At Vision New England’s recent GO Conference, Carl Medearis said something that I have been contemplating. He interviewed fifty random people at a mall in Boulder, Colorado, asking them, “We’d like to know your thoughts on Christianity.” Fifty out of fifty people responded negatively.
Then, he asked fifty people what they thought about the person of Jesus of Nazareth. All fifty were positive.
So, what is the difference between Jesus and Christianity? Here are a few of my initial thoughts:
I am burdened by the fact that people have such different impressions of the Christian Church rather than that of Jesus. During a book signing, I had the opportunity to ask Carl Medearis, “So, what do we do about this?”
He said that he has created entirely separate structures in his mind separating Jesus and the Church. However, I’m not sure that’s the answer, because the Church is called to embody the message of Christ. To separate Jesus from the Church would be the biggest tragedy of all.
What do you think? How can we help the Church look more like Jesus? I’m not exactly sure what the answer is, but I am certain that I want to be a part of this change in the world.
After Carl’s talk, I have a renewed perspective of the power in the person of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “I resolved to know nothing but Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). In these coming months, I am going to devote myself to studying the gospels, the stories describing who Jesus was and what He did. I want to know Jesus so intimately, as both savior and friend, that I can better carry his message in the world.
The gospel is good news because the person of Jesus has reconciled us to himself. While religion divides, Jesus unites. We don’t have to work to make unity happen, because Jesus is the uniter. All each of us has to do is live deeply in our relationship with Christ and point to Him.
Hi everyone! A “Stations of the Cross” performance that I was in last Friday was featured in the Boston Globe, right on the second page! It’s great to see Jesus getting some press!
I’ve copied it here to keep it archived; check out the article on the Boston Globe site here.
In Copley Square, the Stations of the Cross
By J.D. Capelouto, GLOBE CORRESPONDENT MARCH 26, 2016
A Duck Boat tour zooms down Boylston Street, tourists craning their necks to gather a glimpse of the scene unfolding before them.
There, in the midst of Copley Square, a figure lies on a cross, looking up in agony. Nearby, three women weep, huddled in sorrow.
On this Good Friday, the Stations of the Cross had come to the heart of the city, with members of Trinity Church in the City of Boston offering an artistic interpretation of the religious devotion.
Six performers, two musicians, and a cleric led a group around the square, acting out the stations at points around the sprawling lawn.
The Stations of the Cross, which outline Jesus’ path to crucifixion, is central to Good Friday services around the world. Trinity incorporated musical and artistic elements, performed amid the bustle of the city and framed by New England’s tallest building.
At each stage, the actors, dressed in black, struck a pose and went into a formation that fit the story for that station. They remained frozen for minutes on end. Using minimal props, the actors relied on their faces and bodies to emote and tell the story. A violinist and drummer played music while 150 spectators said prayers and sang hymns.
The dreary sky and light rain provided an appropriately somber backdrop.
Because Trinity Church sits at the center of Copley Square, the city and its modernity were omnipresent throughout the telling of the story.
As Jesus met his afflicted mother on the side of the square, a Route 9 MBTA bus bound for Broadway disgorged passengers. Jesus met the women of Jerusalem in front of the booth for discounted arts tickets at Bolyston and Dartmouth streets. Onlookers took videos with GoPros. Tourists snapped pictures on their iPhones.
Perhaps the most powerful moment was when Jesus fell for the third time, the ninth station. The actress portraying him sprawled out on the Boston Marathon medallion affixed to the pavement. That medallion maps the Marathon course. She pressed her face to the cold, wet pavement while a violin played a melancholy tune.
The image evoked the pain the city experienced during the 2013 Marathon bombings, explained the Rev. Rita Powell, the Trinity cleric who led the procession.
“That’s such an important event for Trinity and Old South [Church], and obviously for Boston and beyond,” she said afterward. “It seemed like we just had to honor what was there.”
Powell said her inspiration for the especially stark depiction of the Stations of the Cross came from the deaths of Tamir Rice and Michael Brown, two black teens shot by white police officers.
“Their bodies were just left in the street,” she said, fighting back tears. “I thought, ‘What would it look like if it really was a body on the ground, and we all kind of viscerally know that’s wrong in a deep way?’ ”
When Jesus was crucified almost 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, a large festival was going on around him, similar to the way in which Boston was humming around Trinity’s procession through Copley Square.
“It was among the people at the time, and here we are again doing it among the people,” said Anne Elvins, 79, who has been a member of the church since she was a teenager. “I just kind of soaked it up, the whole thing.”
I participated in an outdoors Living Stations of the Cross event on Good Friday with Trinity Church. I served in the role of Jesus for the first four scenes… This year, I am seeing Holy Week in a whole new way. It’s difficult to describe in words how this experience has impacted my faith personally.
The Boston Globe came and wrote an article about our performance! In the article, there is an intense photo of me with a crown of thorns on my head and holding the cross:
Check out the article here: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/03/25/ways-cross/PWRDp7nPmFJ0h3IY2QnZTN/story.html
I will write more later… but for now, be encouraged by how God is making visible His love to our city! To God be the glory!
Last fall, a colleague of mine pointed out that although UniteBoston’s ministry is seeking to unite the Christian community in Boston, our volunteers and participants thusfar have mainly consisted of White Evangelicals.While this might not be a problem for some ministries, for UniteBoston, diversity is an organizational goal. We cannot achieve our mission of uniting God’s people unless within our team we also represent the diversity of the Christian community.
Last November, I began praying for a more diverse team of UniteBoston Reps. A sticky note on my desk reminded me to pray daily that God would bring us UniteBoston Reps from eight different denominational and ethnic backgrounds.
A few weeks ago, when we launched our new team of UB Reps, to my surprise, we had new reps from every single one of the categories that I had been praying for!
Let this be a witness to the fact that God is good and He answers prayer! Only Christ could bring this group of people together. He is moving in a big way through this ministry.
Ephesians 2:14 says that Christ himself is our peace and has made the two groups one, and destroyed the dividing walls of hostility.
We carry a simple, yet profound message: In Christ, we are one.
Thus, I am convinced that the degree to which the UB team reflects diversity is the degree to which our ministry is able to bring reconciliation to the deep ethnical and denominational divides within Boston’s Christian community.
We have just launched 11 new UniteBoston Reps! Pray for us as we continue building relationships with pastors and city leaders, and discern how churches and ministries can collaborate together to further God’s work.
What can God do with a city that is united in His love? Let’s make Boston that city!
UniteBoston Team Leader
Hi everyone! I had the opportunity to speak last week at the Boston Theological Institute’s 2016 Orlando E. Costas Consultation on World Mission & Ecumenism.
The title of my presentation and paper was: “Mutual Indwelling: The Perichoretic Nature of the Trinity as a Model for Ecumenical Consciousness and Praxis.”
Yes, this sounds intense, but it’s really not so bad, promise! We have so much to learn from the Trinity.
God within God’s self is radically relational.
In 749, John Damascene began to propose the term “perichoresis” to describe the “cleaving together” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The fellowship of the Godhead is so intimate that the three persons not only embrace each other, but also enter into and dwell within one other in a divine dance.
The Trinitarian life is also our life; as followers of Christ we are called to become an “image of God” and take on God’s way of being. Yet throughout the 2,000 years of its existence, Christianity has splintered time and again, to the point that some estimate more than 33,000 Christian denominations. This disunity is a scandal and a public contradiction of the gospel.
Today, our parishes largely function as isolated autonomous entities, with some city blocks having multiple Christian churches with nearly identical goals yet little to no communication between them. This isolation leads to growing negative views and polarization between different cultural expressions and ideologies present in the Church. This is not who we are called to be, and this is not the way of the Trinity.
My thesis is that the self-giving nature of the Trinity must be reflected in our relations with other Christians. Christian unity is a process by which the church is brought to maturity. In going beyond our own Christian tradition, we find that our negative beliefs about other groups are overgeneralized and untrue. Thus, Christian unity reveals our hidden biases and matures our faith personally and corporately.
What we know about the Trinity must be reflected in our ecumenical praxis. We must go beyond our siloed independent church walls, towards those who are ideologically and culturally different than us. Ecumenical initiatives have traditionally consisted of inter-denominational worship events and high-level dialogue, but have neglected to build the depth of relationship between all Christians demonstrated by Trinitarian communion.
I’m the founding director of an ecumenical movement in Boston called UniteBoston which seeks to nurture these relational connections. We have a website and newsletter as an infrastructure for communication for Christian events happening around Boston.
Each fall, we also coordinate 10 nights of worship gatherings designed to reflect the diversity of Boston’s Christian community and promote ecumenical understanding.
Finally, we coordinate a team of UniteBoston Reps who work with pastors to identify shared missional goals and collaborate on joint service projects. Last October, over 200 Christians throughout Boston – Catholic, Orthodox, Mainline Protestant, and Evangelical – served together on twelve service projects to tangibly demonstrate the love of Christ.
Iron sharpens iron, and we have found that through rubbing shoulders with other Christians, our perspectives are broadened and our love for one another is deepened. As the being-in-one-another nature of the Trinity emerges within us, we are becoming the Church and Bride of Christ that Jesus prays for, so that the world will see God’s true character and love. Thank you.
I had the privilege of visiting my family in Arizona last week, and we drove to Albuquerque to visit my Nana in her elderly care home. She carefully escorted us down to the dining area, where we sat in wooden chairs amidst dozens of walkers and chatty old folks.
As myself, my sister, her husband, and her new baby son entered the room, all eyes were drawn to us, and remarks about the cuteness and sanctity of the new baby came our way: “Oh wow, look at him!” and “How precious!“ That’s the great thing about having a baby in your company – it instigates a conversation starter with perfect strangers.
(Side note: A few hours later I carried bundled baby Tyler around Trader Joe’s. I embraced the attention given to me per their assumption that I was the mother, taking their questions in stride until someone asked me his birthday. I had to fess up at that point. Yes, I hope that someday motherhood will be a reality for me, but until then I will have to live vicariously through my sister.)
Back in the elderly home, I was struck by the stark contrast between this small little one with perfect skin and the women and men with age-old wrinkles that filled the rest of the room. And yet, both my nephew and my nana have a lot in common. It’s been said that we begin life and end life on our knees: In total dependence on others.
Life is full of beginnings and endings. Tyler, only 7 weeks old with a whole life ahead of him. Who will he be? What will he do? What challenges will he face and how will he overcome them? And my sweet Nana, 92 years old, with an amazing life behind her of raising my dad and his brothers, a life serving and loving others wholeheartedly.
Moments like these are powerful because you begin to see the fragility of life. We are born, we grow up and live for a few dozen years, and then we die. What will you do with the life you have been given?
Personally, I can live with great hope because of my faith. I take heart in living not just for this life but for the life to come. I live for a day beyond the grave, a day where there is no crying or hardship or pain, because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. And this redemptive vision enables me to live today with me great hope.
Seeing the generations together in one room helps you to appreciate where you are in the journey of life, and inspires you to intentionally live each day with renewed purpose: to love others with the love we have received from God.
But living in the moment is hard to do. For me, I tend to grasp after the “next” thing, longing for the next stage of life. I’m now thirty, which is maybe ⅓ of my life. What have I done so far? And what will I accomplish? It’s too easy just to run through life, looking towards the “next” to satisfy us, instead of embracing each day and finding the gift within it.
I recently stumbled upon a poem written by Jason Lehmen. There is great wisdom within this poem that was written when he was only 14 years old:
It was spring, but it was summer I wanted,
The warm days, and the great outdoors.
It was summer, but it was fall I wanted,
The colorful leaves, and the cool, dry air.
It was fall, but it was winter I wanted,
The beautiful snow, and the joy of the holiday season.
It was winter, but it was spring I wanted,
The warmth and the blossoming of nature.
I was a child, but it was adulthood I wanted,
The freedom and respect.
I was 20, but it was 30 I wanted,
To be mature, and sophisticated.
I was middle-aged, but it was 20 I wanted,
The youth and the free spirit.
I was retired, but it was middle-age I wanted,
The presence of mind without limitations.
My life was over, and I never got what I wanted.
Ann Voskamp, author of an amazing book called One Thousand Gifts, writes that in the wake of all the rushing there are a thousand broken and missed things, that in the haste we think we are making up time but in fact we are throwing it away. She concludes, “Our fall was, has always been and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.”
So, my new year’s resolution is to appreciate where I am here and now, to savor the moment, to have the attitude that, “This is the good life.” We cannot live in tomorrow because the gift of today is all we have.
Someone recently said that we should live life like the way we appreciate a five course meal. When eating a delicious meal, you receive each course as it comes, savoring in the flavors of each and every bite. You don’t dwell on what dessert could be like, because all that you have in front of you is a delicious savory soup or a meaty steak. In a really superb meal, you are living completely in the moment, savoring each and every bite, as well as the rich conversation with the people around you. In this new year, I want to approach each day as a delectable meal that God has set out before me to enjoy.
My desire for 2016 is to grow in my ability to savor the gift of each moment laid out before me. Embracing the moment means that I am trusting in the sovereignty of God to lead me and provide for my every need, in His way and in His time. David writes in Psalm 23 that, “The Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need.” It’s as we understand God as our shepherd and our provider that we can live in the place of grateful abundance.
I recently shared a sermon about how when we are quiet and still, we can hear God’s voice best. I also gave a practical model of centering prayer for stilling our hearts and spirits so we can hear the voice of God.
Centering prayer has really transformed my prayer life – click on the link below to listen to my sermon!
On October 24, 2015, UniteBoston hosted BostonServe, which encouraged Christians throughout Boston to serve in their neighborhoods together on one day.
It was the first time that UniteBoston held this event – and what a success! There were eleven projects taking place throughout the city.
Together, we can make God’s love for Boston visible in a way that one church cannot accomplish alone.
Check out the photos below to see God’s love in action!
Playground Clean-Up and Painting
With Symphony Church at the Jackson-Mann K-8 School
Trophy Cleaning and Painting
With Heart Change Fellowship at English High School
Cleaning, Painting, and Carpentry
With People’s Baptist Church and North River Community Church
At Timilty Middle School
Codman Park Clean-Up
With Global Ministries Christian Church
Harvard Square Homeless Outreach
With Journey Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Boston, and others
Visiting Elderly Friends
with the Community of St. Egidio, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Boston, and others
Ramsay Park Clean-Up
With South End churches, Friends of Ramsay Park, and Northeastern University
God is changing lives through UniteBoston! Listen to testimonies of changed minds and hearts after attending various gatherings during the 10 Days of Prayer. Together, we are better!