I thank everyone who showed courage and took the time to share with me some of their tough faith questions. Many of the questions reflected a personal anguish and heartfelt searching for a relationship with something deeper than what is commonly offered by the world or some faith communities. I tried to group the questions into three areas without minimalizing the importance and individual nature of each concern. Many of you shared how you had felt judged for your questions and I am honored that you felt safe to ask them here. I am more than happy to continue the conversation with each of you privately and will attempt to be as direct as possible in the sermons addressing each question during the series so others may benefit from your courage and willingness to grow in faith.
I plan to start the sermon series August 27 with the first group of questions loosely collected under “The Nature of God and Jesus.” Is God perfect and does God change and develop? Does God make mistakes or have human tendencies? What about the feminine aspects of God? And one you asked that does not quite fit but this seems to most fit here as this series develops is “Why do people use religion as an excuse to kill?” I will start shaping a response by looking at Jesus’ question to the disciples in Matthew 16, “Who do people say that I am?” These questions and others like them have shaped the doctrine of the nature of Jesus in the confession position of Jesus as “fully human and fully divine.”
The next group I have titled as “The Role of Prayers, Intermediaries and Priests.” Books have been written addressing this issue, such as Why Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner. Frequently this is expressed to me by people who have experienced a significant loss. They felt like they were doing what was expected and had been generous and helpful. Yet, they experienced what they felt had been unfair life blows where others who were not seen as generous had not. Does an individual need a special person to serve as an intermediary? Is there an exclusive source for blessings or special channel for grace and forgiveness? Some question the need for congregations or ordained people on any level. On the edge of this group of questions is the important question about eternity. What if there is no life after death, why bother being good? Are we naïve in believing we will all be together again, free from the trials and tribulations of this world?
There is no specific reason I have grouped these questions in this order. A person could spend their entire life on any one of the questions you have asked. After a short three week series, you may actually have more questions than before. In Romans 12 Paul calls for people to continue to explore their own hearts and minds. Paul calls for lives that are in response to the mercies of God shaped by a mind renewed in and by Love. Matthew reminds those who have the ability to listen that all the legalism that has shaped the faith community can be summed up in Love: Love of God and Love of neighbor. The Love Paul speaks of is heartfelt and “shows honor to each other.”
The last sermon in this short series will be on September 10th and will look at the way faith communities have excluded or ostracized people. Is it appropriate for another person’s choice about how they express their faith, life style or value system to be used by a community to justify their (or their community’s) hurtful behavior? When the Bible tells a faith community to treat someone as a tax collector or gentile, what does that mean and how are we as Christians to behave? Can a person “profess the name of Jesus” and not have a desire to share in the values, beliefs and love that defined Jesus? What if another person shares those values, beliefs and love of Christ but cannot claim to be christian (note the little “c”) because the christianity they see and hear does not reflect the Jesus they love?
See you Sunday,