The staff and council of our congregation are heading to the mountains this weekend for the annual leadership retreat. It will be a time of team-building, prayer, and setting priorities for the coming year.
As they pack for the retreat, I’ve asked them to include something that reminds them of a person who has influenced their faith. I’m curious to learn what they’ll bring and the stories they bring to mind!
I haven’t decided what I’ll bring yet, but as I’ve been thinking about people who have influenced my faith, Marcus Borg comes to mind.
Raised a Lutheran in North Dakota, Borg became a leader in debates about the historical Jesus in the 1980’s and 90’s. Some found his work threatening to orthodox Christianity. He dared to question deeply held beliefs such as the virgin birth and even the physical resurrection of Jesus. My copy of his book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, is filled with question marks and exclamation points in the margins.
Even though he questioned many faith claims about the historical Jesus, Borg was passionate about Jesus. He saw the Christian life as a journey following after Jesus and being transformed “into the likeness of Christ.”
Borg points out that in both Greek and Latin, the word “believe” does not refer to believing in set doctrines but “to give one’s heart to.”[i] For Borg, following after Jesus meant belief in this etymological sense: to give one’s self to him, to be on the road with him, to eat at his table, to express his compassion, and to become part of his alternative community.
Marcus Borg died yesterday. I didn’t always agree with him, but he challenged me. He gave me permission to wonder and plenty to pray about.
After hearing of his death, blogger David Haywood illustrated the gift Marcus Borg brought to the faith community well:
[i] Borg, Marcus, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Harper San Francisco, c1994, p. 137.