This past Sunday, as we remembered that "all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus", we wondered aloud what made Jesus stand out to them? And so, what makes us stand out as his followers.
I took a stab (two stabs actually, as you will see), on putting a few words together about what that might look like. Not quite happy with it, I took an other try. What would your try look like? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus today? One traditional way to speak of this is to say, "What are the Marks of the Cross?"
Both versions are below.
(If you'd like to listen to the sermon, it is posted HERE)
Our talk-focused scripturally-litral Christianity has not helped the world. Heresy is about only focusing on one part of the story. Our dominante Christian expression focusses on a handful of scripture verses lobbed unimaginatively towards the heathen. Jesus is the way – SMACK, the truth – SMACK, the life – SMACK. “There, that should fix you.” No. The scriptures are much more wild. Jesus is much more wild – unhinged. The Spirit has never been locked in a few verbatim verses. No. The Spirit is here, Jesus resurrected is here, the Creator is revealed in all things – let us follow fearlessly.
· To the Spirit - speaking newly in our time, leading us onward and inward into the ever-unfolding truth of our Reality
· Deeply to ourselves - to the longings of our hearts, to the wonders that strike us, to the creativity that arises from our imago dei.
· To the Land - to the breath of the earth that still seems to welcome us in and re-wild our mistakes. What word are we given from the ancient hills, the reaching trees, the networked fungi, and all beings that we know are ‘all our relations.’
· To each other – to the human community that is strength in diversity, to this community of Glorious Imperfection where no one sees the whole truth, but all see in part. We are strong and perfect only when we are together.
· To story – to the myths of our ancestors that precede us. We give special attention to the elder storykeepers among us. We learn from them each detail and carry their stories – embodied in ourselves – to be shared with listeners in the next generation.
· To the communion of faith throughout all time – we hold their words as sacred, we let their voices become alive in us, and we receive their wisdom with humility and discernment. Not all new things are good things. Not all old things are good things. We return to the Spirit and ask for help.
· Longing – not giving in to the easy way, but through trouble and suffering working for the world that is yet to become.
· Doing – we hold a bias towards action and maintain the attitude that ‘talk is cheap.’ The worth of our religion, of our spirituality, of our practice, is in what we do with it. Are our actions becoming more compassionate? Are we advocating for the poor? Are we being effective in making real change for people and for ourselves? Feed – give – host – care – free – renew.
· Embodied prayer – prayer that brings us into honesty, love, generosity, good action, and deeper compassion. We encourage one another in our practices, meeting weekly, praying alone and praying together. The health of our inner life becomes the health of the world.
· That every dollar we spend is a vote for the world we are creating
· That Jesus cared more for what we do, than for what we say, look like, achieve, or dream of.
· That life is reciprocal and cyclical, nature always demands a gift, relationships take two. We pay attention to the gifts we give, how we amend soil, how we amend relationships.
· That what we do to the web of life we do to ourselves – every action has a consequence. Love is knowing what the effect of our actions are – that shirt, that apple, that business, that webpost, that supply chain. In a global world, these effects are infinitely more difficult to calculate and know.
· That all the worlds’ problems can be solved through love: loving a piece of land - even one garden plot - and renewing it across multiple generations. Loving one person and seeing them thrive. Loving and living in a local human community where the effect of our life-choices are obvious and self-evident. Loving our enemy and sharing table with the impoverished. Loving ourselves so that our actions are full and joyful, and generous. Loving future peoples through our actions and choices so that they have as much love or more than we have now.
· That while the problems become infinitely more complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.
· The diversity of God-given humanity through which we grow and come to see an image of the fullness of God
· The diversity of religious expressions while we share the gifts of our own deep tradition
· Each person just as themselves, in their own story, of their own history and place.
· Our frailty, our sinfulness, our brokenness, our mortality, our imperfection, our stupidity, our impediments – through which we discover the grace of God, the love of others, and the way of growth. However, we never celebrate these things in others. We are each in our own story.
· This breath. This day. This week. This year. This success. This wonder. This love known.
· We celebrate the present moment. It is enough.
· We release the rest into God’s care. It is enough.
· All things are God’s, all is given. To God we return ourselves, and rest ourselves only in love and grace. It is enough for today.