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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday School: Which Narrative do You Believe?

Sunday School

There is a connection between our thoughts and feelings, our believing and our living. This is more than the mind-body connection. It goes to what is in the mind (content) and how that impacts our life.
My sabbatical reading took an unexpected turn. Planning to read on St. Paul's Apocalyptic understanding about Justification and Genesis Commentaries, I entered Phase II with a readiness to study and learn. While I studied and learned, I found myself, whether drawn or pushed, immersing myself in books on Healing, Deliverance and Contemplative Spirituality. I read about seven or eight books, each one layering its insights to overlap and reinforce the other. Even the Daily readings (psalms and Bible lections), my devotional, and the devotional pages sent to me by others seemed to fit together to communicate a consistent message.

1. Loving God is the way to encounter God. Our intellects (theological knowledge) are too limited. Understanding Scripture must be also an effort to encounter (be encompassed by) God.
2. Faith is central. Not just head belief in ideas but heart entrusting, life transforming, risk taking, self giving trust and faith.
3. God has made promises which we must choose to believe/trust or else we live outside the Kingdom of Light and remain in the dark.

I want to spend our first class investigating this. However, I am being led to try to make it more like a cooking class than a lecture hall. Teaching about prayer is best done by instruction and practice.

As I have taught and written hundreds of times, Biblical Faith has three components:
*What do I believe? --this is contentual and has a cognitive element. It is in response to revelation. It is a work of reason. It is expressed in a creed. It is expounded in a catechism. It is the work of theology. It is words, thoughts and ideas. It is believing in the sense of thinking.
*Do I care? -- this is has to do with personal relevance and engagement: feelings, emotions, desires. There is a passive aspect to it (in the sense that moods affect it and we cannot generate feelings sometimes). This is our 'reaction' (gut level). This is the dimension of self investment: motivation and energy. This is the place where head and heart meet and generate choices.
[it may be true, but if I do not care it won't impact me.]
*Do I live it?--the realm of the active Will: action, response, behavior, speech, choice. It may be in my head as a "fact/factoid" and it may "mean the world to me" emotionally, but if it is never incarnate in my life then it is an idea and passing feeling. What I say and do, how I actually live it out matters too. And the "living" shapes and reinforces the "believing/thinking" and the "feeling/caring." We can live a life which makes the Kingdom life less important to us (this is why Jesus says it is so hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom, or why an unforgiving person cannot receive God's mercy, and you reap what you sow.) Human life is organic. Real lives lived in reality impact what God can do!

The three dimensions form a 3D cube. There are three sliding scales of positive or negative. Believing, Caring, Living can each be "more or less." (Like those surveys: Very weak, weak, strong, very strong)

Lastly, how is (tripartite) "Biblical Faith" lived out? Am I alone or am I with others? Am I Adam in the Garden, isolated and alone (individual), or am I unconscious and simply part of the whole without personal investment (Israel in the desert) or am I personally the church, in the communion of saints and a member of the body of Christ? As I finished writing these notes I got a text, almost immediately. It was a quote from Hebrews 10:23 "Let us hold hast to the confession of our hope without wavering for He who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

I call this a sync. Words which seem to come from God to direct me. I heard confirmed what I had chosen to teach this day.
Deep faith in God.
Lived out together.
No wavering and doubt.
Committed to love and care for one another.

A couple weeks ago, as I pondered my "day approaching" I had a picture/vision of this room and as I looked out I saw Ashley sitting here--- where she sits. And I suddenly saw here hold her baby son and I was filled with such joy at the love I see there. And God seemed to say, "Do you remember in Isaiah when I said that even if a mother could forget her child, I could never forget you"? (Is 49:5) And I texted Ashley and told her what I felt in  my heart from God and she said I could share it.

That is a promise of God.
God says lots of things in the Bible. Judgement texts with threats. Mercy texts with hope. Love texts with commitment to be kind and forgiving, patient and faithful. God says He will doom the land, but He also says He will save it. How we read the Bible is determined by the Primary Narrative which is in our heart.

Do you believe, at core, the message of God's revelation is bad news? or is it Good News?
Jesus answers the question. Yes judgement is real, but at core, The Narrative is a promise of salvation.

Do we believe it? Do we care? Will we act on our faith and be faith-filled and faithful? Will we engage others (love) and trust it together?

What I learned from my readings, (many readings by authors of diverse backgrounds, from hundreds of years ago and dozens of years ago) is that if we want to live in the Kingdom, live in fuller communion with God and see the power of God manifest, then we need to believe, care, and act--together. One important way of doing that is to openly declare our understanding of the Good News: what is the narrative which you believe? Do you see God as a Mother who loves His child? if so, what then would you expect from such a God?

Meditation and Contemplation upon these things (going deeper and deeper) is fundamental to our personal growth in Biblical (three dimensional) faith and it is a faith which prospers best in a faith community. As such we are going to practice such a "Triune-Faith" experientially.

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