I was recently listening to Krista Tippett and Adam Gopnik wax eloquently on all matters of faith and doubt. The original airing of this particular episode of On Being was first heard back in 2015, but they re-played it in December of 2017.
And, of course, I just listened. Which gives you some insight into how far behind I am in my podcasts.
But Gopnik, who is ethnically Jewish, though he doesn’t practice a faith (and, funny enough, has a Lutheran spouse) was talking about how at his family reunions he’s been noting how some relatives are growing, and some are simply aging.
And though he puts himself in the “simply aging” category, I disagree. Because he defines “growing” in this sense as “still discovering” and being filled with a sense of awe and wonder. And if you read any of his writing (and you should read ALL OF IT) you know that’s not true.
He’s growing, even in his old(er) age.
But it got me to thinking about the church, individual congregations, and this common life we share together. I have to wonder: is the church at large, and your congregation in particular, growing? Or just aging?
And not in numbers. But growing like a tree grows. Like a flower grows. Like a sea full of life, grows and swells.
Are you embarking on new territory? Are you changing things up, and allowing yourself to be surprised at what happens? Are you discovering new gifts you never knew you had?
Or is it all the same? Familiar, but frozen?
And what about you? Is your faith growing, or just aging?
Are you finding awe and wonder at new insights and new thoughts? Has your faith evolved with your experience(s) of life and death? Are your encounters with the gay community, the immigrant community, that ethnic community you historically have feared, changed the way that you see God and see yourself?
Have you grown past seeing God as some sky wizard pulling levers, or some Santa Claus keeping track of naughty and nice lists? Has God become, as theologian Paul Tillich says, “The ground of all being?”
Or is your faith unchanged, and therefore, unchallenged?
Perhaps in 2019 we can all take a bit of stock, communally and personally, to ask ourselves:
Are we growing…or just aging?
And if you’re afraid to ask the question, well…then you know the answer.