Friday, January 1, 2010

As I begin this Year of Our Lord 2010 (A.D.), I offer a new blog. I’ve entitled it This Focused Center based on The Message (a paraphrased translation of the Bible by Eugene Peterson) version of II Corinthians 5:14-15. “Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.”

My subtitle is Reflections on Christ and His Church. As I wrote in my Wilderness Way #28 column, I hope to share what I am reading and wrestling with. Together I hope and pray that we can live out of the focused center of life with Christ. Truly he came for all and he came to include us “in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.” I offer this blog out of a conviction that we need to turn and return to a deeply Trinitarian expression of the Christian faith. More explicitly, it appears to me that much of contemporary mainline theological/cultural reflection appears to have a vague sense of God, a passing acquaintance with Jesus as Lord, and little conception of the work of the Holy Spirit. I want to invite us to be focused as explicitly Christian; that is to say, living out of the focused center of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – crucified and risen for all!

Three quotes I ran into in my reading last fall stick with me. First, somewhere Philip Yancey wrote: “How would telling people to be nice to one another get a man crucified? What government would execute Mister Rogers or Captain Kangaroo?” I think was C. S. Lewis who said about Christ as our focused center: “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” In meanderings through Willie the Shake (William Shakespeare that is) there is a line from Henry V which clings to my soul. ““This is a stem / Of that victorious stock, and let us fear / The native mightiness and fate of him.” I may have the quotes wrong but they ring of truth for me. We are called to live from this Focused Center. I will try to write ever 3 days or so. You are invited to share a comment or thought.

Given the hectic-ness of my schedule I will only be able to reply spasmodically. Together as we wrestle and reflect on the truth of life and the truth of Christ and the truth of the Great God three in One – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I pray we can live the resurrection life, “a far better life than people every lived on their own.”


  1. I am curious to know if putting Christ at the focused center is something that has contributed in part to our current state of affairs as a Church. I think I understand what you are saying but I wonder if putting Christ at the center is where Christ himself wanted to be located? Didn't Christ focus on the margins and those on the outside?

    I don't have a way with words, but I wonder if this "focused center" idea is a paradox in that by focusing on Christ in the center we are forced to focus on the margins?

    I wonder if people who are reading your blog could argue that your reflection this Scripture is a step toward universalism? Phrases like "we are all in the same boat" and "Christ includes all in his death/resurrection" could be made in light of this scripture and taken to argue for universalism.

    Thanks for the reflection and invitation to journey.

    PS: Love the Yancy quote.

  2. Your C.S. Lewis reference is one that I come back to again and again in my life. Aslan (a symbol of Christ) was not a tame lion ~ not tame, but good. When I reflect on this image, it does help me have a better perspective. Thanks for your comments.

  3. It is the claim of Scripture that Christ is the focused center. I would submit that our theological slide into a vague theism has been and is a major part of the current malaise of Methodism. Jesus is not a vague add-on but at the very focused center of the gosple.

  4. This past year I have been trying to live by the scripture, "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" It is teaching me that I am in the same boat with everyone else. It helps me be less judgmental of others because their sin is no worse than mine.

    When Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water toward Jesus, he was ok as long as he kept his focus on Jesus. He got in trouble when he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to focus on his surroundings. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we shift the center of the universe off of us and on to the Lord Almighty.

  5. Virginia's point helps me get my mind around the "focused center" concept. My aunt Ruth preached once that "the world is a very liberating place when you realize it is not all about you." Ah - yes - not me, but Christ. Humbling.

  6. Bishop Lowry - I so appreciate you giving us another avenue to connect with/get to know you. Thank you for sharing your heart & what you are learning, and allowing us to share the journey with you. This post was a blessing to me today! I especially appreciated the 2 Corinithians verse you focused on.

  7. Last night I re-read these posts and as I continue to think about my focus, it occurs to me that the center of my focus needs to be that God sent His one and only Son, Jesus to die for ME, Virginia.
    I can't imagine offering to replace someone on death row with my child, but that's what God did for ME. It's easy to say that God so loved the world, but so much more powerful when I remember that God so loved me that He sent His one and only Son that I might not perish but have everlasting life.

  8. Bishop Lowry, Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to share some of your profound thoughts. I fully agree that one of the greatest problem not only the U.M. Church has but also the whole of society is the concept that God is a big warm fuzzy that accepts any and everything with little connection to actual everyday life. We have lost our "focused Center" as people and U. Methodists. I seldom hear the name of Jesus mentioned around in church circles with a few significant exceptions. Without Jesus as the clear center or our individual lives and that of our institution we are lost, broken adrift of our anchor, lost on the sea of "anything goes." We have lost our life-blood too, the Holy Spirit, the best kept secret of the church at large. So much so that few members or clergy have a working knowledge and experience of the Spirit's power in their lives. Keep sending out the message of hope for anyone who will accept Him as our Savior and Lord.

  9. Yes, I agree Jesus is the center of our faith, however I wonder if by putting Jesus at the center of our faith we are forced to look where Jesus looked. By focusing on the proper center of Christ, we are forced to look to the margins.

    What I am saying is that perhaps it could be that we have out Jesus at the center over the years and have have not followed the example of moving toward the margins that has resulted in our malaise.

    While Jesus is at the center, I wonder if Jesus would put Jesus at the center? I see Jesus putting both God and the neighbor at the center. Could it be that by only putting Jesus at the center we have an temptation to ignore our neighbor?

    Again, I love this and I am sure these are just semantics. I am not trying to bother anyone, I am just wondering how I can use what you, Bishop, are saying to better bolster the mission of the local community I find myself located in. It is quality stuff.

  10. Jason,
    I would posit that for many, myself included, the problem has been one of placing ourselves in the center and positioning our counterfeit versions of Jesus on the periphery. Scripture names this idolatry. When Jesus the Christ is placed at the focused center and embraced as the Lord and Savior of the created world and all persons within and has as His goal the redemption and reclamation of the same, disciples of Jesus the Christ are compelled by the Holy Spirit to reach out to those on the margins. They can do no other without betraying who they claim to embrace.