Tuesday, February 4, 2014
I ask you, “Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own? 1 Corinthians 1:13a (TMSG)
Paul knew that carving-up Jesus was not a good idea.
I have first-hand experience in this matter.
For the next few days I’d love for you to take a little personal journey with me through some past days of Apollos and Peter-following. Although this might smack of a little “been there, done that,” come with me; it might be worth your time.
I was raised in a Congregational church. In high school and college years I left that Apollos group, moving-on to the “doubting Thomas” group that was “in” during the 60’s: agnosticism (nobody knows if there’s a god…and I don’t want to think about it).
In the 70’s, as a young couple, Elizabeth and I joined a United Methodist Church. Unfortunately, our reason for attending was simply that we had kids, so we figured we should do the right thing and take them. We developed no roots there; big surprise!
Drifting from the Methodists, we wandered into a non-denominational church for a while. This was the “Christ-followers-only” group – no group name, just follow Jesus.
Migrating south in 1977, we became involved in a Southern Baptist congregation, and this would be our “denominational home” for the next 28 years, including years in seminary and serving as a pastor.
In 2005, after 24 years as an ordained minister, I left the Southern Baptist Convention and began serving a United Methodist Church. This also began 6 years at Duke Divinity School. (It takes a good bit of thinking to sort-out what kind of Methodist you’ll be).
Over the past nine years I’ve been asked (at least 62 times per day): why the switch? Now, I could give some long, involved, high and holy-sounding tale about visions and spiritual connections that spoke out of the mist: “METH-o-dist, Russell….ye shall be a METH-o-dist.”
But that would be a lie.
Simply put: after a number of intense experiences in the Baptist system over the way things are done, I decided I could function better with Methodists.
But it wasn’t all a walk in the park; there were questions to be answered. Chief among the questions is:
Was this just my personal carving-up of Jesus? Did I leave-off following Apollos to follow Peter, and then switch to Jesus-only? And, now, have I found my “holy-place” in Paul?
Here’s what I’ve come to understand about this journey: you never really carve-up Jesus when you hop from group to group, develop factions and sub-groups. You can’t really do that – He is un-choppable!
Oh, in all the moving around and switching of loyalty from this group to the next, there was some chopping-up going on, but it wasn’t Jesus; Russell was the one being sliced like a country ham.
Think about it:
· As a Congregationalist we worried about voting for the right things…
· As non-denominational we fretted over being like the denominational crowd…
· As a Baptist we worried that everyone was sinning too much…
· As an agnostic I didn’t worry about anything…
· And as a Methodist we’re asked to believe that everyone’s alright as long as you don’t rock the boat. (“I’m OK – You’re OK” warm and fuzzy smile inserted here!)
Can you see a person becoming schizophrenic in this? Believe this way…no…this is the way…..no, wait….over here. Aaaargh! Jesus, where are you in all this?
Now that I’ve described how muddy the water is, our time is up for today. I hope you will stay-tuned; tomorrow we will look at the damage religious schizophrenia has caused in our culture. We will also look at how Jesus put “chopped-Russell” back together.
Granted, this is more like a fireside chat than devotional breakfast, but stick with me.
We could be onto something here.