The UCC Anti-Jesus
“His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” – Revelation 1:14-17
There never was a less-UCC vision of Jesus than this one. I know, I know, the UCC is a church of particularities, and nobody can speak for everyone, so maybe what I just said doesn’t apply to you. But even if it doesn’t, you’ve got to admit: sword-mouth Jesus isn’t, like, super popular in the UCC.
We like Beatitudes Jesus. Proto-feminist Jesus. Child-holding Jesus. Distributive-justice Jesus. Reformed-xenophobe Jesus. Lost sheep-finding, prodigal son-reuniting, sick people-healing Jesus. We even like a bit of name-calling, Temple-tantrum Jesus—as long as it’s somebody else’s tables he’s turning. But this one? Yikes.
If flaming-eyed Jesus makes you squirm, well, that’s actually what he’s supposed to do. If you don’t like the image, well, neither did John of Patmos. If you can’t quite picture what he’s describing, well, that’s the whole point. Try it: picture him with hair and head white as wool and a face like the sun. Try picturing feet like burnished bronze. Try picturing him holding seven stars in one hand and reaching out to John with the same hand. If you can do it, I challenge you to see if you can still do it tomorrow once the shrooms have worn off.
Among Jesus’ many jobs seems to be this: to always be close enough to glimpse, but just out of reach. To be ever escaping apprehension by minds that crave categories, always moving from healer to berater, judge to forgiver, nurturer to warrior, whether we like it or not. To take whatever tame picture of him we or our church have cozied up to, and slice it to ribbons with his mouth-sword.
It’s inconvenient, sure—but would a God you can fully comprehend really be worth worshiping?
For a savior I can’t grasp, a leader whose thoughts I can’t predict, and a God forever messing with my head, thank you. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.