Why follow Jesus?

Certainly Jesus’ birth didn’t answer that question for the Gospels. As his adult ministry begins and fellow Galileans become aware of him, no Gospel—even Matthew and Luke where the nativity accounts are located—has anyone say . . .

2nd Sunday after the Epiphany – for January 16, 2011

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38)

“How ‘bout that youngster from Bethlehem? Born under a star and now he’s becoming a star!”

“First some magi and their wow-factor gifts, and then later Jesus slips Herod the Royal Pain’s clutches, and now he’s here among us. Sure, I’m gonna pay attention to him.”

“If Gabriel visited his Mom, well, an angel’s blessings good enough for me to fall in step beside Jesus.”

Why did people follow Jesus? In the Gospel of John, in particular, one answer was quickly provided. People followed Jesus because John the Baptist vouched for him and Jesus was quickly identified as “the Messiah (which is translated Anointed).” How could one not consider following the Nazarene known as—before the first chapter ends—the “Anointed?” Drop everything! Let’s get going!! Let’s follow Jesus anywhere and everywhere!!!

So. Darn. Easy. Not because of his star-crossed start, but because of the Baptist’s claim and good old boys like Simon saying, “We have found the Messiah.” Really? Here I’m wary; here my faith is salted with doubt. I simply don’t believe it was that easy for the first disciples. However, in the midst of all the “easy” decisions those first followers made, Jesus asked a question that was and is one of the hardest questions of faith . . .

“What are you looking for?”

How did the first disciples answer that question? According to the Gospel of John, they never did. How would you answer it? How would I? I think, as a faithful doubter and humble believer, that following Jesus, in the first or twenty-first century, is all about asking that question and deeply, honestly listening for answers.

When people have followed me, that question has been pivotal. Continue reading →

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One Is Sufficient

There are a thousand and more ways to describe baptism. All will be inadequate. For every major Christian “division”—Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant—there are a variety traditions and rituals that celebrate baptism.

The Baptism of the Lord – for January 9, 2011

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

Water . . . Sprinkle or dunk? Living water or from the tap?
Age . . . Infant or adult? Adolescent or when God calls?
Words . . . Metaphoric or literal? Traditional or modern?
Tradition . . . Catholic or Anabaptist? One baptism or many?
Where . . . In worship or not in worship? A sanctuary or river?

The mystery called baptism is just that. Mystery.

I’m a United Methodist. I have papers to prove it and people that’ll vouch for me. So please trust me when I say one baptism is sufficient in my denomination’s tradition. If you’re United Methodist and reading this, I’m right, right? If you’re a Protestant of a different ilk, or maybe live in the so-called None-Zone (the Pacific Northwest where around 2/3 of the residents claim “none” as a religious affiliation), I guess you gotta trust me. Though, if you’re a None-Zoner, trusting others about religion probably ranks low in the order of likely responses.

But one baptism it is.

And yet, the mystery called baptism is just that because I’ve been baptized not once, but a thousand and more ways. To use language as comforting as it is unsettling for some, I’ve been born again. And again. And again. And again. There has been literal and symbolic water throughout my life. You get the point.

Continue reading →

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