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Doing church: doing right by me and you?

QuizFarm: Which Serenity character are you?

You scored as Shepherd Derrial Book. The Preacher.
Out here, folks need a minister, if only to remind them
that God hasn't forgotten them. It isn't about making them
worship, it is teaching them to do right by themselves
and other people. Why is that so hard for some to understand?

Shepherd Derrial Book


Zoe Alleyne Washburne


River Tam


Simon Tam


Kaylee (Kaywinnet Lee) Frye


Inara Serra


The Operative


Capt. Mal Reynolds


Hoban 'Wash' Washburne


Jayne Cobb


Which Serenity character are you?
created with

Heh, as my husband said sarcastically (with eyes rolling) when I mentioned the results of this QuizFarm test, “Really. Who’d have guessed?” (For those that know me, that will make sense. For those who don’t, well, okay then.)

Now, for the uneducated among you, Serenity is the ship’s name in Firefly (one of the best darn sci-fi shows ever to exist on television) and the name of a 2005 film which follows up the characters after the series’ untimely demise. This Emmy-nominated series had good writing, good characters and good storylines (most of the time)—and it took for granted that God existed, mostly through the character of preacher-man Shepherd Book.

But, while the test was fun for a fan like me, the above description of Shepherd Book also got me thinking some how-are-we-to-do-church thoughts (something emerging folk have been thinking about for quite a bit longer than I). As I reread that description, I suddenly saw parentheticals—and it became something like this:

Out here, folks need a minister (like you or me), if only to remind them that God hasn't forgotten them. It isn’t about making them worship (in a church), it is teaching them to do right by themselves (by loving God) and other people (by loving ‘em).
Or, as friend-of-this-blog Shane likes to say, it’s about loving God, loving others and making disciples as you go. But I like Shepherd’s words better (no offense, Shane). It’s got culture-speak, and that makes me see it all in a fresh way.

Now, if you got this far, you’ve got the gist of this post. If you want to go a bit deeper, however, read on:

These thoughts didn’t come out of the blue. I’ve been thinking (and reading) a lot about this question of how to do church—how we’re to live together and with our neighbors as Jesus’ followers. And I’m coming to the conclusion that it hasn’t got as much to do with getting people to church as it does with being the church where we are.

And how do we do that? I’m thinking it has a lot to do with doing right by ourselves and doing right by others—and if we’re doing that, we’re making disciples.

And all this seemed pretty darn important to Jesus. Early on in Jesus Creed (which is a lot like one of those armadillo encounters I talked about earlier), Scot McKnight points out how Jesus amended the Shema (an important Jewish creed lifted from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and two other texts that observant Jews recited aloud daily) into his own creed:

As a good Jew, Jesus devotionally recites the Shema daily. Later in his life, he encounters an expert in the law who asks him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is most important?’ For a Jew this man’s question is the ultimate question about spiritual formation. He is asking for the spiritual center of Judaism. He thinks Jesus might know. He does.

Jesus answers the man by reciting the Shema but adds to it, and in so doing, transforms a creed so he can shape the spiritual center of his followers. I call it the Jesus Creed. . . .

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” [So far, so good; this is Deuteronomy 6:4-5]

[And now Jesus adds a verse from Leviticus 19:18] The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.
Right here we discover the Jesus Creed for spiritual formation. As Thomas a Kempis puts it, in the Jesus Creed Jesus has “put a whole dictionary into just one dictum.” Everything about spiritual formation for Jesus is shaped by his vision of the Shema. For Jesus, love of God and love of others is the core. [brackets and italics are McKnights']
But what does it mean to love God? And how is this “doing right” by ourselves? McKnight gives us a good taste:

From Moses to Malachi and from Jesus to John, the Bible witnesses to this elemental truth: God loves us. He loves you, and he loves me—as individuals. . .

Because God loves us, because he knows what is best for us and wants what is best for us, he invites us to find that “what is best” by loving him back. When this happens, the windows are thrown open to the breezes of his healing love.
This is doing right by ourselves. By loving God with everything we are, we’re doing the most right by ourselves that we ever could. But it doesn’t stop there. As McKnight writes, because God's sacred love is for all, “This means that we are to love others—all others.”

And what does it mean to love others? And how is that doing right by them? Again, McKnight:

Love in the book of Moses [to which Jesus refers to with his Leviticus command] means respecting parents, providing for the poor, protecting private property, honoring one’s word, caring for the physically challenged, seeking justice for the powerless, living in sexual purity, showing love for one’s enemies—and lots more. This is the source for the amenedment in the Jesus Creed. And that source reveals that love is morally sound, or sacred.

The Jesus Creed is a call for each of us to become channels of God’s love to others in need. James Bryan Smith in his Embracing the Love of God, succinctly sums up the second part of the Jesus Creed: “God has created a world in which we are the ones who cared for one another. To put it another way, God cares for us through one another. [brackets are mine]

Loving others like that is God loving them through us—and that is the most right we can do by another.

And this makes the group of Jesus’ followers—who live together, loving God, each other and the world around them—drip with mission. Not necessarily to get people into a church building but to be church to all those around us: to remind everyone (including each other) that God hasn’t forgotten us and to teach each other to do right by ourselves and do right by others.

And if we're doing this, we're making disciples. If we're doing that we are the church. Now why is that so hard for some to understand? fireflyctgy


One Sided said…

"to teach each other to do right by ourselves and do right by others."

I am in that learning curve, I've accepted the charge to teach and feel like I am just seeing the lesson before I need to teach it.
Keeping up is proving to be a fantastic experience in revelation.
Mirtika said…
I'm Captain Mal.

Hey--We had the same last five in the same order, same percentages, Carmen. Mmmm.

Well, that end-result took me by surprise. :) I knew I wouldn't be Kaylee, cause I do NOT like dirty hands. (Won't even make meatloaf cause of the nasty mixing.) I sort of thought I might be Simon, cause I'm very protective of family, and yeah, I think I could shoot folks dead if they came to do harm to one of my loved ones. Or at least fib and hijack a ship. :) I figured I wouldn't come out Book cause I rated money as important. (Hey, I've been ghetto poor, and I'm middle class, and poor sucked big time. Rather be dead than back in the ghetto and that's a fact.)

*The Captain. You are the captain of the ship, so the crew are your responsibility. You just want to do the job, get paid and keep flying. Why is that always so hard?

Capt. Mal Reynolds 81%
Simon Tam 75%
Zoe Alleyne Washburne 63%
The Operative 63%
Shepherd Derrial Book 63%
River Tam 50%
Inara Serra 31%
Kaylee (Kaywinnet Lee) Frye 25%
Jayne Cobb 25%
Hoban 'Wash' Washburne 19%
Mirtika said…
Oh, never mind about that last five in lineup comment. I was looking at my own results. BIG DUH.