The Rev. Valerie Miller-Coleman, executive director of Family Promise of Lawrence, www.lawrencefamilypromise.org:
For me, the relationship between faith and self-knowledge is dynamic. My experience of the world, of relationships, books and Scripture helps me know who I am. At the same time, my faith in the goodness of creation and in God’s redeeming love shapes how I understand my experience and how I choose to act. For example, my relationships with family and friends tell me a lot about who I am: crabby, opinionated, tired and hungry; loved, safe and respected. At the same time, my faith in the goodness of creation tells me that no matter how tired and crabby I become, at root I am made in the image of a loving God and that my first calling is to a loving relationship with God, neighbor and self. If I can see that I’m failing to live out my call in one of these areas I know it’s time to recalibrate.
In the United Church of Christ we have a motto: “God is still speaking.” Whenever I see this printed or hear it spoken, it’s followed in my mind by the silent question: ‘Are you still listening?’ The idea that God is still speaking, that our relationship with God is dynamic and that God’s work continues to unfold here and among us now, is central to my faith. I believe that the adventure of the human condition is to grow in dynamic, loving relationship with a still-speaking God, with neighbors and with oneself. My faith demands active engagement in these relationships — I need to keep listening. God forbid I should stop learning to know myself and my neighbors better or conclude that God has finished speaking.
— Send e-mail to Valerie Miller-Coleman at email@example.com.
The Rev. Kent Winters-Hazelton, senior pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway:
To be engaged in religious faith and practice is to be on a journey, always learning, ever maturing, constantly seeking a destination. In my tradition, the Presbyterian Church, one becomes a member by claiming that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. There are times, however, when I want to say, let’s think about this: In my mind, it takes a lifetime to learn what it means to affirm Jesus as Lord. The true implications of Christ’s lordship are not apparent when we first believe, or in our confirmation, or when we present our child for baptism. Faith develops over time. It builds slowly through experiences of challenge and celebration, as we live with uncertainty and doubt, with shifting perspectives and new epiphanies. Our faith is nurtured and strengthened as we serve the needs of our neighbor, as we engage in conversation, and as we live the cycles of life. The faith of our childhood or young adulthood may not be the same as the faith that sustains us in our later years.
One of the most intriguing stories in the Gospels tells of an encounter between Jesus and a Syrophoenician woman from outside his faith tradition. The woman asked Jesus to heal her ill daughter. At first, Jesus refused, saying that he came to help the children of Israel first. The woman challenged him and Jesus realized that she was right. The story ends with the daughter being restored to health. Jesus, it seems, did not emerge fully formed in his experience of faith.
It is interesting to note that before the word “church” came into use, those who believed in Jesus were said to be “followers on the way.” May your journey on the way be a source of direction, hope and service.
— Send e-mail to Kent Winters-Hazelton at firstname.lastname@example.org.