When we read of the ministry of Jesus in the Bible, we are reminded that every encounter with Jesus resulted in changed lives. Listening, learning, healing, following, forgiving, sharing, and calling those who would become followers to bring others to a new way of living. When calling fishermen to become disciples, a straightforward, clear, compelling vision is shared, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people.” -Luke 5:10 (CEB)
As the son of the living God, Jesus is both a life changer and our example of the purpose driven life.
It is one thing to read about our Lord and Savior Jesus who comes to us as “Emmanuel,” God to be with us. It is a daring and deeper commitment to take Jesus seriously. The moral trajectory of the universe is changed because Jesus is himself serious about God’s desire for people to live into their kingdom potential. Jesus is serious about the radical inclusiveness of God’s love. Jesus denounces violence while promoting prayer and peacemaking.
In Jesus Christ, we see humility and servanthood valued more than hubris and success.
Jesus reads from Isaiah the prophet as he begins his Galilean ministry determined to be faithful to his mission and anointing: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” -Luke 4: 18-19 (CEB)
Disparities and disabilities are dealt with by Jesus with a mission that is big enough to address those who are spiritually blind and economically poor. Taking Jesus seriously is as the Rev. Sandy Harlan, a retired United Methodist Deacon and author, writes in the book The God Nobody Knows is to remember the “only side God takes is the side against injustice and oppression.”
In this year of 2017, I am inviting you to join me in my own “inside work” of taking Jesus seriously. For me this means I have to make some choices:
- Pray every day;
- Read the Bible daily (in words of Father Richard Rohr “with the gaze of love”);
- Forgive myself and others;
- Commit to missions – both globally and locally;
- Promote better stewardship and respect for God’s creation and environmental justice;
- Lift restorative justice over retribution;
- Encourage communities of prayer;
- Invite generosity;
- Encourage Christian Conferencing to engage in critical conversations; and
- Denounce violence in all of its forms.
We can take Jesus seriously because we really believe the “word became flesh and dwells among us.” In her book, Sandy Harlan also reminds us we have an “incarnational” faith, hope that is proven to be fruitful and allows us to give witness as light to the world. “You and I may be the only glimpse of God some people will ever see.”
So let us take Jesus seriously!
And now I have three BIG ASKS. Big because they are bold, challenge us, and are God-shaped:
- Will you join me in attending a prayer rally and worship in 2017?
- Will you join me in Christian Conferencing-based critical conversations on race or human sexuality and on The Way Forward in 2017-2018?
- Will you join me in conversations and commitment around extravagant generosity vs. scarcity for the purpose of addressing global health and ministry with the poor?
Bishop Julius C. Trimble