Faith: A retrospective
I am closer to the end than I am to the beginning. I say that because my journey in the faith has never been a straight as an arrow’s flight. There were dips, and detours, setbacks, and missteps. Just like I’m sure many of you whom I will address as brothers and sisters in the Lord, have had.
Until age thirteen I was being raised in the Roman Catholic tradition. It had a huge influence on what was to come, though I do not now profess myself to be a Roman Catholic any longer.
This story comes from that time, well, a correlating memory does. I just finished reading an article about a brothers reflection on his younger self and the faith he professed at that period in his life. I related very much to his essay and this little blurb being birthed by it.
He spoke of how his younger self would call his older self’s faith heresy. His older self explained it was because he espoused all the “correct” beliefs that a new Christian normatively endorses. He named the big three of course: All-knowing, All-powerful, and All-loving. Me too. I had one more, not as an attempt to one-up my brother, but because it’s important now. God is Sovereign.
Reading his post caused me to reflect on a sermon I once heard right around the time I was involved with my first communion. I was very young. Not yet ten years old. The priest, Father Powers, a Dominican from a local Catholic College, tasked with feeding the local flock was speaking about the Apostle John. John the Revelator, John the beloved apostle, John the author of the mystical Gospel of John, who spoke of things that Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not. And who wrote a gospel and recorded a revelation of Jesus followed by three letters to the church all in exile on Patmos.
Well, he explained he had written the gospel and the book of the apocalypse (revealing, not the end of the world) of Jesus Christ, and then the letters, but that as he grew closer to the end, his sermons grew shorter and shorter. Reflected no doubt in his letters to the church. Finally, his sermons were simple questions. Do you love?
It seems, because of the preoccupation that the world has with sex, that love has gotten a bad rap. My own theology has gotten a bit simpler as well. Always doing, always trying to word things just so, including as much “well-based” theology as I was capable of, it has condensed somewhat to the following.
We are humans. We make mistakes. We cannot hope to attain, by our own efforts, perfection in anything. This leads me to believe that that is the next biggest reason why we need a savior. Because we cannot possibly save ourselves. Trying to “get our heads around” God is like trying to fit all the oceans of the world into a shot glass. Trying to run 1 petabit software on a 4-bit CPU. It just isn’t possible. So where does that leave us?
Denominational distinctives, things that set us apart, read, divide us, hold way too much of our attention, draw our sight away from what is truly important. And we feign ignorance, “but what do you require of us O Lord?”
He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?
Hope in God, hope in Jesus and his work. Be kind to one another. Treat each other with respect and love, even the ones that are hard to love and respect. Not as a good deed, but because that is what it is to be human. We seek human connection yet refuse it to our own harm. That’s another reason we need a savior.
When I was younger I would have called me (now) a heretic and would have spun a litany of verses as proof, but I wouldn’t have seen the pain it would cause. “Speaking the Truth in Love,” doesn’t mean harsh hurtful language. “Iron Sharpening Iron” doesn’t mean speaking in a harsh manner because I disagree with some small points of theology. There’s been enough of that and the old way of thinking about what it means to be a Christian needs to be looked at and questioned if we ever want to be relevant to a society that needs truth and hope.