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rise up!

During Eastertide, we celebrate the risen Christ and then on the Feast of Pentecost, the rising up of the church, the Body of Christ, now living, healing, serving, and loving in the world through us. These stories of love on the rise are balm in a violent and hurting world. What stories help you rise up? Read ahead to see to read more about how the Jesus story is one of liberation, love, and peace.

After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world. – Philip Pullman

The story of Jesus is often referred to as “the greatest story ever told”. And like most complicated stories, the meaning of the story shifts depending on what elements of the story are given more emphasis. This is the reason that there have always been so many different denominations, traditions, and understandings about Jesus.

In our current era, these different interpretations of the story of Jesus are so divergent that it is often hard to imagine they ever shared a common source. For our sisters and brothers who focus on the crucifixion of Jesus, the suffering of this world comes to the foreground of the story. With an emphasis on the cross comes an emphasis on sin and redemption. Other interpreters prefer to focus on the resurrection and yet others focus on the humanity of Jesus as a teacher and moral leader. All are telling the same story, but with these shifts in emphasis and interpretation, the meaning can vary widely.

When the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the Third Century, he was dismayed by the diversity of views amongst the followers of Jesus and insisted that they come to one view that could become

the standard for faith and practice.

The believers at the time met in various councils and began to label various interpretations of the story of Jesus as acceptable and others not. Because the Emperor insisted on an orthodox standard, those who understood the story in other ways were labeled heretics and a very long and grievous path of terror began that continues in the current age as to exactly who is - and who is not - a christian.

In the United Church of Christ, our spiritual ancestors decided that a uniform telling of the story was not necessary and that indeed our unity is found in our diversity, not our conformity. This is a tremendous gift to us in the current age when other cousins in the Christian family are at war with one another. It is also an opportunity to act as peacemakers amongst our sisters and brothers of faith.

What parts of the story animate your own faith? Which parts of the Jesus story enable you to identify as a follower of Jesus? Are there parts of the story that separate you from that identity? Do you feel comfortable sharing the story with others?

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