We gotta talk about this ~

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They’ll know we are Christians by our … hate???

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Stan Norman

I confess . . . I hate election years.  They seem to bring out the worst in Americans, and seldom bring out the best in any of us.  In 1966, Peter Scholtes wrote one of my favorite worship songs, “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.”  That song is based on the instructions that Jesus gave his disciples, or followers, on the night he was betrayed and arrested, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 NRSV)

Even the most casual observers, listening to or reading about, the candidates for public office in the United States, would come to the conclusion that they are anything but Christian, or followers of Jesus.  I’m a big believer in separation of church and state; in fact, that’s what freedom of religion really means: no state church, and no church state.  What troubles me is that so many of the candidates claim to be Jesus-followers, and then turn right around and show that they are anything but Jesus-followers; by what they say and how they treat each other . . . especially their opponents.

                                                                                                                                                                               

That’s what freedom of religion really means: no state church, and no church state.

                                                                                                                                                                        

 This is especially true of the Conservatives, the so-called religious right, which takes the Greek word for gospel: “evangelical,” capitalizes it, and lays claim to being the only true Christians.  Richard Rohr calls this movement away from the reality of the Christian Gospel “an embarrassment for American Christianity.”  A much more honest name for them as they relate to the Jesus of the Bible would be “Neo-Pharisees.”  Jesus roundly condemned the Pharisees for self-righteousness.

The liberal left, the Progressives, don’t get off the hook either.  They claim to be non-religious, yet they are religiously devoted to their social causes.  William Willimon calls it “the imperialism of liberalism’s sweeping embrace.” They are zealots about their favorite cause.  Maybe we should call them “Neo-Zealots.”  Jesus refused to join the cause of the Jewish Zealots.

Jesus always leads by example.  Jesus never asks his followers to do something he is unwilling to do.  He loves others, all others; and he holds himself and his followers accountable for loving others, all others; even those who want to kill him.

                                                                                                                                                                               

Jesus loves others, all others; and he holds himself and his followers accountable for loving others, all others; even those who want to kill him.                                          

                                                                                                                                                                               

So, this year, as the candidates do everything possible to get your vote and become one of your leaders; spend some time re-reading the “red letters” (what Jesus actually said as opposed to what others said about Jesus) in the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and ask yourself, “Who would Jesus vote for?”

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gerri harvill

blog artIt’s A Spiritual Issue…

Worship and Admire…..No, Follow!

 

 

I admire Jesus and all that he stands for.  I mean, being the Son of God and all!  Such expectations!  How did he do it?

Oh yes, that fully human/fully divine thing.  But really, he did it all.  Born in a cave, fled to Egypt while an infant and lived there as a refugee, worked with his hands, went to school, accepted God’s call into ministry, got baptized, and met with the devil himself.  Whew!

Yes, I do admire Jesus. Those last three years of ministry must have been tough.

I admire how he took anger and hate and responded with love.

I admire how he ignored rumors and gossip.

I admire how he withstood the disbelief of his family and friends, their ridicule, doubt and betrayal…the ultimate betrayal…as they handed him over to his enemies to be killed and ran off to save themselves.

Yes, pure admiration is what I have for Jesus. Always loving, always telling the truth in love, always sacrificing, always doing the will of God. Jesus gave up family, home, friends, and ultimately his life.  For what?  Oh, for me.  And you.

Yes, I admire Jesus.  But I don’t strive to be like him.  That would be asking too much. Jesus said, “Worship me.” Right?

Uh…no.  Jesus said, “Follow me.”

There’s a difference.

And it’s a Spiritual issue….

If I check those red letters in the Bible I find that Jesus never said, “Worship me” or “Admire me”.  However, there are many times in those red letters where I find Jesus said, “Follow me.”

It is far easier to admire Jesus than to follow him. An admirer simply stands back, unattached, at a safe distance and observes.

When there is no challenge, hardship, turmoil or danger in our lives it is easy to confuse follow and admire. When things get tougher, the distinction is made clear.

Soren Kierkegaard says that an “admirer is infatuated with the false security of greatness, but if there is any inconvenience or trouble, he pulls back.”  The admirers never make any sacrifice. They always play it safe. Admirers will not change their habits or way of living to reflect what it is that they supposedly admire.

Follow is a verb.  Those who follow, act. The follower aspires with all his/her strength to be what he/she admires.

Jesus left us with a pattern; a way of being in the world, a way of being the hands, feet and voice of Christ in the world.

Followers live simply so that others might simply live, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison, are mindful of the environment, conserve resources, care for those faced with physical and mental illness, addiction, poverty and all the terrible needs of the human heart.

Followers act in love.  And love changes everything, because Jesus changes everything.

Admirers become agitated with followers.  Have you noticed?  If you are following Jesus, you may not be popular.  You may be viewed as outspoken, harsh, not nice, anti-church, anti-government, and even anti-family. Followers strive to put Jesus first in their lives.

Kierkegaard again; “The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand.  But we Christians…pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the moment we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”

Act accordingly….follow Jesus.

Gerri Harvill is a  third career, retired  Local Pastor from the United Methodist Church. She, along with Stan Norman, co-lead the follow community.  She believes that following Jesus, is indeed, a Spiritual Isssue that drives our day to day living to fulfillment. Her goal is to help provide a space and experience for a nurturing community that gathers to follow Jesus by praying, learning, and caring for others.

 

 

Just Jesus

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Stan Norman

 

WE GOTTA TALK ABOUT THIS ~ THE FOUR C’s  (Stan Norman)

Welcome to follow ~ a community! My name is stan, I co-lead follow with gerri. We will soon be retired pastors of a major mainline denomination.

Why “follow”, a verb? Why a community and not a church? What’s with all the lower-case letters? That’s where the 4c’s come in.

For several years now, we have been able to identify three basic types of churches (the first c) in North America and Europe.

The most predominant type is the club church (the second c). A club church is inwardly focused and exists to serve its members. It is much more self-centered than Jesus-centered. Worship is built around member preferences and is non-challenging, because the goal is to make as many members happy as possible. That’s really important when the success of the church is measured by counting “nickels and noses” (butts in the pews and dollars in the offering). Mission is generally something done with a checkbook. There is little, if any, connection between the church programs and ministries, and the needs of the surrounding community. The goal of the church is to survive and grow by making new members, not by making new disciples of Jesus. In political terms, the club church is conservative. The other bonus c’s for this type of church are consumerism and capitalism.

The third c belongs to the second most prolific type of church in the West, the cause church. A cause church is outwardly focused to the extreme. It is much more cause-centered than Jesus-centered. The cause church can be focused on everything from gay rights to marriage preservation, pro-life to pro-choice, gun control to second amendment rights, homelessness to private property rights. Worship is an after-thought, anything will do, because the “cause” is all that matters. Time and money is invested in the cause, not necessarily in following Jesus. All of the energy of the members and the community is focused on the “cause”, because the cause has become god. The goal of the church is to champion the cause, not make disciples of Jesus. No one wonders what will happen when the cause is resolved. No one realizes that eventually the cause church will become irrelevant. In political terms, the cause church is progressive. There are no bonus c’s . . . unless you count golden calf (cause).

The third type of church is the rarest and most authentic. This is the Jesus-centered church. It looks a lot like the church described in the Bible in the Book of Acts, chapter 2. The emphasis in the Jesus-centered church is on following Jesus and living like Jesus. Jesus never invited us to worship him. He always invited us to follow him.

The fourth and final c belongs to community. For more than 60 years in the U.S. and longer than that in Europe, the church has been in decline. In response to declining attendance, declining income, declining power, declining prestige, and declining relevance; the church has acted more like an institution than a movement. It has hunkered down and built walls, it has acted out of a sense of scarcity, rather than abundance. The instinct to survive has overcome the courage to let go and let God. As a result, the institution of the church has acquired some heavy baggage along the way. Unfortunately, the result of all of this protectionism and appeasement has been faster and faster decline.

Faced with these realities and struggling to answer our call to follow Jesus, we consulted the Spirit humbly and prayerfully. Over time, the Spirit led us to our retirement decision, and our discernment that God wants us to start a new type of faith community. We chose the verb follow as our name because we are tired of just talking about following Jesus . . . there has never been a better time to take action. If not now, when? We chose to be a community to differentiate ourselves from the dying institution of the church. And, we deliberately choose to save the upper-case letters for God, Jesus, and the Spirit to constantly remind us that they are God and we are not.

Welcome to follow ~ a nurturing community that gathers to follow Jesus by praying, learning, and caring for others.

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Stan Norman co-leads the follow community with Gerri Harvill. After 45 of working for a paycheck, reaching social security age has allowed Stan to work for and follow Jesus. He has retired three times from large institutions: from the Coast Guard, from the State of Washington, and from the United Methodist Church. Now his goal is to be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus.