Don’t you hate it when people say one thing and do another? Don’t you hate it when people accuse us Christians of being “hypocrites?” I mean, what do they expect, that we are perfect? We know that we are not — we are both sinners and saints all the time. So, give us a break. We know in our heads what we should do as Christians, but the doing is hard. Thinking something is often easier than doing something.
The Reformation of the Church that began in earnest in the early 1500’s, altered the way we think about our faith forever. The Reformation challenged the thought that one’s relationship with God was up to us, dependent on our individual actions. Instead, the good news of the gospel was reclaimed — that God reached out to us in Christ; that our acceptance by God was not based on our effort, but God’s love. Over the last 500 years, the Church has been in a constant engagement with belief as a way of thinking about God. The reshaping of our thinking has been crucial and vitally important. As a result, belief in God has come to mean a way of thinking about God. This is why many of us memorized Bible verses and Luther’s Small Catechism as part of our Sunday School and Confirmation experience. It is why becoming a new member of a congregation involved a review of the doctrines and confessions of a particular denomination or tradition. We needed to understand the faith.
All of this thinking and re-thinking was a necessary way to combat a way of believing that centered on rituals and works that had little meaning or purpose in the lives of everyday people. As with all things however, there is a danger in attending to one dimension of life to the exclusion of others. All the attention on thinking often ended up making us good at talking about our faith, but not always good at walking or living it each day. Now, I am not suggesting it is time to stop thinking about the faith — I’m a theologian! We are called to love God with our minds as much as any dimension of life. It has become clear however, that too often people see that Christians are “hypocrites;” that our thinking and talking don’t lead to any change or difference in our lives. Those voices of criticism are right. If we do not begin to balance thinking with doing, we will continue to become more irrelevant in a world where people are longing for a way to live each day with meaning.
Our observance of Lent begins next week with the observance of Ash Wednesday (we will worship at 5:30 and 7:00 PM – no other Wednesday evening programs will take place). Over the following six weeks we will worship each week using the theme: THIS is the Christian Life. The goal is to emphasize in our weekly gatherings the way our faith meets daily life; the way the rubber hits the road. We will look at how we deal with the temptation and trials of living the faith everyday; we will explore how hard it can be to live your commitments, how we can endure the suffering and brokenness of life, and how essential God’s love is in our living. We invite you to come and walk together with us as we explore faith as a way of living.
Each Wednesday evening, beginning February 20, we will focus on connecting the Table where we celebrate Holy Communion to the table that gathers families at home. We call it Table to Table and it is another way of looking at how to live the faith. Wednesday evening church school, confirmation, youth ministry and Foundations class will all be combined into a multi-generational time of learning to live the faith at home — as families, couples, individuals. By the end of Lent, we will have provided materials and resources and practices that can help your home become a sacred place. We will begin at tables in the fellowship hall for a meal at 6:00 PM and then proceed to worship and learning. We’ll all be done by 7:30.
Why all this attention to living the faith? Well, because one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is, “How is my life different today than it was a month ago, six months ago, a year ago because of Jesus?” If that is hard to answer then we have not allowed Jesus to shape our living and so, redeem our days. I think we all want that. I know he wants to give that to us.
Pax Christi – Pastor Tim