I am taking Alpha, and tonight was our first night!
What is Alpha? No, it is not a sorority. (Gerald told me not to get a "hazing". Funny boy!) It's a course on Christianity, and it's designed for life-long Christians and for those who have never even stepped into a church. Most people I know have taken it and loved it, but I was never able to commit before. Well, it just seems like the perfect time to do it. I'm hoping to deepen my own understanding of my experience of being Christian, but I also want to open myself to new knowledge and opinions.
It's a ten week course, meeting once a week. We start with a meal, to build community. Then there is a 45 minute video, by former-lawyer-turned-preacher Nicky Gumbel. We then open the floor up to discussion, lead by one of several group leaders. In a larger group, we would break into little clusters for discussion. But there's only 15 of us, so the discussions will stay in the group as a whole. I like that. I think it may lead to a tighter group. We are all given a workbook which gives us optional work to do at home.
Tonight's lesson was "Who is Jesus?". The video started with historical evidence of Jesus, and talked about something called "textual criticism". This is a way that historians can determine the reliability of a piece of historical writing. It's based on when it was written, when the first copy was discovered, and how many copies exist. By this analysis, the Bible actually stands up pretty firmly as a historical document, meaning that we can look at info in it as fact and not simply myth. So, if we follow this, what can we determine about Jesus and his life?
Nicky then offers lots of evidence towards the concept of Jesus as God. And he bases it on the opening lines of the Gospel of John. Way too much info to get into here, but needless to say, it lead to a lot of discussion. It's amazing how much we all have in common - our questions, our doubts, the things we want to discover about God.
Our leader asked a great question: If you met Jesus, what would you ask him? Note: not God - Jesus. My question ended up being: Why did you even bother to come at all? What was the point? Obviously, too big a question to answer in one night. There are lots of things to answer quickly - I came to save the world from sin. I came to live with you on earth. I came to provide an example of how to live a Godly life. But really, does that answer WHY Jesus had to come at all? Didn't God think He was doing a good enough job on His own? He had appeared in many forms before - burning bush, clouds, etc. Why a human being? And why then? And why there? So much to consider. How am I going to cover all this in 10 weeks?
Alpha has become a world-wide phenomenon, bridging languages and denominations. Tonight, it has put my brain into a spin. I think I'm in for quite a journey.
One more interesting thing from today:
I've started mailing out copies of I Am Waiting Here For You. I've sent 2 copies to music people in Nashville. Those envelopes are smothered in prayer!