Sunday July 11th will go down in history as the official beginning of the AWAKEN Covenant Community. It’s an ebenezer of sorts. A place that we can look back to and remember that God met us there, under the sunshine and breeze in park in St. Paul. Those who were there understand and know that this was a special day.
This was the first of six official “Gathering Events” this summer where we will be fleshing out the core values of AWAKEN. I wanted to take this opportunity on the blog to post a recap of what was shared about Jesus being at the center of who we are.
JESUS_it’s our hope, prayer and intention for Jesus to be at the center of everything we do. The church is nothing more than a group of people who have been awakened to God through Jesus, responding to the grace filled invitation of God to join him in the redemption of all things. Jesus is the centerpiece of God’s activity in the world. Therefore, Jesus is at the center of who we are as a community. Using Isaiah 61 as a guide, the theological implications of Jesus are as follows (not an exhaustive list): God the Father has invested Jesus with power and authority to DO something in and for the world. This is the “who” of the passage. Jesus is the elect. In Christ, God the Father has elected humanity. Jesus comes to proclaim a particular message. A message of forgiveness, healing, restoration, hope and freedom for the bonded in and through HIMSELF. This is the “what” of the passage. All of this, according to the end of the passage, is to reveal the splendor of God. The purpose is to reveal God to creation in and through Jesus. This is WHAT we believe about Jesus (and of course more), and this will always be at the center of AWAKEN. What we believe about Jesus is foundationally important…and I would add HOW we believe what we believe about Jesus is equally important to the AWAKEN community in 2010.
We’ve all met people who have turned their back on God and Jesus but actually what they have turned their back on is church/religion. These folks have often met someone who believes the right “what” about Jesus but does so in a way that is unnecessarily offensive and repulsive. The end result is not conversion or people following Jesus but exactly the opposite! HOW we believe what we believe about Jesus has massive implications and I would argue especially in our day and in our age where spiritual interest is at an all time high, but church attendance is plummeting as fast as the season tickets prices for the Timberwolves.
Community by its very nature includes some and excludes others. It doesn’t matter what community you are talking about. Whether it’s a community that gathers around issues related to GLBT lifestyle or a community that gathers around issues related to the defense of marriage as one man and one woman, both are exclusive in some ways. AWAKEN is not an open community where anything goes related to Truth and morality. Just like the GLBT community is not an open community where anything goes related to my beliefs on the issues that define the community. If both communities have boundaries that define them, is there a better way to judge whether a community is caring and loving rather than narrow and oppressive? Tim Keller, who wrote The Reason For God, argues there is.
“Which community has beliefs that lead its members to treat persons in other communities with love and respect-to serve them and meet their needs? Which community’s beliefs lead it to demonize and attack those who violate their boundaries rather than treating them with kindness, humility, and winsomeness? We should criticize Christians when they are condemning and ungracious to unbelievers. But we should not criticize churches when they maintain standards for membership in accord with their beliefs. Every community must do the same.”
The point here for us at AWAKEN is this. We are a church. We follow Jesus. We believe certain things that are at odds with what much of the world believes. There is a particular way in which we will hold Jesus at the center of what we do that will be as important to us as what we believe about Jesus. It will have the face of love, graciousness, mercy, hospitality and a position of non-judgment over people who actually believe that this is God’s role and not ours. For those in our community who are a part of the AWAKEN family, there are standards that we hold each other to that are in line with what we believe God has revealed to us in Jesus and scripture. For those outside of our community, it will be nothing but love, grace, mercy, hope, hospitality, welcome, and non-judgment as we trust in God’s spirit who is at work in the world drawing people to their creator.
Q’s to discuss:
1. In what ways have you experienced God’s mercy?
2. What is the most fascinating character trait you’ve discovered about Jesus?
3. What implications do Jesus’ life, death and resurrection have for us as a community?
4. What is one thing that Jesus demonstrated that we should mimic?
Join the discussion on the Awaken Facebook Page.