by Ellen

Ain't no reason we should be in a fight
No demolition
Get to vote, get to say what you like
Compositions already written by themselves
Heck is for the people not believin' in gosh

Good Job
Get 'em up way high
Gimme gimme that high five
Good time
Get 'em way down low
Gimme gimme that low dough
Good God
Bring 'em back again
Gimme gimme that high ten
You're the best definition of good intentions.

So, in one day, I hear two Christians talk about Jesus. One's message was about the conversation that we have with God, which generates conversation that we have in community with our fellowship of believers AND non-believers. The one person also spoke of belovedness. She used God's words from Jesus' baptism ("This is my son, with him I am well pleased") to demonstrate how beloved we are. She said that if we took 5 minutes every day to be still and listen to God's voice say, "You are my child, with you I am well pleased," then we could internalize God's love for us so that we can then recognize the belovedness of others. Some words from Henri Nouwen (my favorite author) from his book Life of the Beloved:

"It is only when we have claimed our own place in God's love that we can experience this all-embracing, non-comparing love and feel safe, not only with God, but also with all our brothers and sisters...Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say, or do."

It is another story for how these words have reached into my own heart, so I'll spare you the personal reflection that I still haven't totally figured out for myself. It's a little too personal.

But in this sermon, I heard that I am loved, and that love is good, free, and unconditional. I responded so positively because I think this is purely Jesus' message. I also heard that after I've understood my belovedness, I must let it shine from me, to be in community, to be a disciple. I heard that God loves me, but I must also love God and be willing to readily answer when God calls me by name. When I answer, I am in community with the rest of creation, and I must be an example to belovedness and see that God loves everyone and that I should do my best to be the bright shining light that God has made me to be, yay! And I saw that people were smiling, that they were encouraged, that they were glad that they were hearing someone who could articulate what they know in their hearts to be true...I saw the people I work with at this church having conversations with newcomers, asking if there was anything we could do as a community of believers to further their recognition of their belovedness.

So then, last night, I heard someone else talk about Jesus. First, there was a video from his family talking about what a great husband, father, and grandfather he was, and how well he raised all of them, etc. Then he came out on stage and he talked a little bit, and then he carried onto the stage a giant log, about 14 feet long, about a foot in diameter. It was obviously really heavy. Then he began speaking from the perspective of the Roman soldier who built the cross that Jesus died on. After that, he nailed 2 logs together, stood them upright, and nailed his own sins to the cross. Then he closed his eyes and seemed to go into this trance, and behind him, a video played that showed the most gruesome scenes from the Passion of the Christ, and talked about the suffering and blood of Jesus and how we must nail our sins to the cross in order to be forgiven. Then he put himself in chains and called himself a bondservant of Christ, and scattered some chainlinks on the floor so that when you came down front to nail your sin to the cross, you would take a chainlink as a reminder that you too are now a bondservant of Christ. Then he showed another video about a man who has a son with Muscular Dystrophy who has done Iron Man Triathlons with his son attached to him so that his son can feel victory. The speaker compared this father's love to our Father's love for us. Everyone was weeping, lifting their hands, muttering God's praises.

Oh, and Matt Wertz played music for it, so that's why I went.

At this event, I heard that Jesus suffered and bled to death and was unrecognizable on the cross. I heard that we must nail our sins to a cross to be forgiven. I saw drama; I saw that people were responding to the emotions of the drama, and were moved by feelings to repent. I heard great philosophers condemned because they wrote truthfully, "God is dead, and we have killed him." I saw...a show. A Jesus show. A show that commercialized faith, that emotionally manipulated hearts and minds. I saw that these people who do this were only there for one night, then moving on to see how many more people they could "save."

Now, I will offer my own reflection. I believe in a Jesus that walked in water, fed 5000 people with only a little, that healed the sick and asked to remain anonymous, that spoke in parables. I believe in a Jesus who was radical, smart, humble. A Jesus who still challenges us daily to give up everything we own, to always love our neighbor no matter what, to love only God, to spread the kingdom. I believe in a Jesus who lived exuberantly, who died forsaken in front of only about 100 people, who rose again to give us life eternal. The Jesus I choose to follow chooses me, tells me that I belong in the family of God, and that I no longer need to suffer. Good grief, I love that Jesus. I love the One who restores me, constantly softens my heart, and sustains me in a world where everything focuses on feelings instead of truth, on emotions instead of action. Last night, the Jesus I saw is one that I felt sorry for, that I felt guilted into believing in because, well, he died a pretty terrible death.

My Jesus died once, and not for very long; my Jesus constantly lives. And I follow him because of his life and why he died, not because of the way he died, because then it just makes me sad to think about the terror that someone I love so much had to endure.

So it's amazing to me how the faith of two Christians can look so different. Is one right and the other wrong? Are the ways that we take up our crosses and follow Jesus supposed to look the same? I don't think so. I am glad that mine looks different from both of these speakers. I am weird, and if everyone was like me, I'd be a little worried.

PS. The first speaker that I saw is The Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

The second speaker that I saw was Joe White, who has created this movement called AfterDark, which travels to college campuses around the country.