As a parent, I have the wonderful opportunity to learn from my children. I confess that I do not always take advantage of this opportunity, and that when I do indeed open my eyes to the many things they have to offer I am often filled with awe.
Very often, I see both of the boys enjoying wonderful success at the things they want to do. Whether it is the latest video game or their academics or community sports, I am overjoyed at what these two small-ish humans are able to accomplish.
Something that they have taught me is that when any of us enjoy success on a regular basis, we often fall into the illusion that everything will be easy for us. A similar expression is that when a particular facet of our lives is easy, it will always be easy. Of course, we can see the fallacy of these statements. We cannot expect that everything will be easy, nor can we expect that what is easy today will be easy tomorrow or next week or next year. We simply cannot expect this. It is unreasonable.
So why is it that we expect our faith to be easy?
There are some in our congregation – like me – who grew up in communities of faith. We were taken to church or maybe went to religious schools. We became comfortable early on with the traditions and the special names for things and with the acronyms. We know the basic flow and when to stand and when to sit and when to reach for a hymnal.
With all this experience, we can sometimes forget that it’s new for many who come through the doors of the church. And to walk into a new faith community and have to decipher what may seem like a foreign language surely can’t be easy. To be honest, was it easy for us at first?
Others in our congregation may have come to faith through a particularly traumatic or hurtful time in their life. These journeys are all unique with their own sets of circumstances and challenges and pains. And in conversations with some who have come to faith in this way, I have sensed the notion that because one person made it through then everyone else should as well. But if it wasn’t easy for one person, should we expect it to be easy for others?
The idea I’m trying to lead to is simply this: faith isn’t easy. We might creatively discern some simple ways of expressing our ideas of faith, but actually doing faith isn’t easy. In fact, I think it can be profoundly difficult.
Beginning January 8, 2017, we will embark on a new sermon series called “How to be a Christian in Seven Easy Steps.” The series is guided loosely by the book What’s the Least I can Believe and Still Be a Christian? by Martin Thielen. During this 7-week series, we’ll explore some of the things that we don’t need to believe as Christians (that we can’t doubt or have questions; that we can be judgmental and obnoxious) as well as some of the more critical and necessary parts of our faith (like Jesus’s life and teachings and death and resurrection).
I believe this series might be an easy entry for people with misperceptions or questions about faith and Christianity, and I humbly suggest it may be an excellent opportunity to invite others to join the people of Pacific Beach UMC on a journey to discover our faith more deeply. Please consider inviting family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers to visit during this series.
As we all approach this new year, I hope we do so with open eyes to the things we can unlearn and the things we can learn.
Grace and peace to you…