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit; of to say whether or how much truth and understanding of those are in these, as Zodiak is related to The Gospel, and our place under the stars ; a King Arthur bloodline that somehow stems from Mary's Uncle Joseph of Arimathea; The ancient "I Ching" of the Tang Dynasty(or more ancient); or of any peddler, author, or showman, scientist, lawyer, ...(I teed-off with a wedge/post from Steven J Camp from the CampOnThis blog, where I also commented less the draft and up the coffee) ; these all for some nature of understanding and then a zooming in to come back for a landing, are not to knock the story, the legends, the math, or the truth and spirit, and most important-not to knock the story teller from the same grace and truth we all have to live with in our own environment for as there is truly one truth and many perspectives, the difficulty in finding it and keeping within an orderly manner varries; gee-wiz(ingenious) it is to what notes can be made to building character, specially when delivered by characters.. (I hope that makes sense) . My Finale here is that this was all a result of a keyword search of which - These terms have been highlighted:"whoever drinks water will not thurst listen speak only presbyterian" These Terms only appear to be pointing to this page: "hear" My Conclusion: Characters In Pugh, Feel the love, listen, even when it may not be apparent, yah hear!. Just to let you know I heard and thanks! LOVE was the ingredient it seems to me.

Stushie said...

Thanks Jim. Much appreciated.