MONDAY MEDITATION: “Jesus at the Center” (April 1)

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I didn’t come preaching God’s secrets to you like I was an expert in speech or wisdom.  I had made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified. — 1 Corinthians 2:1-2

Recently I heard a pastor of a megachurch in the South preaching on the radio. He talked about the importance of being saved, which he understood as admitting you’re a sinner, repenting of your sins, believing Jesus is the Son of God, and being baptized in his name. If you don’t do this, you will go to hell and be tortured for all eternity. He admitted this sounded harsh, but that’s what the Bible says: God is a just God and is really ticked at your sinning. He said that a Jewish friend of his asked, “Are you saying that I’m going to hell?” The pastor gleefully told his congregation how he responded: “Friend, I’m not saying that. A Jewish rabbi 2,000 years ago said that!”

As you can tell by the way I wrote this, I’m not a fan of such mean, cruel, fundamentalistic nonsense. It’s sick, it drives people away, and it really makes God look bad. It’s the stuff that gives comedians like the late George Carlin a lot of material. This pastor concluded his radio program with an appeal for a generous monthly donation so his program could continue proclaiming the good news that non-Christians are going to hell. Carlin would have responded: “God will send you to hell to suffer if you disobey Him… but, He loves you, and needs your money.”

It’s so much better to focus on what attracted people to Jesus in the first place: How he showed us God’s heart to be beating to the rhthym of a parent yearning for each son and daughter. Our response isn’t to be saying magic words so as to be saved from eternal flames stoked by a deity having a bad day. Our response is to be intrigued and fascinated by Jesus in such a way that we just have to learn more about him, pray to him as he asked, change our thoughts and actions to conform to his, trust his teachings, love God and each other fully, and demonstrate that love by being humble, compassionate, and justice-loving.

The late Catholic priest and author Henri Nouwen described this as having Jesus at the center of your life. He explained, “If you were to ask me point-blank: ‘What does it mean to you to live spiritually?’ I would have to reply: ‘Living with Jesus at the center.’ . . . Specifically, this means that what matters increasingly is getting to know Jesus and living in solidarity with him.”*

What a great thought after celebrating Easter yesterday!

*This quote is taken from a daily devotion from the Henri Nouwen Society. You can sign up for these devotions here.

2 thoughts on “MONDAY MEDITATION: “Jesus at the Center” (April 1)”

  1. I’m thankful I did not grow up believing that God was out to get me and my money. I’m afraid that segment of religion is still alive and well. Miss your thoughtful sermons.


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