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Posted by JasonRowinski on August 24, 2017

CONTAGIOUS LOVE: A Jesus Focused Church & Life (part 4)

Jesus Movement

The late 1960s and early 1970s wasn’t just a societal revolution in America, it also brought us the Jesus Movement – which itself was a restorationist movement. The objective of Christian restorationism is a return to the life of the early Church. Though it’s sometimes problematic or erroneous in belief and practice, the heart motivation of restorationism is reformation. Restorationism arose during that time because people believed the Church had become legalistic or veered off course from “the Jesus Way.”

 

They Will Know 

The Jesus Movement was known for its simple and heartfelt devotional music. One such song, “They will know we are Christians by our love” was written by a then-Catholic Priest as a simple expression of prayer and truth. It still resonates today with people who were born decades after the Jesus movement. Here are the lyrics:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

 

By Our Love

The song is a direct reference to John 13.34-35, where Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”  Love is the defining virtue of the Christian disciple. This should come as no surprise to us because God’s motivation for sending Jesus to the world was love (John 3.16). First John 4.8 reinforces the primacy of love in the Christian life: “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  The Bible means AGAPE love (a sacrificial, serving, committed love that seeks the best ‘shalom’ for the other).

 

Contagious Love

Clearly, Jesus intended his disciples to be known by their love. Not our rhetoric. Not our denominations. Not our marketing. Not our politics. Not our finger-pointing. Not our power. Not our church attendance. Not our anger. BY OUR LOVE. Our discipleship is most clearly seen in the way Christians love each other.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been around a really loving family, but there is something very compelling and inviting about the way they love one another. It makes you want to be a recipient of that kind of love. It makes you want to have that kind of love in your own life. It’s contagious, spreading quickly and easily. It’s inspirational, offering new possibilities for life.  Jesus COMMANDS this to be the defining virtue of his followers. It’s proof that the God Who Is LOVE lives in us.

 

Reflection

Would the world around us, people who aren’t Christian, say that Christians are defined by their love? Why or Why not? What things do Christians make more important than love? What keeps you from loving other Christians and non-Christians? Would people say the quality of your love is contagious and compelling?

Posted by JasonRowinski on August 18, 2017

SACRIFICIAL SERVANTHOOD: A Jesus Focused Church & Life (part 3)

POPE FRANCIS

Most people really aren’t interested normally in the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, except when its time to watch for the white smoke of a papal election. Yet Pope Francis seems to defy this disinterest. What is it about Pope Francis that draws people to him? His theology isn’t much different from his predecessors – but something about him is different. The picture attached to this post is Pope Francis washing the feet of Muslim refugees. There are stories about his preference to take the bus rather than the papal limo, his choice to live in the guesthouses rather than the papal apartments. He dresses as plainly as one can for a Pope. He doesn’t just give off that “Medieval Emperor” vibe.

 

SCENE

In JOHN 13.1-35 we observe a stunning scene. Jesus, the rabbi and leader of this group of men, rises from the dinner table and washes the feet of the disciples. In the ancient world, foot-washing was reserved exclusively for the lowest servant or slave. He turns the event into an object lesson on power and leadership. The most important person in the room takes the position of the lowest person, showing humbly what leadership and power are about in God’s Kingdom.

 

SACRIFICIAL SERVANTHOOD

There’s a methodology to Jesus’ madness. This isn’t meant to be some nice scene that a few actors play out every Maundy Thursday. NO! Jesus fully intends to convey a truth about our character and the use of power. Christians are to define leadership through the lens of service, not through positional power or coercive force.  We might protest — as Peter did — that this is beneath us or that we’ll lose our rights.  Yet Christians are called to give up not only our rights but lay down our lives as living sacrifices.

 

FIRST TO SERVE

A lot of Christians today seem to be more interested power and influence than they are sacrificial servanthood.  This attitude shows up in our approach to politics and interpersonal relationships. When we assert our rights and power over people we not only break relationships, we harm our Christian witness in the world.  Much recent research shows that while non-Christians admire Jesus, they essentially think Christians are judgmental jerks who don’t care about them. Pope Francis’ witness is powerful because people see him acting more like Jesus.

 

REFLECTION

What does it mean to be the first to serve in your family, work, or church? Who are the hardest people for you to serve? Why? Why are Christians often averse of sacrifice? 

Posted by JasonRowinski on August 14, 2017

Radical Hospitality: A Jesus Focused Church & Life (part 2)

TABLE 

When I think of  “radical hospitality” I begin with my Grandma Rosemary’s table — the enduring image and formative context of my childhood. The table I’m thinking of was located in the basement of her house because that’s the only space that was big enough to seat our entire Italian Roman Catholic family plus any guests that we might bring to Sunday lunch after church. There was always room at the table and enough food (pasta, meatballs, and garlic bread) to host more people. Grandma Rosemary not only anticipated guests, she planned  for them and  expected  us to bring them.

Everyone was welcome at her table.

        A radical biblical hospitality demands even more than this. The Old Testament speaks of the way God’s people should treat “strangers and aliens” in the land — putting livelihood and life on the line on their behalf. The New Testament expands on this through Jesus Christ and the early Church. I believe the depth of radical hospitality is best seen at the Last Supper during the Eucharistic moment (John 13.1-35).

 

SCENE

Jesus invites his disciples to the table and forever institutes one of the two (or seven) sacraments of his Church. At this table sit his 12 disciples who’d been with him for 3 years of ministry. Judas, the betrayer, is there. Peter, the denier, is there. 9/10 of the others would abandon Jesus as he died on the cross. KNOWING THIS, Jesus still invites them ALL to his table. He gives grace.He loved his enemy. He includes and is vulnerable with them. He forgives them.  

This is radical hospitality.

 

MISSION

We live in a divided, tribalistic, broken world. Where many seek exclusion we must choose to embrace. If we are to be like Jesus Christ, the radical hospitality we see in him must be foundational in us – in our words AND in our actions. Our weekly communion must lead to real community. There must always be room at the table with more than enough food (the bread and the wine) for anyone and everyone.

We must always be inviting people to share life with us — as people of grace, not condemnation. 

 

REFLECTION

How radical is my/our Christian hospitality? Who are you too afraid of or repulsed by to invite into your life? Who do you want to dis-invite from your life? Why?

Posted by JasonRowinski on August 9, 2017

A Jesus Focused Church & Life in 300 words (part 1)

                Someone recently asked me why I am a Christian (given some of the terrible things said and done in the name of Christianity). For some time, my answer’s been the same: I am still a Christian because of Jesus.  I suppose for me it’s very similar to the legend of how the great 20th-century theologian Karl Barth answered when asked about the most profound theological truth he ever learned. Barth said purportedly, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” 

                This answer is simple but not simplistic; childlike but not childish. The idea behind it is that whatever we call Christianity or Christian ought to be conformed to the Person and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the True North of the faith – we set our GPS system by him. If we discover something in our character, relationships, or ecclesiastical life that doesn’t conform to Christ, we are in error and we must course correct before we lose our way entirely. 

I am a Christian because of Jesus. 

                My understanding of the Church’s life and my own Christian identity arise out of a passage of scripture – John 13.1-35.  On the last night of his earthly life, Jesus wanted his disciples to remember him and his mission so that they could carry it forward after his death.  He invited them to his Last Supper – the betrayer, the denier, and all who would abandon him soon – and broke bread with them. He took the job of the lowest servant in the house and though being their leader, washed their feet. He gave them a new commandment to “love one another.” 

                This passage shapes the vision statement I have for Christian life and ministry. Christians are called and equipped to be a TABLE & TOWEL community marked by:

+ Contagious Love: our love for God, neighbors, enemies, & one another marks the followers of Jesus.

+ Radical Hospitality:  all are welcomed & received by the community as if they were Jesus.

+ Sacrificial Servanthood: to lead means to take up the towel & serve others like Jesus.

                I’ll say more about this in subsequent blogs. I leave you to ponder this question:

What things in your life and/or your church need to be more conformed to Jesus?

Grace & Peace,

Jason

Posted by JasonRowinski on February 7, 2017

Thy #KingdomCome

A week ago I decided to embark on a time of intentional spiritual focus. I wrote: “In light of recent world events, I feel compelled to make a conscious decision to be intentional. Beginning tomorrow, Monday, January 30, 2017, and continuing until Monday, February 27, 2017, I am beginning a #KingdomCome time to fast, pray, and write in these specific ways:

 

(1) Fasting from meat every day but Sundays. Meat is a luxury food for most. I choose to fast from meat in solidarity with the poor, the refugee, and/or the marginalized. Meat, in a way, symbolizes the “flesh” of humanity.

 

(2) Praying the Daily Office from the book of common prayer. This means two specific times of devotion, in the morning and the evening. I do this to pray for Kingdom solutions to worldly (and personal) problems of injustice and indifference as well as our need for Jesus’s kingdom to come.

 

(3) Writing only Scriptures on Facebook and Twitter posts, except for one personal blog per week or personal messages. Recounting the Scriptural story is centering. I’m choosing to blog once per week only, not commenting on posts and not retweeting or sharing others’ words. I want my words to be my own thoughts and tempered completely by fasting and prayer for this season.

 

Feel free to join me in this #KingdomCome time of intentional fasting, praying, and writing in these (or similar) ways. #KingdomCome

 

I’ve searched my soul during this first week and realized the only thing I can write with any conviction is a LAMENT. For those who don’t know, a lament is a type of prayer that is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow. You find a lot of laments in the Psalms (E.G. Psalms 3,4,5,12,44,60,74).

 

And in case you’re wondering, the answer is “NO” this lament doesn’t derive from bacon deprivation. The real source of my lament is because of the disunity in the Church created when sub-identities such as our nuclear family, political affiliation, or nationalism mean more to Christians than the Bible as a whole and the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ. Here is my lament:

 

Dear Jesus, I’m not really sure what you’re up to these days but I’d like to ask you to check in on the people who took your name as their last name with their baptismal vows. Okay, maybe you don’t need to check on all of the Christians, Jesus – but the American one’s need your attention. Somehow, somewhere along the line, it feels like we’ve forgotten who we are and what it means to be your disciples. I know that it was your idea to entrust the Good News to us and place the responsibility for the spread of your message to your Church, but a lot of days that looks like a bad idea. We’ve made a mess of things and it doesn’t appear to be getting better. It makes me angry and exhausted. I don’t want to be angry and exhausted all of the time with American Christianity, or more importantly, with people I know and love. It pains me deeply that people who aren’t Christians can look at us and say, as Gandhi said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” 

 

To my non-Christian friends reading this blog: I am so sorry for the ways that we often portray Jesus and the ways the Church does unChristian things in Jesus’ name. Please turn your eyes to him and not to us, for we are imperfect vessels and we’re still learning. Jesus really is amazing and He loves you. I pray you come to know His love deeply. 

Gandhi said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Jesus, We’ve chased after the false gods and idols of this world so much that I’m not sure we even know what it means to be your disciples. I want to be full of your love. I want to be a peacemaker. I’m not naive. I know that love and peace are hard work. I know that situations are complex and answers aren’t simple. Maybe I should also confess to you my sin of wanting this to be easy and simple! Nobody likes to take up their cross and that includes me. I’m sorry. Jesus, increase my faith! Help me to love your Bride, the Church, just like you do. But Jesus, she’s sin-sick and you’re the Doctor. Physician, HEAL YOUR BRIDE!

 

Heal your Bride of the idolatrous and unbiblical ideas of nationalism; from looking to any politicians and crying “Save us!”; from looking to human laws and boundaries to define our identity. 

 

Heal your Bride of the ignorance of trusting our ways, our understanding, and our resources alone when we should seek your wisdom and will through your word, prayer, and fasting as we seek to respond.

 

Heal your Bride of the incorrect assumption that the Democratic or Republican party have all the answers or that we need to belong to one or the other to follow you.

 

Heal your Bride of the illicit attitudes and actions that plague us – both our private, personal sins or our public, corporate sins.

 

Heal your Bride of the indifference that places our safety and security above justice and compassion; may we see every human being as created in your image and may we see your face, Jesus, in every person.

 

Heal your Bride of the irresponsibility that often follows indifference, when we see an injustice or look at our next door neighbor’s life and say, “Not my problem” or “Let somebody else do it.”

 

Heal your Bride of the inconsistency over only believing in truth when it aligns with worldview bias or political party affiliation, and seemingly caring only partially about life (before or after) birth – and only when it’s an American life.

 

Heal your Bride of the irritation of faux-persecution we feel when people say “Happy Holidays!” and not “Merry Christmas!” and all the other minor inconveniences of living in a diverse and free democratic society; and help us to remember those who are truly persecuted. 

 

Heal your Bride of the indignation we feel when people disagree with us or things simply don’t go our way; keep us from thinking violent thoughts, speaking violent words, and participating in violent actions – be it on Facebook or political protests; help us remember your way is peace (shalom). 

 

Jesus, we know your way is narrow and few find it. We know we’ll be persecuted because we bear your name. We know that we must lose our lives to find life. We know that we must take up the cross and follow you with no thought of the consequences. We know that “love of God” and “love of neighbor” are linked inextricably. Help us to be more like you, Jesus. Heal your Bride. And when I say Heal your Bride I mean to say, let that healing begin with me!  

 

May your Kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

 

AMEN.