Spirit Alive: Christian Discipleship Is More Than a Theory


Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.
June 13, 2017

With Heart, Soul, and Mind:

What Direction Are You Headed In?

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
Howard Thurman
If you live in the Portland area, it is difficult not to think about, be deeply troubled and profoundly

inspired by, and ultimately be personally touched as a result of the tragic killing of two and the wounding of a third Good Samaritan as they came to the aid of two teenage girls, who were the targets of a racist diatribe. This event has consumed the collective attention and heartfelt concern of our community in Portland...and has had an impact on people far beyond our city limits.
Others within our church family, including Bishop Stanovsky, Cesie Delve Scheuermann, and Erin Martin, have already written with great wisdom and profound insight about this event. I have read and been moved by their words.
In addition, the lives of Rick Best, whose son said "He died fighting the good fight, protecting the innocent," Taliesin Namkai-Meche, whose last words before dying were "tell everyone on this train I love them," and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, who survived the attack and said "we need to remember, this is about these little girls," all speak for themselves. What more is there to say that hasn't already been said by their heroic actions?
Well, one thing that I could add is that this incident makes me think about the very "heart" of mission and ministry...as well as the "essence" of Christian discipleship. It poses the fundamental question: Where do these things take place? And what is involved in them?
Deep down, the events on that MAX train May 26th remind us that our true character...and yes, our Christian discipleship...are not matters of theory. They have to do with what we do daily and the choices we make...at home, in our places of work...and yes, even on a MAX train as we ride and interact with complete strangers. Rick, Taliesin, and Micah's actions challenge us to ask ourselves: Would I have had the courage to stand up in that situation? And...could I live with myself, as a follower of Jesus, if I had remained silent?
I think that this is why what we know of Jesus' life is mostly a collection of stories about how he lived and what he did by feeding the hungry, healing the sick, encountering strangers, and being lovingly present with people. It is also why so many of his stories are about daily life....what a father does when a wayward son returns home, how a generous employer treats his workers, ....and yes, what a Samaritan does to help out a stranger who has been injured while traveling along a road.
Each story...and Jesus' life itself...reveal the direction that his life was pointed in from the very beginning. Perhaps this is why followers call Jesus' example "the Way."

I was recently at an interfaith event convened to make a public statement about the MAX train tragedy.
One of the speakers opened by saying, "We know we are going to walk together, the question is where are we going?" That is a mission and ministry question. It's a question about one's character and heart. It is a question about the direction our inner compass is pointed in.
The man responsible for the racial diatribe and the stabbings on the MAX train had his inner compass pointing in a direction...so did those who responded heroically to his attack...so did those who tried to save Rick, Taliesin, and Micah's lives...so did the man who stole Rick Best's backpack and wedding ring as he lay on the ground dying....so did those who have responded to this event by writing chalk messages, leaving notes, flowers and candles at the Hollywood Transit Center after the stabbing deaths and injuries. Daily life, and where it takes us, is about identifying the direction of our inner compass and then moving that way. 

It reminds me think that ministry isn't just about what one does, it is about the imprint you leave when you are done. And...mission isn't about what you plan to do, it is about the direction your heart is pointed in...and whether you moved in that direction in the end.

So when we come together this week for our shared annual conference session, it is important to remember that we are not a collection of individuals interested in discussing a great theory, but instead, we are members of a community...actually a part of a larger beloved community...that gathers to share our stories of the Christian life and share with each other what it means to be practitioners of the Way.
When I gathered with religious leaders in the Portland area in recent days to decide what to do in the face
of the tragic events surrounding the MAX train attack, Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was among us, said: "We must confront fear with courage and hate with faith and love...and we must remember that we cannot stop the crucifixion, but they cannot stop the resurrection." This is the direction that the Christian compass points us toward.
May we live our lives be grounded in such a belief.

Let us walk in the light of God's love,
Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference. It seeks to identify where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities. Check out past editions, or subscribe to the email list.



Lowell Greathouse
Lowell Greathouse is the Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church. He looks for places to find where the spirit is alive and help them grow in vitality and fruitfulness. Share with him at lowell@umoi.org