The Red Couch: The Secret Message of Jesus Introduction

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M_BOOK-CLUB

I’m fresh off the intoxicating high of Simply Jesus, a gathering of people fixed on Jesus, his words and his ways. This year we came together around the stories that Jesus told. We pondered those small, enigmatic and disruptive parables that ever push us to think afresh about life in God’s Kingdom.

Idelette McVicker, Leah Kostamo, and I got to share in the work of parabling (yes, I made a verb!) and conversing in the spirit of Jesus. (You can download the entire Simply Jesus video package here.) What we rediscovered is that talking about Jesus—and even like Jesus—continues to be energizing. The ideas we find on the tip of his tongue keep our imaginations firing and our hearts burning all these generations later.

So let’s keep the conversation around Jesus going!

Alongside the parables. Jesus had another conversational habit—talking about the Kingdom of God or then, Kingdom of Heaven. The people surrounding Jesus knew something about kingdoms, as they lived under the thumb of the Roman Empire. Jesus captured their attention when he spoke of God’s own kingdom in contrast to Caesar’s. He pulled from the deep well of Judaism with its long tradition of waiting for, hoping for a savior to restore David’s Kingdom of old. This metaphor of God’s Kingdom permeates the four gospels because it saturates the words of Jesus.

I began to understand the Kingdom of God as a driving metaphor of the gospels when I first read The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything by Brian McLaren. In this book, he describes how Jesus talked about the Kingdom in real terms and in real time. He helps us see how Jesus understood the Kingdom to work in the world. And McLaren does this with a gentle but engaging voice, as if welcoming you to the front porch to share in some great story-telling over tall glasses of iced tea.

As a seminary graduate the thoughts on God’s Kingdom weren’t all new to me, I’d read around the library a bit and knew the general elements of Kingdom thinking. But what compelled me most about this book was how McLaren himself talks about Jesus and the Kingdom. As a student of both literature and theology, McLaren spoke about Jesus in fresh language that lit my own imagination.

I found myself considering the ecosystem of God or God’s dream for the world. I let myself play with the idea of a peaceable kingdom, a city with open borders, a garden lush with God’s goodness. Somehow McLaren helped me to catch a glimpse of Jesus and his work through new metaphors that unlocked fresh possibilities for me.

The Secret Message of Jesus invites us to listen to Jesus, to consider his thoughts on the Kingdom and the world, to engage his way of secrecy and story-telling. But this book also offers new language to open unseen vistas as we talk about the way Jesus is at work in our neighborhood, our families an our own life.

I wonder what will light up your imagination as you join us this month. How might you see Jesus more clearly or with greater verve than before? This book is good soil for such exploration.

Leaning into the words and ways of Jesus keeps our eyes fixed on the Center that holds us together. Too often we can be distracted by denominational differences, political implications to the left or right, strategies to grow a church or shape a social movement. Reading this book together will allow us to remember the One we follow, to dig deep into the content of his conversations and allow his message to recalibrate all our Kingdom efforts. I think this kind of reorientation is a good thing!

Let’s lean into Jesus this month … I know that I, for one, can’t get enough of lessons from the life of our Master Teacher!

____________

Come back Wednesday, May 27 for our discussion post with Idelette McVicker. Join the Facebook group to share quotes and discuss the book throughout the month. Keep an eye out on May 20 for our Third Quarter Books announcement!

The Nightstand at SheLoves Magazine

NOTE: While at the Simply Jesus Gathering I met a new friend and New Testament scholar, Conrad Gempf. He’s written a winsome and thoughtful book called Jesus Asked. You can get this on Kindle—but even better you can download the audiobook for free from his website and listen to Conrad read in his own colorful voice. I’ve started to listen and learn—and am already hooked! Long commute to work? Lots of laundry to fold? Need to close your eyes and sit a spell? Sounds like a perfect time to listen to Jesus Asked.

*Recommended by Idelette McVicker and Kelley Nikondeha

Are you reading The Secret Message of Jesus with us? Share your thoughts so far in the comments.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

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Kelley Nikondeha
I am a practical theologian shaped by education and experience, by rhetoric and theology, by the luminous beaches of the California coast and the vibrant rhythms of Burundian drummers. My own theology has been meted out in the context of a bi-cultural marriage and, as a result, a bi-continental family life. Among East African leaders, South African thinkers and Muslim friends I’ve come to learn more about the Good News and dangerous ways of Jesus. I am ecclesiastically promiscuous, a life-long lover of the stories of Scripture and the works of Walter Brueggemann. I must add that I’m a woman continually recalibrated by the liberation stories of Miriam and Moses, the intoxicating poetry of Isaiah and the provocative parables of Jesus. I’m insatiable when it comes to Sabbath and shalom, the rigors and release of jubilee and the radical inclusion of the New City – where there is room for every tongue, tribe and nation to gather at long last. I am a practical theologian hungry for the New City.
Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley Nikondeha

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  • Sandy Hay

    In all the reading i do, I’m surprised I’ve never read a book by Brian McLaren before. Yet then, there are lots of authors I wouldn’t have read if it had not been for you and Idelette and this Red Couch . Thank you for growing me.

  • Fabulous introduction, friend.

  • I’m so glad to read this book! About 7 years ago, my weekly book club read it but I missed out… I’m glad to circle back to it! (And, love the nightstand – this same book club is currently reading Zealot. One of our best discussion books in a long time!) I’m looking forward to the discussion on this one. After some heavier books, I agree that it’s good to recalibrate…

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  • So grateful for Simply Jesus Gathering which introduced me to She Loves Magazine and some of the women associated with it! What a treasure and encouragement in the pursuit of Jesus and His ways and spreading both to each and every person we meet. Looking forward to joining the “group” and reading “The secret message of Jesus.” Ready to love and learn more. Thanks for recommending “Just Jesus.”

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