One of the things I’ve always struggled with as a Christian is how to follow the teachings of Jesus and put them into practice in our hectic, postmodern world. I do believe that Jesus truly meant for his followers to do the things he taught, and, since I call myself a follower of Jesus, I long to do what he says. But just how am I supposed to do that in a time and place that is so profoundly different from the world Jesus lived in?
Last fall, I read a book that sort of thumped me on the head and gave me a whole new way of looking at following Jesus. You might remember me mentioning Mark Scandrette’s book, Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love, in a sermon in November. I have been so enthusiastic about it ever since, that Pastor Jeff and I decided to use it as a basis for our upcoming sermon series for Lent.
Mark Scandrette is the founder and executive director of an organization called ReImagine in San Francisco. ReImagine is a spiritual community that operates from the assumption “that Jesus of Nazareth demonstrated and taught a revolutionary way of love that is actually possible, alive with healing and hope, [and that] we need a path for experiencing that revolution in the details of our daily lives.”
Scandrette suggests that the teachings of Jesus all relate to five basic themes of human experience. These five themes recur again and again throughout the Gospels, and they are also perfectly encapsulated in the Lord’s Prayer. As we move through Lent this year, we will be exploring these themes in a five-week sermon series:
- Identity (Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name): Jesus suggests that we are God’s beloved children; how do we embrace and live out that identity?
- Purpose (Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven): Jesus taught that our purpose in life is to be agents of God’s healing in the world; how are we to bring about the kin-dom of God in postmodern society?
- Security (Give us this day our daily bread): God provides for us abundantly; how do we learn to recognize and embrace that abundance and live generously?
- Community (And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors): Jesus offers instructions for living together and experiencing true community; how are we to do and be to experience belonging?
- Freedom and Peace (And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil): Jesus offers a vision for achieving personal freedom and peace; what can we do about our temptations and suffering?
One of the ways that Scandrette encourages the folks at ReImagine to practice the way of Jesus is to undertake spiritual practices in the form of what he calls “experiments.” Experiments are part of a study, action, and reflection model: studying the actual words of Jesus, putting the words into action and practice, and then reflecting on the results. The key question that ReImagine participants ask themselves is, “How does what Jesus did and taught connect with the real circumstances of our lives and the needs of our world?”
Throughout Lent, Pastor Jeff and I will be trying some spiritual experiments ourselves and encouraging others to join us in the practice. If you’re intrigued, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Scandrette’s book and read along with us, and deepen your call as a follower of Jesus.
 All quotes are from Mark Scandrette’s book, Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love