In the 4th century BCE Constantine became a Christian and our faith became entangled in politics.
Up until that point, I’d argue, the practice of following Christ was more important to the early church than the dogma. The HOW was more important than the WHAT. So the church emphasized community, shared resources, care for the poor and sharing the good news of the Kingdom of God. In Acts, early church is called “The Way”.
Of course the emperor wasn’t going to do any of that. He just needed a brand to paint on his shields. So the how we believe took a backseat to what we believe. That’s when we wrote the creeds.
The Creeds don’t say anything about how to follow Jesus. It wouldn’t be politically expedient to suggest the king should sell all he has and give to the poor. Telling this new class of Christians how to follow would have been political suicide. But redefining the faith by what we believe opens all kinds of political doors. Suddenly political opponents became heretics. And we all know what good crusaders do to heretics.
I suspect this is when we stopped calling Christians followers and started calling them believers.
The HOW part of our faith was relegated to the margins. Desert mothers and fathers, mystics and monks created communities in the wilderness and wrote volumes on how to pray without ceasing, how to love God with your whole heart, mind and strength… how to grow with God.
So this Sabbath day I offer you two of Jesus favorite sermon intros: katanoia and metanoia. Noia means mind or understanding as in “seeing with their eyes and understanding with their hearts”. Kata means directed or intensified, as in cataclysm. Meta means bigger or all-encompassing as in metamorphosis.
So katanoia means focused mind and metanoia means bigger mind. Usually they’re translated: consider and repent.
Consider the ravens. Consider the flowers. Jesus loved creation. Over and over in scripture he stops to ask the disciples to notice it – how that fig tree grows, how a seed dies before being reborn and producing fruit, how the sky looks before a rain, how God made creation to work. The first step in learning how to walk with God is to consider how creation does.
Doing so should expand your understanding. It should increase your awareness. It should meta your noia. When your reflection reveals something within yourself that should change, that newly increased awareness leads to what we normally call metanoia. We repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.
This increased awareness serves as a new vantage point from which we consider a broader horizon. Like hiking up switchbacks, every turn opens a new awareness which becomes our new baseline. We integrate our newly expanded awareness and keep hiking.
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
This Sabbath day I invite you to stop and consider the beauty around you. The sun peeping through the clouds. Your loved one sipping coffee on the couch. Really slow down and reflect on creation. Then grow from it.
It’s one way Jesus taught us how to follow.