What does it mean to follow Jesus? Not what did it mean, but what does it mean right now, in this time and place? That is the question that we in the Montana Synod will be exploring more deeply over the next months and years as we discern how to be the body of Christ in these changing times.
Essentially, following Jesus is about being in life-centered relationship with God in Christ through the power of the Spirit. This is a relationship that starts not with anything we do but with Jesus saying simply, “Come and See; Follow Me.” And when we take that first step of trust, of faith, we see in Christ a new way of life that is radically different than the world around us lives or preaches. This is a life that has all of its being, seeking, and doing, all of its thinking, feeling, and acting centered in God’s love “for you” in Christ. In inviting us to “Come and See, Follow Me,” Jesus calls us to follow him right into a life-newing relationship with God.
And this new life in relationship with the God who is love has consequences for how we live in this world. Following Jesus isn’t merely about getting into heaven someday or showing up in church occasionally. For the Kingdom has come near, now and today, and that matters for how Jesus calls us to live in relationship with God and with our neighbor...all of our neighbors including creation itself. As Jesus declares: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Following Jesus is about living out these relationships of love with all our heart, spirit, mind and body. And we do so not from our own power, which is limited and tainted by sin, but through the power of the Spirit who enters and forgives us when we have the courage to let go and let God. When we can do that, the new life-changing love of God becomes our center and we can follow Jesus with a faith-filled vitality that seeks to live God’s Kingdom into the world around us.
And what does this following look like for us in our particular context and lives, you may ask? Well, that is what we’re going to explore together in various ways. And one significant way we will discern what it means to follow Jesus today is to start seeing it happen right in front of our eyes.
Beginning next week, the Synod News will be offering a new regular series entitled “Spotlight on the Synod.” In this series, we will tell a story about ministry taking place somewhere in the synod that makes “Following Jesus” visible to us. Jenny Kunka, our NRIT director, will be gathering and writing these stories of how the Spirit is working through you in your communities to love, welcome, and serve God and neighbor. These stories will be offered once a month in place of my article so that you can see some of the exciting and creative ways enthusiastic ELCA Lutherans around the Montana Synod are following Christ in their neck of the woods.
So, as we travel the synod, I invite you to tell us about the inspiring, distinctive and vital ways your congregation or ministry is “Following Jesus” so that we can shine a spotlight on it for the rest of the Synod to see.
Your fellow follower of Jesus,
Bishop Laurie Jungling