It started out with, “How do we avail ourselves of the power that God wants to give us?”
In light of last week’s Gospel, it moved to, “How do we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and love our neighbor as our self?”
The answer is the same: follow Jesus.
Jesus availed himself of God’s power, completely (or more accurately, we believe he WAS (and is) God’s power, enfleshed.
And Jesus, as the “pioneer and perfecter” of our faith, modeled for us (and stands ready to make possible for us) the way to love God and love our neighbor as our self.
But again, that only begs the question: HOW do we follow Jesus?
As Episcopalians living in North America in 2011, how are we to follow Jesus, practically speaking?
Well, as I said last week, in answering that question, context is important:
We live in an age where denominations -- and “religion” in general -- are less and less relevant to most people’s lives.
With each passing decade, it is becoming more and more clear that the structures and systems of religious institutions have outlived their usefulness.
And yet, at the same time, there is growing interest in “spirituality” in general. There is growing attraction to, and fascination with, the person of Jesus.
With so much divisiveness in our political system, so much shallowness in our culture, and so much selfishness in our economy, there is a growing hunger among more and more people for genuine community: places that, while never perfect, are places where unity, holiness, and service to others are valued -- and held up as expectations for its members.
So I think God is pruning the church. Like a master gardener, God is lopping off the deadwood of Christianity.
God is lopping off the pale, powerless, polite and predictable parts of our faith.
And God is doing this so that what is left -- rooted in Jesus -- bears fruit.
That’s not just a general truth about what is going on in denominations, or within the Episcopal Church, or within St. James’.
It’s also a personal one: God is lopping off the deadwood in individual people.
So last week, I named three of these ancient “holy habits” -- praying, worshipping, and serving.
And that’s what I’ll be writing about over the course of the next several weeks.
But for now, let me say that those habits start with -- at the very least -- praying, worshipping, and serving.
You want the power God stands ready to offer? Follow Jesus.
You want to be a more loving person? Follow Jesus.
And do you want to know how to be a follower of Jesus?
Then, as a start:
1. Pray. Set aside regular times of prayer and meditation, “praying to God in secret,” working toward 20 minutes a day.
2. Worship for an hour a week. Coming together with others weekly, offer yourself to God’s service. Weekly worship allows you to receive God’s love and blessings with the rest of your Christian community, as we “worship in the beauty of holiness.”
3. Serve those whom Jesus especially loved: the poor…the least, the lost, the struggling, working toward four hours a month, remembering that Jesus said, “Surely as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”
That's a start on answering what may be the most important question you and I can ask: “How can I follow Jesus?”