Tuesday, October 28, 2014

“I want you to be less Christian…”

Good evening…

“I want you to be less Christian…” What a great goal, amen?! Dear Lord, how I pray for that in my own life, for our church, for believers worldwide.

But first, some context. Those words came from a video I saw of a pastor promoting his new book. It’s provocatively titled, PostChristian: What’s Left? Can We Fix It? Do We Care?, and promises “to piss you off.” So…I’m intrigued! By the way, his name is Christian Piatt; he’s a Disciples of Christ member, like us (wahoo!). And he uttered the above quote during an event he held at some local church, sometime during his ongoing national tour. As such events go, he read selections from his writing, engaged the audience’s questions and concerns, basically offered his thoughts on living faithfully in the 21st Century. A worthy topic, indeed.

And I tell you this because Plymouth Creek will host him- Wednesday, November 5th, 5:30-7:00PM. We’ll provide dinner, childcare if needed, and seek to deepen our collective faiths.

Please come! And bring inquisitive friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, whomever! After all, it’s not typical our small congregation has opportunity or resources for such an event. Nationally prominent bloggers/authors like Rev. Piatt usually command larger stages, and speaker fees. But last week, his production company sent notice that he’d be in our area soon. As a Disciples church, they thought we might appreciate his words, if we could arrange our mutual schedules. Turns out, we could, without disrupting choir practice! And because of a recent donation for outreach purposes, we had funds to offer a reasonable honorarium. Some would call that, “A God Moment.”

Anyway, that’s all boring details of what and how it worked out. Let me explain why I’m looking forward to the evening. Because, as he said, I want YOU to be less Christian, and I suspect you want the same.

Our sermon series this fall, in fact, has been about that issue. We’re exploring questions many folk wonder about, but often don’t express. Why does God allow suffering? Do only Christians get to Heaven? Why is Christianity so associated with violence/gay-bashing/demeaning women? Certainly, many non-churchgoers ruminate on those themes. Yet lots of churches consider it out-of-bounds to discuss them openly, to question together, to doubt. Anything besides complete acceptance of that “old time religion”, as expressed by your over-confident preacher, and you’re suddenly, “less Christian.”

You know, however, I’m of another opinion: that modern faithfulness requires questioning, actively exploring ideas that some deem “un-Orthodox”, but are reasons many uncommitted young (and older) adults avoid church nowadays. Like the blessings of interfaith cooperation, or so-called “non-traditional families.” We live in such fast-changing times that new possibilities, and challenges, arise constantly. Without an attentive, inquisitive faith, we’re at risk of society passing religion by. Of Jesus’ followers becoming unable to share a Gospel worthy of the name Good News anymore.

But as Rev. Piatt implies in the quote I opened with (but didn’t complete; sorry, I tricked you), that’s a dynamic Jesus confronted in his day. And helped his disciples answer! As Piatt said, “I want you to be less Christian…And more Christ-like.” Perhaps he refers to that instinct Jesus constantly nurtured to battle with his overly-“religious” Pharisee opponents, who worried more about rules and traditions, than helping the poor, forgiving trespassers, discovering new answers to real-life problems, loving all, even enemies. If so, like I said, great goal! Be less Christian, more like Christ! After all, Jesus didn’t found a religion. He showed us a way, a path to true life (John 14). And if this provocative author can help us engage that way further for our time, it’s worth 90 minutes on a Wednesday evening.

So, again, I hope you attend, and invite others to join you. We’ll take up an offering also to help IOCP, because why not give at the same time we get?! And whether you come or not, remember that your pastor want you to be less Christian. And more Christ-like. Because our world still needs Jesus, amen? Situations change. Love remains essential. Especially the unconquered kind, which Jesus offers, eternally, and showed us a way to share with all.

Grace and Peace,
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