Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Jesus Movement

If you have not watched it yet please take the thirty minutes or so needed to watch and listen to our newly inaugurated Presiding Bishop Michael Curry as he delivers an inspired and encouraging word to the whole church.

Two phrases keep echoing throughout his sermon.  The first to hit home is his take on the moment reported in chapter 17 of the Acts of the Apostles:
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked fellows of the rabble, they gathered a crowd, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them; and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”” Acts 17:1-7, RSV.
Bishop Curry said more and said it this way, "they have turned the world upside down, which is really right side up!"

Right next to that he reminded us that Jesus did not come to establish a church but to join a movement that was passing through John the Baptist, having been handed down by the prophets as they helped Israel live according to the tradition forged by Moses and the children in the wilderness.

And now God is calling us to join that same movement.  It will have some characteristics -- usual for some and difficult for others -- that will not be easily accomplished by a hierarchical, liturgical and nearly established church.

Evangelism is one of the pieces in this movement that will seem unfamiliar or uncomfortable to many.  But Bishop Curry said this:
"I’m talking about a way of evangelism that is genuine and authentic to us as Episcopalians, not a way that imitates or judges anyone else.  A way of evangelism that is really about sharing good news. A way of evangelism that is deeply grounded in the love of God that we’ve learned from Jesus. A way of evangelism that is as much about listening and learning from the story of who God is in another person’s life as it is about sharing our own story. A way of evangelism that is really about helping others find their way to a relationship with God without our trying to control the outcome. A way of evangelism that’s authentic to us. We can do that. (my emphasis)
Bishop Curry reminded us that our own General Convention had already begun the hard work of that other characteristic of the Jesus movement: reconciliation and in particular racial reconciliation. 

His story of his parents taking communion in an Episcopal parish where they were the only African-Americans in attendance that Sunday was stirring and precious.

The heart of the story was communion itself.  Holy Communion that invites us to eat the bread and then drink from the same cup.
The man [taking communion for the first time] would later say that it was that reconciling experience of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist that brought him into The Episcopal Church.  He said, “Any Church in which blacks and whites drink out of the same cup knows something about the Gospel that I want to be a part of.” 
That couple later married and gave birth to two children, both of whom are here today, and one of whom is the 27th Presiding Bishop.
How we undertake our part in this movement will not necessarily look a lot like Morgan County.  It is about God's dream, God's love, God's hope for us.  It will feel new and unfamiliar.  Some of it will feel like something other than the church we remember Sunday after Sunday.  It will push us out of our own comfort zones.  And some of it will feel like turning the world upside down.

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