By Alan Bean
When I tell people about Friends of Justice they sometimes ask how they can get involved. I tell them that all donations are gratefully received, but that’s rarely what they have in mind. They want to know how they can get involved in the work of Friends of Justice.
And here’s my answer: If you want to help Friends of Justice you need to understand the spirituality that drives our work; you need to get involved with the Mustard Seed Conspiracy. If you live within reasonable driving distance of Arlington, Texas you are invited to attend our weekly study which will begin on Wednesday, September 7. A few days prior to each gathering you will find that week’s reading assignment and a brief commentary on the Mustard Seed Conspiracy blog.
If you can’t join us in person, we invite you to purchase a copy of Gospel Parallels, follow along with the weekly readings, and share your thoughts and reflections via the “comment” section.
How can you know if the Mustard Seed Conspiracy is right for you?
Are you ready to live as if the Gospel world is the real world?
The “Gospel world” is the kingdom life Jesus talks about in Matthew, Mark and Luke, the three “synoptic” gospels that introduce the Christian New Testament.
Maybe you’ve always been curious about Jesus but you rarely read the Bible, you almost never go to church and you’re pretty skeptical about organized religion. That’s fine. This isn’t a study for people who believe the Gospel world is the real world; it’s for people who are ready to behave as if it were so.
The Mustard Seed Conspiracy is a community experiment. Together, we will read the Gospels; together we will ask what kind of world Jesus is talking about; together we will ask how we would live if the Gospel world Jesus sponsors were the real world and then, together, we will attempt to live that way.
We don’t really care what you believe or don’t believe. Are you willing to join a community that is committed to living as if Jesus was right? Are you willing to lay aside all your religious preconceptions and encounter the text fresh, as if for the first time?
If you attend our first Mustard Seed gathering, what should you expect?
You won’t be seeing a lot of prayer and piety. Jesus wasn’t big on public religious displays. Worship is a verb, it’s something you do, it’s a way of life.
You will hear people reading aloud from the Gospels. If you are so inclined, you will do some of this reading yourself. Then you will join a conversation about what all of this means for us now. If these things were true, how would it change us?
In the first two studies we will be starting at the very beginning (a very good place to start). When you read you begin with ABC, when you read the Gospels you begin with stories about the birth of Jesus.
We will be spending at least two weeks on these stories because there are a lot of them. These stories are normally reserved for the Christmas season. People like Mary, Joseph and Zechariah will encounter angels, sometimes in their dreams, sometimes in real life. We will read about shepherds, wise men from the East, the cruel slaughter of innocent children, and a vulnerable family fleeing to Egypt to escape the slaughter.
Herod the Great, Caesar’s representative in the section of the world Jesus was born in, plays the “heel” in these stories. From beginning to end, the Gospels describe a death struggle between a Savior who has “nowhere to lay his head,” and the power of the Roman sword. In Exodus it was a cruel Pharaoh pitted and a baby in a basket; in the Gospels, it is Herod the Great vs. a tiny child shivering in a feed trough.
Who is America’s Herod? How do the innocent suffer in our world? Herod tells the magicians from the East that he too wants to worship the baby-king. Has the Herod who haunts our world abandoned his interest in religion?
On a more mundane note, we will examining (briefly) the “begats”: long lists of Jesus’ ancestors found in Matthew and Luke. Why do these texts attach so much significance to Jesus’ family tree?
The birth narratives present Jesus as the continuation of an old, old story that started with God’s call to Abraham and Sarah. Something new is happening; but the newness is wrapped up in the old. Is this new-oldness and old-newness still at work in our world? If so, what does it look like and what does it mean?
Throughout, we will be honest about our questions; but as the answers come we will embrace them with joy.