In your time at the Seminary, you have doubtless learned many things, but I hope above all that you have had occasion for perception. I hope this, but I also expect that it’s true: that in some class, or in some conversation, or at some chapel service ”“ when you were studying the lives and words of Christians of the past, or exegeting Holy Scripture, or learning about the practice of ministry, or even wading through theology assignments ”“ at some point, the sun peeked through the clouds, the world lit up in a strange way, and it dawned on you that Jesus is not… not ordinary.
My first word of counsel, then, is simply this: remember that you saw that. Don’t try to recapture the feeling: that’s totally unimportant. Even if you can’t remember just exactly what you saw, even if you’ve not quite mastered the theological language needed to describe what you saw ”“ remember that you saw it. Remember that it once dawned on you that Jesus Christ of Nazareth is more than you can handle, that we have no methodological nets or ecclesiastical boats that can hold all that he is and all that he means. Remember that you saw that, once ”“ and don’t settle for a smaller Jesus.
We live among all kinds of pressures to scale Jesus down, to shoehorn him into categories familiar and easy to us. We are glad to have him tell us things we already know: that God is accepting, that we should remember those in need, that the Church should be compassionate and caring. We don’t mind him motivating us to do the things we already know we should be doing. We are delighted to make him into a symbol of our highest aspirations and our best ideals. But some time or other, I’d be willing to bet, here or elsewhere, in class or at worship, it has dawned on you that Jesus is more than any of that. Whether that perception was weak or strong, articulate or inarticulate, remember that you saw that, and don’t settle.
Read it all.