Christ In Winter: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…
[Repeated intro paragraph] I have been thinking about the “hinge” books in my life, those books that open a door in a unique way. There are hinge occasions that are not books, of course—people, events, places, movies. Books have a special niche of hinge importance, though--especially to people of my generation, who did not have access to more modern forms of input when we were in our hinge years--because they take time. If a book has hinge importance, you don’t just glimpse it, you ingest it. And you may go back to it time and again…
The whole list of my hinge books is at the bottom. That is too long a list to explore at one time, so I’m going to do only one book per column. Today’s hinge book is… JESUS OF NAZARETH by Gunther Bornkamm.
This was our basic New Testament book at Garrett Theological Seminary. It opened me to Jesus in a new way. I had thought of Jesus as an historical reality, and—through the resurrection—a spiritual reality. And as a prophet, a preacher, a teacher, a sage. All good.
But Bornkamm pointed out that the NT was written by people who had experienced and were still experiencing Jesus as a leader and companion on “the way,” which was the first designation of the following of Jesus. It wasn’t a theology, or doctrines, or beliefs, or an organization. It was just people walking in the way of Jesus, with Jesus, the way those disciples had literally walked with Jesus on the way to Emmaus. [Luke 24:13-23.]
That’s why I practiced the church entry progression of Belong, Believe, Become long before it was a named program of evangelism. I didn’t just ask people to come to church; the first thing I did was ask them to join. We gave people information, if they wanted it, before they joined [The youth group meets Thursday, the coffee is “fair trade,” etc.] but we didn’t give them “instruction” [Christians believe in…].
Bornkamm’s book influenced everything I did as the leader of a congregation. The one question I asked myself, and others, at every juncture of church life, was: Who’s being left out?
That’s why I worked so hard at learning names in church [and other places, too], and still do. Your name is a short form, a summary, of your whole story. If the pastor, or someone else in the congregation, calls you by name, it is saying that you belong, with your story. Your story is part of the story of the Jesus community. You are in The Way.
An important question, perhaps the only question, as The United Methodist Church considers “the way forward” is: Who’s being left out?
I write this column in honor of my friend since seminary days, Fritz Mutti, now retired as a bishop of the UMC, whose kind and compassionate voice always reminds us, especially as the UMC considers “the way forward,” not to leave anybody out.
TRAMP, THE SHEEP DOG by Don Lang, pictures by Kurt Wiese. 9-10-18
THE PREACHER AND HIS AUDIENCE, By Webb Garrison 9-11-18
JESUS OF NAZARETH by Gunther Bornkamm. 9-12-18
MAN’S NEED AND GOD’S ACTION by Reuel Howe 9-13-18
IDENTITY & THE LIFE CYCLE by Erik H. Erikson
THE IMMENSE JOURNEY by Loren Eiseley
GUILT, ANGER, AND GOD by C. Fitzsimmons Allison
PROFESSION: MINISTER by James Glasse
LOVE, MEDICINE, AND MIRACLES by Bernie Siegel
JESUS, A NEW VISION by Marcus Borg
BIOGRAPHY AS THEOLOGY by Wm. McCutcheon
My novel, VETS, about four handicapped and homeless Iraqistan veterans, who are accused of murdering a VA doctor, will never be on anybody’s hinge list, but, for a limited time, it’s only 99 cents, so what have you got to lose? It’s published by Black Opal Books and is available from the publisher as well as the usual suspects--Barnes and Noble, Amazon, BOKU, Powell’s, Books on First, etc.