Saturday, February 27, 2016

I Believe (also for the March Newsletter)

In the Broadway hit musical The Book of Mormon there is a song called “I Believe” and in that song (which is definitively not respectful of Mormonism or of faith in general—then again the musical was written by the same folks who created the TV show South Park) this line occurs a few times:
And lets be honest, sometimes it feels like faith would be easier if we could say that, if we could just believe without question what others tell us to believe. But of course that is not the case, even in the song it is obvious that the singer is trying to convince himself that this is so rather than actually believing it. In reality knowing what we believe is a process of thought and discernment and evolution – many of us have slightly (or vastly) different beliefs about God and life and meaning at various times in our lives.

One of the things that I have often heard people say they like about the United Church is that we are a place where we allow, or even encourage, people to explore and sort out what they personally believe. Technically speaking, we are a “non-creedal” church. This does not mean that we don't use Creeds, indeed many people in earlier generations memorized the Apostle's Creed as part of a confirmation process and many of us in later generations grew up with the so-called New Creed as part of our faith training. To say we are non-creedal simply means that nobody in the United Church has to sign or subscribe to a statement of faith in order to be a member or a leader.

The biggest danger in this approach to faith is that it can become muddy about what we do believe, the boundaries of being a part of the community and no longer fitting in the community become vague, while it is great to say “come and explore with us” sometimes it is also important to be able to say “this is who we are”. It is my belief that one of the keys to us growing (both in numbers and in depth of faith) as a congregation is for us as individuals to get better at sharing what it is we believe.

Such a task is a lifelong endeavour, not just a newsletter article. But I thought I would at least start the ball rolling. I invite others to keep kicking it along...
  • I believe that God is active in the world, stirring people's hearts and minds, pushing us to new understandings of how to live in the world, challenging us to change our attitudes and behaviours to match those understandings.
  • I believe that in the stories and poems and sayings of Scripture we have an account of various people trying to understand where and how God is in this world and how God would have them live. I also believe that sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong, and sometimes various writers of the account disagree with each other. And in these ancient stories and poems and sayings we find hints and insights to help us form our own rule of life as followers and Children of God.
  • I believe that in Jesus of Nazareth God was doing a new thing, God was being revealed in a new way.
  • I believe that the experience of Easter, of encountering the reality of resurrection, changed the lives of Jesus' followers in such a profound way that their understanding of everything that had gone before was changed, including (or especially) their understanding of who Jesus was.
  • I believe, with Hamlet, that there are “more things in heaven and earth Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy” and so there are things that we cannot explain rationally, which forces us to accept paradox and ambiguity. Life in general, and faith in particular is not black and white – there are many shades of grey. But God helps us, through nudges to the heart, to navigate through the grey ambiguities.
  • I believe that the primary purpose of being a follower of Christ is not to win a reward after our death but to make a difference in the world where we live.
  • I believe that the original blessing pronounced at Creation “and God said it was very good” has never been withdrawn and that it trumps all else. However in our acceptance of free will we can (often do?) choose to act in ways that denies that blessing and turn our backs on who we are created to be.
  • I believe that the Kingdom is real and among us and slowly (far slower than we would like) growing to full flower and majesty. Someday it will be revealed in all its fullness and the world will be what it could be. I believe that is very arrogant and misguided for anyone to claim to know when or how that will happen or what it will look like in the end.

That is a start. Who wants to take the next kick?

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