Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sabbath Theme


Connections That Make A Difference

My sabbatical plans are being shaped by some of my current reading, the changing population of the prison where I work and my understanding that it is in relationships where ministry happens and the Holy One does her work.  

One of the books that has just moved to the “completed pile” is Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith.  He writes of the difference between faith and belief: “It is true that for many people “faith” and “belief” are just two words for the same thing. But they are not the same … and it is important to clarify the difference. Faith is about deep-seated confidence. In everyday speech we usually apply it to people we trust or the values we treasure… a matter of what the Hebrews spoke of as the “heart.”  Belief, on the other hand, is more like opinion. We often use the term to express a degree of uncertainty … We can believe something to be true without it making much difference to us, but we place our faith only in something that is vital for the way we live.”  

Cox spends a lot of time covering what he call the various “ages” of the Church, spilling much ink on how and why the church moved to the Age of Belief. His central thesis is that money, power, and prestige were primarily responsible, and that an unrighteous collusion between bishops and Constantine, each using Christianity for their own purposes, finally made it happen. This is very interesting stuff, but this post is too long already, so I will not spend a lot of time on it.  Cox also points out that “there never was a single ‘early Christianity’; there were many, and the idea of ‘heresy’ was unknown.”  He then moves into his central thesis of the book, stating that the “time is ripe to retrieve the term “Way” for Christianity and “followers of the Way” for Christians. It is at once more accurate, more original, and more contemporary than “believers.”

The Way... it is fluid.  We travel it together.  When we walk together shoulder to shoulder focused on the destination or the injured traveller we meet along the way there is no space, no time or place for quarrelling about what we believe...

What does it mean as I seek to be an agent of change, a follower and teacher of the Way to invite people to follow the Way... and not get hung up on whether theirs or my belief are right or wrong?

What is the standard by which one measures their adherence to the Way?

“All real living is meeting.”
                     Martin Buber

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