- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2005

The following are excerpts from a sermon given recently by the Rev. Andrew I. Walton at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church in the District.

A couple of years ago, as I sat down to lunch with a friend, he said, “I understand you Presbyterians don’t believe in Jesus anymore.”

Knowing this person well, I responded, “Are you talking about your Jesus or my Jesus? Because if you’re talking about your Jesus, you’re probably right.”

You see, this man had heard about a resolution my denomination (PCUSA) had passed: “We confess the unique authority of Jesus Christ as Lord. Every other authority is finally subject to Christ. Jesus Christ is also uniquely Savior. It is his life, death, resurrection, ascension and final return that restores creation, providing salvation for all those whom God has chosen to redeem. Although we do not know the limits of God’s grace and pray for the salvation of those who may never come to know Christ, for us the assurance of salvation is found only in confessing Christ and trusting Him alone. We are humbled in our witness to Christ by our realization that our understanding of him and his way is limited and distorted by our sin. Still, the transforming power of Christ in our lives compels us to make Christ known to others.”

How he got we “don’t believe in Jesus” out of that, I don’t know. Objecting to phrases like “We do not know the limits of God’s grace” and “Our understanding is limited and distorted,” he eventually came around to quoting Scripture.

He chose John 14:6 — well, at least part of it. He said, quoting Jesus, “No one comes to the Father but through me.” I reminded him of the first part of the verse: “I am the way, and the truth and the life.”

I suggest that we find within Jesus’ words a rubric for hope and unity among Christians, as well as between Christians and other world religions.

“I am the way.” “The way” is an Eastern religious practice that some know as Taoism. A literal translation of the word “Tao” is “the way.” Taoism, which predates Jesus by anywhere from three to five centuries, is concerned primarily with the unity and oneness of creation. It, like many of the teachings and parables of Jesus, is mystical, spiritual, paradoxical and elusive. Jesus says, “I am the way.” The paradox. The mystery. The spirit. The journey.

“I am the truth.” For centuries before Jesus, Greek philosophies and religions searched for truth, the ideal and the real. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were pilgrims of truth. Knowledge, rationality, logic were the stepping stones on their journeys. The ancients knew ultimate truth as the Logos, the Word. We seek truth with our minds, searching for order, comfort and freedom. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” The order. The knowledge. The word. The mind.

“I am the life.” The ultimate gift of God is life. In the Bible, it was the life giving breath of God that moved over primordial waters of chaos. The same breath entered the dust of the earth and became human. Life was based on promises of land and family, of food and water. Covenants with God were sealed in life-giving blood. Worship was centered on seasons of life, planting and harvesting of crops. Life came through living in structured community, through the law, through Torah. Jesus said, “I am the life.” The breath. The blood. The Torah. The body.

Way-Truth-Life — Tao-Logos-Torah — Spirit-Mind-Body. How else do we experience God, if not through these?

There are multitudes of voices today claiming to know the way of God. How do we know the way?

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to [God] but through me.” Either we hear words claiming to have the only way, the only truth and the only life. Or we hear words of invitation opening doors of unity, nurture and Communion with all of God’s creation. The choice is ours and determines the Jesus in whom we believe.

As for me, the Jesus I encounter in Scripture embodies a way of grace, mercy and compassion; proclaims liberating truth; and promises life beyond measure.

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