Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

Jesus Evasion

From Fr. Richard Rohr’s e-mail meditation today:

How is it that after two thousand years of meditation on Jesus, we’ve managed so effectively to avoid most of what he taught so unequivocally?  This is true of all the churches.  The most we could usually do is emphasize one or the other part of his teaching, and still call ourselves orthodox or “Bible based”.

All of us, for example, have evaded most of the Sermon on the Mount.
All of us have evaded the unmistakable teaching of Jesus on a simple life-style, non-status-seeking, non-greed.
All of us have evaded Jesus’ teaching on non-violence (except for the Amish, the Quakers, and the Mennonites).
All of us have evaded his straightforward teaching on loving our enemy.

Jesus is just too much for all of us!

— Adapted from Simplicity, pp. 161 – 162

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Wisdom from the Good Friar

I’ve often struggled — both with myself and with non-religious friends — with the words to describe why I follow Jesus and, in effect, “blindly” accept all those crazy propositions about him. Born of a virgin. All the miracles. Resurrection.

The rational part of my brain can’t wrap itself around many of the stories I learned on a flannel board in Sunday School, and yet I still, to a large degree, believe them.  Then I read Fr. Richard Rohr’s e-mail meditation from today (sign up here … well worth it), and his words resonated with me.  His main point?  This isn’t primarily an intellectual exercise, people. It’s a way of life. A new way of being. A return to our humanity.

Let me know what you think:

Jesus says, “I am not asking you to just believe my words, look at my actions, or the ‘works that I do.’”

Actions speak for themselves, whereas words we can argue about on a theoretical level.  The longer I have tried to follow Jesus, the more I can really say that I no longer believe in Jesus. I know Jesus.  I know him because I have often taken his advice, taken his risks, and it always proves itself to be true!

Jesus is not telling us to believe unbelievable things, as if that would somehow please God.  He is saying much more to us, “try this, and you will see for yourself that it is true.”  But that initial trying is always a leap of faith into some kind of action or practice.

In summary it can be put this way:  We do not think ourselves into a new way of living.  We live ourselves into new way of thinking.  Without action and lifestyle decisions, without concrete practices, words are dangerous and largely illusory.

Adapted from Preparing For Christmas, pp. 48-49

Zing!

HT: The Priesthood via Steve K

consumer Jesus

Have to share this powerful poem from the amazing site, Jesus Manifesto:

shoppingjesus.jpgWelcome to
The Church of Consumer Jesus
The eternal prophylactic,
Protecting you from
The scum
Of the earth
And all their mortal filth.
Protecting
For your peace of mind
The Holy Status Quo,
The warmth of knowing
That somebody else
Will get around to
Cleaning shit up
On someone else’s dime,
‘Cause Consumer Jesus
Died to give you
A mansion in the sky.

Author: John O’Hara

I’ve been listing a bunch of my dad’s books on Amazon while I’m home for the holidays.  I just ran across Watchman Nee’s Love Not The World, flipped it open to the middle, and saw the following underlined passage:

A baptism into the death of Christ ends my relation with this world, but a baptism into Christ Jesus as a living Person, Head of a new race, opens up for me a new world of things altogether.

Centered

First off, random question for a story I’m working on: Have you ever attempted — successfully or unsuccessfully — to rent a car without a major credit card?  If so, I’d love to hear your story.  E-mail me at steve [at] thebostonwriter [dot] com.  Thanks so much for your help!  OK, back to your regularly scheduled blogramming …

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Well, it’s about time. It’s finally published. An e-mail from my friend and mentor, Kent:

Friends,
I want to invite you to join me in testing an exciting new tool I have developed with the help of some friends. It’s a short gift book called Centered, and it is designed to help people take a deeper look at what it really means to follow Jesus.

Last Sunday 250 Million people in the U.S.A. did not attend church. That’s five people out of every six—and their number is growing by about 10,000 per day.

Many of these people are very interested in spiritual reality, just not church. Chances are you know some of these people. If you’d like to take your conversation with them to a deeper level and help us learn from your experience, here’s what you can do:

  • Buy a copy of Centered at the website listed below, read through it and jot down your impressions, good and bad.
  • On reflection and prayer, give or lend the book to one of your friends who seems open to spiritual things with the offer to discuss what they think of it over a cup of coffee (or whatever!).
  • After that conversation, write out your impressions of what impact the experience has had on you and your friend and e-mail them to me. [I can put you in contact with Kent if you get to step 3]

That’s it. Early indications are that this tool will make a big difference for many people—and I will be delighted and grateful if you choose to be part of the team that helps us refine it even more. (But still love you if this isn’t a good time for such a venture!)

Here’s the website.

Blessings in this season. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Kent

I have read Centered, and I give it my glowing endorsement (for the little it’s worth…). Let me say one thing, however: This isn’t an oversized gospel tract. It isn’t intended to replace a conversation or a relationship. It is intended to be used as a tool alongside a conversation and a relationship. And its freshness, lack of “Christianese” language, truth, simplicity, and beauty will make it a delightful conversation partner indeed.

intimacy

Our great friend and mentor Kent Smith stayed with us for the last few days. I had the privilege of studying under Kent for two years during graduate school as part of the inaugural class of the Missionary Residency for North America (MRNA). Kent has preached, planted churches, taught, and now dedicates his life to the raising up of missional leaders to spread out over the continent and join God in his work in simple, reproducible ways.

On Saturday evening, Kent shared some reflections with a group that included the two of us and a church planting team working in Quincy (south of Boston). His words were both simple and disturbingly profound. Inspiring and convicting. Encouraging and piercing. They spoke (and speak) to a few of the great shortcomings of those who claim to be working for and with God, and they cut many of us to the core of our being.

Kent started by surmising how our efforts (in ministry, in particular) would be different if we were to take seriously — dead seriously — the words of Jesus on two different occasions:

“…I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18)

“…apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

These are profound statements, to say the least. Tucked into stories or passages that are remembered for other verses, these passages reveal truths about Jesus and His vision for His followers that are not often talked about. Jesus said that HE will build his church. Not us. In fact, we really don’t have a clue how to build Jesus’ church, and Jesus is not interested in sharing that responsibility with anyone. How often do we in “ministry” attempt to build Jesus’ church for Him? Scary.

“Apart from me you can do nothing.” Wow. It didn’t say “…you can do very little,” or “…not as much,” but nothing. The John 15 verse really explains the Matthew 16 verse, doesn’t it? Jesus is the one building his church, so if we want to be a part of that project, we’d best remain “in Him.” Intimately “in Him.”

Back to these verse in a few.

Kent continued by saying that in his 30+ years of training, coaching, teaching, and observing ministers in a variety of contexts, he’s noticed two primary motivators for entering the kind of simple, incarnational work to which many of us have committed. The first is ministry, or the desire to do something great for God. We want to make an impact, see lives changed, see churches planted, see communities develop, see the Kingdom break in. These are all great things, but Kent suggests that oftentimes, the propensity for ministry is born out of an internal desire in our own lives to matter. We are often seeking to fill a hole in our lives that will give us some sort of meaning or significance. Ministry — or the propensity to “do great things for God” — is not sufficient, all by itself.

The other motivator Kent has observed is the desire for community. This, too, comes from mixed intentions, he suggests. A deficit of community in church experiences in our past, or even an internal emptiness and loneliness, might lead some to pursue a life of ministry. Moreover, many people carry into ministry settings a specific vision of the “perfect community,” for which they will squash any and everyone in their path to realize it. In this case, the desire for community — and specifically, a certain type of community — outweighs all other motivators. He reminded us of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Life Together: “Love community, and you will kill it. Love your brother, and you will build it.” Community alone, Kent suggests, is not enough.

In fact, Kent suggested that ministry and community often become idols.

If ministry and community are two corners of a triangle, he suggested the need for a third corner, the base angle: intimacy. Going back to the words of Jesus, we must remain in Christ. This is an active process, not one that occurs once and is over. If we believe that Jesus is still building his church, and that he still speaks to his people, we must — we must — seek intimacy with Him. Every day. Ministry will fall apart and lives will be crushed in the process if we are not seeking intimacy with Christ. Community will self-destruct and lives will be crushed in the process if we are not seeking intimacy with Christ. So simple, and yet so disturbingly profound.

I confess that I have often been driven by one or both of the false idols of ministry and community. I have strived to do great things for God, but so often this drive comes from feelings of inadequacies in my own heart. I have desired to see “authentic community” built up, but so often this is derived from a lack of community in my own life and a selfish idea of what “perfect community” looks like. When it comes down to it, I confess that I have acted in a way that suggests I can build Jesus’ church better than he can. And looking back, the times in which that sin was so apparent, things have failed, fallen apart. Those times when I have been desperate for Christ and sought intimacy with Him first and foremost (for the reward of Christ himself), He has worked through me to build his church and reveal his kingdom.

I don’t want to go another day in which I am not desperate for Jesus. When I — when we — become desperate for Christ and seek after him daily and relentlessly (paying close attention to what He is saying to us, and obeying those words), the ministry and community will fall into place. We were put on this earth not to do great things for God or form community, but to draw close to our Creator.

All too often, I miss this. Thanks, Kent, for allowing yourself to be God’s mouthpiece to a living room-full of young people who really, really needed to hear these words. Your plea for us to capture and live into the need for intimacy now — in our 20s — as opposed to 10, 15, 30 years down the road did not fall on deaf ears.

Father, make me desperate for you. I confess that my ways are not your ways, and I want to dial into your life, and thus your ways. May Christ be my one and only true Desire.