A lot of things have been happening in the world of religion recently. We've had questions about justice and vengeance, questions of inclusion and exclusion, questions about heaven and hell. These are big issues but they keep echoing a singular thought in my head. What do we really know? And thus, how is it that we know it?
I spent a large part of my seminary career contemplating what in scripture should be treated as contextual and what was actually stated as a universal truth. For some of my friends it probably is hard to hear that when I got to seminary I was struggling with who could be a pastor, I had put large groups out of this place, myself included. I figured I would be something else in the ministry, but that my life, and my choices had excluded me from ministry. I actually figured I'd end up about where I am, although I didn't know what a Director of Educational Ministry was at the time. Yet, after taking language courses and beginning to read the bible in a new way, full of words with deeper, more varied meanings than I had been taught growing up, I found myself at a crossroads. A place where I knew that there were no simple answers, so I either could try to find someone else to follow who would give me the answers (a favorite writer or professor perhaps) or I could strike out on my own and assume nothing. I will admit that in trying to do the latter, some of the former has happened as there really aren't original thoughts, just new ways to put them together and help them make sense for self. The end of the day though, I found that my theology based on pstis as faithfulness meaning a focus on the why.
This though means that I now find nothing worse than telling someone that what they hear God saying is the opposite of what God is actually saying. That is not to say that there aren’t universals, but I have come to realize what it really meant to carry someones burden with them. It is not to lead them to where is right, but rather to get into the messy ambiguity of the journey, to walk with them on their journey of discernment. This means that often the call is to put my own ideas on the back burner so I can hear others where they are, and then struggle along with them. Also, it means that since community is so core to my ideals that the primary purpose of community becomes a safe place to struggle together. A place to be challenged, a place to be loved regardless of differences, a place where we grow and connect, supporting one another in our journeys towards understanding God and life.
This means we should not assume we know the answers, yes our life experiences and what we've learned may have given us a good lead on understanding things, but we still all have much to learn. Faithfulness is a journey of discernment, where we're all seeking God continually. Where my journey intersects another's we both can learn and grow. This leads me back to all the recent news:
Who are we to take another's life?
Who are we to decide who God is calling to ministry?
Who are we to decide what happens to others when our physical beings no longer function as we know them?
Who are we to claim we have the answers? Yes, we may have been created in the image of God, but we are called to be the stewards of creation. Thus we are to use what is inherent to our beings to do as God would do, not to try to be God. We should embrace the ambiguity of the journey and not remove it, choosing to make choices and discern more from our experiences individually and shared as we move forth towards that which only God knows.
Welcome to the struggle. For we cannot know truly another person's "why" when it comes to an action, we can only ask that they share that with us and that they let us share our "why" with them. Our individual journeys can be faithful without agreement, but we should not act to preclude anyone from continuing their journey. This to me is THE universal. We are to love. We are to open ourselves up and move beyond places that are comfortable. We are to be that which is the greatest love that we have experienced. Or as Steven Hawking said in his recent interview: "We should seek the greatest value of our action." For me the greatest value is to show the greatest love. To be that which supports the day to day struggle and walks with another, seeking and sharing that which is life for today and forever.
Thus ends this wondering wandering post. Love one another.