Our experience of faith changes as we move through life. It changes as our understanding deepens and allows for more paradox in the fabric of faith. It changes as our eyes are opened to the truly bewildering gift life is and the astonishing lack of control we have over it.
In First John we read: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.” (5:2-4)
God-inspired love reaches well beyond our comfort zones and natural boundaries to enable us to greet each person as an image of the Creator. Such love begins in simple obedience to the great commandments – loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and loving others as we love ourselves.
A few years ago Dallis and I stood in solidarity with a congregation that had publicly stated its inclusive stance toward all people, and was targeted by a hate-filled person as a result. Their pastor later visited him in county jail to tell him that the people of the church were willing to forgive. Sometimes love is not a happy feeling but rather a difficult choice to obey God’s commandment.
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard observed, “Christianity is not a doctrine to be taught, but a life to be lived.” Christ teaches us a new way to live, not all bottled up in our self-interest or personal comfort, but moving beyond ourselves to make a difference.
Nicole, a colleague of mine who recently launched a house church with four families, wrote a blog post about the experience of their first gathering. They began by viewing a teaching video by Rob Bell that makes a connection between the Christian life and music, suggesting that following God is about “being in tune with the song.”
Nicole writes, “Most all of us can connect to the idea that when we think of God we hear a song and following God is about learning to be in tune with the song. Jesus shows us what this looks like and following him through living as he did enables us to hear the song and be in tune with the song….
“This is especially important to me because over the years I have been struck by how often people will say they don’t know enough about God or the Bible and will discount their experience of faith, believing that without all the knowledge and background their faith and walk with God is less valid….
“Yet with music, all can enjoy the song…. Everyone can participate in the music and have a valid and real experience of it…. The faith journey is about learning to let go and hear the song, love the song, and live into the song as our text for the night says (John 4: 24, The Message): ‘God is sheer being itself – Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration’” [Nicole Reilly, “House Church Reflection 051112,” othermodels.wordpress.com].
As followers of Jesus we pattern our lives after Christ. Our faith does not mean that we don’t meet opposition or trouble in our lives. Rather the Spirit of this Christ accompanies us even when we face challenges. As we listen faithfully and lovingly to the God who gives us new birth into a living hope we receive the strength to overcome.
When troubles come my way, it helps me to remember that God is at the Center. Then I sense the Spirit that is present in my breathing, the Light that refuses to go out in the darkness, the Beauty that bursts forth in unexpected places, the Love that holds me when I most need it, the Song that sings itself within me! I place my trust in these truths and it gives me courage.
Words (c) 2012 Mark Lloyd Richardson (from this past Sunday’s sermon)
Photos (c) 2012 Dallis Day Richardson