Monday, May 9, 2011

Being Yourself as a Christian and as a church

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
(Luke 4: 15-21)

I really appreciate this passage of Scripture from Luke. Its values reside at the core of Jesus' life and ministries. The Gospel virtues of compassion, good news through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, and our thankful participation in co-Creating Christ's peaceful reign are central to the Church's work, here and now. All of that is true for me but what I find most important to me this morning is this thought: Jesus of Nazareth was a truly authentic, independent person, and motivated human being.

It took Jesus a tremendous amount of courage to walk into his hometown and tell his family and friends that God possessed a bigger plan for him than only taking care of them and their needs. It took Jesus tremendous perseverance to intentionally live into each day solely with the end in mind of tending to other people's needs, especially sick, economically poor, and lonely folks. It took Jesus God-given strength to lead his followers into a deeper understanding of how truly good and loving God is. Jesus had to trust upon Divine self-sufficiency to push back against oppressive systems and greedy people. Jesus' transcendent authority and/or uncanny Grace was definitely the means by which he escaped an angry mob so that he could continue to authentically live into God's plan for his life, and ours. Jesus was so blessedly independent that he went to the Cross and rose from the tomb to demonstrate and proclaim that eternal life is not to be found in adopting this world's values or someone else's perspective. Truth and everlasting life is found by believing in Christ's Way of Life and God's understanding of Creation, not the fame and fortune that the world often offers. Jesus was so "holy" (sic) independent, yet so mutually interdependent with us that his Word continues to invite us into living similar and life giving lives with and through him.

I subscribe to the "How to of the Day" website on my IGoogle page. Today's teaching was pretty cool, 10 ideas on "How to Be Yourself." There were some really good ideas: 1.) Find Yourself and Define Yourself on your Own Terms. 2.) Avoid Fixating on The Past and Not Letting Yourself Grow. 3.) Stop Caring about How Other People Perceive You. 4.) Be Honest and Open. 5.) Relax. 6.) Treat Yourself as you Would Treat Your Own Friend (sorta the opposite of the Golden Rule). 7.) Develop and Express Your Own Individuality. 8.) Stop Comparing Yourself to Others. 9.) Follow Your Own Style. 10.) Accept that some Days You are the Pigeon and Some Days you are the Statue.

Consider how Jesus is or isn't present in these suggestions. He defined his life, teachings, and the Law in his own fashion. He didn't back down to the religious or civic authorities of his time. He was keenly honest especially with those who were his companions. He didn't accept the status quo of his time, or ours. There's much for us as Christians and Christ's Church to adopt in Luke 4 and WikiHow's suggestions. There are plenty of people and parishes who struggle to escape from their past shadows. Many of us as well as the churches we belong to yearn to be like somebody else or the successful congregation down the street. We're so busy seeking to become someone or something that we're not instead of living more authentically into who we are. This is an especially difficult predicament for denominational communities who have a set of doctrines and disciplines they must adhere to in order to belong to their religious affiliations. (I think that notion is called orthodoxy in much of Christian history). I would counter by suggesting that uniformity and unity are not synonymous and the Church has rarely if ever been monolithic. Nonetheless, the Gospel's core values and commandments should shape our faith and day-to day living rather than our own selfish desires to live as we chose rather than how Jesus the Christ did, and does.

Here's my prayer that God will bless you with some opportunities to speak the Truth as Jesus did to his fellow Nazarenes. Here's my hope that you will embrace an opportunity to find the meaning of your life today with a Jesus-inspired moment. Here's a wish for our Church to become just a little less tense and a little more creatively enlightened today & in the days to come.

Blessings Along The Way...

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