Living out faith in Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit as revealed through scripture and Christian traditions.
- Devotion to the word of God as revealed through scripture and Christian traditions.
The word of God comes to us in many forms and in many ways. I believe firmly that God speaks to us through both scripture and in that ever “still speaking” voice. It is how we interpret the word of God that drives and develops our traditions. As such, traditions are not set in stone but are rather ever changing. Our world and culture are ever evolving, and it is in our devotion to the study of the word of God that we learn to navigate those changes.
I believe that the word of God is divinely inspired. I also believe God’s word is found not only in Scripture but in communion with each other and in nature. God speaks to everyone in different and beautiful ways. While we are all created in the one image of God, we all hear and interpret the message through the lenses of our unique experiences. As a child growing up in the Pentecostal faith, I was taught that it was wrong to question scripture. If it was written in the Bible the idea was: “so it is written, so it is now and forever more.” Yet even as a child I could not buy into this concept and now as an adult I fully believe that it is in our questioning that causes one to dig deeper in study of scripture.
During a friend’s Ecclesiastical Council, he used the word “curiosity” in reference of one way to look at scripture. I agree with this concept. Curiosity is a foundation that has given us many wonderful inventions. It is curiosity that drives people to thing and to dream of new ways to see things or new ways to better one’s self. My questioning – or curiosity – is what brings out my joy and love of exegetical work. One of the joys in preparing a sermon is my curiosity to discover new ways to understand scripture. To dig in to the exegetical work opens me up to find that still speaking voice of God.
Have you ever seen a movie that touched you in such a way that you could not wait until you could see it again? Then in watching the movie for a second or third time, you find a new hidden gem in the dialogue and sit in amazement that you had not heard it before, but find even a deeper love of the movie because of it? This is how I find myself often when I study scripture. In reading commentaries of amazing theologians, I can find hidden gems and I find that is God speaking to me. It was during my time as a Biblical Studies and Preaching Ministry student at Point University that my love of exegetical work developed.
Yet it was not only in the studying of commentaries while preparing a sermon for preaching class but even more so in my translating the scripture from Greek to English in my Greek classes. I found this work fascinating. To find a word that it’s simple meaning could change the way the scripture is read or viewed is profound. To have to study the way in which the writer used the word in context in other writings would lead a way as to how it was meant to be read, was amazing. As we say in the UCC, “don’t place a period where God has placed a comma,” this was another way my love of translating grew. In the original Greek, there were no commas or periods. It was up to the translator to determine where the sentence was to pause or stop. It is this curiosity that leads me to a deeper study to determine if I agree or not with the original translation. This is how I can say that I fully believe that God is still speaking. Yet this is only one way that I feel God still speaks to me.
Music is another way in which I feel that I can hear God’s voice. To be even more specific, it is often how I feel the presents and movement of the Holy Spirit. Please understand that I do not play any type of instrument, nor do I feel that I have a good singing voice. I often say, “I cannot carry a tune, and even if you were to give it to me in a bucket, I am sure that I would trip and spill it.” Yet I love music and it speaks to me. While I am a true through and through lover of Southern Gospel and the old hymns, I find the message in Contemporary Gospel to be amazing. I love the way the writers are taking scripture and breaking them down to find a message in them and presenting them in a way to reach the younger generation. I am often amazed at the many ways in which scripture can be used, studied, and brought to life to find its way into our hearts. Thanks, be to God for the many ways we can hear God’s voice.
Fiddler on the Roof tells the story of a poor Jewish man, Tevye the Dairyman. In the show Tevye tells the story about his life and Jewish believes. As the story goes, we learn that while Tevye does not always know the answers to the questions regarding his Jewish believes, he sums it up with one word; “tradition.” Since the earliest founding of our Christian faith many councils have argued over the many different traditions that has shaped the church. Some denominations view on traditions that are to be observed, others see them as sacraments with higher meanings. For example: in the Catholic church both weddings and funerals are sacraments while in other denominations these are traditions.
One of my favorite traditions centers around our baptism. In early January, we are reminded of our baptism and to renew it as we at our own free will come to the baptism fount to place our hand in the water. At my home church KUCC we are often asked to take a stone or pebble as a physical remembrance. I still have everyone of mine on my night stand next to my bed. Every morning and night I see them. When I am not in a rush to get out the door or to go to bed, I take a moment and try to remember when I got one and what year it that I got it. This is a tradition. While I could continue to discuss the many different traditions and their importance as signs or reminders of our Christian faith. I am going to turn my focus from tradition to our sacraments.
In the UCC, there are two: the Eucharist (Holy Communion/Lord’s Supper) and Baptism. Both are outward signs of an inward faith yet in different, meaningful ways. Both hold sacred importance to the life of the Christian faith. Scripture points us to the importance of both in the Christian faith. Christ shows the importance of both with his acceptance of baptism from John the Baptist and told us in his final hours to share in community with each other the last meal in remembrance of him. The welcoming and asking of the Holy Spirit to bless and use the elements (water, wine/juice, and bread) to show a visible sign of God’s unending presents, grace, acceptance, and forgiveness through the acts of Christ in his death and resurrection.
Eucharist (Holy Communion/Lord’s Supper): The meaning of the word, Eucharist, is “thanksgiving.” It is a time when we, the body of Christ, no matter time or place, share as a community in the historical meal that Christ on the night he was betrayed shared with his community. This meal is often seen as a reminder of the sacrificial meal on the eve of Christ death as a reembrace of his sacrifice for our salvation. Yet is it also a vision of the banquet we will all share at Christ return. I fully believe that the table that is prepared is not our table rather it is God’s table. A table of love and acceptance as it is and will be for us in our heavenly home. At God’s table there are no strangers, there is only family. A family that is reconciled together by the death and resurrection of Christ.
There is one cup and one loaf as a symbol that we are all the one body of Christ and in the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the cup reminds us of how Christ’s body given freely, broken, and bleed for our salvation. The beauty of this meal is that everyone is welcome. As God welcomes everyone, so do we. This is one way that we live out our statement of “no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcomed here.” I do believe that often an individual may come to the table with questions or maybe even doubts yet they can still meet and feel the presents of the risen Christ at the table. A table that is shared to help reconcile us one to another, each of us with God, and in taking the elements, with creation.
Baptism: “Baptism is like that. It saves you now—not because it removes dirt from your body but because it is the mark of a good conscience toward God. Your salvation comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 3:21) The Apostle Peter gives an amazing analogy about the importance and the reason for baptism. In the verse before this, Peter explains to the reader of how Noah and his family are saved from the waters of the flood. “Baptism is like that,” the outward sign of inward faith. Noah placed his faith in the promise God gave that through the ark he and his family would be saved. In a same manor, God’s forgiven grace is made known to us in the waters of baptism and joins us together in the Body of Christ. What an amazing gift.
The Apostle Paul also assures us of this forgiving grace but he gives us something to look forward to. Paul reminds us that in the act of baptism we are joined heirs to the kingdom of God. The act of baptism reconciles us to God by sharing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. We die to our old sinful self then resurrected a new creation in the waters of baptism. Baptism is a gift given to anyone who wishes to become a part of the Body of Christ from infants to adults as this marks their acceptance in to Christ church and the beginning of a journey of Christian Faith. As I mentioned before, this gift of acceptance and forgiveness is truly amazing. I guess that is why I look forward to the tradition of remembering my baptism, and why every year when I add a new stone or pebble, I am reminded of just how much love Christ has for all of God’s beloved children.
Traditions hold a valuable place in our Christian journey and life. Some hold stronger special meanings than others for all of us as individuals, yet they are wonderful ways to remind us of God’s love for us. They continue to gently nudge us ever closer to the risen Christ and to point us to how Christ showed us to love each other and to love God. Thank God for traditions, and while Tevye may not know why he holds true to certain traditions, we in our journey toward the risen Christ can find our certainty in both our traditions and sacraments in the pages of scripture. Again, another wonderful gift.