This year has been one where we have returned to basics. This has been for a number of reasons including some of the rhetoric from the February General Conference. But more importantly than this, we have returned to basics because members of this congregation were coming to me and asking important questions:
- What’s the Bible? Why is it important? How am I supposed to read it? Who wrote it?
- What does the world say about Christianity? Is it the same as what’s shown on the news or in TV shows or in musicals or movies? Can I learn from those things?
- What’s a Christian? What does a Christian believe? Why is it important to be a Christian?
Because of these good questions, we have taken time this year to discuss our sacred texts using Marcus Borg’s book Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. Although we surely could have taken more than the 6 weeks we dedicated to this series, we looked at the basics of the assembled writings that we call The Holy Bible. From the creation stories of Genesis to the apocalyptic visions of Revelation, we thoughtfully explored the shape and trajectory of these writings and how they continue to point us toward God today.
Because of these good questions, we listened carefully to the music and message of the world famous musical, Jesus Christ Superstar. We did so critical of where lyrics may have proclaimed a different theological or scriptural emphasis than modern Biblical scholarship might suggest; we did so critical of the characterization that was influenced by inappropriate assumptions early in the Christian tradition; and we did so open to the idea that God’s voice can come to us through a variety of sources and methods.
Because of these good questions, we are in the midst of a journey now through one of the earliest proclamations of the Christian faith: The Apostles’ Creed. By the time this newsletter reaches your (digital or physical) mailbox, we will be nearing the end of the series which culminates on Pentecost Sunday and our discussion on The Holy Spirit.
That same Pentecost Sunday, we plan to celebrate our Youth who have been spending time exploring their own faith and considering whether they might Confirm their faith by choosing to join this congregation in full membership. My practice as the Lead Pastor is to ask each Youth whether or not it is their desire and choice to join enter into membership in the congregation and that they are not pressured by parents or other members. Because Pentecost is a great Sunday to celebrate, we will also welcome the Youth Choir and Youth Handbell Choir from Paradise Valley UMC in Paradise Valley, AZ (northeast of Phoenix).
I believe this time to go back to basics is important to our faith. In a time where there seems to be much disagreement in our denomination, it can be easy to lose sight of why we must be the church. As we explore the sacred writings that point us toward an experience of God, I believe this practice can open us to experience God’s call to participate in the world. When we intentionally consider how God might speak to us even through musicals and media productions outside of church, we prepare ourselves to listen to God in even more ways. When we consider the early expressions of faith from some of the first Christians, we ask important questions about what we believe and how our faith inspires us to live in the world.
May this return to the foundations of our faith remind us that the God of love holds us and supports us, that God’s incarnation in Christ Jesus saves us from sin and death, and that God’s Holy Spirit moves in and through us to equip us in building God’s kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven.