Tomorrow we will spend a couple hours with some men and women who will be facilitating groups through our second-year process, A Way of Life. As I thought about tomorrow’s conversation, I was re-engaged by a portion of the first session of the year entitled An Invitation to Discover. It began to ask some questions of me … or perhaps the Spirit was doing the asking, not sure. So let me share a bit of what is grabbing my attention this afternoon.
In his wonderful book The Prophetic Imagination,Walter Brueggemann tells us that prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures offered a radically alternative portrait of life—by both critiquing the way people were living at the time as well as energizing them to a new way of living.* And given this understanding, we can clearly say that Jesus offered a prophetic presence in the first century. His vision of reality both critiqued and “dismantled” the prevailing visions of the day, as well as energized his followers toward a whole new way of life and community.
Surely, Jesus’ life marked those who walked with him in Judea and Galilee. We know their stories from Scripture (Peter, John, and the rest of the twelve; Mary, Martha, Lazarus and the many other disciples like them; even Paul). Lives of compassion, service, humility, and sacrifice began covering the landscape wherever Jesus invested his attention.
But Jesus’ prophetic presence is not limited to the first century. Many throughout the centuries have sought to walk with him, and many, by walking with him, have found something akin to “a family resemblance” to Jesus, since their way of living takes on the character of his way of life. By God’s Spirit, Jesus’ life of prayer and community and mission has spread throughout history.
My sense, though, as I pay attention to my life and the lives of those in my neck of the woods, is that we need to be reminded again and again and again of this’ prophetic way of Jesus among us. Too often, it seems, we uncritically settle for “just enough Jesus” so that our lives do not become too affected or altered or unsettled.
So I am wondering this afternoon—amidst our politics and economics, our neighborhoods and families, our ambitions and fears, our disappointments and dreams—how well are we listening to the Spirit of Jesus, and how might the gospel be challenging our dominant understandings and practices of life in twenty-first century North America? Even today, perhaps especially today, Jesus’ radically alternative way of life remains critical and energizing, but are we really awake and attuned to it?
May we continue to (1) grow in our capacity to hear how Jesus lovingly speaks into our lives and (2) grow in our courage to faithfully respond to and live out this Jesus’ way. For out of a growing attentiveness to God’s activity we will always find ourselves being invited by the Spirit to cooperate and align our lives with Jesus ongoing work in the world. This is who we are. “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph 2:10).
Here is a prayer I will be revisiting over the next couple weeks. May we each be open to being surprised by the Spirit’s generosity already at work in and among us.
my life is touched by you,
that you want something
for me, and of me.
Give me ears
to hear you,
eyes to see the tracing of your finger,
and a heart quickened
by the motions of your Spirit.**
*Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination Second Edition (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), 3. “The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us…. The alternative consciousness to be nurtured, on the one hand, serves to criticize in dismantling the dominant consciousness…. On the other hand, that alternative consciousness to be nurtured serves to energize persons and communities by its promise of another time and situation toward which the community of faith may move.”
**Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle, 20thAnniversary Edition (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2005), 35.