All are welcome to join St. James for our 2015-16 Adult Education sessions (we meet each third Sunday, September through June at 10:00am, concurrently with the children’s Sunday School).
Our study this year is based on the book Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus by Robin R. Meyers. Books are available at the church.
People at St. James come from diverse backgrounds and believe many different things. What does it mean when someone describes themselves as a “believer”? Why do people use that word instead of the many other words that could describe a Christian, like “follower of Jesus,” or “advocate,” or “servant”? What difference does that make, in how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves? What does it mean for the future of the church?
Meyers, by reexamining the core things Christians are assumed to “believe” through new eyes and surprising contexts, gives us something compelling to advocate FOR as opposed to endlessly and defensively explaining what we’re not (AKA “but I’m not THAT kind of Christian”). It’s refreshing, and thought-provoking. There’s a lot to talk about.
The most interesting question that can be asked in the church today is this: What shall we offer to those who are not believers and yet wish to be followers? Just imagine that we could take an industrial-size garbage bag and fill it with every discredited myth in the church – the inerrancy of scripture, the virgin birth, the miracles as suspension of natural law, the blood atonement, the bodily resurrection, and the second coming. Twist it, tie it up, and carry it out to the curb. It will be gone in the morning. Now what?
By evening, a crowd will have gathered. People are glad to see that the garbage is gone, of course, but for some reason they do not leave. They linger. They ask about supper. Some want to stay over and have breakfast together. What are they looking for? Don’t they realize that when the creeds are gone, Jesus has left the building? Don’t they understand that once the stained-glass window of the Savior is shattered, there is nothing left to do but sweep up the shards, build a museum, and give tours?
Before you know it, someone pulls out a pocket version of the Sermon on the Mount and starts reading it aloud. The listeners include a widow, an orphan, a divorcee, a soldier without legs, a high school football coach, and a gay man who is still in the closet. Standing in the back is a respected local businessman who stopped by on his way home from the motel; when he touches his face, he can still smell the adultery on his hands. There is a drunk, a confused teenager in dark clothing, and a university professor who was just denied tenure. Not a single one of them is into angels or demons or worries about being “left behind.” They just can’t believe their ears.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after more than food? Blessed are those who are not popular because they do the right thing? Let’s hear it for salt and light, and for those who are reconciled to one another before they go to church? You can commit adultery in your mind? Divorce is actually condemned? Turn the other cheek? Pray for your enemy, but don’t do it where people can hear you and compliment you on what a fine prayer it was? Fast in secret? Don’t store up treasures on earth? Don’t serve two masters? Don’t worry? Don’t judge? Ask, search, and knock before you give up? Not everyone who talks about Jesus a lot will enter the kingdom?
They all sit down to share a simple meal, and around the table there is no discussion whatsoever about what anyone “believes.” A motion is made and seconded to meet again and take turns reading, listening, and discussing this utterly fantastic document. The group agrees that such meetings are both important and dangerous, and it would be wise to move them around to a different location each time. Those who are more affluent are instructed to share out of their abundance, giving to anyone in need. It is assumed by everyone, without a word spoken, that what Jesus taught cannot be separated from how Jesus lived – or how we ought to live. The questions are all ethical. None are theological. How can we do the will of God?
No one thinks to write a creed.