I am a fan of Robin Myers books, The Underground Church, and Saving Jesus from the Church
Myers powerfully challenges the church…. a prophetic call to return to a faith tradition before Christianity sold out to the Empire in the high drama of Constantine’s conversion.
The church has lost its voice. It no longer has a clear strong self-possessed message shaped by the gospel … How do you criticize a government that has the power to revoke your tax-exempt status if it determines that your sermons have violated the separation of church and state?
He continues. we have domesticated Jesus and we have allowed the church to convince us that sometimes war, torture, and violence is acceptable. I believe not.
For me, it is more than just putting on a collar or stole or button that identifies me as a Christian. What is more important is whether I will follow Jesus. Will I live out the values that he lived and was tortured and died for…will I take the risks that he took?
My transformation from worshiping Christ to following Jesus occurred when I was a Junior or so in High School… I was a cradle Episcopalian… acolyte from age 8…. lay reader….church camper…. I was enthusiastic with the smells and bells of the Episcopal High Church.
But that Christ was not helpful to me as I experienced the conflict in Viet Nam…. the civil rights movement…and hearing the prophetic message of MLK. My youth group leader gave me a copy of Are you Running with me Jesus…. I heard Malcolm Boyd preach at All Saints Pasadena…. I got it…. If I were an evangelical one might say I was born again… I discovered Jesus the prophet
It was the influence of Boyd, All Saints, and Episcopal Peace Fellowship that I became a conscientious objector in 1969…. I learned that the founder of EPF BP Paul Jones of Utah was forced to resign from his episcopacy protesting WW1. He organized the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, and we celebrate his life and ministry on September 4th.
I learned that early Christians before the contract with the empire, required the laying down of swords…. As Diane Butler Bass writes years later ‘the strong consensus of the early church teachers was that war meant killing, killing was murder, and murder was wrong’
I understand Jesus as a social reformer…an agitator…. he challenged the status quo ….he crossed barriers and took risks. Jesus called people to live in the reign of heaven…the beloved community where we are called to live by compassion, to love our enemies, to forgive one another…
Meyers writes that the church has domesticated Jesus…that our Jesus now is more about our personal comfort and spirituality than it is about prophesy. He asks, Have We, traded in the sermon on the mount for the Nicene creed?
Are we prepared to take back the prophetic life Jesus lived to show us and leave the creeds behind? Are we prepared to crack the church open, and reimagine a church that authentically follows the Way of Jesus, the prophet?
I call upon you to share in the mantle of being God’s prophetic voice in the world…a world broken by our addiction to privilege. Together we will transform our neighborhoods from darkness to light.
May God bless you with foolishness, enough to believe that you can make a difference in this world, doing what others claim cannot be done. Amen
Reverend Rex Mckee