There are so many things I could share with you, some religious, some cultural and some political. But I decided to share with you something deeply personal for me and that is my faith. You might assume that what I believe and how I believe is already set in stone, some of it is, but for reasons you may be surprised about.
My faith in God and my belief in Jesus are as best as I can describe solid. But how I express that faith and belief has changed over the years and I will admit has continued to do so. I say this because during this time in our history and during this time of year, faith maybe shaken, belief maybe challenged. As a pastor I am daily confronted by things that put me to the test about Christianity and the Church.
You see for the last 40 years or so, I have served God in the Lutheran Church, whether as a Director of Bible Camping, Lutheran Seminary student or as an ordained pastor in the ELCA, this has been my faith vocation, this is how I have expressed my faith. In many ways I have it quite easy, every day I get to live out what it means to be a follower of Christ in clearly define ways.
But the world we live in has changed greatly in my 62 years of life. What it means to follow Christ and have faith in God is no longer simple (as if it ever was). The Christian church is no longer the religious show it once was and in fact it has become embarrassing to me being lumped in with others who share the title Christian. I find myself being identified as a radical by others and even by folks in my own Lutheran tradition.
When I first begin full time ministry in the church, I wanted to move it forward, to be a church that wasn’t just for Norwegians, Swedes, Germans and Danes, but a Faith tradition for all people. I wanted the church to be more global without forgetting the local. I wanted the church to take seriously children, youth and young adults as equal members in the body of Christ (church). I wanted the church to be a proclaimer of Grace, an institution of compassion and justice, a place where you were judge by God’s love, not economic, cultural, political, religious or racial stereotypes.
I still want these things for the church and the world. Yet it seems that these ways I want to express my belief in Christ and God’s Word are perceived as too radical, too political, cultural subversive and religiously risky.
I could play it safe, I could tone it down until I retire and not make waves, I could allow economic, political and cultural currents determine what I preach, teach and how I live. I could, but God help me, I won’t. Jesus said something about that in his Sermon on the Mount in the 5thChapter of Matthew.
I am no martyr, at least I hope not and when my time comes to stand before the judgement seat of God, it will not be my witness of, “Look what I have done”. Because I have fallen way short of even earning the right to say that. Rather I will cling to the line from Romans that says; “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. I think God might smile, look at his Son and say: “He told me you would say that. Come on in”. Amen!