Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
Years ago Leonard LeSourd, former editor of Guideposts magazine, was at dinner with ten other people. They were discussing a movie about Jesus. Suddenly a young woman, obviously bored with the conversation, said, “Well, who would want to be like Jesus anyway?” An awkward silence fell across the group. Then the conversation veered off in a different direction. Later LeSourd asked himself, “Why did that young woman’s remark create such an awkward silence?” He concluded that some of the people were intimidated by her remark. Others, perhaps, were as bored as she was with the conversation. And still others didn’t know Jesus well enough to know if they wanted to be like him or not. Then LeSourd asked himself about his own understanding of Jesus. He concluded that he had known five Christs in the course of his lifetime.
He first met Jesus in Sunday school. His introduction to Jesus came in the form of a stern-looking person whose picture hung on the Sunday school wall. This Jesus failed to impress a nine-year-old who was more interested in playing baseball than he was in learning about a man who lived 2,000 years ago in a faraway country. And so the first Christ LeSourd ever knew was a “fanciful Christ” who existed only in his own immature mind. LeSourd met his second Christ in college. This was the Christ of history. It was the Christ whose impact on history has been so immense that even non-Christians call him “history’s greatest person”. But the historical Christ didn’t touch him personally. He was just another great man, like Lincoln. “Putting Christ in this setting,” he says, “was a simple solution during college and four years as an Army Air Corps pilot. The historical Jesus did not interfere with anything I wanted to do.” And so the second Christ LeSourd met was the “historical Christ”.
LeSourd met his third Christ after finishing his military service. He got a job with Guideposts magazine interviewing people about their faith. In the course of doing the interviews, he was surprised to learn that many successful people lived their lives by the teachings of Jesus. Soon he found himself reading the Gospels to learn more about these teachings. And this LeSourd met his third Christ: the “teacher Christ”. LeSourd met his fourth Christ while on retreat. The theme of the retreat was commitment to Jesus. During the course of the retreat, a young man got up and told the others how he had gone into the chapel, knelt down, and committed his life to Jesus. LeSourd was embarrassed by the young man’s complete openness. But at the same time, he found himself wanting what that young man had found in that chapel. So before the retreat ended, LeSourd went into the chapel, knelt down, and committed his life to Jesus. He recalls the unforgettable moment this way: “I found myself in this chapel, on my knees before the altar, saying a simple prayer, ‘Lord, I don’t know how I happen to be here, but I want to give my life to you. I do so now.’” And so LeSourd met his fourth Christ. It was the “Savior Christ.” It was the Christ who loved him in a deep, personal way. From that day on, Jesus became the center and focus of his life. And so LeSourd’s understanding of Christ progressed from the “fanciful Christ” to the “historical Christ” to the “teacher Christ” to the Savior Christ”. This brings us to the fifth and final Christ. LeSourd met this Christ in an unexpected way. One day he found himself being severely tempted. It was the kind of major temptation that we all experience from time to time. LeSourd felt himself falling. He reached out frantically for something to hold on to. He found it in the commitment he had made to Jesus years before on the retreat. He found something else too. He found his most meaningful relationship yet with Jesus. It was contact with the “indwelling Christ”. It was contact with the Risen Christ, who began to indwell his followers when the Holy Spirit descended upon them on Pentecost Sunday 2,000 years ago.
Now everything in the New Testament began to fit together. LeSourd saw how the Apostles had also committed themselves to Jesus in a burst of fervor. But when severe temptation came to them, they too fell back into their old ways. Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied him, and the rest fled. It wasn’t until Pentecost, when they received the Holy Spirit of Jesus, that the Apostles were really transformed. On that first Pentecost 2,000 years ago, the spirit of the risen Jesus began to indwell his followers in a powerful way. And that’s what we celebrate today. We celebrate that important day in the history of Christianity when, through the coming of the Holy Spirit, the risen Jesus began to indwell his followers with a personal presence.
We may compare LeSourd’s gradual growth in his understanding of Jesus to the five stages of a plant’s growth.
The first Christ, the “fanciful Christ” of his childhood, corresponds to the seed of the plant. It is just a beginning.
The second Christ, the “historical Christ”, corresponds to the green stem that emerges from the seed.
The third Christ, the “teacher Christ”, corresponds to the bud that eventually forms at the top of the stem.
The fourth Christ, the “Savior Christ”, corresponds to the flower that bursts from the bud.
The fifth Christ, the “indwelling Christ”, corresponds to the fruit that develops from the flower of the plant.
It is this fifth and final stage that we celebrate on Pentecost. It is the presence of the “indwelling Christ” in the Church as a whole and in each one of us individually.
God Bless You,