In 1999 the Church of England started a campaign for their “Decade of Evangelism”. Among the posters was this one, a kind of Jesus-Revolutionary motif. It was a neat approach, but on many of the posters the bottom line was, “Discover the real Jesus. Church. April 4”. Authors such as Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch suspected that “those who dared to go with the idea that Jesus was a revolutionary were less likely to believe they could find him in an Anglican church on a Sunday in England on April 4, or any other day for that matter.”
We can debate the extent to which Jesus was a revolutionary (I really don’t think Che is the right comparison), but as Lutherans we no doubt believe that Jesus was a game changer. He unsettled the religious structures and turned hearts back to the Father in dramatic fashion – even to the point of death on a cross and a bodily resurrection that transformed the lives of millions. But does Sunday service reflect this message? Does this radical message of grace abounding transform lives today? Are we prepared to let this Game-Changer transform our communities of faith like He did nearly 2000 year ago? Because if there ever was a time to follow Jesus in His mission for the world, I think now is as good a time as any.
“Our hope is that church leaders would recognize that Jesus doesn’t want to destroy what they’ve got now – he just wants to reshape it radically.” (Frost and Hirsch)
The Jesus I found working in shelters and in prisons was very much the same wonderful Lord I came to know and love in our home church in Ephrata, PA, back in the 1950’s. I really felt closest to him in the 2000’s when I served as Supply Pastor for a little parish in the Appalachian Mountains. The Sunday we welcomed home a Pennsylvania National Guard soldier from a deployment in Iraq–this is how I picture my arrival in Heaven. Calling up some kids to the front on my last Sunday in an American pulpit to help me sing my final Blessing, “God Bless America”–that memory still overwhelms me when I read the Ascension Story about Jesus’ leaving us with his blessing. Scattering my Dad’s ashes on his parents’ Mountain Side grave–this is how I learned again that my Grandmother’s personal faith in Christ outlived her and I hope will outlive me. Jesus is and always will be our Contemporary. God grant us grace to see his footsteps even in these challenging times.