Friday, 15 November 2013

All kinds of altar calls

Altar calls. I've lost count of how many I've heard. But what's in an altar call? And what are we responding to with an altar call?

Come and get your life right with God.

We hear this so often. It's the call for the person who feels disconnected. It's the warm, redemptive invitation to be made whole again. It's comfort for those who mourn, who worry, who fret, who are burdened with their own sense of guilt. God reaches out to heal us. God invites us to communion. God washes us and we become clean.

Come follow me.

We hear this less often, but we read it over and over. Jesus said it to Zacchaeus. Jesus said it to the disciples. Jesus said it to the rich young man.

And they said back to him, "We have given up everything to follow you."

Take up your cross.

We sometimes hear that the Christian life isn't easy. We sometimes hear that it's no guarantee of a good life, a big house, perfect health.

But a call to die? To die an embarrassing death? To no longer be counted among the somethings of this world, instead to become the nothings?

While every head is bowed and every eye closed...

Your private decision. Your moment to speak up, to be counted. The angst of decision, with total freedom.

Say this prayer after me...

A prayer. A repetition. What do these words mean? What's a saviour? Why do I need to say that I receive it? I don't know what I'm saying but you're telling me I have to say these words! Are they magical?

I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works I do.

Jesus calls us to follow. We follow by imitation. We follow by building on what he did with what we do.

What about you? Which call did you answer? Did you find redemption? Did you find a master? A teacher? A comforter? Did you just want to be made right with God, or did you want to follow Jesus?

Or in following Jesus were you made whole?

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Borg asks: What is the gospel?

Over at Marcus Borg's new Patheos blog he's asked the same question that I put to a group of Christians in my church this week. What is the gospel?

If Jesus' message is the gospel, then what did Jesus preach? What did his followers believe? Why did they follow him, even without knowing about Jesus' death and resurrection?

I think it's a challenging question for us. Our answer reveals something of our motivations and our desires. What do we want from God? Why do we follow Jesus? Would we follow Jesus based on his preaching alone?