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Friday, April 5, 2013

Believing without Caring

I have often wondered about what I really believe. It is not easy to know. What is belief? Sometimes it seems to be another word for knowing. The famous bumper sticker: "God said it. I believe it. That settles it," certainly falls under the category of knowledge. Other times belief and hope so overlap as to seem one and the same. "I believe you will come through for me, Lord!" In this case it is belief as trust. Most of us spend little time parsing our faith and trying to figure out exactly what we mean by saying faith, or belief, or trust.

However, what I am talking about right now is belief in the resurrection. Do I believe Jesus rose from the dead? I say, "Yes!" My actions seem to confirm my words, I  have committed my life to being a priest. I sit alone in rooms talking to the risen Jesus. I teach about the risen Jesus. I argue with Modernists about the resurrection. So by all accounts I believe. But there are times when I wonder. How do you really know if you really believe?

When my dad told me he was going to die (not in theory but an actual time line) I remember telling him, "Well I have always told you I love you so we don't need to take care of any unfinished business. I believe in the resurrection so death is not the last word." I remember going home thinking that I guess I really do believe. My faith had a test and I felt I had passed.

Over time I have come to see that the real question is not faith or believing. It is caring. There are lots of things I believe that I do not care about. I believe Chester Arthur was a President of the USA, but I do not care. I believe soccer is played around the world, but I do not care. I believe lots of things which do not matter to me. And I think that is the "problem" of believing Jesus rose from the dead.

Reading the ancient Christians it is so clear how much they cared. We are studying Ignatius of Antioch's letters (circa 100AD). He was sold out for Jesus and embraced wholeheartedly a martyr's death for Jesus. All he cared about was Jesus and dying for Jesus. Started St. Patrick's auotobiography (circa 400). It is dripping with Scripture, every other sentence has a Biblical allusion. His love for Jesus is palpable. He, too, braved potential martyrdom and great challenges for love of Jesus. He believed and he cared.

In my world people take the Sunday after Easter off. It is called Low Sunday. Last weekend some 450 folks were here. This weekend we expect half that many. Why? Is it the people do not believe Jesus rose? I think not. I think the issue is they believe it as a fact, but do not care, at least not deeply. At least not enough to go to public worship. I think most believers in our culture care as much, or more about other things than they do Jesus.

This is why I write so much about prayer. I think if we spent a significant amount of time each day in prayer, our faith and care would increase. Reading the Scripture prayerfully and slowly, we would be immersed in the words and images. Take, for example, Sunday's second reading (Revised Common Lectionary), Revelation 1:4-8. Included there is a list of titles for Jesus. What if we stopped to savor each one? What if it led us to real prayer?

the faithful witness (Lord Jesus. speak the truth to me. thank you for your word of witness. thank you for being faithful. thank you for standing firm in the face of trial and tribulation. thank you for all you do) the first born of the dead (first born. older brother. thank you for giving me hope in the face of loss. thank you for the promise when I bury my loved ones. You are but the beginning, help me trust that, help me believe it, helop me be shaped by this trust in you) ruler of the kings of the earth (Lord. King. Master. Ruler. Lord. No one above you. You rule all. You will rule all. Come rule me. Rule me now as we wait for your coming rule. Thank you that so great a ruler hears the voice of a small little subject in the kingdom)

To sit with each phrase, perhaps a couple minutes, deepens their impact. We can actually care as we connect Jesus to our lives and the lives of those for whom we care. And caring about them we find we care more about Him and His work and His identity.

Loving an invisible Lord is not easy. It never has been. But it is worth it. SO today, move from faith and belief to the next level. Care. Care passionately about what you believe. Care and commit to Him you trust.

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