"Christianity is not a philosophy that can be learned separate from those who embody it. ... the gospel is known by one person being for another person the story of Christ. Jesus summons the disciples to him, and, so summoned, they become for us the witnesses who make it possible for us to be messengers of [his] kingdom. The disciples are not impressive people, but then, neither are we. Their mission, as well as our own, is not to call attention to ourselves but to Jesus and the kingdom."
- Stanley Hauerwas
In our current series of sermons, we are considering Jesus on his own terms, in the rhythm he establishes through his own life and proclamations in the Gospel of Matthew. We always read, interpret, question, and inhabit the narrative of redemption as a community. This includes our time spent together as a church community, the ways we are shaped by the city of Portland where we live, and the broader Christian community around the globe and through history. We contemplate Matthew's Gospel in conversation with several old and new sources including St. Augustine, Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Frederick Dale Bruner, Stanley Hauerwas, and Craig Keener.
Observing and listening to Jesus in Matthew's Gospel, several rhythms emerge:
Gathering & Sending
Jesus' call for belonging is also directional, and it has a rhythm. Like the rhythm of breathing in and out, Jesus calls followers in, and then sends them out. He calls all of us from different places to find life in him & with him. Many of us come in confused, despairing, hurt & broken, and Jesus gathers us for healing and rest. Some of us come to Jesus proud & self-sufficient; too satisfied with our little versions of (self-) righteousness. And to us, Jesus calls us in to repent of these self-imposed others-judging & self-abusive burdens. For all of us, to be drawn in - called in to encounter the mystery of Jesus - inevitably leads to being sent back out into the world with the redemptive joy & hope of Jesus.
Questioning & Believing
Jesus' call to follow him is directional; not static. He calls us to follow, imitate, trust, and be honest with our questions. Throughout the narratives of Jesus' life & work, we find people asking questions of him - some out of curiosity, some full of hope, and some to keep him at arms length. And to all of them, as to all of us, Jesus calls us to honesty over proud profession. Even Jesus' first followers experienced doubt. At times they puzzled and questioned; sometimes they even protested trying to make sense of him. In the end, those who doubted deeply, came to even deeper trust after leaning into him with their questions. To bring questions & doubts to Jesus can often be and act of faith.
Stretching & Rest
We all encounter the same Jesus a little differently. We enter into conversation with his story from the directions of our own varied stories. In these varied encounters, one thing is consistently true. Jesus stretches us. Thankfully his stretching has rhythm too. In a gracious wisdom, Jesus stretched & pushed and then let off. At times he pushed hard on things (and people) that needed confrontation and change, but in the end, he brought unexpected rest.
Join us as we encounter & follow Jesus on his own terms. We will continue together asking questions, wrestling with our own stories, trusting, being stretched and finding rest.