We come together each Sunday so we can learn to become better Christians, better followers of Jesus. Is it working? Are we becoming what Jesus wants, or not? Today we often hear that Christianity has failed us. Has it? Or have we failed to be Christian? If anything, I think we have failed Jesus. We have been far too passive, too stuck on ourselves and too insistent on being in control of things. What does it mean to be a Christian? Beside the pivotal point that love must dominate our lives, there are three issues that are essential.
First, to be a Christian is a call to action, a call to become personally involved. The Gospels teach us that we are not on earth just to observe the human condition as an astronomer might observe the night skies. At baptism, Jesus enlists us to engage our world as he did his : a world of political intrigue, arrogant religious leaders and horrific violence. Jesus wants us to help people in need as he did: a hemorrhaging woman, a blind man, a lost son, a grieving parent. Opportunities to act as Jesus come our way every day. How do we respond? Do we turn aside and make excuses for our inaction? Remember, we are not spectators in bringing peace and justice to our world; we are participants in the process! Each time we remain passive, we fail to live up to our baptismal calling.. More importantly we fail Jesus!
Secondly, to be a Christian is to be in community. The demands made of a Christian are often too much for one person working alone. The purpose of a faith community is to have the support of like-minded people to get things done. The very first action of Jesus in his public life was to put a community in place. He called the Twelve together, realizing he could not accomplish his mission without their. If Jesus needed a community, then who are we to try to do things alone? Here at Jesus Our Shepherd we support each other in prayer and in outreach service to others. Each Sunday we get a "refreshers' course" on the Gospels. In community we work cooperatively to provide people with food pantries, homeless shelters, legal services and emergency health care. When we separate ourselves from community for any length of time, we lose. Community keeps us focused and strengthens our resolve.
Finally, to be a Christian means to get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit do what needs to be done. We want desperately to be in control of things, but Jesus says the Spirit must lead the way, not our ego! Too often we think the responsibility for achieving God's reign on earth lies entirely upon us. It does not! Ultimately this mission is God's work, not ours! As someone once remarked, if you consider God as your co-pilot, you better switch seats!
Christianity hasn't failed. We have failed Christianity because we find it more challenging than we thought: Loving our enemies. Doing good to those who persecute us. Forgiving others time and time again. Holding no grudges. Loving unconditionally. Judging compassionately. Abstaining from violence. The list goes on and on. In the Gospels, Jesus shows us what needs to be done and invites us to do it. To be a Christian is a call to action originating in baptism. To be a Christian is to be in community. To be a Christian is to let God's Spirit take charge. That's what a Christian, a follower of Jesus, does. Are we really and truly Christian? Think before answering this question...and let's think carefully!!