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Faith

January 11, 2010 2 comments

Just a couple thoughts this morning.  I’ve let them stew for a while, so hopefully they don’t come out burnt and crispy.  Regardless of the final product, I feel like some things just ought to be addressed for the sake of avoiding stagnation and eventual spiritual decay.

Now, as I dig into the stew pot of thoughts, my wonderings this morning are as follows; what is faith?  And what does it mean to trust in God?

Here’s the premise by which I am asking these two questions.  I am convinced that as a follower of Christ, my life MUST be a life of action.  Thus, if I stand on that conviction, I find a disconnect within the language and behavior of the majority of the population that claims a Christian label.  Bear with me as I attempt to clean up the assertion a bit.

In addressing the first question, what is faith?  If this question was to be pointed anywhere near a child of the evangelical movement, most certainly, this verse would be quoted:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

Often, that’s how we define faith, yet we have great difficulty defining it in physical and active terms.  The following verses in Hebrews highlight the lives of a host of biblical personalities that “by faith” lived differently.  Here is the first disconnect: We don’t equate faith with action as did the saints in Hebrews.  Faith, in western Christianity is an irrefutable definition by which we believe the right things. Faith has no bearing on the way we live our lives from day to day.

I would also argue that the same is true when we throw around the etherial concept of “trusting in God.”  Quite often we assert that we are to trust God’s will.  Yet in our way of defining that trust, we load all responsibility for the condition of our lives on a God to whom we believe will intervene for poor me, taking away the duty I have as a follower of Christ, to ACT for good in this world.  Moreover, we often say things like, “we need to trust God and avoid distracting ourselves by trying to figure it out on our own.”  But, what does a statement like that really mean?  Are we to assume that making a conscious decision to believe differently is really going to smooth out all the wrinkles?

What if God is hidden within our struggle to figure things out?  Disengaging the critical thinking centers of our minds, whether trusting God or not, seems to be a step in the wrong direction.  Furthermore, if we step back and make an honest assessment of ourselves,  isn’t it true that we inevitably decide to heed certain things and avoid others, taking one path over another?  So, why is it that God isn’t allowed to work in our struggle?  There are so many instances in which our fixation on an intervening God freezes us in complacency.  The best we can do is sit and wait for him to do his stuff.  When, I would argue, there’s something sacred happening all the time and it’s a waste of time to sit and wait.

As I reflect on this post, it’s difficult for me to accept the fact that what is most likely happening is that as I work through all these difficulties, I am probably projecting my own insecurities onto people around me.  I’m upset with the way things are, and so I point the finger at someone else because it’s much easier to do that than to make the necessary change in my own life.

That being said, and unfortunately, as I’ve said many times before, I aim to live differently.  There’s a song that says something like, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin through.”  This world may not be my home, but I firmly believe that God, however we want to understand him/her/it, has a desire for us to join the sacred work that is already happening.  I believe I have been given the opportunity to make this world what it is intended to be.  No longer will I believe that is true, but I will LIVE like it’s true.

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Stories

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

This post will probably end up being a compilation of several thoughts, namely because I haven’t quite isolated all of my thoughts, consolidating them into a coherent whole.  That said, I aim to focus most of my energies on the idea of stories.  Or to use a biblical term, parables.  And finally, to expand it a little more, metaphors.

I want to start off by highlighting a few thoughts in a book that stuck out to me.  Then I’ll probably wander aimlessly for a few paragraphs and call it quits in favor of eating lunch.

From Reading the Bible Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg (which I highly recommend), speaking of metaphors through which we see scripture, the author says this:

Buddhists often speak of the teaching of Buddha as “a finger pointing to the moon…”  As the metaphor implies, one is to see (and pay attention to) that to which the finger points.  …the Bible is like a finger pointing to the moon.  Christians sometimes make the mistake of thinking that being a Christian is about believing in the finger rather than seeing the Christian life as a relationship to that to which the finger points.  …Being a Christian is not about believing in Christianity.

This train of thought is stimulating on many levels.  To put Borg’s thoughts in context, he is speaking specifically about the Bible, the lenses through which we see it and the functions we’ve assigned it.  As I begin thinking about all the relative implications of his description of scripture, I can’t help but think about some of the stories, parables and metaphors contained within scripture itself.  I’m thinking more pointedly about Jesus and his use of story.

I’ve often wondered why Jesus speaks most often using stories or parables.  We know the obvious answer; stories are a way of expressing life in terms we can understand.  I would argue that the not so obvious answer is most often the one we either choose to ignore, or fail to immerse ourselves the story to find its true meaning.  Thus, in reference to the Bible as a whole, as it is most consistently metaphor (a discussion for another time), we glaze over the stuff we don’t necessarily like and/or we often refuse to enter into the story and discover it’s true message.  Yet, since our view of scripture more closely resembles a text book with ultimate power over us, rather than the ground supporting us, we pass over so much of the rich truths contained in the metaphor as a whole (Reading the Bible Again… p30).

So then, referring back to the end of the quote above, our energies are spent believing in Christianity or believing in the finger rather than focusing our attention on that which the finger, the Bible, metaphor or story points.  Ultimately, hidden within all this language is the notion that, for too long, we’ve cast our gaze on the lens, or the figure, and we’ve sometimes in hostility, defended those things, refusing to follow the line of sight, to enter into the story and discover that which we were originally intended to understand.  In short, we must, in humility, look deeper, and consider the implications for me and the life I am living, today, in this moment.