This is the second post in a series from an interview with Mark Scandrette on his book Practicing the Way of Jesus. Mark is the founding director of ReIMAGINE, a collective that invites people into integrative spiritual experiments and practices, (with an emphasis on creativity, community building and social action). Each year he hosts a series of projects, retreats and workshops that explore and inhabit various core themes in the way of Jesus. He lives with his wife and three high school aged children in an old Victorian in San Francisco’s Mission District.
You talk a lot about experimenting with embodied faith. What do you mean by that and why is it important?
Taking steps to experiment with how to embody our faith is important for several reasons. One, is that we have been invited into a transformed life– by the example, sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus– into a new way to be human that is characterized by love. Second, transformation happens through taking risks of new action to cooperate with God’s grace. The Apostle Paul once wrote, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who works in you…” (Philippians 2:12-13) I like to describe this process as an experiment because we are testing out what new actions and habits make us most available to the work of the spirit. A crisis I see in the church today is the wide gap between what we say we believe and how most of us actually live. We seem to have an insatiable quest for knowledge and understanding. We’ve operated for a long time under the misguided notion that right thinking by itself will lead to right and good living. But the reality of the kingdom of love, described by Jesus, has to be experienced to be understood– by taking practical steps of obedience and then reflecting on those outcomes.
It is clear, from the sermon on the Mount, that Jesus intended for us to put his teachings into practice (Matthew 7:24). To do this we can ask ourselves a few helpful questions: “What is Jesus inviting us into?” “How do his instructions connect with the details of our lives and the situation and struggles of our society?” And, “what steps can we take to practically respond to his vision and instructions?” For most of us, it is easier to make a change or take a step of risk if we are able to do so in solidarity with at least one other person. Jesus sent his disciples out to experiment in groups of two and the radical love of the beloved community we read about in the book of Acts was a phenomenon of collective action. Historically, when people have wanted to take the teachings of Jesus seriously, they band together in groups of common action and practice to resist the dominant culture.
I think this book is tapping into a widely felt hunger for a way of life shaped by Jesus. After two months, the book went into its second printing and has been translated into several other languages. Almost every week I get an message from someone saying that they are organizing a group in their church or neighborhood to be a community of practice. A group in Portland decided to ban together to practice how to “Be at Peace” and as a result, one member of the group reconciled with his deeply wounded ex wife.” A group in Salt Lake city took steps over the summer to simplify their lives by working to give away half of their material possessions. A group in Oslo, Norway will be meeting for the first time this week to commit to a shared daily practice of stillness prayer for the next 30 days.