Like, for instance, how I’m much more willing than I used to be to just drop those last papers and emails and meeting notes to get home before bedtime. I still work late…but I’m much more willing to let it all go to snuggle a snotty face, read Jimmy Buffett’s “Jolly Mon” storybook, and change a diaper before the little guy goes to sleep.
And as we’re raising this little guy, and as a pastor, there are a few things I want this little guy to know about faith.
First, faith and religion won’t give you self-esteem. It’s not meant to. It’s not meant to make you feel good. It’s purpose is not to get you to love yourself. Don’t stick with the faith because it makes you feel good. If you’re doing it to feel good, you’re an addict, not faithful. Get more vitamin K.
But sometimes the faith can love you when you can’t love yourself. Sometimes hearing that God chooses you can replace those moments in your life when you feel like you can’t choose yourself, don’t love yourself, can’t believe in yourself. There have been times in my life where I’ve let the faith believe things about me that I couldn’t muster myself to believe…and it made all the difference in taking the next step the next day.
Secondly, faith isn’t about getting answers. Faith isn’t about knowing certainty, “figuring it all out,” or attaining a perfect worldview that will put all the pieces together. If you’re looking for your faith to do that you will be disappointed.
But faith is intended to help you ask better questions about your life. It is intended to provoke your thoughts about yourself, about purpose, about others around you in such a way that you see the world differently than the world tries to get you to see it. It is provided to help you celebrate the life of the mind rather than the pursuits of greed, fame, and fortune. It is the antithesis to a world that says “Success is the mark of a life well lived.” No. “Pursuit of a purpose bigger than yourself, specifically the purpose shown in the life of the Christ in sacrificial love…that is the mark of a life well lived.”
While we’re on the subject of answers, the Scriptures are not meant to explain everything in this world. They are not meant to explain how the world came to be, or how sexual orientation should be understood, or how psychology is understood. No. Faith is the quest for “why” not “how.” The Scriptures are inspired words by inspired people about the history of the quest for “why.” Why is there something rather than nothing? Why am I to love even if I don’t feel like I want to? Why is humanity connected in such a way that makes me feel responsibility toward someone else?
Faith is meant to help you embrace mystery, hold tension, and walk well in a world that wants to polarize you into this answer vs. that answer. Your dad is a reluctant Christian because this has been largely lost. I want you to be a Christian, too (even if you’re reluctant like your old dad…)
Thirdly, faith isn’t supposed to make you feel superior. There are no “poor souls…” You are as poor as any soul out there. And if your job in the world is to “save” someone, you better be a lifeguard. Only the Divine can save. All you can do is be Christ’s hands and feet.
Faith is something that I think you should share. Not in the “I think this and you should, too…” sort of way. But rather, in the “Here’s something I find really true…” sort of way. In the “Here is my hope…” sort of way. In the “Here’s what moves me…” sort of way. And never be afraid to ask someone else what moves them, either. Their beliefs do not threaten yours. There is much to learn from one another. I want you to have friends who believe and think different things than you do, and I want you to talk to them about it. Often.
Finally, I want you in a faith community. Why? Because I don’t know how else to help make sure that God doesn’t end up looking like you. And I want you in a multi-generational faith community where you have to interact with lovely old ladies and hold little babies. Hopefully it can be racially and ethnically diverse, too. I don’t care if it’s big or small, I just want it to be diverse. I want you to be in a faith community where questions are encouraged, where mystery (specifically in the sacraments) are lifted high (because then maybe you’ll see how the Thanksgiving table in November is like the thanksgiving table on Sunday mornings, and live in response to that bounty). I want you to remember that you are loved and redeemed and meant to be a light in this world that too often is full of shadows, and the only way I can think that you’ll be reminded of that often enough is when you gather with other people to read and hear ancient words, to shake hands, to eat and wash together, and to drink strong coffee (optional).
There’s more to say this morning to you, buddy, but the freezing temps outside have closed your daycare, which means I’m in charge of lunch. But this is a good start…