Tag Archives: Faith

Milky Way. Night sky and silhouette of a standing man

Retweet/Repreach: “Why I Believe”

If you can retweet tweets you consider valuable then why can’t a pastor re-preach a sermon?  My Easter sermon this year got a lot of hits. It was entitled Why I Believe.  It just might be worth twenty minutes of your time this week. Below is an excerpt but you can of course listen online by clicking on that title which is linked.

Why do I believe in God?  Because I do not believe in Humankind.  You have likely noticed that the militant atheist swears by the power of reason and consigns religious belief to the kindergarten of intellectual development.  I will simply point out what should be obvious to anyone who is awake that intellectual, educated persons who have great powers of reason do terrible things.  Consider the Holocaust.  Consider slavery.  Far be it for me, a simple Baptist pastor who dares to believe in God, that one only need read the headlines for a week to come to an empirical conclusion that human beings are not gods nor does their reason cure their madness for violence.  I do not believe in Humankind.  We are flawed in ways our reason cannot reach.  Just think about the psychiatrist who treated Anthony Soprano.  That was an HBO series about a mob boss who sought treatment for his depression and it was riveting for how his therapist could not reach him because her medical vocabulary did not contain a word like “wicked.” Which quickly brings me to another reason I believe in God and it will sound strange to you but listen carefully and see if I can make sense of it.  I noted that Anthony Soprano was a wicked man.  He was violent to the point of being a monster.  Now of course, the Sopranos was a fictional television series but do I really need to spend time making the case that monstrous human beings prowl our world?
Why do I believe in God? Because I think there is something called evil…

I Saw You

communion_handOne of the most fulfilling aspects of being a pastor is the vantage point from which I get to view the world, especially the world of faith, hope and love.  From children to teen-agers to middle-aged adults and seniors, I get to see the treasure of faith developed, sculpted, woven, composed–pick a metaphor!–and it is a beautiful sight.  I would like to share with you some of what I have seen from this overlook of a pulpit.

I saw  you:

Entering the church with crumpled clothes and looking like you had just ascended from some journey in the inner earth, the smoke rising from you and your gait limped.  I saw you arrive earlier than anyone but me in order to make coffee for worshippers and prepare the house of the Lord in your own humble way.  I saw you wearing a robe of faith and laughter for a crown.

I saw you …

Speaking words of kindness, filled like flowers by nectar and so sweet and genuinely kind that they pulled hurt and broken persons into your field of view.  The fragrance of your mercy and hospitality have awakened in people their own quest for the holy.  Your love of God gleams like a star, it dispels darkness.

I saw you…

Praying fervently in the pew, eyes shut tight and lips moving, and words from your inner life falling on the floor like crepe-paper cut-outs of hearts, but rising like spirit and wind.  Your warrior nature submitted to the Prince of Peace in service to God, kingdom of Christ and church.

I saw you…

Singing with your head thrown back and a smile on your face like you were seeing God or at least an angel and I am pretty certain you cannot “sing” like a pop diva or some smooth crooner singing for his livelihood, but sing you did and full of heart and soul so that your notes were pulled like filings by the magnet of God’s love and formed with the celestial choir for a gift of eternal praise.

I saw you…

Weeping.  Your face was cupped in your hands for all the grace you have known and for all the grace you will need to get through whatever it is you’re going through.

I saw you…

Helping your mother into her pew, caring gently for her and thus mimicking her care of you when you were a child. Your devotion was a royal purple robe you pulled onto her shoulders while the God of mercy and love simultaneously placed you beneath the shelter of a wing.

I saw you…

Giggle and smile and roll your eyes, lean into your parent’s side for comfort and peace andthen hop down the aisle to share the Peace of Christ.  Child of God, you are so full of light that I am filled by your light.  The face of Christ peers deeply into my eyes when I look into your face.

I saw you…

Greeting a stranger in the foyer, making sure they knew where to go and how to get there. You smiled and touched in measures of sugar and spice so that friendship could be served, offered as tokens of hope on a paper plate, baked golden brown.

I saw you…

Overcoming your fears, resisting hatred and death and refusing to pick up the stones of ill will that graveled the paths you walked throughout the week. Instead, you turned stones to communion wafers and shared the cup of salvation, grape juice from a jar transformed into symbol of love that overcomes hate, life that overcomes death, light that the darkness cannot put out.

I saw you…

Enter the Shepherd’s gate into the city of God, find your place in the community of believers, link your hands in prayer and extend every fiber of your being toward the Light of the World.  You stood tall, head bowed and one hand extended to the heavens like God was a face to be touched.I saw you worship God.  I saw you full of dignity as the People of God.  And because I saw you, I saw the Nazarene, his clothes crumpled and the smoke of the grave rising from him as he limped on broken feet, ascended from the inner earth,  as he gave a shout that the kingdoms of this world could no longer hold sway over him.  Bless the Lord, you people of the Lord.  Now and world without end.  Amen.

Faith, Questions, Knowledge

Where do you keep your faith?  Is it in your heart?  Is it in your mind?  That is, is faith something you feel or is it an intellectual assent to some list of beliefs? 

Triumph of Faith over Idolatry, by Jean-Baptis...

Triumph of Faith over Idolatry, by Jean-Baptiste Théodon (French, 1646–1713). Church of the Gesù, Rome, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Or maybe faith is something not kept within any chamber of your life. Perhaps it is more a gift bestowed on you by a power greater than yourself.  Or maybe it is something you earn, like a grade in a course or a gold watch for reliable service rendered.  Is faith something you have anything to do with?  “Have more faith,” someone might say.  But if faith is bestowed on me then how can I have more of it?  If faith is simply something I earn, a merit badge, then I can see how I might have more faith by earning more merit. Works?  Grace? What is this we call faith?

 Do those who claim they do not believe thereby assert at one and the same time that they believe in something? They at least believe in the rationality of their statement of unbelief but it seems as arbitrary as anyone’s assertion of faith.  I don’t believe sounds a whole lot like I believe in unbelief. 

 Is faith communal?  I can read a novel by myself, a novel populated by characters and configured by plot.  Is faith simply individual and narrated by myself?  Or am I read into the narrative of faith?  Aren’t current pop ideas of individuality simply the most craven renderings of conformity?  Look at me! I’m like everyone else tweeting, texting, posting—an instagram moment of individuality conformed to instagrams everywhere. How can I know me if I am a mere island in a chain of islands cut off from any community of self-reflection?

Intelligo me intelligere wrote Augustine. I understand that I understand.  What mystery is this but the deepest?

 I do not know what your exposure to religion has been, but as I grew up in a naïve fundamentalist setting, my exposure was to religion as answer.  We didn’t ask questions.  And if we dared to ask we were simply and swiftly pressed back into line and told to accept without question whatever it was that was being asserted by the church.  At Riverside, we have tried to nurture a place of quest where we get to ask questions and reflect deeply about who we are.  We do not reject answers, of course. That would be naïve or stupid.  But neither do we accept answers simply because some authority has said it is so.  We will come to an authentic religious life, an authentic personhood, when we dare to ask questions and find a way to live within and through those questions. 

 Come join us. Bring your life. Bring your heart and your mind. Bring your questions and let’s journey together a while in a communal celebration of lives lived authentically before God and within a world that is more often than not translucent and too often, dark. Or as the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” [1Cor.13:12]

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