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Center for Action and Contemplation
Expanding Our Vision
Expanding Our Vision

Seeing Jesus Again

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

In the latest season of the CAC podcast Learning How to See, Diana Butler Bass speaks about seeing Christianity in a fresh way:

The question of how we see, and what the lenses are that allow us to understand our lives and the world more deeply is a question that I’ve cared about for a really long time. . . . How do we understand where and how the divine, where God, the Holy Spirit is operating in our lives, in our institutions, and the world around us? What gives us the capacity to even understand any of that? . . . In the latest book [Freeing Jesus], what I really wanted to do is settle down to the basic issue, or the basic central reality of Christianity. Because people started asking me about ten years ago, “Why do you stay Christian?” . . . And I’d have all sorts of fancy answers and then I’d just say, well, it’s because of Jesus. . . .

That’s where I wanted to go, and think about: who is Jesus really? Who has Jesus been for me? And why has that been so central to my own life story? . . . And I think where Freeing Jesus has taken me is that somehow staying Christian is about staying in and with and through Jesus. Jesus has everything to do with it. And that really matters to me. Yet Jesus has not stayed the same for me through my whole life’s journey. And so, I’ve had to be open to understanding that, even though there’s one verse in Hebrews that says “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever” [Hebrews 13:8], I have not stayed the same yesterday, today, and forever. The church does not stay the same yesterday, today, and forever. And so, in a very real way, Jesus has changed for me. Jesus changes for the world. Jesus changes for the institutions of faith, for the church. . . . If you’re not doing that kind of work, of letting the end of one image emerge for you and a new image of Jesus be born for you, you’re probably in a pretty static place in your own faith.

In Freeing Jesus, Bass describes our relationship with Jesus as a dynamic opportunity to see God and ourselves perpetually anew:

If we think that being with Jesus means getting the right answers from a creed or remembering points of doctrine from a sermon, we probably will not manage to truly know Jesus. We will only succeed in keeping the right responses scribbled on some back page of our memory. “Who are you, Lord?” [Acts 9:3–5] is the question of a lifetime, to be asked and experienced over and over again. That query frees Jesus to show up in our lives over and over again, and entails remembering where we first met, how we struggled with each other along the road, and what we learned in the process. [1]

[1] Diana Butler Bass, Freeing Jesus: Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence (New York: HarperOne, 2021), xxv.

Adapted from Brian McLaren, Diana Butler Bass, with Mike Petrow, “Christianity Is Many Things,” May 20, 2022, in Learning How to See, season 3, episode 1 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2022), podcast.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Young Shih, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Taiwan, Free Use. Charles O’Rear, Grasses After Spring Rain (detail), 1973, photograph, Nebraska, Public Domain. Mohsen Ameri, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Iran, Free Use. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Dewdrops on grass, sunlight on the path, trees reaching skyward. It’s easy to overlook things we think we have seen already seen before. How can we look more deeply, allow our sight to be shifted so as to see anew?

Story from Our Community:

Each spring I volunteer at the Delaware Bay as a Shorebird Steward for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. Our task is to help migrating birds feed on the Horseshoe Crab eggs. We also act as docents who alert the public and request their help to help the birds. Unfortunately, we also have to inform them that what they are seeing is in peril, threatened by over-harvesting and loss of habitat. The goal is to raise awareness and encourage others to take up the task of protecting these amazing creatures.
—Anthony N.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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