I saw Jesus today. She didn't look anything like those pictures on the wall in the churches I've been in. You know the one, the fair skinned young man with flowing brown hair and strangely European eyes (for a Palestinian), with a white puffy lamb hiked up over one shoulder. Funny that I have long since dismissed that image of Jesus as not realistic, but when I think about seeing Jesus, it’s the first image that pops into my head. Oh, the effects of embedded belief systems…
Anyway, this Jesus was totally different. She looked to be in her mid to late 70s, with short, grey, curly hair. She sat next to a man who seemed to be her husband and they were both wearing a starched white shirt and black bottoms (pants for him and skirt for her, of course). Did I mention that the place where I experienced this Jesus spotting was in the first row of the first class section of an airplane leaving Salt Lake City?
As it turns out, after a second glance, maybe she wasn't ACTUALLY Jesus, but she had me there for a second. It was the name tag that did it. It looked something like this…
The Church of
Of Latter Day Saints
Your Name Here
So you might imagine my surprise when I boarded the plane and saw Jesus there in first class. It was actually much harder for me to imagine that Jesus would be travelling first class than it was for me to imagine that Jesus was a seventy something year old Mormon lady. Either way, it got me thinking a little bit about the ways that we do and do not invoke the name of Jesus Christ in our world.
I've been known to lean to the heretical side now and then in pushing the boundaries of scriptural interpretation. This was recently pointed out when a friend brought me a poster that he stumbled across while on vacation that said “Heretic in Good Company” and listed the names of my cohorts in heresy…some of them you may recognize…Joan of Arc, Origen, Galileo, Jesus of Nazareth, Martin Luther…the list goes on.
So having gladly accepted my lot in life of being a bit on the edge; it seems that today’s Jesus sighting is a good conversation starter (at least in my own mind). So, what if we all, at least those of us who consider ourselves Jesus followers, began wearing name tags that said Jesus Christ? C’mon now, you are perfectly willing to wear the name Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger. Would the people we meet take us more seriously? Would they dismiss us as two fries short of a happy meal? Would they patronize us? Or would they sit up and take notice, because it might seem that we have something to say to the world?
Now most of the people that I know, Christian or not, would find it a bit blasphemous to put on a name tag that said Jesus and walk around in public. Understandably so. That’s what we were taught. Only Jesus has been and ever will be Jesus, and there will never be another Jesus. Ever. Because that would somehow dishonor God to have a bunch of people running around acting all humble and merciful, loving and graceful, forgiving sins and healing people. I mean really, the audacity of that is just unthinkable, isn’t it?
So, seriously, what if… What if we proudly wore the name Jesus Christ on our chest because we believed in ourselves the way that we believe in Jesus. Okay, so maybe having it say Jesus Christ wouldn’t be so cool (unless you are my Cuban friend Jesus, then it would be cool). Anyway, say for instance that my name tag said “Michelle Christ”. After all, the Greek word Christos actually means “anointed”, and is related to the Hebrew word for Messiah. A Messiah (not THE Messiah) is a savior or liberator of a group of people.
I think it’s safe to say that I’m anointed. I’m called by God to be a pastor to God’s people. I’ve had a whole room full of clergy anoint me and pray blessings over me as I kneeled through 5 verses of “Spirit” on the concrete floor at my ordination service. Not only am I anointed, I hope that in being a pastor to the people who come to Table of Grace, that I’m a liberator too. So I think I’m qualified for the nametag.
How about you? Will you join me in identifying yourself as a christos, an anointed one; or a messiah, one who is about the business of liberating people? I hope you will, all of you, because I know that these words describe you too. Whatever work it is that you have been called to, I know that it somehow involves blessing and freeing those with whom you come into contact.
Blessing and freeing take on so many different manifestations, I can’t even begin to name them here, but I’ll try to list a few. Here are the Christ-like actions that I know some of you are taking: you liberate others by helping them to free themselves from bondage to drugs and/or alcohol; you liberate homeless folks by offering them a meal, maybe a warm place to stay, and resources to help them on their journey; you liberate other moms by encouraging them in methods of natural parenting and breastfeeding; you liberate other differently abled people by being a voice in the community for disability justice; you liberate babies who were born into families that didn’t want them or couldn’t care for them by giving them a home and a lot of love; you liberate others who suffer with mental health issues by being open and honest about your own struggles; you liberate secular homeschool parents who feel alone in a conservative Christian homeschool community by offering an alternative community; you liberate LGBT people who have been told they don’t belong by finding your own place of belonging and service in the church and the community; you liberate people who are lost in desperation feeling like they just aren’t good enough by continuing to offer an encouraging word and a listening ear; you liberate me, every day, by showing me that divine goodness and human goodness exist in an eternal partnership that can and will transform our world.
This is nowhere near all of the things that I see daily in the people that I know, both in the church and out. It is merely a beginning, but it is enough to convince me that you are all anointed ones. You are all working in different ways, within faith traditions and outside of them, to be a liberator of people, a messiah.
So I want to say thank you for the very important work that you do, and instead of you dismissing my thank you, and saying “oh, I don’t do anything”, I want you to receive it and believe it. I want you to make the name tag…your name CHRIST…slap it on your shirt and go look in the mirror. Then say to yourself and whoever is around to listen “I AM anointed! I AM a liberator!” Pat yourself on the back, know that you make a difference in the world, and believe that YOU have the power to change lives, to feed souls, and to bring blessing and freedom to so many people! Now take off the name tag (so your friends don’t have you committed) and get back to your every day, anointed, liberating life. Have a great day, anointed one!