Arvada Covenant

Last weekend Kris and I were with the fine folks at Arvada Covenant Church (Colorado) for a Jesus Creed weekend. Our thanks to Nate Powell and John Martz for the kind invitation and hospitality. Some of you know we got snowed in, but if there’s any place to get snowed in, I can think of no better place than the foothills of the Rockies.

We had three sessions — Friday night, Saturday late afternoon, and then the Sunday morning services. The Jesus Creed focuses our attention on the essence of Jesus’ moral vision for his kingdom people. They are to love God and to love others as themselves. Combining love of God and love of others is not uniquely from Jesus but explicitly clasping “love your neighbor as yourself” (from Leviticus 19:18) to the daily recitation of the Shema (Hear O Israel…) appears to be distinctive to Jesus. Whether that is the casJee is not as important as the centralization of Torah into loving God and loving others, so that is what we focused on in our sessions. Which leads to important clarifications of what love is, a term misunderstood widely in our culture.

The Christian life is framed in many ways today, including as social activism, as withdrawal from the world into holiness, as eucharist and sacramental living, as private, personal spirituality, and as theology and Bible knowledge. Each of these is important, but Jesus framed the entirety of discipleship as first and foremost about loving God and loving others. Obedience without love is not genuine obedience, holiness without love is not holiness, and activism without love is not activism. Each of these frameworks gains its perspective when seen through the Jesus Creed.

So many people to thank, beginning with Nate and John, but also to Vicky and Jerry Reier for transportation, to Nate and Kiesa for homemade corn chowder, to Dave Runyon for a good breakfast conversation about neighboring in Denver, to David and Judy Diehl for lunch, to Ron and Jenny for opening their home to so many for dinner, and then to John and Diane and their small group for the impromptu dinner when we were snowed in.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://differentcloth.blogspot.com Jeff Stewart

    Does John still have his New Jersey accent? ;-D

  • Blake

    Scot, how do your Anabaptist convictions (particularly related to ecclesiology, discipleship and separateness) influence your choice of denomination and congregation to be involved in?

    I was Southern Baptist most of my life, but left when I realized their doctrine and modus operandi would always be opposed to Anabaptism. I went to a Mennonite seminary and realized I wanted no part of the many messes in the Mennonite Church USA. I’m attending an Evangelical Covenant Church (mostly because a former student of yours is a pastor there and seems to be one of the few Anabaptist friendly people I can find where I live), but don’t feel comfortable joining because of their “non-confessionalism”. I’m really not trying to be picky, but I hope this isn’t what I have to look forward to the rest of my life.

    (Tangentially, when did the “free churches” decide that autonomy is more important than the Gospel?)

  • scotmcknight

    Blake,

    Interesting.
    1. At some level, all American churches are anabaptistic since there is no State church. They are free to one degree or another. Which just might make all of us “separate” in the USA.
    2. We have a disestablishment framework and that means we have choice.
    3. Denominational churches are more constrained than non-denominational churches.
    4. But denominational churches often have considerable freedom.
    5. This set of ideas leads to churches where pastors and leaders have often mixed and matched from various traditions.
    6. Evang Cov churches “affirm” the great creeds of the church so are a part of the catholic tradition; some local level leaders ignore the creeds altogether while others affirm them more regularly, even in liturgical worship order.

    Now for the download:
    7. We get to choose; we choose churches that tend to favor our theology. Few churches will match up to all our choices.
    8. We live with differences, which to me is a very, very good thing.
    9. Ever since we were in England, in 1981 to be exact, I have loved the Anglican liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer, so I have had a liturgical yearning for years but our years at Willow just never permitted that in their services, and so we dealt with it.
    10. The commute to Willow got longer and longer and finally we said “it takes too long to get to and back from church” so we are now happily attending Redeemer Anglican in Highland Park IL. Anglicans have a stronger sense of a State church though in the USA that’s mostly symbolic and one can be anabaptistic and be Anglican. John Riches accused Tom Wright once — in print — of being too anabaptistic. (Not sure Riches was right there, but …)

    I could go on… this is enough.

  • Blake

    Scot, what about the tendency of most churches and denominations to be involved in seeking political power over others. I’ve tolerated a lot of theological difference (and it is good, no argument there), but when it comes to mission and vision in the intersection of faith and politics it seems that Anabaptism/ts are diametrically opposed to all forms and variants of upholding Christendom modes of thinking and being in the world. This opposition is fundamental to the identity of Anabaptism. How does one remain faithful to that vision and mission of Christianity in this American context?

  • scotmcknight

    Blake, the Mennonites today are one of the most politically active denomination, no?

  • Blake

    Scot, yes, and I’m not alone in thinking their support of both the religious right and religious left (often not the same mennonites or churches) is a betrayal of their heritage. One of the problems with MCUSA (and it is not uncommon among free church denominations these days) is a lack of coherent identity. The confession does not need to be agreed to by member churches. They house both very theologically and politically conservative and liberal views. It wasn’t that long ago churches networked based on common confession. To associate with a denomination used to mean something. I’ve never figured out what happened to those days. Where in history did that practice stop and why?

  • scotmcknight

    1970s. Let’s blame the hippies and Chuck Smith and those California Jesus freaks.


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