One of my views on how to live a life in faith is the example of what I would call a granny knot. A granny knot is a poorly tied knot usually done in haste that ends up being very difficult to untie. Now to get the knot untied there are three truths to the Granny knot:
This is like faith and life. First, you’re not going to go anywhere in your faith if you do not start with a basic belief in God. It may take time to get there, but without that starting point nothing else will fully make sense and you will get frustrated and will quit. This belief passes all other issues that come up and says that in the end you will experience God’s Grace.
Secondly, you need to live your life; don’t get too far ahead, don’t dwell in the past, but live. Sometimes you get to places that are harder than others and you have to be more vigilant and sometimes you can fly through because everything is working “as it should.”
Thirdly, you need to let things “play out.” When we try to force situations, bad things can and often do happen. I remember many years ago when I taught beginners swimming how many kids were terrified of the water because of the way they were forced to learn how to swim. Many times, with those who were timid, letting them move closer on their own, taking the time on land made them more comfortable in the water. In life and our struggles in faith, giving ourselves the grace that we need to work through a difficult time, not forcing things to be good right now but letting them “play out” can help us to see things much clearer and end up working out much better. Especially since a bad time may give a glimpse into something much deeper.
In my life this has played out through various different times and struggles in my life. Through the medical problems of my youth to the many struggles of life, the times where I give myself the grace and patience I have often seen things workout, as they ought. This is not about being passive; it is about being in the moment and working through the series, like the knot where you may have to work the strings back and forth to loosen the string, in life you may need to experiment to find what works. However, in time, if you have faith, patience and continue to move forward, eventually you get through it.
Maybe the best way to sum all of this up is “have faith in God, have faith in yourself, because God has faith in you.”
There were many great benefits to growing up in the Midwest, but one of the big drawbacks was not being close to an ocean. For us the ocean was magical, and most of our friends spent at least a week by one every year! So we would complain to our father. Our father, who always wanted to give us everything, all-be-it in good Central European frugality, he took us to Lake Michigan and said see, the ocean. My brothers and I would laugh pointing out the obvious, to which he responded, “Do the beaches have sand? Can you see the other side? See, just like the ocean!” It would have been futile to argue, plus we would always have busy work of play so we went along with his delusion!
My dad was right in that it was bigger than we could see and we took that into our imagination. My brother being into Jules Verne tried hard to convince me that there were hidden cities on the floor of the lake! But I would wonder about all the secrets that the lake held. I often wonder, too, if there were other little boys sitting on other beaches around the lake wondering the same things I was. Most of all I remember just how awesome the whole thing was, and though it was not the ocean it was more than I could comprehend, so I had to take my knowledge from what I saw and could learn from book, but never really see for myself the whole.
The week we are given a passage from Ephesians that reminds us of many things. First, he reminds us of our connectedness to God, that even though we are not of Hebrew decent, we are all of his creation. He reminds us of the strength we can get through our faith and the spirit when we live in love, but most of all he reminds us that God, his love, are both far greater than we can even fathom, yet utterly understandable when we have faith.
Now that I have been to an ocean, I know there are vast differences. Yet, when I think to our numerous trips to lake Michigan, having now lived most of my adult life within an hour of an Ocean, I still get the same awesome feeling of wonder when I look out and see something that is both too big to fully comprehend, yet utterly understandable. I think this was one of those lessons from my father when he asked: “can you see the other side?” He knew full well that is was different than the ocean, but he could not bring us there, but he could give us the understanding of what it was like to see just a piece of a whole and use our imagination and understanding to complete that.
It is always hard to remember specific times growing up at church that did not have to do with food in some way. But I do remember once when I was about three or four and our teacher took her hand, interlocking her fingers and began to say “boys and girls, This is a church” she held the double fist in front, then pointed her index fingers skyward “and here is the steeple” we all giggled at the silliness as she opened her hand and finished “look inside and see all the people” she wiggled her fingers to more giggles.
I love that little poem, and over my life I’ve seen many variations and it always tickles me! But within that is a very important thing; not all churches have steeples and not all congregations have churches, but the people can always gather to worship, and what God wants is our worship. No passage highlights this more than this interchange between David and the prophet Nathan. David is king and as king he is slightly embarrassed that he is living in luxury while the precious scripture is kept in a temporary tent. So he devises a plan to build a proper temple and approaches Nathan. At first Nathan is onboard, but God comes to Nathan and helps Nathan to see that David is not the one to build the temple.
This is important for a couple of reasons. First, for the Hebrew people David represents a political savior. For the briefest of times he is the only leader the Hebrew people have that will ever rule over a peaceful unified kingdom. This separation between the political savior and the Christ is very important since soon after David’s death this unified people begin to dissolve and the kingdoms eventually split and fall. David is someone that is looked up to, but there was also a reality that politics was and is never going to be a true salvation.
This goes to the foretelling of the Christ “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. (2 Sam 7:12-14a)”
The second aspect of why David is not the one to build the temple is also fairly straightforward. God moves with his people. Even though they are stable at the moment, God knows that the people are not always going to be that way. As history tells us, time pulls the Hebrew people into Israel and away from Israel. If taking the passage for what it says, keeping the scriptures safe is not as important as keeping them close to the people.
This becomes very important for the Christian church since we understand that our purpose as faithful people is to worship and celebrate God, not build buildings. If we do build buildings, the minute they become sacred in themselves they lose their purpose for God and really are no better than the golden calf. If David were to have built a temple it would most certainly have been something more than just a place to hold the sacred text, even more than Solomon’s and the subsequent temples.
Thus, we are reminded that the church is merely the building. No matter how beautiful or simple it is merely a tool. What we do with it, now that is exceptional and the people that come together to be the body is where faith is found and can be built.
To read this letter properly you need to go into your closet and pick out your favorite tie-dyed shirt. Get comfortable in your beanbag chair. Click HERE then click the play button and listen. This is a great song and based in the Hebrew text of Ecclesiastes 3:1-13.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. 9 What gain have the workers from their toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. 11 He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13 moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
The work of wisdom recognizes that in every season everybody experiences growth and that growth leads to change. But it is in the growth and change where we find life and that life is a free gift from God by the grace of Jesus Christ. Even in death, there is a great deal of growth. I know this through my own experiences being close to death. That life is more than any one thing and how we live and what we live for matters because no matter how big or small our imprint on this world is, all people are important.
If anything through the different seasons of life we are called to care for each other, since God created us in God’s image. God also calls us to care for what He has given to us. A Dakota man once said to me, “You white people, you think you own land, you think you own money, you think you own your life, but what happens to the land when you leave it, what happens to the money when it is spent, what happens to your life when you die? What we have is what the spirits give us and is ours to care for and nurture.”
For me this made a lot of sense. Having the reality of my life hanging over me lets me sort through the junk and focus on the reality. It instills within me a real sense of the humanity of your life and the true lack of control that you have over the most negligible portion of your life. It is a realization that life is not static it is dynamic. In other words, life is ever-changing.
As reformed Christians we have an understanding that we are reformed and always reforming. In other words in the journey of our faith we are on a constant pursuit of becoming more aware and more focused on God. Ultimately, we come to the realization that the end of any journey is the beginning of the next one.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. We are called to live this reality and to focus and celebrate God, knowing that as the seasons change we keep moving on and everything is done under the eye of God.
Last Friday as I rolled over I saw a flash on my phone with a news alert, SCOTUS had made their ruling on same-sex marriage. A little over a year after a year from when the Presbyterian Church USA opened the door for pastors to perform same-sex marriage services. As many of you know I have been very vocal on this issue, and very much support same-sex unions, having performed them in the past.
Saying that, I do have a lot of respect for those who still stand against the idea of same-sex unions. Not that I agree with the position, but I understand both how hard it is for many to see this become a normal part of society, especially when everything they know and have experienced points in a different direction. I, for one, know how hard it is to accept something that is so radically different than what you have known. This is coupled with a myriad of teachings and commentaries, which pull on the few passages that seem to make homosexuality one of the great sins. This is done even though it is not mentioned much more than a half a dozen times in the Bible and usually is being condemned in the context of worship or adultery, not in the type of relationship that was approved last Friday.
One passage that I heard being raised was a judgment that said that God would rain judgment on the United States like he did on Sodom and Gomorrah. But again this is one of the biggest places where a misinterpretation and misunderstanding of the passage really has caused pain, not just for the LGBTQQIAA community but for the greater society, and it shows how the Bible can be twisted away from God’s desire to be in relationship with us and towards selfish motives.
As Ezekiel relates in one of his prophesies: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49 NRS)” If you were to go back to the book of Genesis and read the passages surrounding Sodom and Gomorrah, you will see a society that is deeply in love with itself and consumed with protecting its ways. To that end they do not show hospitality or care for anyone other than themselves living a selfish and gluttonous life.
Maybe that is the message that we need to hear! As a church, one of our roles is to show the world and our community a different way. We do that through our various ministries of hospitality to our local community groups and, of course, the parade, the 1000 hotdogs, and the tree lighting. All of which cost us something, yet it shows the community we care and are willing to care without regard to what is comfortable for us.
Most importantly, even though we do not always agree or some struggle to understand the various viewpoints, this is why we must strive to welcome all people from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersexed, Asexual, and Allies community to the conservatives and evangelicals and everyone in between. This is because God has called us all to be his children and in God’s kingdom no one person is any more righteous than the other.
I hope that all of you can make it to the parade tomorrow to see the diversity in our community and how we are called to care and minister to them.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen