September 7, 2018

The Way of Love: Turn + Learn

Note: You might want to read this first.
Bishop Curry's Way of Love model begins with this practice:

Turn - Pause, listen and choose to follow Jesus

How can this be used as a missional community practice?

Well, before I get to that, a few considerations before we get started ...

Choosing to follow Jesus can begin by making a verbal commitment. It did for me. Yet, it doesn't have to happen this way. There is nothing magical about saying certain words. At the same time, there is nothing magical about being born into the Church. Neither birthright or pacts with God provide a comprehensive definition of what it means to "pause, listen and choose to follow Jesus." It is not a box that once done can be checked off. It is, rather, a discipline, a practice.

That said, God has chosen you. You do not have to choose to follow God in order to obtain God's affection and acceptance. Central to a Christian worldview is that God has first loved us even before you or I considered returning that devotion. Any discussion about Christian action is never intended to imply a transactional relationship. I'm going to assume we're on the same page about that.

Last consideration. It's important to remember that for those of that are immersed in the Christian community, what we believe sounds outright ridiculous to those outside of our tradition. As I've said before, what we Christians believe about Jesus is bananas to the outsider! It is therefore important that we consider that following Jesus will not always begin, for some, with accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. For some, he will begin as no more than teacher. This, I believe, is quite alright. I trust the Holy Spirit to take care of the rest.

So, what does it look like to "pause, listen and choose to follow Jesus?"

Possibly the simplest way to practice this is through Scripture reflection. Well, I think by applying the second practice that Curry offers:

Learn: Reflect on Scripture, especially on Jesus' life and teaching

In the Episcopal tradition, we read lots of Scripture every week. We read from the Old Testament and New Testament. Prophets, Epistles, Psalms ... you get the point. And we always read from the Gospels. While Scripture is compiled of writings from a variety of eras, locations and authors with various agendas–sometimes appearing to contradict each other–we believe they all point in the one direction. You could say that while they may not all carry the same melody, they do harmonize with each other. That harmony is found in the Gospels. In other words, it is meditating on all of Scripture through the lens of Jesus' life, death, resurrection and ascension that we discover how we are called to live our lives.

In the application of starting a new community (again, you should really go read the first post), what if this simply begins with gathering with those you are going start a community with for regular Scripture reflection? I use "reflection" rather than "study" purposely. The point here is to allow Scripture, in light of Jesus, read you as much you read the text. There are a variety of basic tools for conducting reflection in this way.The Kaleidoscope Bible Study, Lectio Divina or African Bible Study are examples.

At a various times I have used the model of reading a Gospel passage three times with a group. The first time it is read follows with the question, "What is Jesus saying to you?" The second time it is read follows with the question, "What is Jesus saying to us?" The third time it is read follows with the question, "What is Jesus saying to us about our neighborhood?" Personal reflection, collective reflection, missional reflection. In any case, the challenge is to allow the way of Jesus to impact how we behave, outside of the gathering of Christians. Conversations could be book-ended by reflection on how a group is applying in everyday life what they are meditating on within meetings.

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