The Prayer Gathering topic on November 19 was – The Radical and Controversial Jesus. To help facilitate the discussion, the following sources were utilized: “The Secret Message of Jesus” by Brian D. McLaren and “The Heart of Christianity” by Marcus Borg.
Before we discussed the topic we briefly reviewed the setting at the time of Jesus.
The Jewish people have been under foreign occupation and oppression for centuries – Assyrians, Babylonians, Medo-Persians, Greeks and now the Romans.
The Roman emperors have proclaimed themselves as gods.
The Zealots call is to rise up and rebel.
The Herodians/Sadduces feel that resisting the Romans is futile so it is best to make the best of the situation and cooperate.
The Essenes believe it is best to create an alternative society in the desert.
The Pharisees believe The Lord will deliver all if we become purer and become more righteous like them and have fewer sinners such as prostitutes, drunks, tax collectors and Roman Collaborators.
Now into the mix comes Jesus announcing a new message. Change your way of thinking. The Kingdom of God is available to all. Believe the good news. The empire of God is now available to all. He also makes other statements. If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison, your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters and yes, even your own life. The following will be blessed: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted. If your hand or your foot makes you sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose part of your body but have life forever. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. What are we to make of all of this? What did he mean?
Together we agreed upon some key themes. Jesus is calling us to love God, love others and yes even love ourselves. We are called to practice radical inclusiveness. All are loved by God and welcome in this kingdom. We too are to love all. There are no more labels: male/female, Jew/Gentile, slave/free, rich/poor. We are called to resist and combat social injustice. All deserve the basics of food, shelter, clothing and the distribution of these should be more fairly distributed. We are called to help others that need our assistance whether we assist individually, through our church or with larger organizations that have the scale to help address these social injustices. Lastly, we agreed that Jesus was challenging us to search our hearts and really think about the manner in which we conduct ourselves. Jesus wanted us to challenge our thoughts. Many times our thoughts are just as bad as our actions. The poor will be fed, the naked clothed, nation will no longer war against nation, people’s hearts will be centered on God. This final statement nicely summarizes the Kingdom of God.
We agreed that the Kingdom of God is both a personal and social transformation. We are called to transform our relationships with God, others and ourselves. We are also called to resist and combat social injustice in the world. We each need to create the appropriate balance of personal transformation and social transformation. We need to trust God as He nudges us for this action and balance.
How will you advance the Kingdom of God?
The next Prayer Gathering will be on Tuesday, December 17 at 7 p.m. in the Church Lounge. “In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.” – Karl Rahner. The topic will be – what is a mystic? Come learn more.