I absolutely love New England! It is where my wife and I began dating the second time we got together as kids. Being there brought back many memories. For this weekend, I flew into Albany, NY, stayed with a family in Vermont, and gave four presentations in New Hampshire. (Rarely do I cover three different states in one weekend.) It was wonderful! The dear family who invited me requested that I share the same presentations I shared in Naperville, IL earlier this year. So we spent Friday night examining why Jesus and his radically different picture of God, which he sought to communicate to us through a radical set of ethical teachings, should be presented to an audience in the twenty-first century. Throughout the rest of the weekend we looked at:
1)The Constantine shift, the abandonment of the ethics of Jesus by Christianity at large at that time, and historical evidence for the reliability of the Jesus story, not in an attempt to prove “story details,” but rather as a basis for returning to the ethics of the Jesus story itself. We looked at Jesus’ teachings on unconditional forgiveness, radical inclusivity, enemy love, nonviolence, helping the poor, and what each of those aspects tells us about the character of God.
2)What the Jesus story has to say about the occurrence of Jesus’ death and the purpose of Resurrection, and how those two events together launched onto this world, not only deliverance from “the enemy” who had taken us captive, but an entirely new way of living based on a new way of seeing God, ourselves, and everyone else over whom death has no claim.
3)The answer to human suffering found in the Jesus story and the differences between that answer and the typical answers given to us by Western Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
4)The nature of the New Testament church and the open, mutually participatory, nonhierarchical manner in which they are combined and what that presents to the world (including “the powers” Ephesians 6.12 and 3.10) about the character of the God we claim to follow. Not only does it matter regarding the simply intrinsic value it gives to experiencing genuine community, but it is valuable because of the radically different picture of God that is proclaimed to others. For more info on this topic, check out http://www.rhmheartgroups.com/
This too was a banner weekend for the Kingdom, as we all—myself included—experienced new ways of looking at God, ourselves, and each other through the lens of the teachings on Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection.