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Talk About Your Faith. Very often, if we can talk about an experience, we’re more fully able to experience the experience. Our ability to reflect on it can enhance and amplify it. So it is with our spirituality. If we can find words that at least begin to describe what it is like to know God and follow Jesus, we’ll be able to know God more intimately and follow the Christ more fully. And we’ll also be better able to invite others to join us. So a great exercise in your Zoe chapter is for each student to share the way they would introduce their spirituality or faith, and how they would describe what Zoe is all about. (For more about progressive Christian identity, see the 8 Point Welcome of ProgressiveChristianity.org )
Start with the elevator pitch - a sentence or two. Then move on to the long paragraph. Here are some examples of elevator pitches:
I’m a progressive Christian…
…We follow Jesus, who taught us to love unconditionally.
…We know God as radical compassion, not as a Guy in the Sky.
…We’re about kind and just deeds, not creeds.
…We are pro-love: we’re pro-justice and pro-environment and pro-choice and pro-same-sex-relationships.
…For us, God is way more awesome than anybody's idea about God.
…We believe that other religions can be as good for others as ours is for us.
…Our faith evolves, just like life on earth evolves.
…We take the Bible seriously because we don’t have to take it literally.
…For us, intriguing spiritual questions are a lot more interesting than religious answers.
Here are some long paragraphs:
Our Zoe group follows the way of Rabbi Jesus, who discovered that the center of his being was not his body or his ego, but God, who is unconditional love. He taught people to discover this for themselves, and to practice the radical compassion that follows from this awareness. He organized the Christian church to cultivate this awareness and put it into action in the world. He demonstrated unconditional love so profoundly that the Roman government considered him a threat to its authority and killed him on a cross. Out of love he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus’ followers turned the cross into the symbol of his unconditional compassion, and his church has strived to follow his way ever since.
Our Zoe group is an open circle of friends spreading kindness among us and beyond. In joyful worship around the bread and wine of communion, in contemplative prayer, in Bible study, in action for justice, and in fun and fellowship together, we humbly aim to follow Jesus’ way of unconditional compassion. God is love… and Jesus leads us ahead on the way of love.
In our Zoe group, the degree of our kindness is the true test of our faith. How we treat other people matters much, much more than belief in doctrines. We strive to know God as love in contemplative prayer, and to put that love into action in the world around us, following the example of Jesus. We make room for many points of view about Christianity: we don’t have a fixed “statement of faith”. We embrace our faith tradition with curiosity and creativity. If something in our faith tradition counters kindness, common sense, and scientific consensus, we re-interpret it or we abandon it. We seek inspiration from other faith traditions, understanding that they may be as good for their followers as Christianity is for us. Divine love leads us to act for social and environmental justice – and it knows no bounds of creed, ethnicity, or sexuality. We fully affirm same-sex relationships and marriages, and all our leadership positions are open to those of any gender identity.
Come up with your own "elevator" and "paragraph" descriptions of your faith!
The Questions of Jesus. This selection of questions that Jesus asked in the four gospels of the New Testament is intended for open-ended, contemplative, prayerful personal meditation and group conversation. Here, the questions are presented out of their contexts in the gospel narratives. Those contexts are well-worthy of study and consideration. But here, you can fit Jesus' questions into your own contexts, imagining how they address or challenge your own life-experience. The questions are presented here as "koans" - spiritual "monkey-wrenches" tossed into our minds to break us loose from habits that get in the way of Divine Love. There are no right answers. It may be enough to mindfully contemplate the questions rather than trying to answer them! How can these questions bring us closer to the true Divine Nature within, and draw us closer in the loving community of ZOE? After each question, prompts for reflection are offered.
1. And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? (Matt 6:27-28) (What are your worries? When and how do they arise? How do they manifest physically?)
2. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? (Matt 7:2) (What are the logs in your own eyes? What prejudices and assumptions and judgments get in the way of your ability to see things as they are, on their own terms? How clearly can you see these "logs"?)
3. Why are you afraid, you of little faith? (Matt 8:26) (What are you afraid of? What is the root of your fear? When/how do these fears arise? How do these fears affect your life and the lives of others? How do your fears manifest in your body?)
4. Do you believe that I am able to do this? (Matt 9:28) (What do you need to do? Do you believe you can do it? Examine your beliefs about what you can and cannot accomplish.)
5. What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? (Matt 11:8) (When you go out into nature, what are you seeking, if anything? What do you find in the wilderness?)
6. Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? (Matt 12:48) (Who matters to you? For whom would you lay down your life, and vice-versa? What kind of relationship do you have with the people most important to you? Does change need to come to these relationships?)
7. How many loaves have you? (Matt 15:34) (What do you have to work with - what are your resources to deal with the challenges before you? Are they sufficient? Can you "make do"?)
8. But who do you say that I am? (Matt 16:15) - What is your name? (Luke 8:30) (Who are you, in your essence? If you lovingly observe yourself in prayerful, mindful contemplation, who/what is it that is doing the observing?)
9. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink? (Matt 20:22) (Are you ready/willing to suffer, or serve others who are suffering? How can you make yourself ready to do so?)
10. What do you want me to do for you? (Matt 20:32) (What kind of help do you need? Are you willing to ask for it?)
11. So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? (Matt 26:40) - Simon, are you asleep? (Mark 14:37) - Why are you sleeping? (Luke 22:46) (In what ways are you "asleep", spiritually/emotionally/mentally? What would help you come "awake"?)
12. My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me? (Matt 27:46) (Is there any part of you in despair? What is the root of that despair?)
13. Who touched my clothes? (Mark 5:30) (Do you feel drained of energy, spiritually or physically? What drained you? How can you be revived with energy?)
14. Can you see anything? (Mark 8:23) (In what ways are you blind - unable to "see" important aspects of life within and around you?)
15. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? (Luke 22:27) (In what ways are you a servant, and in what ways are you a master? What is it like to be in each of those roles? Are there situations in which those roles should be reversed for you?)
16. What are you discussing as you walk along? (Luke 24:17) (What chatter is going on in your mind right now? What are you thinking right now? What kind of inner dialogue is going on in you right now?)
17. What are you looking for? (John 1:38) (What do you want? Is anything missing in your life? What do you want to do about it? What are you willing to do about it?)
18. Do you want to be made well? (John 5:6) (In what ways are you not well? What is your level of desire to become well? What difference might it make if your desire was stronger?)
19. Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me? (John 18:34) (In what ways do you just "go with the flow" of other people's expectations for you? How much should you resist that flow? What are ways in which you need to be more authentic about your own choices and views?)
20. Do you love me? (John 21:16) (Is there love in your life? Whom do you love? Do you love yourself? Do you experience divine love, and what is it like?)
THE FOUR SPIRITUAL AWES
(By Rev. Jim Burklo - a conversation-starter for fellowship meetings,
and a "tract" you can copy and share with students when you are "tabling"....)
Do you want to live an AWESOME LIFE? AN AWESOME LIFE IS FILLED WITH:
1.) AWE. When we encounter the Awesome One, we are filled with joyful, worshipful wonderment. The Awesome One is beyond the capacity of words to describe, beyond being named with any one name, too awesome to fit exclusively into any one philosophy or religion. ZOE: Progressive Christian Life on Campus is in awe of the agape (unconditional) love that is God.
2.) AWE for compassion. Our awe for the Awesome One makes us humble, and this enables us to feel and practice an awesome kindness toward all beings. Our humility keeps us aware that our fellow creatures are fragile and precious, needing our loving attention. If we have awe for the Source of all life, then we treat life reverently. ZOE: Progressive Christian Life on Campus is all about the cultivation of awesome compassion for all people and for the survival and well-being of our planet.
3.) Awe for freedom. Our deep, powerful attraction to the Awesome One invites us to choose among many paths and purposes. There is no one predetermined plan for each of our lives. We can be guided by our powerful inner attraction toward the Awesome One as we continually make and change our plans. We are in awe of the unique creative potentials given to each of us by the divine Source of our lives. ZOE: Progressive Christian Life on Campus celebrates this awesome freedom of Spirit, constantly seeking guidance through contemplative practices.
4.) Awe for discovery. We are always too amazed by the Awesome One to claim full knowledge of its essence or its purposes. So we remain humbly curious about the Awesome One’s ways and workings, eager to learn more through every kind of inquiry. The more we learn, the more awestruck we become, and the more we want to learn. ZOE: Progressive Christian Life on Campus integrates academic study with spiritual practice, finding God through our scientific discoveries and our insights from the disciplines of the arts and humanities.
How do YOU want to live? You have a choice.
If you put yourself at the center of your life, what happens? Do you obsess about how other people affect you? Do you worry about how you look, how others think about you? Do spend a lot of time thinking about your future – what you’ll get, what you’ll do? Are you focused on your possessions – what you have, what you want to own? What is it like if you make yourself the center of your life – living as if everything and everybody else revolves around you, as if you were the center of the universe?
But if you put AWE at the center of your life, what is that like? Do you begin to see that others are no less or more awesome than you are? Do you feel like you share a common life with other people and even other creatures and things around you? Does that help you feel love and compassion for them? Does that improve your relationships with others? Does that help you love yourself more? Do you feel joy and wonder and amazement? Do you feel the urge to be creative? Do you feel like you have a task in life, a purpose to serve others in a special way?
If you choose to put AWE at the center of your life, instead of yourself, you have joined the company of the seekers and saints of all the great world spiritual traditions, in all places and in all ages. Find a community of people to support you in your quest to make Awe the focus of your life: a church, temple, mosque, or other Awe-focused group of people who are open-hearted and open-minded. ZOE: Progressive Christian Life on Campus, is one of them. We follow Jesus, who was in awe of the Awesome One, and teaches us to do the same. We welcome you to join us, just as you are!