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What fun to see and hear Jim Wallis again today. Rachel and I got to church early to get a good seat. First row left. Marble Collegiate Church in New York, founded in 1628 by the Dutch Reformed. Arthur Caliandro, pastor.

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and author of God’s Politics and The New Great Awakening, was the guest preacher today. His text: Jesus’s mission statement in Luke 4:18-19–

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

His sermon title: “The Great Awakening: How Social Movements Change Everything”

He was introduced as a bestselling author, evangelical minister, and frequent guest on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show and lesser news media such as The New York Times….

His main points:

1. Surveys of young Americans (millennial generation) reveal that Jesus they like but Christians they feel fail to follow his teachings about helping the poor and working for peace and justice. (Nothing new here)

2. America’s great social change movements—abolition, women’s suffrage, child labor reform, civil rights—are sparked by religious inspiration and result in religious revival. When enough people’s personal lives are changed, the entire social order transforms. In retrospect, such a social movement is referred to as a great spiritual awakening. Great Awakenings change everything.

3. America is ripe for a new great awakening, a revival of justice borne of personal experience of a God who can transform human will and motivation, warm human hearts, and empower people to change the world.

He told lots of wonderful stories of faith and hope, offered substantive historical illustrations, and proclaimed a compelling biblical theology of peace and justice to the congregation of several hundred.

My daughter referred to Jim Wallis as a “red letter Christian” who seeks to practice as closely as possible the words of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount. She likes Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne for the same reason. Wallis’s last line of his sermon was the clincher:

“When Christians start to believe the Good News of Jesus, it’s like becoming a Christian again.”
I’m a big fan of Wallis, as one might guess, and have followed his witness since my college days when I first encountered his radical Christian witness and willingness to go to jail for his faith in the God of peace and his unwillingness to go to war. The community and magazine he founded is known as Sojourners and it has shaped much of my own social vision. I continue to be inspired by the man, and commend his books, journal and website to you in the spirit of shalom.

Sojourners: Christians for Justice and Peace
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