Amazed

darren_thumbBy Darren Atherton

On the Saturday night of the YaYA conference in Gloucester the group participated in a “Jesus Party.” The idea was simple. Many people of various theological leanings, though primarily Christian, gathered in one place to celebrate a shared appreciation for Jesus, our beloved teacher, even our Savior. The purpose of this gathering was not to focus on the intellectual hang ups we may or may not have, but to join in a single fellowship of individuals that have had a similar spiritual experience. I was personally moved by this event with its relaxed simplicity and its degree of success. After everyone had returned home I thought, why couldn’t this kind of event be arranged where I live? There are more than a few handfuls of churches, there a lot of people who share a love for Jesus  –  and even if they only like Jesus they could still join in. So why not?

The other night I discussed the idea with a young pastor I’ve known for many years, and after presenting it in what I thought to be a sincere, clear, and enthusiastic fashion, I was dismayed to see him return an uneasy expression. While he hesitated to even commend the effort, he told me that his participation in, especially his support of, such a gathering, would run contrary to his concept of the gospel and its associated church. He agreed that there is indeed a union of the faithful from all traditions in Christ, but he nevertheless felt a Jesus Party to be a compromise of some nature. He pictured attending it and feeling little aside from the need to debate with others. I told him that healthy debate wouldn’t be an uninvited guest, but the point of the event was not so much to glorify or justify our respective beliefs, but rather to rejoice in a shared experience of God. This description wasn’t met with much less scepticism.

jesus_partyLater that night I felt compelled to re-read Ernest Fremont Tittle’s wonderful 1928 book, The Religion of the Spirit, and I couldn’t get past the first page. On it the author writes,

“The mere recognition of the fact that there are religions of authority and the religion of the spirit is one of those flashes of spiritual insight for which we can never be sufficiently grateful.

Although I agree with Tittle, that we cannot be sufficiently grateful for the ability to make such a distinction, I had to wonder whether I was even moderately grateful for the little spiritual insight I possess. We can occasionally think something is so apparent and obvious that we overlook the possibility of others seeing it a different way. I was so shocked at my friend the Pastor’s negative reaction to the concept of a Jesus Party, because I had simply assumed the truth at the heart of the effort to be a matter of course. I figured it was a concept he would readily accept and support as an individual who follows Jesus.

Someone familiar with the gospels might recall Jesus being repeatedly amazed or astounded at the disbelief of his listeners. A student of the Urantia Book might call to mind some strong responses from Jesus to the misunderstandings of his apostles, many a “How long shall I bear with you?” One reason Jesus often felt this way was due to his having had such a profoundly real experience, and such a wholehearted human acceptance of, a God that he personally knew  – the same God all of us are coming to know. We are taught within the Papers that the religionist can take salvation for granted so long as the focus is turned to toward the unselfish urge to love (188:4.9).  We read that Jesus never stooped to argue about the Fatherhood of God or the brotherhood of man, because he was too busy living both (196:1.5). As Urantia Book readers we can easily observe that we have some very different opinions regarding the teachings of the book. But that didn’t stop us from sharing an experience of true fellowship with people who do not study these same teachings. It didn’t hold us back from enjoying one another on a very fundamental level. Even more than a week after the conference I am still coming down from the spiritual ‘high’ it triggered, and I’m becoming ever more certain that it affected a much more enduring, unemotional change within me as well. But the experience the lot of us readers had in Gloucester was real, it was spiritual, and this enhanced experience of truth led me to the predicament Jesus so often encountered – amazement at the lack of insight others possess. Not to judge my friend the Pastor, who I know to be a dedicated servant to his community, but it appears that the ‘flash of spiritual insight’ Tittle described is a flash this Pastor has yet to experience. And it truly is amazing. It’s amazing that so many individuals dedicated to the welfare of humanity are still hindered, theologically or otherwise, from supporting such a spiritually simplistic event as a “Jesus Party.”

In spite of the obstacles worked around to make it happen, and God willing, you’ll be reading an article about another “Jesus Party” later this summer! (And if you have any suggestions or ideas for me, please send them my way – dtatherton@gmail.com)

Spread the word ❤

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14 thoughts on “Amazed”

  1. beautifully written Darren, with much heart and remember as you love like Jesus the benign virus of love will spread through your community despite any resistance. keep on trying through other local channels and you will hit a responsive to your Jesus party. wonderful idea.
    love and light
    patrick

  2. I commend you on your efforts brother, and they are certain to meet with a measure of success, don’t give up. I too am doing my form of “Jesus” appreciation, and I’ve started a youtube channel with the main focus on “How to have a personal relationship with your higher power”. I’ve found that when I put it in that context people feel free to choose which ever God they believe in at that moment… You and I know the spirit of Truth will do his job, and take over from there 🙂

    Thank you for the work you’re doing for the Kingdom brother, and I hope to meet you soon, after all, this is our revelation now, and we must be the new torch bearers 🙂 (GAME ON) Peace

      1. Yes, I agree with Geoff, please do! Thank you for the support. A party like this however is just a small nudge toward the kingdom, but it would be sweet to see more of them happening. It’s so simple – even too simple for some, haha!

      2. For sure, although I told Tev that I was working on a paper on a different project first lol… Master of unfinished projects over here, so I’m working on finishing one at a time 🙂 But I’ll be happy to share the youtube channel if you want to check out a couple video’s that I’ve put up 🙂

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a49k4Px1aAg

        Well I think it will meet with great success for anyone who decides to follow the longings of their souls. Thank you again brother : )

  3. I’m surprised the young pastor didn’t resonate with your fantastic idea. I think most youth ministers are constantly looking for ways to reach the “unchurched”, and The Jesus Party concept casts a wide net into the community. I would think both evangelical and “liberal theology” churches would seriously consider the idea. Don’t give up.

    1. Absolutely. I plan on approaching a few more liberal-minded folks I know, and even a few I don’t know. I was thinking of having a few speakers give short talks on the aspects of Jesus they personally appreciate, and already have a Mormon on board, eager to share his experience. If this event brings many together, what an opportunity for any religionist!

      1. What a BRILLIANT idea, Darren, having some speakers sharing their thoughts on aspects of Jesus that THEY appreciate. What a cool idea to have Jesus-followers, although from different persuasions, collaborating together. Ay, this is what I so much appreciate about the enlightenment we are given by the contents of the Papers and through the Spirit of Truth 🙂

        Ta stax so much for sharing this.

  4. Darren…. man I’m inspired by your willingness to enroll your pastor friend in having a party around the joyous expression of devotion to our Master! I’m even more inspired by your willingness to then share you experience with this community so that we may all reflect where in our own lives we can be more in the action of bringing forward the spiritual Kingdom.

    Though this young man might have let pride get in his was this time I can promise you a seed was planted.

    You are a true minister and we need you Darren. You talents are a great service to our Fellowship of believers in Spiritual Unity!

    1. Geoff Theiss

      Ditto on that. You’ll probably need another follow up post on this. If you are successful making it happen I will want to try the same thing in my area !!!!

  5. mary jo garascia

    So thrilled to read this article. Thanks for the inspiration. I know that it is true that if we just lift the Master up, he will draw all mankind unto himself. Anyone who would witness such a beautiful gathering would have to see how unifying Jesus is for so many. Lovely…

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