This week I’ve spent more hours than I want to admit reading, writing and shaping a paper on Baptist history and polity. (Ain’t gonna lie, some of the brethren and “sistren” write some mighty dull stuff!) It’s been important reading though and worth every moment.
The formal writing process is always humbling for me. While I like to dabble with composing the occasional blog post, I struggle mightily when it comes to this synthesis of information in an orderly and scholarly way. Sometimes, I just want to throw up my hands and say “Here! Read these books and then we can talk!”
As I struggle to articulate principles and concepts relating to theology, I’m drawn back to two things on my desk:
and my highliter.
The Bible because I keep looking up verses that others quote to see if that is what they really say in context. And the highliter because as I read, I find gems that others have crafted and want to find them again and ponder them some more.
Phyllis Tickle wrote in Emergence Christianity,
In our times of dual and triple citizenship, how can one live as a devout, missional, practicing Christian in a civil polity made up of devout, missional, and practicing members of other, and often antithetical, faiths? How can one do that responsibly without either creating civil unrest and strife or else curbing the full expression and exercise of faith?
The questions mount up, all of them but variations on a theme, and the theme is, “How now are we to understand religion? What is its place in human salvation?”
And I say, EXACTLY!
In hindsight, I can condemn those who were insisting that a slave hold was within his rights. I can heap blame on German churchgoers who turned their heads away from a train bound for Auschwitz.
And then I realize that I have not found it within my priorities or my budgeting to care for those in my own zip code (let alone my region or my country) who are homeless and hungry.
I can’t define for you what you “should” do or believe. But I can understand more fully where God has placed me in this world, and where, bit by bit, I walk “completely in my own Gospel shoes” as my mentor Estrelda challenged me to do.
I keep going back to these verses, ones that were part of my ordination service…
The Lord God has told us
what is right
and what he demands:
“See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
and humbly obey your God.”
Micah 6:8 CEV
That’s a good place to start. And there’s plenty left to do. My friends who are in recovery talk about the step of “Willingness”. It is indeed apart of every obedient and focused life. As Martin Luther said, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.”
Edit after edit, phrase, paragraph and page — it’s a constant process of adjusting, correcting, reviewing, and refining. Just like life… if you are willing to admit you don’t have “the last word” on a topic, but want to make it better.
So may it be.
Thanks be to God!