Do you believe? Like do you really believe?
Do you believe in God the father?
Do you believe in God the Son?
Do you believe in God the Holy spirit?
Do you believe?
As a born and raised anglican I have said yes to these phrases my whole life, rarely giving second thought to what they meant. In my preparation for my first communion, I remember being asked about all of these things and being struck about how intense that relationship was between the questions and my life. I always felt this deeper tug to investigate, understand, challenge, and questions the things which were told to me. Telling any child “because it just is” is the fastest way to an afternoon of “but why”? So what do you really believe? Is faith just an intellectual experience or is it lived? The difference matters, and John this morning reminds us of that.
John possesses one of the most frequently quoted and misunderstood passages in the bible. It has that famous John 3:16 quote we see often at football games, proclaiming to everyone the nature of God’s gift to them- if they only believed. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son… What challenges us in using this text without wider context, is we miss so many details wich surround John’s words. Remember, John is not a synoptic gospel, synoptic meaning sharing a similar point of view. John stands on his own. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all generally include the same stories- with varying degrees of details. Mark, being our oldest Gospel written closest to Christ’s actual life, forms the basis of the others. John however, is speaking from a direction of the mission, origin, and function of Christ in the world. John is incarnational in his theology-or world view of God- meaning John is expressing a proximity of God in relation to us, because in John's gospel, god was one of us in Jesus moving beyond all the laws and religious customs of his day. Jesus was it, and for many of Johns initial community of believers who would have heard this it would have made some sense because of their deep connection to a growing community of faith after the apostles. They wanted to know and understand what this relationship was all about, especially in a world where Jesus return was not set in stone. Yet in 2018, we come to these texts hearing some rational points and sometimes wondering if it's even possible to live the same kind of life like the gospels ask us, with so many demands on our time. So what connects us between the writers of John and today's context? Trust.
Trust is that scary and risky thing we as humans are predisposed to share, but is often the hardest thing to lean into. Learning to trust someone or something is allot to ask, especially when what is being asked of us is a huge stretch in our lives already. Trust needs to be earned, not granted without sober thought, it should be safe and nurturing, a place where we feel totally heard and valued. Think about our relationships with spouses, parents, friends, and partners. We trust them enough to share space with them, to expose our emotions to them, and to know that we will be hurt by them, just as they return that favour to us in their own unique way. For us as Christians, grounded in our baptisms, when we trust in what we believe, we are making a powerful statement to the world about who and what we are. We are staking our claim on a life which is counter countural in that it believes we can’t be a christian alone, and in an understanding that we might not always know everything we are supposed to do. It orientates our life into a community of fellow believers we would not otherwise meet in our daily lives, to learn from, be challenged by, and to challenge in love. In belife we learn first to trust, so that in trust we can go into our lives and world listening for the voice of God calling us into new directions and new ideas. To try new things, to fail at new things, and to be new things for the sake of the gospel. These are all nice ideas, but how do we do anything about it?
Belief in the good news, as our gospel says this morning, is about entering into a relationship of trust. Trust that the strength of our relationship, even in our greatest doubts, contains enough grace and purpose that God can move mountains through your abilities. It means that we are willing to stand up against our systems and institutions when they are unfair and speak truth to power because Christ did that first. It means trusting that our evolving sense of self as we age and grow means our faith changes and matures along with it. It's about knowing that it's ok try new things, challenge old things, questions unclear things, wrestle with new ideas, and engage in scary ideas too. God called us to baptism to set us free for life, not to frame us for posterity. Trust, in belief, is about setting ourselves free to go where God is calling us- as scary as that may be, and to know that God is there waiting for us. Belief in the good news, trusting in it, is about leaning into an acceptance that no one will do things our way- and that's ok. God calls together communities such as our own to experience the variety and abundance of differing personalities, ideas, and ways of doing things. In this deeply rooted sense of trust within relationship, the church has grown and flourished for over 2000 years. In our belief and trust in that relationship God calls us to live the good news of Christ here in this place. In the year ahead of us, I want to hear about where God is calling you. What ministry do you feel excited by? How do you want to be in relationship together? How do you want to celebrate the Good News of God in Christ through stewardship, Ministry, and Community. Come and dream with me.
Do you believe? But like do you really believe? Do you believe in the unlimited potential of a life set totally free for the work of the Kingdom of God? Do you believe in the transformative work of the spirit present in this place? Do you believe in the soul nurturing grace of God in Jesus Christ? In a few moments we have a chance to practice that trust in belief, as we once again celebrate the eucharist together- that first great meal of belief that Jesus shared with his disciples before he was crucified. Just like that meal so long ago, this is not about re-creating a historical experience. It is about re-presenting a lived experience in bread and wine, trusting in belief that with it, through it, and in it, we are transformed daily for the work of the church in the world. God again, calls you and I to this banquet. God again calls you and I to this table. God again calls us to this relationship of belief because he so loved us that he gave us Jesus- so he could be directly connected to us. So take heart, lean in, God is here! God is transforming you in this morning’s Gospel. How are you going to respond?