Losing Jesus

The following is a poem by Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong at the beginning of his book Jesus for the Non-Religious.

The Lament of a Believer in Exile

Ah, Jesus!
Where have you gone?
When did we lose you?
Was it when we became so certain that we possessed you
That we persecuted Jews,
Excommunicated doubters,
Burned heretics,
And used violence and war to achieve conversion?
Was it when our first-century images
Collided with expanding knowledge?
Or when biblical scholars informed us that the Bible does
Not really support what we once believed?
Was it when we watched your followers distorting people
With guilt,
Fear,
Bigotry,
Intolerance,
And anger?
was it when we noticed that many who called you Lord
And who read their Bibles regularly
Also practiced slavery,
Defended segregation,
Approved lynching,
Abused children,
Diminished women,
And hated homosexuals?
Was it when we finally realized
That the Jesus who promised abundant life
Could not be the source of self-hatred,
Or the one who encourages us to grovel,
In life-destroying penitence?
Was it when it dawned on us that serving you would require
The surrender of those secutiry-building prejudices
That masquerade as our sweet sicknesses?

We still yearn for you, Jesus, but we no longer know where
To seek your presence.
Do we look for you in those churches that practice certainty?
Or are you hiding in those churches
That so fear controversy that they make “unity” a god,
And stand for so little that they die of boredom?
Can you ever be found in those churches that have
Rejected the powerless and the marginalized,
The lepers and the Samaritans of our day,
Those you called our brothers and sisters?
Or must we now look for you outside ecclesiastical settings,
Where love and kindness expect no reward,
Where questions are viewed as the deepest
Expressions of trust?

Is it even possible, Jesus, that we Christians are the villians
Who killed you?
Smothering you underneath literal Bibles,
Dated creeds,
Irrelevant doctrines,
And dying structures?
If these things are the source of your disappearance, Jesus,
Will you then reemerge if these things are removed?
Will that bring resurrection?
Or were you, as some now suggest, never more
Than an illusion?
By burying and distorting you were we
Simply protecting ourselves
From having to face that realization?

I still seek to possess what I believe you are, Jesus:
Access to and embodiment of
The Source of Life,
The Source of Love,
The Ground of Being,
A doorway into the mystery of holiness.

It is through that doorway that I desire to walk.
Will you meet me there?
Will you challenge me,
Guide me,
Confront me,
Reveal your truth to me and in me?

Finally, at the end of this journey, Jesus,
Will you embrace me
Inside the ultimate reality
That I call God
In whom I live
And move
And have my being?

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3 thoughts on “Losing Jesus

  1. As always, Bishop Spong has captured the reality of the modern day (or should I say post-modern day) person. His language is simple and eloquent. A beautiful poem that I can’t help but think that my heart wrote long ago. Somehow the good bishop was nice enough to pull it out of my heart and put it into a language that I fell short of being able to find!

    Let me know how that book is. That’s really the only other one that he has besides “sins” that I’m interested in. I love John-Shelby Spong!

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