10 Maundy Thursday Theses

1. The “Last Supper” is misnamed. Only when the last Christian celebrates the Eucharist for the last time will it be the “last supper”. If one believes in the resurrection, there can be no last supper.

2. Everyone betrays Jesus. Some betrayers become famous. Others are forgiven. While one is demonized. No one is innocent.

3. What we call liturgy, Jesus calls conversation. Our words to each other and God are not proscribed responses in a book. When we gather at the table, we are friends speaking among friends. When is the last time you mumbled stilted words to your best friend?

4. It matters that we’re together, not that everything is perfect.

5. The notion that God washes feet, our feet, should make you feel uncomfortable.

6. If Jesus washes feet, we wash feet. It’s not like Jesus has asked us to walk on water.

7. Judas’ father was Simon Iscariot. We all have families. Everyone comes from somewhere.

8. Everything about this evening is a celebration of life.

9. Forgiveness is not a one-way street. Jesus teaches Peter (while he’s arrested): you have to forgive yourself to move on from the “stuck places”. Be forgiven by owning forgiveness.

10. You have to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, and know when to run.

Richard Lowell Bryant

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Judas Is An Innocent Man (John 12:1-8)

 

Fake News from the Rennaisance

It’s one of my perennial Lenten and Easter questions. Why does Judas one of history’s greatest traitors? Here’s where my well-informed readers will tell me, “He turned Jesus in for thirty pieces of silver. Judas is like Benedict Arnold.” (The words in quotes are to be read in a less than flattering voice.) Yes, you are correct. Judas ratted out our Lord and Savior. Riddle me this, Bible readers, wasn’t that the plan? Jesus was supposed to die at Passover. Clues that someone was going to betray Jesus are littered throughout John’s gospel-like seagull poop. Jesus knew betrayal was his way into the hands of both the Roman and Jewish authorities. Some scholars posit that he even planned his betrayal with Judas. Someone had to do it. Yes, if we accept the narrative which has dominated Christian tradition for two thousand years, you don’t get Easter without a Judas. So why do we beat up on Judas and turn in him to money stealing thief whose misplaced priorities only come to light just before Jesus’ final Passover?

I know why. Every good story needs a villain. John, whose lesson most of us will read this weekend, is a poetic anti-Semite who decides to make Judas his boogeyman. Count me out, John. I will not play your blame game. It all sounds like a weird setup for a scapegoat, especially when the plan calls for a scapegoat. Aren’t we better than this? I would hope so, but I know we’re not. We are only as good as the lectionary allows us to be. We’ll follow the script and go along to get along. That’s what we do. We’d instead follow John’s dialogue to the letter than consider the consequences of atonement without Judas. How will we feel morally superior and self-righteous about ourselves when he scolds Mary about the use of the perfume? Who will we hate and blame for Jesus’ death? It can’t be our fault.  We create modern day Judas’:  immigrants, racial minorities, people of different sexual orientations, and the list goes on and on.  Of course, let’s find new people who we can label as betrayers of Jesus.  Then we can keep living in our castles of denominational happiness, washed in the blood of the lamb we didn’t kill.  We never take own up to our sin.  Sound familiar?  Spoiler alert:  I call this mainline Protestantism in the United States of America.

We will say anything and find anyone to absolve ourselves of responsibility of in Jesus’ execution. Like alcoholics who have yet to hit bottom, we will blame everyone but ourselves: it is Jesus, the Romans, or the Temple authority’s guilt. No, it is not the case. Because we were afraid to die, we denied knowing the one thing we could never forget. It’s on us. We killed Jesus.  Judas is an innocent man.

Richard Lowell Bryant

10 Ideas for United Methodists to Remember Today

1. The tomb is still empty.
2. Jesus loves you.
3. God’s love is never up for a vote.
4. Everyone is welcome at Ocracoke UMC.
5. God created you as you are.
6. Jesus saves. We don’t save ourselves.
7. The church bureaucracy has a minimal impact on the ministry we do on a daily basis.
8. Christian love does no harm.
9. Prayer is always appropriate.
10. Invest in affirming God’s goodness.

Richard Lowell  Bryant

We Know He Said It: The Truest and Hardest Words of Jesus (Luke 6:27-38)

Allow me to let the cat out of the bag:  when it comes to the middle of Luke 6, no one is willing to listen to Jesus.  In the course of 11 verses, he makes some of the most outrageous claims of his entire ministry.  This is where many people tune out, turn off, and start to question Jesus’ sanity.  What did Jesus say?  Does he call himself the Son of God or even God incarnate?  Does Jesus encourage people to walk on water or leap tall buildings in a single bound?  No, he does none of those things.  Instead, Jesus tells people to do something much harder than walking on water or surviving death on a cross.  Jesus tells us:  love your enemy.  You can hear the stragglers murmuring under their breath, “Who does this guy think he is?”

Of all the crazy commands, out of this world requests, and impossible ideas; Jesus not only suggests but implies to the level of a new commandment that we love our enemies.  One might ask, “Is he trying to lose followers?” It is questions like this, passages like ours that reaffirm one important supposition:  the gospel is relevant.  Despite centuries of human progress and technological advancement, the gospel message resonates because of our shared humanity.  Emotions, feelings, and ideas define our interactions with each other and the world around us.  Those feelings of wonder, when we look at the night sky and question our place in the universe, have not changed for millennia.  Luke 6 addresses the heart of the gospel, the core of Jesus’ message, and shows that its meaning is not bound by time and space.  This is a miracle we easily overlook or even ignore.  This is what it means when I say, “God is still speaking.”  God hasn’t stopped talking to us. The question is this:  do we want to listen?  Jesus speaks not about what it means to be an American, a Methodist, how you should vote, or what constitutes a church.  He begins and ends in the same place.  If you love your enemy and bless those who curse you, all of those other questions will work themselves out and maybe not in the way you expected.

We’re picking up from where we left off, in the place that it was most comfortable for us to stop listening.  That spot where Jesus’ requests became too much to handle.  And yet, before we look at Jesus’ most difficult and controversial teaching, perhaps the one thing in the entire New Testament that most scholars agree Jesus definitely said, let’s think about the kind of things we wish Jesus said.  What do we wish he’d told the disciples and then had passed down to us through two thousand years of written and oral tradition?

Perhaps you wish Jesus had said to the disciples, “Behold, when someone cuts thou off on the road, it is right and just to give them a sign of your displease using only a single digit of your offended hand.”  Or, “When someone disagrees with you politically, thou may write nasty things about their life, family, house, and beliefs on the social media platform of choice.”  Maybe you wish Jesus said, “Behold, anyone who is not in my immediate group is cast out, banished, and sent to an undisclosed fiery location.  Outsiders are not welcome.”

As we know, Jesus said nothing of the kind.  Those types of ideas, while easy to perform, are difficult to undo.  They lead nowhere and express nothing more than moments of frustration and smug superiority.  When Jesus says something, this time for real, you’ll notice a difference.  They are rarely easy to undertake.  The outcome of a Jesus idea is always better than the present which gave rise to the idea.  Lastly, there is no expiration date.  What Jesus says is true, despite time, culture, language and all the other things which generally divide the human community.

The first concept Jesus shares with his gathered disciples is to love your enemy.  In fact, this whole discussion is a variation on that underlying theme.  It’s the hardest thing Jesus asks his followers to do.  It may be the most challenging task posed in the entirety of the Bible.  Jesus invites us to love those who do not like us; in fact, he says to love those who are opposed to the very idea of “us.”  “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who abuse you,” he adds.  Who does Jesus think we are, Oprah, Gandhi?

I may love my enemy from a distance because I never encounter them daily.  That works if they live in North Korea and I live on Ocracoke.  I am able to mouth words of love.  In the end, I’m not required to do anything about the need to love my enemy.  I can say “love,” sound high-minded, and ultimately leave my enemy unloved (along with their nuclear weapons).  This is why Jesus takes it a step farther.  Loving our enemies isn’t solely something we think about or deem a good and noble idea. Instead, it is the action we take.  Loving our enemies is something we do.

Jesus is encouraging us to think about the enemies closer to home.  What’s happening on our doorstep?  Where are those strained relationships, weird glances, evil eyes and people who push us beyond the limits of Christian charity?  They’re not all on the evening news.  Some may be in the room or in the house around the corner. If we want to bring the love of Christ into the world, we start locally.  Local love moves us closer to Jesus’ vision for the world.  So how do we do this?  Jesus told us:

“Do good to those who hate you,” says Jesus.  Not be good said Jesus but “do” good.  “Doing” goodness and “being” goodness are two different things.  Doing goodness challenges evil, wrongs, injustice, and cynicism.  Overwhelm those who hate you with kindness.  Then he doubles back to where we were last week.  He talks about blessings.  I’m someone curses you or finds an opportunity to give you an inappropriate gesture:  bless them.  Give them an actual word of blessing, which is a gift from God that cannot be returned.    Blessings are ours to pass on.  A blessing from God is a powerful way to counteract a conscience dwelling on self-destruction and anger.  Lastly, Jesus says, “pray for those who abuse you.”  Usually, that’s the one we go to first because praying for our enemies seems much more comfortable than meeting their hostility with head on goodness.  Remember, prayer is not an easy way out.  Prayer is not a mechanical response to a world going to hell in a handbasket.   Prayer is dialogue, a conversation with God.  It’s not a wish list or to be a reflection of our own narcissistic desires.   The easiest thing to do is to pray for ourselves and the people we love.  That comes natural and it should.  What’s hard to for us is to slip something or someone into our prayers that don’t want to be there or could possibly care less that we’re praying for them.  We know we’re going against our prayer grain.  What do we do?  We pray those people who make our life hard and hate us because that’s what defines Christian disciples over and against some meditation group.  Christians take emotional, spiritual, and physical steps to counteract the malice seeking to determine the human condition.

Jesus takes the idea one step further.  He wants his disciples to know:  it’s easy to love people who look, talk, speak, eat, live, and resemble you.  The challenge comes in loving people who are not like you, different, or even hate you.  We know this!  However, choosing to live outside the cookie cutter norms defining our relationships is what makes Christianity unique.  Perhaps my favorite part of this text is this, “For even sinners love those who love them.”  The world can talk a good game about love, but that’s all it is, a game.  Jesus is saying, “There will come a time when people say nice things to your face in public and then go talk behind your back or post mean things about you on Instagram.”  Yes, Jesus knew, it’s easy to pretend to be nice and have the right intentions.  It’s harder to love consistently.  Why is love so hard?  Love means taking a risk; a risk for ourselves and our relationship with Christ.  To risk loving means becoming a disciple.  This is a process.  We are always learning to live, love, and risk. They are the mutually exclusive truths which frame our calling.

The world will know we are Christians by our love.  The Good News is this:  Jesus means it.  Do we?

Richard Lowell Bryant

A Hard Week To Call Yourself a United Methodist Christian

We are facing a momentous few days in United Methodism. In just over a week, delegates from all over the world will gather in St. Louis, Missouri to make a decision on the “Way Forward.” What does this mean? Methodists, like other mainline denominations such as the Presbyterians and Episcopalians, are coming to terms with what it means to welcome LGBTQ persons into our congregations and ordained ministry. This is has been a very heated discussion in Methodism for many years. Now, the church is in a place to make a decision, one way or the other, or seek a compromise. Emotions are running high because both sides in this debate feel strongly about their positions. When this process is over, some people may decide they can no longer remain in the United Methodist Church. Others may look to create new versions of Methodism which reflect their theological priorities and understanding of scripture.

Like much in our country, what’s happening in the church feels disconcerting and confusing. Our church is polarized. The state of our religious discourse is tribal and toxic. It’s hard to find common ground amid the clichés and church jargon. Fear drives our responses to the world around us. Despite our differences, most people share one premise: We don’t want our church, country, or life to change into something that feels less comfortable and less holy. We like our routines and habits. We also prefer our interpretations of scripture.

In one moment, I find myself asking, “Why can’t we all get along?” In the next, I will seek every opportunity to proclaim God’s love for each of those God made. I don’t want to get along.  It is a confusing time. I have found that when the world feels this uncertain, it is an excellent time to reflect. How did we get here? What brought us to the moment? Why do we think this way about a specific issue? If we have a good idea about what brought us to this point, we might find a way forward.

My reflection begins with today, this time in history. After following the debates over the future of the United Methodist Church for many years, attending countless meetings and conferences, it’s hard to know what to think about United Methodism. I really don’t know. The anger on display, the self-righteous strutting of those seeking to gain power over others, and our love of the institutional church itself lead me to believe that our current incarnation has little to do with Christianity. In many ways, we’re like a spiritually active civic club with chapters across America. That’s not who we set out to be, but it’s who we’ve become.

We don’t feel Christian. Methodism, on a bad day, pulls me away from Christianity. I’m lured into the trap of caring more about what means to be a United Methodist with a pension and a home to live in than I am someone who is identified as a Christian. I don’t like to believe my Methodist identity trumps my Christianity.  It shouldn’t.  Methodism doesn’t have a monopoly on following Jesus.  At best, they should co-exist. These past few years, even that’s been a challenge.

Not that being a Christian is any more comfortable than clinging on to Methodism. Some of our brothers and sisters in Christ make it next to impossible to call oneself a Christian. Sex scandals in every denomination, the co-opting of faithful people as pawns for partisan politics, and Christianity’s slowness to meet the needs of a hurting world make hard to say, “I’m a Christian.” I want to say, “I’m a Christian, but I’m not like those people who do these hurtful things.” Then, despite my best intentions, I realize that anytime I say, “Those people” I’ve already tossed vital elements of my faith out the door. So yes, in 2019 it’s hard to identify as “Christian.” Given all the caveats placed on what one must believe (by believers on all sides of the spectrum), I don’t know if I match anyone else’s definition of being a Christian other than my own.

If I feel out of place and unable to identify with either Methodism or Christianity, what do I do? If the ideas and attitudes have become so polluted by politics, fear, and the vagaries of human emotion; where do I look?  If I don’t know what to do with the institution of United Methodism and Christianity looks nothing at all like I remember in Vacation Bible School; I can go find Jesus. Jesus isn’t an institution or idea. (We’ve tried to make him one.) At a point in history, there he stood. His words, recorded by his followers, are an undeniable testament to God’s priorities. Those words remain mine to read and then to share. They are a call to engage with God beyond our institutional priorities, tribal politics, and justifications. I may not know where I relate to United Methodism. At times, I am uncertain about labeling myself Christian in 2019. However, I can always return to Jesus.

Where do I go? I gather with the crowds who’ve come to hear him speak. These listeners and onlookers are my people. I can feel their energy and enthusiasm. By the seashore, people came from all directions. They could see, hear, and explore the impact of his words in ways we’ve lost. Jesus was unfiltered. There were no attempts to make him more understandable or applicable to the lives of the listeners. When Jesus speaks, life makes more sense. I get what he says. He moves me in ways Saint Augustine or John Wesley never has. Listen to his words:

“Blessed are the poor, for yours in the kingdom of God.” Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.”

Jesus sees the poor and hungry. We love to talk about the poor. We fly to visit the poor in other countries while neglecting the poor on our doorstep.  By acknowledging what is difficult for us to see, Jesus draws us closer to serving others.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” I can always return to Jesus. Jesus knows the broad sweep of human emotions. He accepts that there is a joy to be lived and sorrow to be embraced. I recognize there is room for me and my baggage in Jesus’ life.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors to did to the prophets.”

Jesus knows it’s hard to walk the line between religious expectations, tradition, and a world in need. If you come back home to Jesus and rely on his words, some people are going to hate what you say and do. Some people will hate what I’m writing. A strong response, according to Jesus, is a measure of success. Keeping our identity formed by our interactions with Jesus, despite the reactions we receive, is part of building the kingdom.

We can take Jesus’ words, package them as our own, and offer it to the world as Methodism or some other variety of Christianity. Or, we can mingle with the crowds and listen to Jesus.

Despite the structures, systems, and commissions which define our way of life as United Methodists (and Christians); it is still possible to associate ourselves with Jesus. Everything else is window dressing. This is us, who we are; the poor, hungry, troubled, joyful, and alive.

Richard Lowell Bryant

Did Jesus Ask Peter What He Believed Before He Invited Him To Follow?

When Jesus joined the crew of Simon Peter’s fishing boat after a long night catching nothing, I learned one thing: commercial fishing is hard work. I didn’t realize the level of work until I moved to a fishing village along North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Many of our 800 or so residents are fishermen. Like Peter, James, and John; they fish with large nets, all night long.  They do this to support their families. They work incredibly hard for sometimes very little return.

It was in the midst of this kind of fatigue and exasperation that Jesus met Simon Peter. After borrowing Simon’s boat to serve as a floating pulpit, Jesus instructed Simon to go a little further and deeper into the water. You know the story of Simon’s incredulity. “These waters are empty. We fished here all night.” He thought further efforts were pointless. Whether out of a sense of hospitality to his guest or because he was simply out of options, Peter acquiesced. “Yes, Jesus, we’ll do it.”

He did it and the fish came. They were all rightly amazed. I’m less astonished by the fish, Peter taking advice from a part-time carpenter, and economic windfall soon to grace their families. Something else grabs my attention. I have read this passage countless times, and I’ve yet to find Jesus posing a question about doctrine, theology, worship, or religious law to Peter or his crew. It’s not there.

While racked with doubt and amazement at second guessing Jesus’ internal fish radar, Peter is never put on the religious spot. Jesus doesn’t ask Peter to repeat a creed. Peter isn’t questioned about his beliefs on the Trinity, same-sex marriage, same-sex ordination, third-trimester abortion, or a wall across southern Gaza. Why didn’t Jesus ask these questions? Doesn’t Jesus know he’s leading the battle in the culture war for the heart and soul of everything that has ever been good, right, and holy? Does Jesus not realize that God-fearing people like him are supposed to be aggressive when making new disciples? No, Jesus seems heaven-bent on welcoming everyone despite the Orthodox standards we insist Jesus follow, especially if he wants to feel welcome in United Methodist circles.

Jesus didn’t have a litmus test for Peter, James, or John. He doesn’t have one for us either. There are a variety of litmus tests for contemporary United Methodists, and some treat these codes as if they were created by Jesus. This isn’t reflective of Jesus’ priorities. It’s more about Methodism and our need to be in control and determine those we believe worthy of entrance into God’s kingdom.

At the end of the story, Jesus says to Simon, “Don’t be afraid.” As we head into the General Conference Methodists are fearful. Is it possible to “not be afraid”? I believe the background noise concerning one plan or the other is too great for us to hear Jesus’ words. We’re confident of our ability to save ourselves and that God is on our side. We’ve jumped through our own hoops. We want the world to see how holy we are. The Methodists are in charge of their own destiny.  What’s there to be afraid of?

I’ll save that list for another day.

Richard Lowell Bryant

Have You Heard of the Isaiah 61 Plan?

 

People tend to make things more complicated than they need to be.  If you don’t believe me, reach in your pocket or purse and pull out your phone.  Remember, that overpriced piece of plastic in your pocket, the one built with rare Earth elements that are nearly impossible to extract from Africa and Latin America, and assembled by underpaid workers in China, it is supposed to be a phone.  It’s not a game console.  Your phone isn’t a music player.  Your phone isn’t a weather machine.  Nor is your phone a purveyor of gossip, passive-aggressive memes, your thoughts about coffee, or ideas about the government of the United States.  Yet, it is.

Your simple, beautiful, cellular phone purchased to stay in touch with your family and friends is a web of interrelated ideas and a complex network of lifestyle applications with nothing to do with the first reason you bought a cell phone:  you wanted to reach out and touch someone.   So now, we text, we never talk.  We type, we never talk.  We send distorted artistic renderings of smiley faces and other animals.  We never speak.  Who talks on the phone?  No one talks.  Yet for nearly 40 days, we’ve excoriated our politicians for avoiding the one thing we rarely do ourselves:  put down our phones and talk.  I’ll ask again:  why don’t we?

Why do I bring up the complicated lives we lead and the phones we carry as a metaphor for how things have gone wrong in the United Methodist Church?  Our phones remind me of the faith we profess and the building in which we sit, the church.  I’m not talking about local churches but also the church in general.  The church, throughout its history, has been good at taking beautiful, life-changing ideas designed to connect people and places and making them more complicated than they need to be.  The church can become a dot-connecting, hoop jumping, and saying the right words exercise.  This model of the church teaches that if we do all the approved steps, in the right order, we’re being Christian.  Actually, that’s not the church.  It’s a form of secular religion (complete with liturgical devotion), divorced from the Christian tradition.  This is the “best” “worst” thing the church does.

In our journey toward complexity, that is, creating an application for everything; we’ve lost touch with the original idea (our equivalent of the phone) which should have guided our efforts and innovation.  Instead, we let the constant need for innovation guide the movement.  As a result, we forget why we’re here, what we believe, and what we originally intended to do (and why those things still need to be done.)

So why are we here?  What is our “original” phone?  What brought us together in the first place?  If we were to remove all of the applications and garbage from our phones/devices what would be left over?  What would it look like?  Is it the Apostles’ Creed?  No.  In my mind, the Apostles’ Creed is an application.  It’s something we download.  It doesn’t come with being a Christian.  The Creed was written hundreds of years after the death of Jesus and his disciples.  Others, after decades of early innovation, decided what was important for Christians to believe about Jesus, the person.  The creed can augment our information about Jesus, but it’s not the last word.  Scripture is our primary point of entry when encountering Jesus.

Here’s the difference between the creed and what we’re looking for:  we want simplicity.  The Creed tells us what to believe.  Belief is a layer of complexity Jesus rarely broached.  I want to know what Jesus said about himself and how that points to things Jesus did.  Do you see the distinction?  What do others say about Jesus vs. what Jesus says about himself?  Then, in revealing anything about himself, do we learn anything thing about the primary path of discipleship?

If the church wants to make things a little less complicated, we need to go back to the 1st generation “Jesus” phone.  What can we learn from Jesus not just what others say about Jesus?  How can we make the church look more like Jesus and less like ourselves?

Jesus is invited to read scripture in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth.  This is at the beginning of his ministry in Galilee.  He’s on the cusp of becoming a well-known teacher.  People like what he has to say.  Naturally, Nazareth is proud of the home town boy made good.  They want in on the Jesus movement.  It’s a great honor to be invited back to your home pulpit to speak, even for a United Methodist.  I don’t need to tell you that family and friends were in the congregation.  This is a big deal on multiple levels.

Sabbath morning, Jesus arrives, full of the Spirit and ready to worship.  When the time comes, the prophetic scroll is presented to Jesus (Isaiah 61:1-2, 58:6).   (The guest always received the prophetic reading.)  Luke says that Jesus read the following:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

“And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.  The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”

Jesus says, “This is me.  I have come to do these things.  If you want to get on board, now is this time.”  Quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus gives his mission statement. In other words, if it doesn’t fall into the broad categories as I’ve outlined above, it’s not me or my thing.  What has the Church done with Jesus’ plan for proclaiming the Good News?  Do we still think Jesus’ news is good?  What have we turned the Good News into?  Is it a series of litmus tests to determine how best to navigate the complex, hoop jumping Christianity we’ve created in 21st America?  Yes.

You see Jesus’ priorities.  You know what the church values as priorities.  When given the opportunity to quote from Old Testament he chooses to highlight the poor, captives, the blind, and the oppressed.   He quotes Isaiah, not Leviticus.  Jesus doesn’t reference marriage or human sexuality; the two issues many United Methodists believe should frame the church’s entire response to the secular world.

If we want to make the church look less like us and return it to the priorities Jesus outlined, we know what we need to do.  It’s not like poverty, captivity, health care, and oppression aren’t global crises that manifest themselves in our own back yard. Some oppression even originates in our own theology and from parts of United Methodism.

We follow Jesus by doing Jesus’ actions.  Being a Christian is more than repeating a creed or mouthing a prayer.  It ought to be about putting belief into practice.  We should become the answer to our own prayers.  If your belief keeps someone oppressed, in darkness, or denies their fundamental humanity; it’s not Christian.  Go back and re-read today’s lesson.

To talk about bringing “Good News” to the poor can lead to being branded a socialist.

To talk about proclaiming release to the captives can lead to being called soft on crime.

To talk about the recovery of sight to the blind in body and mind can lead to being called a supporter of Medicare for all.

To talk about letting the oppressed go free can lead to being called a revolutionary.

Let people call us any name they choose.  What matters is that we’re following Christ in ways that it is difficult for anyone to contest.

Jesus calls us to do these words he read in Nazareth.  This is his plan.  This isn’t about repeating a creed and telling the story of man’s life.  Jesus isn’t trying to keep an 18th-century denomination alive in 21st America.  Jesus shows how to do the Good News. Good News that accepts everyone as God made them, on face value, from day one.   If we make it any harder, that’s on us.  I don’t want to be the guy who makes it any harder for someone to know, hear, or understand a liberating Jesus.

Richard Lowell Bryant