The Many Languages of Faith

Christianity is the faith-language we use here in encountering the Divine, but there are many such languages. It would be nice if there was a single, simple answer, but faith never provides a single answer, let alone a simple one – how could you have such an answer with an infinite God? You can’t write a symphony with a single note, and God’s Creation is far more complex, extensive and wonderful than any symphony! Our faith-language, combined with many others, are sung by the great choir that extols the greatness, diversity and immensity of an infinite and loving God, who loves each of us for who we are, just as we are – treasuring the unique and special gift that each of us is – a gift from God to all of Creation.

VT_2007_03_ 015Our faith is like a language, a framework that helps us explore, express and deepen our relationship with the Divine. Everyone has a faith-language, whether we are Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Shamanists … even Atheists (since even non-relationship with the Divine is still a type of relationship).

We use this framework to understand and express our faith. It shapes how we look at the world around us: how we see our relationships with each other; and how we interact with each other; how we perceive the world is organized, what the purpose of Creation is (if any); and the purpose and limits of our own existence. Our faith-language is a lens we use all the time – not just in encountering the Divine, but in dealing with the everyday realities of life.

Our own faith language is Christianity. How we experience and express our faith is influenced by our familial roots, education, relationships and life experiences, the choices we’ve made in life, and many other factors. They all affect how we see and express the relationship we have with God and our relationships with each other. These relationships and experiences are uniquely ours, never to be repeated.

We all have a unique relationship with the Divine because our faith tells us that God values and loves us as and because we are unique and distinct individuals.  The faith-language share binds us together as a community in relationship with each other, and with God.

And, Christianity works well for us (I hope!): we are familiar with it. It is part of the “cultural wallpaper” of our lives. It’s a tool that we constantly use throughout our lives: developing, strengthening and exploring our relationships with each other and with God. But, that does not mean that Christianity is the only faith-language for everyone, or even anyone, else. In fact, it can’t be.

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Changing Perspective

The last Chapter of the Gospel of Luke and the First Chapter of Acts are readings that describe the same event, Christ’s Ascension. Both passages are written by the same author (Luke) and both are addressed to the same person (Theophilus). Yet, there are significant differences between the two narratives, to the point where reconciling them (if both are viewed as absolute fact) is difficult to do. The reasons for these differences lie in an existential crisis that Christians were struggling with at that time. In these two readings we see Luke’s thinking on the crisis evolve as he struggles to reconcile his faith with the facts and then portray The Ascension in a way that helps his audience to see their faith and relationship with God in a new light, and so find new hope for their Salvation.

Salvador Dali's "The Ascension"
Salvador Dali’s “The Ascension”

Sermon: “Changing Perspective”
Delivered at ARK Community Church, Dalton MA
Seventh Sunday of the Easter Season: June 1, 2014.

Scripture readings:
Luke 24:44-53 (from “The Message”)
Acts 1:1-11 (from “The Message”)

Our readings this morning both cover the same event, Christ’s Ascension; both are also written by the same author, Luke; and both are addressed to the same person, Theophilus. Yet, there are some significant differences between the two narratives, to the point where reconciling them (if both are viewed as absolute fact) is difficult to do.

Why is this, what are those differences, and why do they matter?

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Children’s Message: Dragon’s Tongue

Megalodon Tooth Fossil

Preparation:

For this particular Children’s Message, I bring a “Megalodon” tooth, which is the tooth of the largest predator that ever lived – a giant shark (possibly the direct ancestor of the modern Great White Shark) that could grow to almost 60 feet in length, and which swam the seas of this world from about 28 million years ago until around 1.5 million years ago.

If you don’t have one, you can easily find photos of them online.  You can also buy them on eBay: depending on size and condition, they go from under $10 to several hundred dollars in price.  You can also find online photos of reconstructions of the Megalodon’s jaws, which are stunningly huge!

 

Scripture Readings:

Luke 24:44-53 and Acts 1:1-11 (The Revised Common Lectionary readings for The Ascension, focusing particularly on how these two readings are written by the same author, were both addressed to the same audience, and are about the same event, but differ greatly in their portrayal of the Ascension of Christ.)

 

The Point:

We sometimes think of our beliefs as facts; but in reality, facts, and our beliefs about those facts, are not the same thing.  Sometimes, looking at the facts in a new way will change our beliefs, and in doing so open up new vistas of revelation and wonder.

 

Script:

For thousands of years, and even up until the time of the Pilgrims here in America, people would find the bones of weird animals eroding out of rocks and cliffs.  [Did you know that?]

We know them as “fossils;” but back then, they didn’t know what they were.  Since these things were always found embedded in rock, they figured that they were the bones of creatures that grew in rock.  Some of these skeletons had wings, and many of them looked lizard-like, and so it was from these that we get our legends about “dragons.”

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