Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in a virtual summit called, (What is) The Future of Christianity (?), hosted by the renowned evangelical pastor, author and theologian, Brian McLaren. Brian told the story of his oldest son’s foray into undergraduate school, and the lesson his son brought back on his first holiday home from university.
Having been raised in the evangelical church as a young child, the Church was a worshipping and serving community with the values he was taught as Jesus’ own. This was what “Junior” had in mind upon his arrival at college. Soon, he realized that things were quite different from the way he had been raised and taught; the values and concerns were different too. His parents asked him what kind of worship and service community he had found. Junior replied, “Christianity means something different out there.”
Long before I knew anything of this broadcast it had become apparent to me and probably to you, too, that Christianity means different things to different CHRISTIANS; so where does that leave the CHURCH?
Now, we can debate all day about how some of our siblings in the faith have bastardized the word, Christian, in ways that no longer identify as Christ-like, but that is not the intent of my reflections. Instead, I believe EACH one of us is called at this moment in Western Christianity’s history, to consider what does being a Christian mean to me? How do I live into and out of my understanding of the Christ-life as I live it?
The summit had notable panelists including Richard Rohr and Barbara Holmes all bringing their own perspectives about what is next for the future of Christianity. There were strong and provocative statements to explore and yet the most thought provoking for me was the need to look at my devotion. What (or to Whom) am I devoted?
In an age of relativism when the notion of being fervent about anything seems foreign, the one who professes the label of Christian will have to determine whether their devotion is to the Christian Church (as it exists in the West), the Christian community (as it exists in individual sites in the West) or to Jesus of Nazareth later called the Christ or anointed one of G-D.
Every endpoint of each will lead us along a different path and NOT all paths will lead to that which I believe we seek: Peace, Joy, Love, Compassion, Inclusion, Justice, Transformation, Healing, Reconciliation with G-D and with Each Other.
For me, only one path will lead us there; only one devotion is first and foremost among all others and that is a true devotion to the deathless Presence of Jesus the Christ. This Presence of the Risen Christ is even within each one of us and is sometimes called our Higher Self or True Self.
Our devotion to our Higher, True, Christ-Self will automatically bring us to the shore to which we are all sailing for. It will take us all HOME.
Steven Covey, in his book THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, stated that one of the ways a person maintains their effectiveness is by “Beginning with the End in mind.” The teaching and preaching of Jesus of Nazareth was ALL about having the End in mind. He called it the Kingdom of G-D or the Reign and Supremacy of G-D. He said it was closer than folks imagined. He showed it by doing things that were countercultural to the “norm.” It was that End for which he physically died a traumatic death. Yet, even his physical death was NOT the end of the Divine story.
When we devote ourselves to the Presence of the Risen Christ within, we align ourselves with his message in words and behaviors of healing, health, and wholeness. Of course this is a far cry from where we find ourselves right now, but I believe it is where many of us are headed. Everybody gets to choose.
Junior was correct, “Christianity means something different out there.” What does it mean to you?
Pondering with Love,