Today I’d like to begin answering a question someone asked me regarding something I said in a recent [post] entry and sermon.
First, what I said:
I was talking about the fact that too many of us “work too hard at life,” because we do not avail ourselves of the power that God offers to us.
The question one of you had was simple, and important:
How do we avail ourselves of the power that God offers to us?
The short answer to the question is this:
If we follow Jesus, we receive what he promises. The transformation of life he promises. The Joy and Peace and Power he promises.
But that only begs the same question:
How do we follow Jesus? How, as Episcopalians living in Northern Virginia in 2011, do we follow Jesus?
The answer to that question is also simple, but -- like the moves of the chess pieces are simple but take a lifetime to master, if we ever do -- the answer takes a lifetime to accomplish, if we ever do.
And so I’m going to do something I haven’t ever done before in the e-Pistle, which is to write a series.
Over the course of the seven weeks or more, I’d like to answer the question,
“How do we follow Jesus?”
For today, it’s important to start with a bit of context, or history, which I borrow from a wonderful piece written by Brother Kevin Hackett, SSJE. You can read Br. Kevin’s whole thing here: http://ssje.org/monasticwisdom/?p=1231
Reminding us that for the first several hundred years of its existence, Christianity was a MOVEMENT, and not an institution, Br. Hackett goes on to say that in our own time, we are witnessing the slow demise of the institutional and denominational forms of church.
And it’s so true: People just don’t identify with the old denominational labels much anymore.
And most of the outward forms of “church” have outlived their utility.
But it’s also true that at the same time in our age, more and more people are fascinated by and want to follow the person of Jesus.
Brother Hackett says,
"…we would do well to ask ourselves a couple of questions at this point. How different is it to say, ‘I am a member of the Episcopal Church (or use your own denomination of choice),’ than to say, ‘I am a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.’
"I do not think the two claims are necessarily mutually exclusive, and while the Episcopal Church, as well many other denominations, have stressed Christian faith and practice as a way of life, I cannot get past the differences of connotation between being a member of an institution (which suggests a kind of stasis and status quo to me) and being a follower of a movement, especially the one which was inaugurated by Jesus of Nazareth (which, from my own experience, suggests some pretty rugged engagement with the unknown)."
So there you have it: become a follower of Jesus.
But again, “how?”
The answer to that question is to engage in the practices that Jesus taught.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been working with a group of colleagues on describing, in a way that people can practically follow, “seven holy habits.”
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, worshiping, and serving.
You want the power God stands ready to offer? Follow Jesus. You want to know how to be a follower of Jesus? Then:
1. Pray. Set aside regular times of prayer and meditation, “praying to God in secret,” working toward twenty minutes a day.
2. Worship for an hour a week. Coming together with others weekly, is an offering of your self, and it 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. But only a start.
And so, lots more on this in the weeks and months ahead, as I give one answer to what is perhaps the most important question we can ask.