For those of us who are Christians the question is often asked “if God is so good why do bad things happen?” Unfortunately, this is the unanswerable question. I wish I could say that I know how to explain this. I don’t
Over the years many theologians have written about this question and some have attempted to answer it…. none to my satisfaction. Many people who question there being a God jump on this problem. If there is a God why doesn’t he/she do something about the many tragedies in the world? It always puts us up against a hard spot. To them, it seems trivial for us to say that we don’t know. It seems that we can’t defend our belief.
Why is one person’s cancer healed and another’s not? Why did a friend’s child die in a car accident? Why does a pastor friend’s grandson have brain cancer? How I wish I could come up with an answer that made sense.
To those in pain the statement that God/Jesus will be with us in our pain and suffering doesn’t help. The fact that Jesus also suffered is little consolation. So if we can’t answer the question what can we do?
I long ago learned that I can’t fix everything but I can be there. I call it a ministry of presence. I can’t take away the pain but I can let them know that they do not have to go through it alone. Not only does God promise to be with them but the community of faith is called to love, comfort, and sustain them through the pain. The caveat is that we have to be in a community of faith that companions those in need.
We need to search until we find that place. We have to keep looking and keep in mind that only if we offer ourselves to be part of that will it work. To just appear in church during the week and go home does not make you part of the community. You must open yourself to become a caring member. This may not be easy and it won’t work until you find your place but don’t give up.
Remember, churches are made up of people and people have flaws. No church is perfect. No church has all the answers. Just find one that fills your soul in some way. It won’t be everything that you want it to be but it can still be home. After all, our families are also flawed and imperfect and yet still family. Find a church family with all that implies.
see more on this topic on https://wordpress.com/post/heargodinothervoices.blog/1028
For the last 40 odd years I have been connected to one or the other church home. First it was the Episcopal church I attended with my husband. The people there are wonderful and at that time there was a great minister. Later, after I was working for the Lutherans there was a minister at my husband’s church whose moral core I couldn’t live with so at my husband’s urging I disconnected myself from there.
Then 20 years ago (while still a member of the first church) I was hired by the Lutheran Church as the Parish Nurse. That was the perfect job for me as it married my vocation with my passion. The 20 years I was there I felt at home and completely fulfilled. Since leaving there I have been at a loss. I don’t feel the same at the first church and don’t feel connected to the second since their removal of my position was not done well. I think the powers that be in that church did not get the difference between a ministry and a job. I am sorry and feel that it was their loss.
The bottom line of all of this is that I don’t feel at home in either place. I know that I need to let all of the disappointment with both places go and seek out a place where I do feel at home. It matters greatly to me. For some reason I am reluctant to move forward with this and so don’t often go at all. This is not a solution but I seem to have little motivation to do anything.
Maybe there are times when we just need to sit back and just BE. I may be in one of those eddies where you just spin around and around. I feel connected to God but not to church. I do struggle with this when special seasons of the church hit me in the face. Holy Week is one of them.
It is important to move forward in whatever way will work for me. A period of absence and reflection is not wrong. I just need it not to go on for too long.
This verse seems appropriate.:
On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Psalm 62:7 NRSV
Today is Shrove Tuesday. The term shrove is the past tense of shrive which in old English has to do with confessing and being forgiven or shriven. This Tuesday is also called Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of lent). Most people would think of this as being the last hurrah of Mardi Gras a big festival day in New Orleans. For those who are not in liturgical churches lent is a season of penance and fasting. Society pays little attention to most of this.
I love the seasons of a liturgical church. I love how the colors on the altar change and the mood of the music is different. I think that it is somewhat like those who depend on the seasons of the year for their livelihood feel when seasons change.
Lent calls for some change to be made in our lives. Many people give up something, sweets, alcohol, smoking or some habit they would like to change. I am more inclined to take on something….working to be more kind, reading something spiritual, visit someone I have neglected….whatever I seem to have forgotten or put off.
Lent is a time to take stock. A time to look inside ourselves and change what needs changing to make ourselves see the beauty of Easter. The more you observe Lent the more meaningful Good Friday and Easter become.
Today I went to church with my husband. Our favorite retired minister was there. I always love his services as he melds the liturgy in different ways and it is always beautiful and meaningful. His sermon was wonderful. It is seldom that I take notes from a sermon but today I did because I wanted to think some more about the ideas and to share them.
He started by reading a short excerpt from one of his favorite authors whose name I didn’t get. The story was about a man who brought a newspaper every day from someone who was grumpy and rude yet this man was always pleasant and kind. “He said that he had no control over the grumpy man but did have control over himself and he chose to be kind. To return good for evil is a prescription for our own emotional/mental health.”
Pastor said ” we were created in the image of God and are called to behave like him. Life is not about how we act with other people but how we react.”
I found this to be very powerful. Too often we do react to the mood or actions of the person we are faced with. We return rude with rude, sad with sad, etc. The interesting thing is that if we do the reverse things change.
My father was not only a wonderful father but a unique man. I never heard him say something negative about someone else. People who knew him said the same thing. He always responded with kindness even with someone who was very angry. He told me that two things would happen….the whole situation would defuse or all hell would break loose. Either way he remained calm and kind.
We do have control over our behavior. I visit a physicians office where one of the employees was always a little brusque and not really pleasant. I made it my intention to make that change and spent time complimenting things (only genuine things and getting to know her. Be genuine for false is easily detected) and we now have a great relationship. I enjoy her and she always greets me with pleasure. A little kindness on my part well spent and a new relationship formed.
How we treat people makes a difference. We have to be genuine but we can be kind. I hope this is a step toward becoming the person God wants me to be.
Recently one of my favorite bloggers ( afracturedfaith ) wrote about difficulty in finding a church where you feel at home. It started me thinking about this. Since 1976 I have been in a church that felt like home. From 1976 to around 1997. At that point I was working with the minister of the church and found myself with ethical differences and joined the church I was working for. I felt at home there until they ended my job and now am struggling to see where I belong.
I asked myself what made me feel at home in the first church and I think part of the answer is the people. They were welcoming and caring. I also think it was a place where I fit in socially. Probably a lame reason but it helped me feel comfortable. The progress toward being at home came as I connected myself to the things going on. I joined the women’s group, helped with Sunday School and just generally made myself a part of the group.
With the second church I was part of the staff which automatically made me comfortable. However, it was the people who made me a part of the church family. I worked through 8 pastors so who was in charge was not a part of my belonging. It didn’t seem to matter.
Bottom line ….it seems that for me the people are the primary reason why I feel a part of a church. There are certain other things that matter to me. I like liturgy so churches like Lutheran, Episcopal etc. fit me better. I like the beauty of the service. That doesn’t matter to some people and they prefer a different kind of service. A church service can be boring if you don’t feel moved by what is happening. That is not all the time but once in a while the whole package gets to some place inside.
The question is can you be a Christian without going to church. In my opinion yes….but. It is a very BIG but. As Christians we are called to service. Living a Christ-like life is what we are to do. It is not easy but we must work to get better at it day by day. That means we can’t be Christian in isolation. Just to sit and read the Bible is not following Christ. Christ did belong to a community. He belonged and loved others.
Church may not be the answer for everyone but when you read Christ’s word make sure you are following his only commandment.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
He also gave us the great commission in Matthew 28:19
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
I grew up in an era where church was important. Most of the USA were church goers. That doesn’t mean that they were really Christians but they went to church. Which church people attended was sometimes chosen for social reasons. Going to church on Sunday was just what you did.
In my family we had a mixture. My father (of Scottish decent) and mother were Presbyterian. My grandparents were Methodist and my Aunt and Uncle (of German origins) were Lutheran. It didn’t seem strange to me that everyone in my family went somewhere different. The one thing that was understood was that we all had Christianity as our roots. Of all the family my grandmother’s faith was rock solid. She read the Bible every day and prayed faithfully. She also was the perfect example of Christian living. I never heard her speak against anyone, she gave generously, and was kind to all.
Because of this upbringing I grew up believing in and depending on God. Because of all the different examples before me I questioned often, read extensively and never felt constrained by doctrine. I was free to find my path. I think being able to explore helped me to never stop believing in God. God was never static for me.. God was and is bigger than any box anyone ever tried to put him/her/it in.
Today people are exploring God/spirituality in many different ways. Church is no longer the norm. There are many reasons why this has happened. Most of us explore during out formative years. Maybe they find a different path. The path of other faiths may draw them. I only hope that the path each person takes gives them the strength that I find in mine.
My belief is the thing that holds me up when things are not good. I turn to that faith and rest on it. It gives me strength to keep moving on and has done so for 77 years. People help to sustain my life and reflect God’s image to me often but this doesn’t stand alone. I don’t know what people hold on to who have no faith to turn to. Maybe they don’t need one. It certainly wouldn’t work for me. “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46)
Life goes on. Christmas Day is past but we are still in the 12 days of Christmas which no one recognizes today. When I was young we celebrated the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We didn’t go to the whole 12 days but at least the holiday was extended.
Now the world is done with Christmas. Today I went shopping and the store has put out Valentine’s cards…..on to the next holiday. . Today so many people are backing away from church and I do understand it. Church is filled with real people….some good…some bad. Many seem hypocritical. They go to church on Sunday and are not at all Christian the rest of the time. Many churches live to perpetuate themselves. They collect money to keep the buildings up and only a token amount goes to live out Christ’s mission. We need to re-think what it is all about.
On the positive side church does provide Christian community. At least I hope it does. The community can hold you up when you are in the depths. Their prayers can make a difference. This is part of living Christian.
So just like people churches are not perfect. They are only as good as the people who inhabit them. It is hard to live Christian in our society. Cynicism seems to often be the norm. It is easy to think that I can’t help people who don’t seem to help themselves. Whether it is logical or not this is what we are called to do. We are not called to judge the need but to carry out the ministry. Jesus didn’t ask what the people he healed or changed were going to do. He did tell them to go and make disciples.
Am I following through?