Pastor Mark’s eNote – What I Believe
Nineteen [that is, a completely arbitrary, uneven, unbiblical number of] Things I Believe and That You Will Probably Hear Again in Sermons from Me in the Years Ahead
I shared these thoughts with the United Methodist Men a couple of weeks ago. Now I pass them along to you.
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” That’s still true. God still loves the world, and we still need to tell the people of the world and show them.
- Jesus Christ shows us God. This was important in my own faith journey. As I went through my agnostic phase, I finally asked myself, “If indeed, Jesus shows us God, can I believe in the God that Jesus shows us?” I could, can, and do.
- Jesus saves. He redeems. He forgives. He comes looking for us to bring us home to God. He frees us. He offers us wholeness and health.
- The original name for the Christian movement is a good one, “The Way.” Christ is the way to God, and the Christian life is a way of life that moves us through this world with God and toward God.
- The way of Christ is all about grace. We are saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Then, having experienced that grace, we are called to WALK in the way of grace in the world. As Fred Craddock put it, simply and beautifully, “Grace begets graciousness.”
- Life itself is grace. That is, life is a gift. We are gifts to each other, and our moments together are holy.
- There is hope. And our hope is in God’s promise, and the promise, secured already, is that Christ’s kingdom will be victorious. We can live in the light of that promise and serve Christ’s kingdom now in our days together.
- We are Easter people. Christ has beaten sin and death. Frederick Buechner said it this way, “The worst thing that can happen is not the last thing that happens.”
- I am continually challenged by these words from Jesus in Matthew 5: 43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. As best as I can figure, this is what that means: God (and the same can be said of Jesus) acts out of God’s own being and integrity, and Jesus calls us to do the same. In other words, can we act toward the other, based not upon the worthiness or the actions of the other, but upon the love that is in our own hearts?
- Christ deserves our very best. In the sharing of the very best of what we are and have, we meet the one who gave himself for us.
- Faith is not magic. Faith is trust. If anyone ever says to you, “If only you had more faith …” you can stop listening.
- I agree with Soren Kierkegaard, the 19th century Christian thinker, who said there are three stages of faith: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. He also said there is another stage, a half-stage, if you will, between the ethical and the religious—humor. Twentieth-century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said, “Humor is, in fact, the prelude to faith and laughter the beginning of prayer.” In other words, beware of grim, self-important Christians.
- Think twice before you tweet or share something on Facebook.
- Liberals and conservatives are equally capable of being dunderheaded, wrong, judgmental, sanctimonious, and downright sinful in their arrogance, selfishness, pettiness, and hurtfulness.
- Words have power. I will spend my entire life looking for the right words.
- I envy and appreciate music in its power to take us where words cannot.
- I could be wrong about some things.
- You could be wrong about some things, too, so don’t get a big head.
- Christ, who is INDEED right in all things, is with us, and his Spirit can interpret and transform the worst in us and use the best in us for the good of the church’s mission in the world. And church’s mission is to tell and show the world that God so loves the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.