I want to start with two citations. The first is from William H. Willimon, the Methodist bishop in Alabama. He says, “John Wesley said that there is no such thing as a solitary Christian. The faith must be shared in order to be kept. Christianity is a social religion. It becomes dwarfed and blighted when alone, it thrives in numbers. But true to our rugged individualistic self-centeredness, we have tried to practice the Christian faith as if it were a home correspondence course in self-improvement. The great heresy in American popular religion is the notion that religion is a private affair, a secret contract between the believer and God.”
The second comes from Eugene H. Peterson’s translation of the Bible called The Message. This is Psalm 8.
“God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name. Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk and silence atheist babble. I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder why take a second look our way? Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods, bright with Eden’s dawn light. You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge, made us lords of the sheep and cattle, even animals out in the wild, birds flying and fish swimming, whales singing in the ocean deeps. God, brilliant Lord, your name echoes around the world.”
Several things have struck me this week, a discussion on “Speaking of Faith” involving physics and faith and theodicy (why do bad things happen if God is good and just) and news stories about floods and other disasters and the beating death of an infant, and the global impact of gas prices and food shortages. As a Christian, how do we respond? What does it all mean? Where is God?
Putting these concerns in the light of the two passages at the beginning of this printed journey, I think I see a possible answer. As people of faith, we do not stand alone. Our faith, as Willimon said, is at its best when we come together. June’s “Disciple World” had a news brief about a church in need of repair and the Interfaith community that came to their aid; Muslim, Jews and Christian working together to repair a church. Talk about a Miracle Day! One church alone could not care for itself, yet the community of faith working together could.
According to the Psalmist, God created you and me to be just slightly less than God. According to Jesus, we as disciples are called to do things greater than He did. Maybe the question to ask in the face of cruelty and disaster is not where is God or why God didn’t do something. Instead, maybe we should ask ourselves, where were those whom God made as just slightly less than God when there was a crisis or a need? Where were the ones to do greater things than Jesus?
God has given us the gifts, the Spirit and the example of how to overcome the challenges we face. We cannot stop natural disaster, but we have the strength to respond to lift up those who have fallen. Our greatest shame and sin in the face of evil and crisis is to sit back and merely wring our hands and ask why someone doesn’t do something. A wise man said that for evil to succeed all that is required is for a good person to do nothing.
Let us put away our private religion and embrace the community of Christianity and extend hands of hope and fellowship to other faiths that we might begin to truly resemble the One in whose image we were created.