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What are God's perceptions of another denomination?

Good question...

Only God knows...

I do wonder what it may be like to take a journey of discernment and discovery once again through a familiar scriptural text.

. In what ways does Luke 15:11-32 shed some light upon why we have so many different labels and brands for the gathered community of faith known as the church?

. In what ways are all denominations a lot like the younger and older sons described in the parable?

When we're honest about it, all churches, all denominations, including non-denominational churches too, have characteristics of the younger and older brothers described in the parable.

. In what ways am I like the younger brother?

. In what ways is the church I'm part of like the younger brother?

. In what ways am I like the older brother?

. In what ways is the church I most associate with like the older brother?

Hallelujah! Our Father God continues to run out to us and meet us where we are as we are.

Because the God we say we believe in runs out to meet us as we are where we are in Jesus of Nazareth, God in the flesh, fully God/fully man; our Savior, our Lord, our Dearest Friend,

what does it look like for us to open our hearts to love each other as we are where we are?

Persons of all denominations, persons of all non-denominational churches, Roman Catholics and Protestants, Greek Orthodox and all followers of the God made known in Jesus are one body: the Body of Christ. Jesus is the vine. We are the branches.

Like the Father, younger child, and older child described in Luke 15, 11-32, we are inter-dependent. Like the vine Jesus describes in John 15, we are inter-dependent.

What does it look like for all of us to come together to participate in celebrations of grace?

I believe when we come together across our differences, we help each other see more clearly and love more dearly.

One of my heroes of the faith is E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973). An elder in the Methodist church, (1968) United Methodist Church; he served as a missionary evangelist in India.

At the age of 83, when asked on which side of the 20th century theological divide he belonged, he answered that he was "not a fundamentalist or a modernist, only a Christian-in-the making," (recorded in his autobiography, "A Song of Ascents.")

When he first started serving in India, E. Stanley Jones felt like he was not able to reach anyone with the Gospel. He felt like a total failure. In fact, he experienced what he described as a nervous break-down.

He returned to the U.S.A. After a lot of prayer and conversations with friends, he realized he was not called by God to present a Westernized version of Christ. He was called to lift up Jesus of Nazareth, God in the flesh. When he returned, he noticed that many of the Hindus of India gathered in ashrams where they presented their beliefs. He adapted this practice and started ashrams of his own. He invited persons to gather around one table and present themselves and their beliefs. When it came his turn to share, E. Stanley Jones lifted up the name of Jesus. Over time many participants of these round table conversations came to accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord.

I believe a poignant quote from his book, "Conversion" written in 1959, the year I was born, speaks to the fact that there are multiple church names and multiple denominations.

"Since conversion introduces one to the Kingdom of God as an Absolute Order demanding a total obedience in the total life, individual and social, it determines the content of that conversion. The content of that conversion is personal. It attaches the individual to the personal Christ in supreme loyalty and love. He is the gateway into that Kingdom. The fact is that the Kingdom is embodied in Him.... He is the Kingdom personalized. So in conversion you are not attached primarily to an order, nor to an institution, nor to a movement, nor to a set of beliefs, nor to a code of action---you are primarily attached to a Person, and secondarily to these other things.... The center of conversion is the belonging of a person to a Person.... To be is to be in relations. You cannot be without being in relations."

Dear church, no matter what we choose to call ourselves, the bottom line is that we are in relationship with the Person: Jesus, the Christ. We are his! We all see in a mirror dimly! We are not better than nor lesser than! We are members of the same family! We are God's beloved children who seek to be more like Jesus! Triune God empower us to embody your beloved community!

May we help each other see Jesus more clearly and love God, one another, and all God's creation more dearly!

Holy Spirit help all of us lead others to the joy of knowing Jesus as Savior, Lord, and Dearest Friend!

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