I bought a book almost twenty years ago in a discount bin. I knew the author was a great writer, but I did not know much about her theology. I read through most of the book and was disappointed, but there are two paragraphs in the introduction that made it worth the price of the book. I keep it and reread it every so often as a reminder to me as a preacher. Here it is:
“Using Jesus as a mirror for cultural or personal ideals seems a tendency we can’t escape. What I learned about him in Sunday School has, I can see, been colored by my teacher’s agenda. Wanting us to be good, cheerful children, they gave us a kindly Jesus, sitting on a flower-studded hillside, handing out box lunches and comforting aphorisms. He was supposed to be our friend and example. The songs we sang told us he walks and talks with us, keeps us singing, and doesn’t care what color we are.
As an adult, though, I have come to distrust those early simple images. I know that flower-studded hillsides get turned into slag heaps. That there aren’t enough lunches to go around. That my singing may only be whistling in the dark. At times, fear has crept over me that Jesus may be no more than a psychological crutch, wish-fulfillment, the result of self-hypnosis. Has the Jesus I am looking for been no more than a grown-up version of the lonely child’s imaginary playmate? I don’t want to configure a Jesus to fit my private fantasies. How can I … at the end of the twentieth century, avoid making Jesus into a replica of the qualities I value most?”
– Looking for Jesus by Virginia Stem Owens – pg. 4-5.