Following Jesus together

All Christians affirm some basic understandings we hold in common. We believe in a triune God (often called "Father, Son & Holy Spirit"), a God that exists in relationship. Three persons of one substance. We recognize that all of Creation also exists in relationship. Humanity is meant to be in positive relationship with one another, and it is this way of being that draws us into relationship with God. We exist in relationship with God and one another.


This is the drive that propels forward our role as Church in the world. A single body, made of many parts that work in relationship with one another to transform the world in affirming and powerful ways. On the journey we find the story of our lives caught up in the ongoing unfolding of God's story right in our own backyard and across the globe. Explore our Theology and discover your place in the greatest story ever told.

Scripture: Our Defining Story

Everybody's got a story. The moments of our lives weave together to paint a picture of who we were, who we are and who we may yet become. In the 66 books of the Bible we are immersed in an ongoing story, one that moves through the generations, across continents and encompasses both individuals and the whole of humanity. There are exciting characters: prophets and queens, nomads and businesspeople, beggars and lawyers. There are leaders and followers. Empires rise and fall. Nations are born, fall apart and strive for a unity that seems illusive. There are signs and wonders, wars and celebrations, births and deaths. 


There are people who engage in the story and people who turn away from it (not unlike us today). But through it all, interwoven in the stories that pass down among generations, transcending both culture and circumstance, there is a theme running through. A set of ideas, a way of knowing and being known, that we're invited into.


Write this down for the next generation so people not yet born will praise God. 

Psalm 102.18


There's a reason the Bible remains the best-selling book of all-time. Generation after generation we're drawn to it. We study the Scriptures for the acquisition of knowledge; we can engage with history and explore places we've never been. 

Yet we are striving to find something deeper, something more meaningful. 


In Scripture we find that God's story is our story; we become immersed in a reality where God is present both to us and through us. 

We enter into the story with our own lives.

Enter the Story

The first time humans are mentioned in the Bible we find these words:


God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God's nature. 
Genesis 1:27


At our core, we've been created (all of us) in the image and likeness of God. Too often we hear discussion about the bad aspects of people, but before anything is mentioned about our ability to go and mess things up, Scripture illuminates for us an important aspect of our reality: We are here to reflect the nature of God. We were created out of love  and the desire to engage in Community. That's a pretty big deal.


God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good!

Genesis 1:31a


And we've been given a job to do. We're not just called to enjoy the world as it crumbles around us, or sit idly by waiting for the life that comes after this one. Instead, we find instruction to care for the world in which we find ourselves right now. This very moment. We're to be good stewards of creation, which means it is our responsibility to care for other people and creatures, as well as nurture and protect this planet we've been given as our home. 


God took the Man and set him down in the Garden of Eden

to work the ground and keep it in order.

Genesis 2:15


All of this is shared before anything else.

Coin Toss

Hey, we're only human. Not everything stays great all the time in our lives, does it? As creatures created in God's own image, we find ourselves with this amazing gift called free will, what we might also call liberty, and it cuts both ways. We have the capacity within us to do amazing good - showing love to others, creatively engaging with the challenges we face and dreaming up new solutions that benefit everybody... We can also go the other direction - engaging our own self-interest, looking out for number one, seeking to acquire and consume rather than create and construct.


God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you'll see what's really going on. You'll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.

Genesis 3:5


It's like we prefer the easy button. We tend to gravitate to the low-hanging fruit. Christians call this The Fall or the entrance of Sin into the world. It's the point where we become fully self-aware, knowing that we are beings capable of great good or tremendous harm. And, sometimes, we see that one is easier to achieve than the other. It's like flipping a coin where we can will the initial result. We can draw closer to the Source and Ground of our being, or we can move away. What happens next, in both instances, is usually past our initial comprehension.


So God expelled them from the Garden of Eden and sent them to work the ground,

the same dirt out of which they'd been made.

Genesis 3:23

Turn, Turn, Turn

Moving beyond Creation and the introduction of humanity into the story of God, we find that people are constantly building things. Bigger buildings, better cities, cooking up ways to harvest more crops or wreak havoc on a neighbor. Humanity is a curious and confident lot. We rely on our own ingenuity and we often succeed. 


Then they said, "Come, let's build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches Heaven. Let's make ourselves famous so we won't be scattered

here and there across the Earth."

Genesis 11:4


Success breeds the desire for more success. And we begin to differentiate. We see a disparity between those who work and those who don't; we compartmentalize our lives by race, creed, nationality, gender, ability, status and wealth. And we begin to separate ourselves from one another. In this process of segmentation of our world and its inhabitants, we slowly close ourselves off from connection to our Source. 


"There are way too many of these Israelites to handle. We've got to do something: Let's devise a plan to contain them, lest if there's a war they should join our enemies, or just walk off and leave us."

Exodus 1:10


The walls we build cut us off from all that happens around us, just as we think we're achieving a level of security and control over our own destiny, we discover that isolation only tears us apart. We made poor choices. We cast away resources that were once freely available to make our lives easier and more fulfilling. Like the Scriptures tell of the ancient Israelites, captives in a foreign land, we find, in our own lives, there's a hole where wholeness could've been.

Unforgettable

Whether we experience the birth of a child or the loss of a parent, it is in those moments that we are jolted back into the larger reality. We step out of our own little world and reconnect, even briefly, with the presence of God still at work in our lives and the world around us. We become cognizant of the larger picture, and the fact that we have a role to play. When we see that we're not called to move alone through life, we might even find ourselves crying out for help, a circumstance often encountered throughout the pages of Scripture.


Many years later the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out. Their cries for relief from their hard labor ascended to God: God listened to their groanings. God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw what was going on with Israel. God understood.

Exodus 2:23-25


God sent Moses to lead the Israelites to freedom once more. To restore a covenant God had made with their forbearers, that they would find a home of their own and live in that land at peace with God and in stewardship of creation. They'd find the rhythm once more that God had set out for humanity from the beginning. When you find yourself in crisis, where do you turn? Who are the people you call, the ones who speak hope and encouragement into your life so that you can move forward on the journey? All of us can picture someone like that. But we also know that the advice we're offered isn't something we always pay attention to. We can choose to move in an opposite direction. Frequently we'll just sit still, not changing course at all even in the midst of uncertainty or chaos. And we find ourselves back where we began, still frustrated, still worried, still weighed down by the challenges of our lives without taking any steps into a new future. 


This is the story of Scripture. Humanity tends to forget that we are never forgotten. We're like small children whose parent, the one we know loves us, watches out for us and guides our way, steps out of the room we're in unannounced. We panic. We become distraught and overcome by the unknown. In our uncertainty, we fall back into old patterns. We embrace a fight-or-flight mentality; we isolate ourselves once more. We hunker down and resist any possibility of change in our own lives for fear of a result we can't yet comprehend. Throughout our story, and God's story, we encounter this reality. People find themselves with the capacity to do incredible things, to come together and become whole again, reflecting God to one another, yet we shy away. We find ourselves alive, but not truly living. We find ourselves surrounded by stuff without any real connection.


Yet God hears our cries, that outpouring of our grief and frustration that we may only let loose in the deepest recesses of our souls. And God responds to us, often subtly, reminding us that You Fit Here, and offering simple instruction to come back into Community with one another and the world that surrounds us:


But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for

in men and women. It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,

be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don't take yourself too seriously -

take God seriously.

Micah 6:8

God steps into Community

When we actually follow Micah's advice, taking God seriously, we discover that much of what we think about God (theology) only gets at part of everything. See, throughout the course of history, in the Scriptures and in our own individual lives, we keep chasing after something. Whether that "something" be the result of our turning away from the image of God within us (selfishness, greed, separation from others) or turning toward the image of God within us (care for creation, building relationships of equality, value and service among everyone we meet), we still miss part of the picture.


We tend to put God in a box. its useful to us, containing God, because we can then use God for our own devices. We read things in Scripture that allow us to believe that some really are better than others, that what God requires of us is to offer sacrifices and sing songs and carve out a space in our lives to just dwell in God while the rest of the world whizzes by.


The Word became flesh and blood,

and moved into the neighborhood.

John 1:13


When Jesus appears on the scene, these ideas are left empty and useless. See, even what we perceive to be positive separation - dividing our lives into "I'm with God" and "I'm with Me" - misses the mark completely. Just like the Egyptians devised a plan to contain the Israelites, we often enslave ourselves to ideas, beliefs, outmoded ways of being in the world that reinforce the humanly devised order of things. We allow power dynamics to exist that create disparity among people and take advantage of some for the benefit of others. We wreak havoc on the very things we're called to care for in order to sustain our way of living. And some of us are left behind or run over along the way. 


That's how empires are built. Throughout history, there's been a story rolling along that weaves us together for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. We marginalize and separate in order to subdue and control. In the 1st century of the current era (some 2000 years ago), the Roman empire ruled the world. And they achieved a level of peace across their human kingdom by silencing their opposition using violence (if you disagreed, you didn't live long enough to do anything about it). They declared that their emperor, Julius Caesar (inventor of a haircut, a salad and the biggest empire the world had ever seen), was divine. Since he was "divine," then all the Caesars (emperors) who came after him were called "sons of the divine." The story went that the Caesars came to usher the world into a new era of success, saving us from ourselves. That was the "good news" (gospel) of the day - all we had to do was put our faith, trust and loyalty in the empire and all would be well for humanity.


But the author Mark (of the New Testament book bearing his name) reframed the gospel (good news) when he opened his story of the coming of God into the world through the person we know as Jesus Christ ("Christ" is the Greek word for "Savior" or "Messiah," terms attributed first to Caesar). Using the very words that had built an empire as his template, Mark wrote:


The beginning of the good news

about Jesus Christ, God's Son

Mark 1:1


And that's how we knew things could be different again. When Jesus came on the scene, the story circled back to God's intent for humanity from the dawn of creation. An acknowledgment that, in humans, we could glimpse the image of God alive in the world once more. This is good news! Through his earthly life and ministry, we encounter Jesus reaching out to people who were on the margins, people experiencing isolation, loss and pain. And we see time-and-again the restoration of wholeness where holes in the lives of individuals and communities had come to exist when we bought into a narrative that allowed us to gain at the expense of those around us. Everything we'd come to know about how the world worked (the one with the most stuff wins; the one left behind is a loser) was turned on it's head as Jesus said things like:


God's Spirit is on me; he's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,

Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners

and recovery of sight to the blind,

To set the burdened and battered free,

to announce, "This is God's year to act!"

Luke 4:18-19


In Jesus we find an authentic relationship where the image of God is awakened fully in humanity. The unity we've been seeking stands there before us and offers guidance on how me might experience that wholeness for ourselves! The trouble is, we have to turn again. We have to move from that self-interest which permeates so much of our lives and see the bigger picture - the interconnectedness of all people and things. We have to allow the walls that divide us to come tumbling down. And we don't always like to do that because, when we do, the "winners" have to give something up. 


Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

Matthew 23:11-12


This is my command:
Love one another the way I have loved you.
This is the very best way to love.
Put your life on the line for your friends. 

John 15:12-13


Sensing the risk to the status quo that was demonstrated through Jesus words and work about what the kingdom of God looked like - in conflict with the kingdoms we'd created of ourselves - Jesus was crucified because he threatened the way things had always been. In a tragedy, the hero succumbs to a terrible fate at the end and the audience is often left guessing as to whether or not anything would really change. But God's story doesn't end that way.


Three days after his death, some of his followers went out to the place where they had buried him. They went to pay their last respects, to dwell once more on what could have been. Like so many of us, they found themselves rooted in the past, wishing for a different outcome but stuck facing a reality where they found themselves considering just what difference had been made. They were, like so many before and after them, probably prepared to go back to the status quo, to the world as they had known it before encountering Jesus, before coming to see in him, the image of God that had been buried within.


They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they didn't find
the body of the Lord Jesus.

Luke 24:3


Christians affirm that, on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. And he appeared again to his followers on multiple occasions in the days following his resurrection, still bearing the marks of his death. In the One through whom they had glimpsed the image of God, they also witnessed the reality of life still visible. Everybody carries scars from what we've experienced, marks that never seem to go away. And in them we might truly come to recognize the significance and power that God has given us, the presence of the image of God, the Spirit of God, that is as close as our next breath.


Then he took a deep breath and breathed
into them. "Receive the Holy Spirit," he said.
"If you forgive someone's sins, 

they're gone for good. 

If you don't forgive sins, 

what are you going to do with them?"

John 20:22-23

We are called to be the Church

After Jesus' resurrection appearances and the instructions he gave to those first followers, they began fanning out across the land. They shared their experience of him with others. They began as a small movement that gradually took root and fanned out across the globe, becoming the Church. To be the Church is not to take up space in a building somewhere. While a steeple is a recognizable symbol of the presence of a local church across the globe, it is not the physical embodiment of Church. The word "Church," comes from the Greek word Ekklesia, which means "body gathered together." To follow Jesus is structure one's life in active Community with others, to build and strengthen interpersonal relationships and then, together, to go out and invite others to experience the same. Its an invitation to a reality that operates beyond the way the rest of the world ordinarily does business. The Book of Acts, in the New Testament, talks about the birth and growth of the early Christian Church

And the Church has some unique characteristics:


They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together,

the common meal, and the prayers.

Acts 2:42


And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources

so that each person's need was met.

Acts 2:44-45


They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. 

People in general liked what they saw. 

Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.

Acts 2:46-47


We are called to be the Church. The body of Christ alive in the world. As witnesses to the story and evidence that the story continues. We don't just gather on Sunday mornings to sing songs and feel better about ourselves. We gather to give thanks for the gifts God has endowed us with; to draw strength and encouragement for the journey that lies ahead of us; so that we might make of our lives an offering that demonstrates to everyone we meet that the world, as expected, isn't necessarily the ultimate outcome. As we recount the story and carry it forward into the world with our entire lives, we find the wholeness we've been seeking, declare the world can be very good indeed, we share in Holy Communion as a lived-out celebration remembering the actions of the early Church. We baptize infants, children, youth and adults into the kingdom of God, a kingdom whose reality we are called to usher in every day of our lives. We do all o this because, in Jesus Christ, we discover again God's call for our lives and intention for humanity, that we reflect the image of God - the Spirit of God as close as our next breath - so that others might be invited to experience this grace for themselves. In this movement we don't support the world as it stands; we don't shirk away from the conflicts that will inevitably crop up in our lives; we don't scream at the sky wondering why nothing changes around us. We turn our hearts and lives to live good news as a visible demonstration that there is an alternative story to the one that is so commonly told in our world today. There is another way to be in the world - uniting division, calling all people equal and worthy and sacred. Caring for the people, creatures and lands entrusted to us for a season. Making sure that the next generation comes to know and live all that we strive to embody in Jesus' Name. 


Why? Because throughout the stories of Scripture and the stories of our own lives, we find an interweaving narrative that tells us we are worthy. We are loved. We are accepted just as we are - no questions asked. And, through this awareness, we find ourselves inspired to change our lives and live this good news. That's grace, and it's available to us right now. As close as our next breath.

It's simple, really. Let's try this.

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement - a group of people seeking to reinvigorate the Church back in the 1700's - said that a Christian was marked by a methodical (hence "Methodist") pattern of life. An outlook and series of disciplines that offer a baseline for changing our hearts and lives in order to live the good news ("gospel") contained in the Scriptures, embodied in Jesus Christ and awakened in each and every person through the presence of the Holy Spirit:


  • Do No Harm. Live in such a way that we turn from self-interest, no longer declaring ourselves judge over who is in, who is out or crafting a world wherein one is greater than another.
  • Do Good. Serve others in our words and actions. Be thankful for what we've been given in our individual lives and express that gratitude by the practice of generosity toward other people and in service of the greater good.
  • Love God. Practice our faith with openness and integrity. Pray for the good of all people. Grow in knowledge and love of God by making the time. Demonstrate our love for God by actively giving love to others through sharing resources and living lives of active service. Talk openly about how our story has been caught up in, and forever changed by, God's story.


In these three simple rules, we nurture and cultivate the story of God that is very much alive in the world - in, around and through us.


Learn more about the marks of a United Methodist.

Begin your journey and see where the story takes you

There's a lot more to following Jesus than we can write down here, but this page exists to give you some ideas on how we start the journey, and we hope you'll take that first step for yourself. Step into Community this Sunday morning @ 10:45. Participate in a small group as a means of living the good news in Community with others. Give yourself over to God's story today; live this alternative narrative and discover that You Fit Here.