Every once in awhile someone asks me what our church staff does on days other than Sunday—as if we just show up on Sunday to make everything happen. Well, here at St. Peter’s, we put in a full week of work. In fact we meet once a week for a staff meeting to ensure we can get everything done. At our last week’s staff meeting we were trying to think of a theme for Lent. We were brainstorming and an idea hit me.
I was so excited I put my hand up and said, “Pick me. Pick me.” I think I stunned Pastor Gae. She ignored me with a gentle smile—like she thought maybe I was losing it. But I wouldn’t give up. “Pick me! Pick me!” Finally, she had to give in.
“Okay, so what’s your idea,” she said skeptically.
I had this great idea. How about this? “Hey, come suffer with us!” I mean, I could come up with all kinds of dark morose sermons for Lent using that theme. No one took me seriously.
Truthfully, a better idea came from more creative minds. I know many of you saw the wonderful sign made for last week’s Annual Meeting. It said, “We are the Jesus Movement” I hope you noticed the “O” in Movement was replaced with this very cool circled arrow. We took that circled arrow and added three words: Join, Follow, and Go.
Those three words are going to be our guide through this year’s Lenten season.
• Join: Learn about the Jesus Movement
• Follow: Practice the Teachings of Jesus
• Go: Be Jesus in the World
How are we going to live into that theme? How are we going to Join, Follow, and Go in the Jesus Movement?
This morning’s gospel story is the perfect example of our theme for Lent. Jesus asks three of his followers up to join him on top of a mountain. There, he was going to teach them some very important things about being in the Jesus Movement. The most important lessons were how to pray and how to heal. Jesus wanted to teach that by praying for others to be healed, we are changed. Prayer changes the very essence of our being.
Jesus began teaching his followers by modeling how to pray. He was praying with such intensity that he had a mystical experience. Two of the great men of faith appeared to him. Moses came to teach Jesus about being a leader. Elijah came to teach Jesus about being a mystic. The three followers of Jesus witnessed this mystical experience. They were so overcome by it that they had their own mystical experience. A cloud rolled over them and they heard God speak to them. Amazing stuff. But, you know what? You can have these same kinds of experiences. That’s part of being in the Jesus Movement—it’s all about experiencing the mystery of God. But, to learn how to pray and heal we have to join Jesus at the top of the mountain.
There was a book that was popular twenty plus years ago entitled, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The book was filled with lots of truths. Of course, we all know we need to go to more than just kindergarten to learn about everything we need in life. I want to know my doctor graduated with high marks from medical school. I trust the people working on the airplane I fly in are well educated and trained. We want, we need, we rely on the fact that people who support us in our life are well educated. You even count on the fact that your clergy are well educated—well beyond kindergarten. Well, if you want to be in the Jesus Movement you need to go to the top of the mountain and learn. A church kindergarten education is not good enough. You need to be grounded in the stories, the ideas, and the teachings of Jesus. And what you learned five years ago, ten years ago, twenty years ago, 30, 40, 50 years ago is as behind the times as if your doctor stopped learning about the latest techniques in medicine when he left med-school. Learning about the Jesus Movement is a lifelong endeavor.
Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church offers you so many opportunities to learn about the Jesus Movement. A good example is our House Churches, where we offer five different locations and three different books, all focused on learning about the mystery of Jesus and how to apply it to your life. But we have so many other opportunities as well to learn about the Jesus Movement; Pastor Gae leads a Monday morning Bible Study. The Men’s Group offers a Bible Study led by Deacon Michael on Saturdays. We have the Oasis program that is always offering classes. We have classes for children, for youth. We have a class for everyone to learn how to pray and heal.
After the lessons and the mystical experiences, Jesus asks those who were with him to follow him down the mountain. It was time for them to practice some of the things he taught them. He was hoping they had learned how to pray and how to be healers. But, like all things you try for the first time, you might not be very good at it. Jesus’ followers failed Healing 101. They had to take the class over again. Often times the teachings of Jesus are very hard. To learn how to be good at them we have practice—daily actually.
Here at Saint Peter’s we have lots of opportunities to practice the teachings of Jesus. The Daughter’s of the King will teach you how to pray and serve. The Community of Hope will teach you how to visit the sick, how to pray for their healing. Deacon Gay and the Prison Ministry team will teach you how to visit those who are in prison and to pray for their healing. You can get involved in the Family Promise program and learn how to pray for the healing of the homeless. You can get involved in Habitat for Humanity and learn how to pray for healing of those who need affordable housing. There are so many ministries in this church and you don’t have to do any of them alone. You’ll always be with experienced people who will teach you how to pray and heal in so many different ways.
To be in the Jesus Movement you have to practice following the ways of Jesus. Because at some point you’re going to have to “Go and Be Jesus in the World.” You might be saying to me, Gil don’t you mean to “Be Like Jesus in the World?” No. I mean God wants us to be Jesus in the World. Jesus sent his followers out in the world to be him; to pray and to heal. Jesus told his followers they would do greater things than he had done. The same goes for those of us today who are in the Jesus Movement. We are followers of Jesus going into the world to pray and heal.
I coached college baseball at Grand Canyon University for twenty years. I told my players that they would work harder than they had ever worked before. To play for Grand Canyon, to wear the Canyon uniform, they had learn how to play the Canyon way. The most successful guys weren’t always the most talented. The most successful guys were the one’s who learned how to play the Canyon way and worked the hardest.
A lot of people want to be on Jesus’s team. They want to be in the Jesus Movement. They want to wear the Jesus uniform. Which is great. But the question is, when someone notices you’re wearing Jesus’ uniform and they ask you to pray for their healing, will you be ready? Being in the Jesus Movement has nothing to do with the afterlife—it has everything to do with the “now life,” the life we’re living this very moment. It’s time to Join. It’s time to Follow. It’s time to Go.