The Rev. Kent Winters-Hazelton, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway:
The sole requirement for becoming a member of a Presbyterian congregation is to answer the question, “Who is your Lord and Savior?”
Yet it seems to me that this is not a helpful question for the beginning of one’s church relationship for it takes a lifetime to learn how to answer that question with any real understanding. A lively faith does not remain stagnate over time. The questions and needs we have in life that test and clarify our faith are far different when we are teens than those we grapple with in our 30s, our 60s or our 80s. As the world around us changes, as we encounter life’s complexities and celebrations, and as we listen to the faith experience of someone who believes differently than us, our faith may grow and deepen. In our journey through the stages of faith, we read, pray and reflect differently.
For the Christian, the model for such a change is Jesus himself. In Mark’s Gospel, we read of his conversation with the Gentile woman from Syrophoenicia. At first, Jesus dismissed her as an outsider, a foreigner, who was not part of the covenant community. The woman, however, challenged him right back and through this dialogue, his perspective changed. The stories that follow from that point show Jesus welcoming the outsider and teaching his disciples to do the same. (Mark 7 and Matthew 15)
Seeking to live a faith-filled life is always a challenge. At times, faith makes sense while at other times it may be a great challenge. Yet, Jesus calls to us still: “Come, follow me.”
— Send email to Kent Winters-Hazelton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Pam Morrison, addiction recovery minister, The Healing House, Kansas City:
The New Testament tells of John the Baptist. He was the “warm up” act for Jesus. He came to “prepare the way for the Lord,” that is, he pointed out the wayward hearts of 1st century Israel and called the people to repent. John then baptized them in the Jordan River.
When Jesus arrived to begin his ministry, John pointed him out and declared confidently, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
But it wouldn’t be too long after that that John would find himself languishing in prison. His robust preaching on purity caused him to clash with King Herod, who was living in an adulterous relationship.
John’s faith seemed shaken. Sending some of his followers to Jesus, he asked him, “Are you really the Expected One (Messiah) or do we look for someone else?” (Luke 7:18) It seems the enthusiasm John had had and his belief in Jesus coming to save the world were weakening.
We can understand John’s creeping doubts — what innocent man or guilty one, for that matter, thrown into prison, wouldn’t feel his faith start to fade?
I think faith ebbing under times of great duress and flowing when circumstances are joyful is understandable in human beings, but I would say this: As we go through life and build faith by steady spiritual practices — worship, prayer, scripture, fellowship with other faith-filled people, helping others — we’ll find that even in the darkest of times, our faith remains because of so much history with God. In fact, many report their greatest awareness of God’s presence is in times of heartache.
Antidotes to gloom and lowered faith are praise, worship, and gratitude, even if hard to do. God is faithful to lift us up again!
— Send email to Pam Morrison at email@example.com.