Reflection on the Bishop’s Lenten Day Apart

Bishop Johnson speaks at Bishop's Lenten Day Apart

Bishop Johnson speaks with clergy at Bishop’s Lenten Day Apart for Clergy, held on Tuesday, February 16, at Quakertown UMC.  Photo by Suzy Keenan.  Article by Rev. Eva Johnson.

On a snowy Tuesday morning in February the clergy made the trip to Quakertown UMC for the Bishop’s Lenten Day Apart. The worship was led by the “younger” clergy of our Conference, and they brought a wonderful diversity of style to the liturgy and a powerful message from the scriptures from Isaiah: a strong reminder that our call is to strive for God’s justice and reconciliation. This message complemented the speaker of the day, Shane Claiborne.

Shane Claiborne is a founding partner of “The Simple Way”, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. As their web site states, “The Simple Way is a web of subversive friends, conspiring to spread the vision of ‘Loving God, Loving People, and Following Jesus’ in our neighborhoods and in our world.” He spoke with energy and a wonderful sense of humor about some very serious topics.

Living the Gospel

About the Gospel of Jesus Christ Claiborne said, “The gospel should keep us awake at night.”

There are a number of things that over the years have kept me awake at night but I must admit the gospel has not been one of them.   However, Shane’s comment struck me. The gospel of Jesus is a call to be radical.  I’m not going to be living in a radical faith community like the Simple Way, nor do I need to. As Shane says, “just because we are called to be radical non-conformists doesn’t mean that we all end up doing the same thing. Nonconformity doesn’t mean uniformity. We are all called to carry a cross, but that doesn’t mean all the crosses look alike.”

Claiborne also said, “We are to be separate from but in the world.”  The effort to live authentically and to live differently than the world is an ongoing process.  New expressions of Christianity – or rather the rediscovered counter culture of Jesus – is a different way of looking at suffering. The example Shane shared was the radical forgiveness of the Amish in response to the shooting deaths in Nickel Mine. Their concern for the family of the shooter was a stunning example of living gospel.  He urged us to “follow the wisdom of the Cross where Jesus says ‘forgive them for they know not what they do.’”

“Are we making believers or disciples who are living the life in Christ?”  This question posed by Shane really started me thinking.  As a Christian educator I want to accomplish the latter but I realize that much of what we teach in our churches is a way of imparting information about the Bible, about the faith, but not necessarily making disciples. Perhaps if we follow Shane’s advice to “dare people in our churches to do something extraordinary in their neighborhoods” we will begin to see a change and a call to action.

*Article by Rev. Eva Johnson.