- Popular and widely known preacher, Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina.
- Based on his 2012 General Convention homily and video that went viral on the web.
- Includes the acclaimed 2012 General Convention address:
We need some Christians who are as crazy as the Lord. Crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice,
love mercy, walk humbly with Godlike Jesus. Crazy enough to dare to change the world from the nightmare it often is into something close to the dream that God dreams for it. And for those who would follow him,
those who would be his disciples, those who would live as and be the people of the Way? It might come as a shock, but they are called to craziness.
from Bishop Curry's "Crazy Christians" address to the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Indianapolis.
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About the Author
The Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry was installed as the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church on November 1, 2015. Bishop Curry was overwhelming elected on the first ballot at the 2015 General Convention. Bishop Curry, 62, is the first African-American to be elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
Bishop Curry serves as chief pastor and primate to the Episcopal Church's members in 17 countries, 109 dioceses and three regional areas. He joins with other principal bishops of the 38-member Provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion, seeking a common cause for global good and reconciliation.
Read an Excerpt
A Call to Follow Jesus
By Michael B. Curry
Church Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Michael B. Curry
All rights reserved.
We Need Some Crazy Christians
Then [Jesus] went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind." (Mark 3:19–21)
Jesus "has gone out of his mind." That's what the people say in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. The King James Version translates it as, "He is beside himself." The old J.B. Phillips New Testament puts it, "He must be mad!" But my favorite is from the 1995 Contemporary English Version which says, "When Jesus' family heard what he was doing, they thought he was crazy and went to get him under control."
Trying to get Jesus "under control" is exactly the problem. Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov rightly warns us that the Church and we Christians have often tried to make Jesus tame. We want to manage the Messiah. But this Messiah won't be managed. As Richard Holloway, former Primate of Scotland, once wrote, "Jesus goes on breaking out of all the tombs to which we have consigned him."
So, forgive me for saying it this way, but Jesus was, and is, crazy! And those who would follow him, those who would be his disciples, those who would live as and be the people of the Way, are called to be exactly that—crazy. If you asked me what the Church needs today, I would say this: We need some crazy Christians.
Let's go back to that line, "When Jesus' family heard what he was doing, they thought he was crazy and went to get him under control." I don't want to be too quick to judge Jesus' mother and the whole family. They had good reason to be concerned. The First Letter of Peter tells us something that Jesus had already taught in the Sermon on the Mount: "Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing" (1 Peter 3:9). That's crazy! In Matthew's gospel, Jesus says, "The greatest among you will be your servant" (Matthew 23:11). That's crazy!
What the world calls wretched, Jesus calls blessed. Blessed are the poor and the poor in spirit. Blessed are the merciful, the compassionate. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst that God's righteous justice might prevail. Blessed are those who work for peace. Blessed are you when you are persecuted just for trying to love and do what is good (Matthew 5:3–11). Jesus said all that in the Sermon on the Mount, to crowds of people. That was crazy. Jesus said, "Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). Jesus was crazy. He prayed while folk were killing him, "Father, forgive them; they know not what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). Now that's crazy.
What the Church needs, what this world needs, are some Christians who are as crazy as the Lord. Crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God—like Jesus. Crazy enough to dare to change the world from the nightmare it often is into something closer to the dream that God dreams for it. And for those of us who would follow him, those of us who would be his disciples, those of us who would live as the people of the Way? It might come as a shock, but those of us called to that life are called to craziness, too.
Let me suggest one example of such a call from the New Testament: Mary of Magdala, also known as Mary Magdalene. For whatever reason, Mary often gets a bum rap. Whether it is the false portrayal of her as more sinful than most or even as one of the prostitutes in the New Testament or in The Da Vinci Code, Mary gets a bum rap. But I want to suggest that Mary Magdalene might be the quintessential example of what it means to follow Jesus, to be his disciple, to be a person of the Way.
That's because Mary Magdalene was crazy. She shows up when she's not supposed to. She speaks up when others shut up. She stands up when everybody else sits down. She was crazy. Mary was somebody who obviously heard a different drummer. And folk like that are what the world calls crazy.
Think back to the crucifixion of Jesus. Crucifixion was execution by the Empire for crimes against the state. It was public torture. It was an intentionally brutal means of capital punishment, an execution designed to send a message that revolution and revolutionaries would not be tolerated. If you were a supporter or follower of the person being crucified, it was dangerous to stand too close by during the execution. The rational and sensible thing to do was to go into hiding or even exile.
Having said that, let's call the roll of those Jesus asked to follow him, let's take the attendance of the apostles at the crucifixion of their Lord. Simon Peter? Absent. James? Absent. Andrew? Absent. Bartholomew? Absent. Judas? Absent. Mary Magdalene? Present and accounted for! When the old slaves sang, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?," there was a woman named Mary who could answer, "I was there!" Now that's crazy!
But that's not all. On that Easter morning, who gets up and goes to the tomb of Jesus? Not Peter. Not Andrew. Not James. Not John. But Mary and some of the sisters! And it didn't make any sense. As I said, it was dangerous to be so closely associated with a person executed by the Empire. Going to the tomb made absolutely no sense. It's just plain crazy. The gospels say there was a large stone rolled in front of the tomb. Presumably Mary knew about it. She had no plan and no way to move that stone. But she went to the grave anyway. That's crazy. Matthew's gospel says the Romans had placed guards at the tomb. Mary had no plan and no way to take them out. But she got up and went anyway. That's crazy. And that craziness led to her being the first witness to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the first witness to the fact that the love of God is greater than any hatred humans can inflict. Because Mary was crazy like Christ, she was Christ's witness to the world. Brothers and sisters, Mary Magdalene has shown us the way. She has shown us what we need. And what we need are some crazy Christians.
Now it may not be obvious at first, but we actually have a day to remember crazy Christians. I think we call it All Saints' Day. It's not called "All the Same Day," it's called All Saints' Day, because the saints, though they were fallible and mortal and sinners like the rest of us, when push came to shove they marched to the beat of a different drummer. In their lifetimes, they made a difference for the kingdom of God. As you know, we even have a book to help us commemorate them with prayers and readings and liturgy. We call it Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints. But we might as well call it The Chronicles of Crazy Christians.
One of the people we celebrate in the book is Harriet Beecher Stowe, a woman who used her words to set the captive free. She was born in 1811 into a devout family committed to the gospel of Jesus and to helping transform the world from the nightmare it often is into the dream God intends it to be. Beecher Stowe is best known for a novel titled Uncle Tom's Cabin. In this fiction, she told the truth. She told the story of how chattel slavery afflicted a family—afflicted real people. She told the truth of the brutality, the injustice, the inhumanity of the institution of chattel slavery. Her book did what YouTube videos of injustices and brutalities do today. It went nineteenth-century viral. It rallied abolitionists and enraged vested interests. The influence of that book was so powerful that Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have said, upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe for the first time, "So this is the little lady who started this great war!"
In 1944, Beecher Stowe's witness was celebrated in a Broadway play titled Harriet and dedicated to the work of Eleanor Roosevelt. Helen Hayes played the part of Harriet Beecher Stowe. At the end of the play Beecher Stowe's family stands around her and sings the words of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," affirming the Christian witness of this brave and bold woman. Part of the hymn goes like this:
In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom, that transfigured you and me:
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
Glory, glory hallelujah,
Glory, glory hallelujah,
Glory, glory hallelujah,
God's truth is marching on.
Beecher Stowe once explained her anti-slavery writing in these words: "I wrote what I did because as a woman, as a mother, I was oppressed and broken-hearted with the sorrow and injustice I saw; because as a Christian I felt the dishonor to Christianity; because as a lover of my country, I trembled at the coming day of wrath."
There's no doubt about it: Harriet Beecher Stowe was crazy. A woman of her era was supposed to write nice stories, not stories that would disturb the conscience of a nation. A woman of her social standing was supposed to marry well, raise well-bred children, participate in a few charitable activities, and at her funeral be fondly remembered by all who knew her. That was the life she was supposed to have. But Beecher Stowe had been raised in a family that believed that following Jesus means changing the world from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends. And sometimes that means marching to the beat of a different drummer. Sometimes that means caring more when we are tempted to care less. Sometimes that means standing up when others are sitting down. Sometimes that means speaking up when others are shutting up. Sometimes that means being different. Sometimes that even means following Jesus, and being crazy.
After the death of Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple Inc., an old Apple Inc. commercial from the 1990s went viral on YouTube. It was a commercial whose goal had been to rebrand Apple products. The tag line for the commercial and for the company was: Think different.
In the commercial they showed a collage of photographs and film footage of people who have invented and inspired, created and sacrificed to improve the world, to make a difference. They showed Bob Dylan, Amelia Earhart, Frank Lloyd Wright, Maria Callas, Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Henson, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, Pablo Casals, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, and on and on and on. As the images rolled by, a voice read this poem:
Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels.
The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore.
They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that's never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world,
are the ones who do.
We could paraphrase that to say, the Christians who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. My friends, we need some of those crazy Christians. Sane, sanitized Christianity is killing us. Comfortable, demure Christianity may have worked once upon a time, but it won't carry the gospel anymore. We need some crazy Christians like Mary Magdalene and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Christians crazy enough to believe that God is real and that Jesus lives. Crazy enough to follow the radical way of the gospel. Crazy enough to believe that the love of God is greater than all the powers of evil and death. Crazy enough to believe, as Martin Luther King Jr. often said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." We need some Christians crazy enough to believe that children don't have to go to bed hungry; that the world doesn't have to be the way it often seems to be; that there is a way to lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside; that as the slaves used to sing, "There's plenty good room in my Father's kingdom" because every human being in this world has been created in the image of God, and we are all equally children of God and meant to be treated as such.
What we need are some crazy Christians—Christians who are crazy enough to catch a glimpse of the crazy, transforming, transfiguring, life-changing vision of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christians who are crazy enough to follow him into the work of helping God to realize God's dream for all people and for all creation.
We Are Part of Something Greater Than Ourselves
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19–20)
God has a terrible habit of asking the impossible of people. If you don't believe me, ask Noah, or Abraham and Sarah, or David about to fight Goliath, or Queen Esther before the king, or Mary with her baby. This text, which we call the Great Commission, is a classic example. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations." The words in the old King James Version said, "Go ye therefore and teach all nations...." In the longer ending of Mark's gospel, Jesus says, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15). In the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus adds that the disciples "will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
But think about that. How were the disciples supposed to go into all the world? They didn't even know where all the world was. None of the original disciples had ever traveled outside Palestine. They didn't know about most of the world existing. Marco Polo hadn't been to Asia. Columbus hadn't traveled west. Galileo had not been born. Alan Shepard hadn't traveled into outer space. Go into all the world?
Not only that, but how and with what were the disciples to go into all the world? Jesus gave them the task, but he didn't give them an organization to support them, he didn't provide any funding, and he didn't tell them how to set themselves up—no annual meeting, no diocesan convention, no General Convention, no Lambeth Conference. They had no smart phones, no fax machines, no email, no internet. Jesus didn't give them anything except a word and a promise.
Those disciples must have been getting anxious. Jesus asked them to do the impossible. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...." But then look at what Jesus told them next: "And remember, I am with you always." That's the exact same thing God said to Moses when God told Moses to do the impossible. As the old spiritual goes, "Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt's land; tell old Pharaoh to let my people go."
If you remember that story, Moses said something like, "Lord, are you crazy? Do you know who Pharaoh is? That's impossible!" But what did God say back to Moses? Just five words, but they were simple and they were clear: "I will be with you" (Exodus 3:12).
"I will be with you." In other words, do not fear, Moses, do not fear, disciples. Do not fear, because God is with you. And because you are part of something greater than yourselves, you will be able to do more than you ever could do on your own. You might even be able to do the impossible.
Excerpted from Crazy Christians by Michael B. Curry. Copyright © 2013 Michael B. Curry. Excerpted by permission of Church Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword Katharine Jefferts Schori vii
Chapter 1 We Need Some Crazy Christians 1
Chapter 2 We Are Part of Something Greater Than Ourselves 11
Chapter 3 Following Jesus with Our Feet 17
Chapter 4 Living into God's Dream 27
Chapter 5 A Mountain Climb that Can Change the World 39
Chapter 6 Down with Walls of Division and Up with the Dream of God 49
Chapter 7 The Savior's Not-So-Serene Call to Life on a Wild, Restless Sea 65
Chapter 8 When Upside Down Is Really Right Side Up 73
Chapter 9 Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, Hold On, Hold On 81
Chapter 10 The Outstretched Arms of Jesus and the Limitless Reach of Love 89
Chapter 11 E Pluribus Unum: God's Dream, Our Hope 99
Chapter 12 The Gospel Witness of Welcome Will Rearrange the World 109
Chapter 13 Come, Let Us Go to Galilee-Probably the Last Place We Want to Be 125
Appendix of Addresses 143
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