No One's Perfect, But Practicing Faith Helps: Old First E-pistle 11.08.12

No One's Perfect, But Practicing Faith Helps: Old First E-pistle 11.08.12

Years ago, Ron Buford, the architect of the UCC’s Still Speaking Initiative, pointed out: our congregations often miss out on incredible power when they don’t figure out how to get our people to articulate and share their faith.

My experience confirms Ron’s insight. Whenever people begin talking about what they believe — sharing their spiritual experiences and what they’ve made of them– there’s this spark, or electricity really, that touches other people and relationships. It warms and enlightens. That’s what’s behind our “People Reasons Go to OUR Church” campaign.

I was reminded of this power by the last two week’s stewardship speakers, Margaret Rohdy and Jonathan Vogan. They both provided humble, honest and insightful looks into how deep faith is exercised and informs their daily lives. And, your pastor knows, getting up in front of people and speaking about money isn’t either the most welcomed assignment or a popular topic with audiences!

I want to follow-up on something Jonathan said last week. He recounted how the only instruction he received from his elders growing up came from his grandma who told him, without further explanation, “Tithe.”

Jonathan shared how after a “young adult hiatus” — as he was making his way back to church, coming to pay his weekly tithe gave him a structure for his re-involvement.

Jonathan went on to admit that the deeper goals of Christian faithfulness (the example he cited was loving one’s neighbor) aren’t always easy or immediate. Actually, figuring out how to go about improving those skill sets can be kind of tricky. Whereas, coming to church to offer his tithe, it’s not only measurable, it’s doable. And mysteriously, miraculously — it turns out — his financial commitment somehow engaged him and enabled his work on the bigger stuff too.

Loving others, or even loving yourself, isn’t just a snap of the fingers. Learning to forgive is is some of the “big stuff” that faith calls us to, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple. Likewise, being able to put others’ needs before our own is also steep territory we are to cover in our faith walk. Or even just getting ourselves out in front of our own fears can be tough.

Involvement in the local church offers different practices to help with the weightier goals of faith, but each of us has to figure out the one (or ones) that can further us on our walk.

For Jonathan, a stewardship commitment offered him a foothold. I think the same is true for most of us: dedicating a portion of our resources to the financial support of this church’s ministry is a commitment by which each of can make a difference in our world and benefit our own spiritual growth.

But church offers other opportunities on your spiritual journey:

Sandra says her life has been transformed working at the Cupboard on Saturdays.

Adam points out that serving as Treasurer is his “ad-ministry.”

A group of 20-somethings are working together and with our children as this year’s Sunday School Teachers. Others have just taken up helping Michael with Youth Group.

A choir member confided: she wonders if choral music isn’t more inspirational for those who perform it (giving them an experience of closeness to God), than for those who hear it.

One of you wrote me this week that the constancy of my voice (midwestern drone that it is!) on Sundays is her reassurance — even when she isn’t listening to what I’m saying!

For me, keeping at helping disparate folks navigate each other’s personalities and all the misunderstandings that so readily happen on the road toward community is where I find my practice. I need the faith community, not only because it can be fun and supportive and broaden my exposure. But also because it can be challenging, where I cut my teeth or hone my skills at really being Christian.

What I’m saying is that it’s o.k. that none of us is a perfect Christian yet. It’s best when we can admit that openly and without shame (in part because it’s true, but also because acknowledging it so creates room for us to grown). But you also need to find out how and where your involvement in the local church can give you the practice you need. Or I guess you could say, finally I don’t believe in Christians who don’t need the church!

See you on Sunday,

Michael