Who is Jesus to you? I’m not nosy, just curious.
For me, God is in the details, not the generalities. I like to see the colors and commitments unfurl—the ones that hide beneath the surface of the label “Christian.” I’m eager to learn new angles on my Lord and so enrich my experience of him.
Reformed Christians, I suggest, see Jesus as both gritty and playful. He glows with the glory of heaven and smells of the dust of the earth. Imagine this: his hands raised high to bright clouds and his feet clipped in whirling bicycle pedals. There is a helmet-crown on his head—a mix of gold, thorns, and wild berries. He sweats.
Heaven? Yes. But not apart from the gritty, green earth. The best Reformed books ring with a holy worldliness: Heaven Is Not My Home: Learning to Live in God’s Creation, Bringing Heaven Down to Earth: Connecting This Life to the Next, Creation Regained, Engaging God’s World, In the Fields of the Lord, and Praying at Burger King. They champion the part of the Lord’s Prayer where we say “on earth as it is in heaven.”
When I describe the character of the Reformed Christian community, I often say we are a Middle Way. At least that is how I experienced my place in a secular university: somewhere between the earthy activists of the mainline camps and the heavenly-minded folks of the evangelical groups. I would find myself worshiping with the evangelicals while partnering with the mainline and multi-faith groups on matters of ecology and justice. Many of our Christian Reformed campus ministers planted on secular campuses act as a bridge in this way.
We want to model heaven on earth. This ancient Reformational theme of “finding your calling” runs deep. It means that no matter what our gifts, skills, or passions, they are part of a divine task assigned to us by God. The world is not secular territory to be shunned. Our work matters. Our world belongs to God, and we can embrace it with abandon.
Often the best place to nurture this “all of the universe” faith is in school. The Reformed Christian tradition loves the discipleship of schools. I’ve even heard the Christian Reformed Church called “the Protestant Jesuits” because of our pedagogical passion. There are many other agencies and institutions we prize, to be sure, but if we were to die as a denomination tomorrow, it would be the Christian grade schools, high schools, colleges, and graduate schools that would be our enduring legacy on the small page of history that would describe us.
Because education is a deep commitment, we ought to be better learners too. We still have lots to learn about diversity, the Holy Spirit, and embracing young people in church. We can learn how to make worship less of a lecture and more of a contemplative—and even charismatic—liturgy. Oh, we have lots to learn!
Why imagine Jesus on a bicycle? Because that image celebrates the divine playfulness that erupts in us from time to time. If I had to choose one picture of the CRC to hold up to those who ask, it would be a bright, colorful photo from one of our three cross-country bicycle tours (2005, 2008, and Nicaragua in 2009). In those crazy, creation-cradled camping carnivals we demonstrated ourselves be a down-to-earth people buoyed by constant prayer and worship. Poised between sky and concrete, we rode green machines that zap consumer fat into tough Christian muscle. Gritty and playful. Sweating, aching. A holistic Jesus spirituality—for the world.