Sunday, April 3, 2011

April Newsletter Article: Three Basic Questions

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend who is a self-proclaimed atheist. In the midst of our conversation, the atheist asked two interesting questions which I now share with you: “Why do you love Jesus? Why do y’all group up in churches?”

These are pretty basic questions and they were asked with no malice or disdain, just honest curiosity. A rare opportunity had opened up before me - the opportunity to evangelize - to go beyond discussion and into experience, beyond the law and into¬¬¬ faith.

I shared those moments in my life when my heart was “strangely warmed” as John Wesley once said, and as the disciples on the road to Emmaus described it. I spoke about times when the love of God filled me so much that I overflowed with joy, like Mary Magdalene did when she heard the resurrected Jesus call her name. I spoke about when hope broke inexplicably like a light into my darkness, like so many saints have told about – Catherine of Siena, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and more recently, Katy Perry. I spoke about the incomprehensibility of the love of God that is, for me, undeniably real, as has been beautifully described by such as Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, and even Lady Gaga.

It was easy to talk to my atheist friend about the nature of Jesus’ ministry on earth because my friend is an active volunteer who works with several well-known agencies to make the world a better place. He could connect with the earthly ministry of Jesus which not only took in the exiled, the unclean, the sinful, and the broken, but bonded them in love, made them whole, and made them part of a larger whole. This, I said, is why we group in churches… to continue this reconciling work begun by our Savior. The faith community is where we who are many become one, where our personal goals are relinquished to the will of God for the glory of God and the welfare of God’s people. It seems impossible, but “nothing will be impossible with God.” (Lk 1:37)

Author Dennis Campbell said this about what happens when we ‘group up’ in churches: “Shared vision emerges from the individual hearts and souls of people who have lived life and suffered and yet dare to risk struggling with the Holy Spirit to imagine the astounding tomorrow to which God is calling the congregation.”

As we journey together through the end of Lent, into the story of the Passion, through the Sacred Triduum (three days) of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and ultimately into Easter, I ask you to consider how you might have answered these questions. Do you remember why you love Jesus? Do you know why you are a member of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer?

I’d like to also add a third question and I have a purpose. 2011 is the Year of Our Youth. Having accomplished the first of our corporately discerned goals, a feeding ministry, we are now three months into making real our second goal: making Redeemer a place that welcomes and forms our children, youth, and young adults as Christians in the Episcopal tradition. We are just beginning to see people responding to this call, but more is needed. So the third question is: are you willing to imagine the astounding tomorrow to which God is calling our congregation? If you are, what are you willing to do to “make it so” as Jean Luc Picard would say? Call me and let me know (really).

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