With apologies to Tom Waits.
Don’t go to church on Sunday
Don’t get on my knees to pray
Don’t memorize the books of the Bible
I got my own special way
But I know Jesus loves me
Maybe just a little bit more
I fall on my knees every Sunday
At Zerelda Lee’s candy store
A second indulgence of my collection of Creepy Jesus Songs, if you please. This one by Tom Waits. I discovered Waits while working at Borders. He had just released this album, “Mule Variations” in 1999, his first album in decades. I was hiding out among books between the Baptist church and the Episcopal one.
This song haunted me then and still does. Jesus as a topping, a decoration.
When the weather gets rough and it’s whisky in the shade,
Got to wrap your Savior up in cellophane;
Flows like the muddy river but that’s okay,
You can pour him over ice cream for a nice parfait.
Jesus has become a decoration for many, a cross about the neck, a cool tattoo. But does is matter that we should go to church on Sunday or get on our knees to pray? Much less memorize the books of the Bible? I, of course, care about these things: praying and studying the Bible, but I am a professional Christian. We are still talking in our tight little circles when everyone else has left the religious cocktail hour.
What many people left with after the loss of religion and church is Jesus candy. As I wrote before, Jesus in our faith is not a simple person among persons. He is the logos of the Gospel of John. Now, logos is a tricky word. It is more primary than we normally deal with, a root word that grows branches out i several different directions. logos becomes logical and word of creation, order and way.
Jesus is the way things are and embodies the Wisdom that both made the world and orders it. It is him that we must study and follow and trust. He isn’t the topping. He is the shade and the sun. I know that is a bold claim in a post-religious world, but the claim at the center of our faith is that Jesus embodies God, the incarnate Son of God, both Spirit and human being. All of that is true, but it is also important to note that the claim is not just about who Jesus is but who we are and what the world is all about.
Our beliefs about and trust in Jesus impinges on our beliefs and understandings about the world we live in and our place in that world. Jesus is not just a topping.
This is really important in our politics at the moment. When we say, I am a Christian, we are not merely saying “I assent to some ideas about God,” but we are saying, “I believe some things about you and me and the world we live in.”
I believe that God actually loves the world. The world then is something that is beloved. And if I am to be God’s son and heir, I should love the world and care for it like it is a garden of delight and goodness.
See what I mean? So catechesis part two. What does your following Jesus mean to your life in the world? What do you struggle to believe about the world and your place in it?