1 | Experiencing the Heart of Christianity: The Heart of Christianity in a Time of Change*
How many different makes of cars have you owned throughout your lifetime? What led to your decision to choose those particular makes and models among so many options?
The story of The Road to Emmaus is toward the end of Luke’s Gospel, and shares the account of two disciples en route from Jerusalem to Emmaus. During their journey, they are accompanied by the resurrected Jesus whom they do not recognize. The disciples were distraught over the brutal, unjust death of their beloved leader, and it showed. Jesus queried into their remorse, then proceeded to explain to the disciples how what had happened to Jesus fit into their Jewish history from which he came. Only when they arrived in Emmaus and broke bread together did they recognize who had been with them all along, at which point Jesus disappeared before their eyes. At once, they rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples of their experience.
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus radically challenged people’s understanding of God then and now. We are living in a time of great transition right now in many ways, including how we see Christianity. We are transitioning from an earlier view of Christianity which originated around 1600 C.E. We are emerging, and have been since around 1900 C.E. While the two views can be easily identified by the sticking points of gender equality, acceptance of the LGBTQ community, and religious exclusivism, the following chart provides a little more detail on the distinctions between the earlier view and the emerging view:
The way we see the whole impacts the way we see the details. We are in a conversation, even if we didn’t realize it, as noted by Kenneth Burke (The Philosophy of Literary Form):
“Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.”
Do you know you are in this conversation? Do you know what make and model of Christianity your traveling in? If it’s fostering spiritual fruit, helping you become more and more like Jesus, which is marked by compassion, the pursuit of justice, and humility, then stick with it. There is no one Christian view that represents Christianity perfectly for all time. But there are wrong views, such as those that have led to or perpetuated the horrible mistreatment of humanity (Ku Klux Klan, Nazism, etc.). If you’re interested in developing a faith that develops you, and helps you develop more of the beauty of God in the world, then you’ll enjoy this series.
We conclude this session – as we will each session – with a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer (Jim Cotter):
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all this is and that shall be.
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven.
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love now and forever. Amen.
*Note: This is a twelve week series based on Marcus Borg’s seminal book, The Heart of Christianity, with significant input from the group discussion book, Experiencing the Heart of Christianity by Tim Scorer