Finding our new, old road to God | Bellevue First Congregational Church, Bellevue, WA
Last Sunday, our pastor’s sermon explored what it means to have “a personal relationship with Jesus”. He explored that idea in the context of the progressive church and in the context of current events, like the recent court decisions that permit a significant expansion of civil rights to gay and lesbian couples as well as the results of the Trayvon Martin trial. And he contrasted it with the meaning it typically has among evangelical Christians. I’ve been thinking about what the pastor said all week long.
In a nutshell, having a personal relationship with Jesus is not about an invisible superhero best friend coming and saving you from your problems. That version of Jesus is based on a selfish, individualistic understanding of what Jesus the Christ has to offer in his post-resurrection form. Sort of, “Hey Jesus, what can you do for me today?” Contrast this with the early church, where the community of fellow believers was everything. They followed “the way” shown and taught by Jesus by creating communities of solidarity and compassion.
This focus on communities continues to be important to us today; as I’ve noted before, the contemporary theologian Marcus Borg writes that the first and most important spiritual practice one can have is to be part of a faith community. In today’s Christian progressive communities, when we gather together to worship or to try to change how the systemic sins of our society aggravate the problems of the poor, the disenfranchised, and the excluded, we can experience that personal relationship with Jesus – by standing in solidarity with others seeking social, economic, and legal justice.
As I drove home tonight, I felt indignant and outraged at the result of the Trayvon Martin trial. I’ve felt this way daily since last Saturday, and I’ve been thinking – how do I turn this anger into action?
But this evening, as I sat reading some of the news commentaries on Trayvon Martin’s case and on gay marriage, I remembered Marcus Borg’s words about joining a faith community – the reason it is important is because it places you in an environment that can lead to other, deeper practices and actions. So, I took a first step by joining the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP. It felt a little strange at first, but as I processed my action it felt more right. It’s a symbol of solidarity, not much more. But it’s a first step. It makes me think that to truly effect change, enough people must join with the minority to create a new and more diverse majority.
To create a minimal commitment that lasts beyond an annual membership, I put myself on the track to become a lifetime member over a period of 10 years. Each year I’ll have a reminder that this should be more than a one year commitment – even if I stay at the “solidarity level”.
If you’d like to join to express your solidarity, perhaps you’ll join me in joining the NAACP: http://www.naacp.org/