Last Sunday during the Gathering we talked about self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is important to being faithful, especially if you feel that you are unworthy of love. Everyone is worthy of love, and everyone whom God has called has a place at the table. Unfortunately, as we identified, the church does not always pass on that message; often, people are told that they’re not worthy because of who they are. This led me to make the point that often when the church points its finger at someone, it says far more about itself and its own insecurities, then is does about the other person or you.
I reiterate that point, because this Sunday we are celebrating the World Communion Sunday on both services, and I think that is a very important place to start. One of the things I learned from reading through the materials I received at the Multicultural Institute was how quick we are to discount people who are not part of the majority, or do not speak loudly. Anyone who has studied sociology understands that the dominant voice often shapes culture.
The problem is that at times the dominant culture does not always have the best answers or ways of operating. One needs to look no further back than the tyrannous leaders who have plagued the news over the past 40 years, probably more, but . . . Sadly, often when the dominant culture is forced upon minority cultures, important aspects of wisdom are lost.
This was seen early in the history of American Colonialization, as the White European communities settled, and often pushed out the indigenous people. Initially the colonies did not listen and also did not make it through the winter, later they worked with the indigenous people, and survived the winter. Unfortunately, the prevailing wisdom began to see that there was a threat hidden within the strange indigenous people, and the colonizers spent the next few centuries working to destroy and defeat the indigenous peoples.
This is the history of colonialization, not just in America, and Christianity played a big part, with the stories of converting the heathens or pagan peoples. While it did convert some, much was lost. But what also was lost were some unique understandings of God and nature, many which we suffer from today.
After graduating from high school, I spent the summer in mission on a reservation in South Dakota. There I was blessed to work with Sid Byrd, a Dakota man by tribe, Presbyterian Pastor, but grew up on a Lakota reservation and sent to an “Indian” school where they tried to teach out the “Indian” ways. As Sid describes this you could see the pain, and for the first time I understood how easy it is for people to discount or abuse their power.
In a conversation once he said that the lore told them that the people who were here knew that someday others would come, but never knew if they would come with a handshake or a gun. They came with a gun. Granted. he said it more eloquently than I just stated, but he went on to say that because people had come with the Gun, we lost so much. He then went on to talk about how poorly the Europeans had treated the land, dividing it up, taking ownership, abusing it. He said that because we did not learn the land we are going to lose it, not to invaders, but to its abuse. It has been fascinating for me to see the prophesy in his words. But it also makes me think of how different our environmental situation would be if early on we had listened to those who were here before us, and followed their insights?
This Sunday at the Gathering we are going to think about how we listen to each other. I am hoping that we can share our insights about God for our different cultures, and even bring in readings that help each of us understand our perspectives better.
I bike the same roads nearly every day, but I am always fascinated by how different each ride can be. Some days it is easy, other days it is hard; usually that has to do with how well I slept the night before! Some days I am floored by how courteous the drivers are and others, well, you can guess where I am going with that! Interestingly, each time I ride I tend to notice one thing new, something I had not seen before or a realization of something that I had never thought of; sometimes I even get that thought that seems to bring understanding to things that I have been struggling with.
For me, this tends to be true of being active. Many years ago when I was swimming every day, the guy who I always ended up sharing my lane with would often comment: “so you were working on your sermon again?” He told me he could tell by the way I was swimming that my mind was elsewhere. And we would laugh, and I would let him know that when I am moving, thoughts seem to come to me. He said, “that makes sense; when you exercise you are keeping all of the things that distract you busy so your mind can relax and work.” I later found out he was a psychiatrist!
I cannot tell you the number of times people have come to me asking for help clarifying who God is. My comment back is usually a pastoralized version of, if you’re searching for God, you’re never going to find him. I know it sounds like dating advice. But think about it, outside of “spiritual conferences” and things like that, when we try and go out of our way to find God, we often get frustrated because the signs we are looking for often are not there. Even at the Spiritual Conference, the “awakening” that happens over time often becomes fleeting.
A friend of mine once called these conferences “the Christian version of Drugs” they give you a high, so high you pursue it over and over, often not achieving that high again. Granted, there was not negativity or moral disapproval to that analogy, but there was the danger that when we pursue God, often the God we are chasing is the God we like, not necessarily the God we do not. Therein lies the problem. God is bigger than anything, and often when we look for God in myopic ways or in ways which are comfortable for only ourselves, we are blinded from seeing God because mostly we are seeing ourselves.
The Bible is very interesting when it comes to God. And when we read the Bible, we tend to pick up on God based on our own constructs. If you want to refute God, you could read into him that he is a mean, even evil, being out for vengeance. You could also equally read the Pollyannaish version that God is Love. Both versions do not hold up to either the biblical witness or the contemporary witness of God. God may show us love, but God is much more than just love. God can be vengeful, but often that is because of things we have done to ourselves.
The thing is that anytime we try and categorize or limit God into something that works for us, often it gets harder to see God. I know that is hard to believe, but think of it like a lost set of keys. When you are searching for them, the more intensely you search, often the harder they are to find. This is often why when people come to me seeking God I often recommend to stop seeking and let yourself just be one with the world around you.
It reminds me of when I went to seminary. After the first semester there were a handful of students who dropped out; by the end of the first year, my class dropped almost in half. When I inquired to my adviser why that happened his response was, “no one ever found God in seminary!”
The thing is, is that God is all around us and ever-present through the Holy Spirit. If we are seeking, we are often working too hard and need to take a step back so that we can see things a bit clearer. We need to occupy ourselves in different ways in order to witness and open our hearts to new realities and understandings.
In a passage like we have this Sunday we must remember that it is not our place to judge other people; that is for God. I start there because for many, historically, this passage has been use to signify who is in and who is out. At times with some crazy definitions and understandings. But this is one of those passages that is meant to hold a mirror up to the reader and ask what is more important, your words or your actions.
In the first half of the passage Jesus is being challenged by “the chief priests and the elders” about his authority. So Jesus brings up the question about John and his baptisms. John was a very well known person, seen by many as a prophet and others as an agitator. Regardless, he was doing his baptism in the name of God. So Jesus throws them a “trick” question: Was what John was doing of heaven or of human origin?
The chief priests and the elders were debating and fearful of the response they were to give. If they were to say that what John was doing was from heaven Jesus, would point out their unbelief and wreck their credibility with the people. If they were to say it was human, the crowd would lose respect for the men, since everyone else had already begun to regard John as a prophet, so to save face, they gave a very political answer of “We Don’t Know.”
So Jesus, always taking advantage of the teaching moment, tells the parable of the two sons. One who tells his father he will not work the land, but later, for whatever reason, chose to do as his father asked. And the other who says the right things, but never shows up to work the land. Jesus uses this to say to the chief priests and the elders that people can spend their lives saying the “right” things, but being committed to God is something more than what we say, it is what we do. This means that even those who are at the lowest rung of society have the capability of changing their ways and turning to God.
Interestingly, the focus is not on the group that changes. What this passage is attempting to do is to hold a mirror to the chief priests and the elders and say to them that they are far too worried about themselves and how they look to others than they are to God. This means that their faithfulness is based far more on their own desires of looking good than serving God. Like the son that says he will work the field and does not. He made his father happy, saying the right thing, but the only one he served was himself.
I said earlier that it is important not to see this passage as judgment. I say this because it really has nothing to do about others and has everything to do with how we chose to live our lives. The chief priests and the elders made a conscious choice to live in a pious way. They worked to be seen well and heard on their appearances, but it was mostly for status and themselves. As we know from this and other passages, what is most important is what we do, not what we say.
Moreover, another forgotten aspect is the fact that God allows change. This is important since what Jesus is doing with the chief priests and the elders is that he is trying to challenge them to accept him and accept God by showing them the fault in their own approach to faith. For us, when we read the passage, we should take that mirror and ask ourselves if our words are more to do with how people see us, or if our actions are about how we are connecting with God.
This week we start looking at self-acceptance and what the Bible says. This is a wonderful and potentially dangerous discussion. It is a wonderful discussion because there is so much about faith that we cannot embrace until we get to the point of accepting ourselves. But that acceptance can drag us into a very dark and potentially difficult path to narcissism. Often this is the direction pop-theology and pop-psychology drags us down.
So when looking into self-acceptance we need to have some parameters. For Christians those are set out biblically. First that we are not alone! God did not create us to be individuals living lives individually. Rather, God calls us to be part of a community. So any aspect of our individuality is always connected to the greater community. Some would say that this is the essence of the Book of Leviticus and one of the passages that we will look at this Sunday, Leviticus 19:18, You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Second, we are not God. That should be an easy thing not to do. But we are prone to doing it all the time, as if our understanding of perfection was the same as Gods. It reminds me of a friend, when she was in High School her parents were all over her case because she could not get good grades. No matter how hard she tried. This brought her to scary depths of depression because she would dwell on a false image of what was perfect. Later, when she was in college, which is where I met her, she found her place in the musical theater program where her talent was revered and envied.
As people, not being God, we cannot be expected to be perfect in all things, in fact when we really think about it there is no real perfection there is only the perception of perfection. Think about it, how often do we to criticize our own imperfections only to find out later that our imperfections are the things that make up the basis of who we are and therefore should be celebrated.
Third, we are worthy. In the passage from the morning this week, Jesus highlights the fact that the prostitutes and tax collectors have the ability to be saved. Thus, you to are worthy.
Lastly, one must choose a relationship with God to be able to fully accept themselves. Like the first parameter being unable to separate from the communities, we cannot really separate ourselves from God. Accepting that God has had an intimate role in our lives allows us to understand who we are as his people.
Again, to understand ourselves we also start with an understanding that we are more than what we see. We see that in the second verse for this week Psalm 139:13-15:
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
This is the “happy” part of the psalm. When looking at the whole psalm we see that it is one of the Laments. The writer is crying to God because there is something imperfect, even wicked, and he is seeking God to make him whole once again. While this passage does not answer how we accept ourselves, it holds up a way that we might find that acceptance. Along with the whole psalm we see that the path to understanding God comes from recognizing and admitting who we are and asking for help where help is needed and acceptance for the areas which need to be embraced.
One of the main reasons I don’t drive to the church most of the time is that I am not a patient driver. Inevitably catching every red light or getting behind a car going 10 miles an hour under the speed limit makes me go bonkers. Especially when it turns a 7-10 minute drive into something closer to 25-30! It is a weak area for me. I don’t know why, though, but I always seem to have more patience when I am on the bike. Granted, the slow cars are not an issue, but the lights still are. I’ve been thinking about why I can be patient on the bike, even thankful, and not the car, and I think it really has to do with the state of mind.
I genuinely hate to drive. While I love to go from place to place, driving to me is really just a necessary evil. I think because I don’t like it I have to work twice as hard to find patience, whereas when I ride, I am usually genuinely happy to be biking.
I believe everyone is patient with something. For instance, if you’re an accountant you better be patient with yourself in order to get the right information; otherwise you’d get yourself in trouble, or if you were a teacher without patience with children you’d begin to hate your job. If you think about it patience is inherent to who you are. If you like something or have that skill or gift, you tend to have far more patience than you do without that skill.
One of the great difficulties we often have in connecting with others on a personal level is that often if there is not an apparent connection or shared experience we often lose patience and even find frustration. The terrible thing about this is that with such a globalized community, we tend to not develop patience with others who are different because it is easier to connect with those who are similar, and since you know them, like you know your skill or whatever, you can be far more forgiving and patient than you would be with someone who was foreign to your would.
A continual Christian theme is one of patience; early on it was that God would provide, then that God would provide a Messiah, and now that God has promised a second coming. But it is not just patience in that way, God calls us to be patient with the Holy Spirit who is at work among us. More importantly, as we saw in last week’s lesson, God calls us to be patient with the new believer.
It is hard to be patient with someone who is making mistakes and does not do things the way you want, but often when we back away or disengage because we are not patient. Or conversely, because of our impatience we push or carouse; we often are doing more to repel the message of God than to build it up.
Often, we have to give the room God requires us to breathe and allow the Spirit to work. For many of us this is the worst thing for patience, because the hardest impatience to overcome is the impatience concerning an unknown future. Especially when the future is always so unknown.
As Christians we are called to be examples, and one of the ways is to be a witness for others when it comes to our patience, or be able to name and work on our impatience so that we can learn to welcome and accept all people, recognizing that usually the frustration we feel has far more to do with us then it does with them. It is just like when I drive; my impatience has much more to do with my dislike of driving, or being in a car, than it really does with the slow driver or annoying lights.
If you want to see something interesting, line up a group of people in a single file line saying “I am the front of the line, line up behind me.” Once everyone is sufficiently placed, look at them and walk to the other end of the line and lead them from there. You’ll be interested to see the frustration, especially if there was a rush to get to the front (btw you can probably witness this to a certain degree daily at the airport).
You may have guessed the theme this week is the first shall be last and the last shall be first. It is a wonderful and great reminder of the way in which God works. In the early church, as was evident from last week’s scripture, there was a problem: people felt that time in the faith, be it Judaism, or in Paul’s case just followers, that they had more of a right to the faith and salvation than others. In other words, they were more righteous than the newcomers.
They had good reason for this: they worked hard and kept faithful and felt they were owed something. Though they also felt that they were owed something more because they had been there the longest. Problem is, that for God, this is not the way to look at it.
The passage this week is one of the harshest to deal with this issue. The Parable is about the owner of a vineyard that needs to harvest his crop. He started his day “early,” most likely at day break, hiring day laborers. But throughout the day he continued to bring in more and more until he brought in the last group at the end of the day. All day, with each additional group, those who had been called early were getting excited because they thought they might be getting more than what was originally promised. But when the end of the day came, the last were paid the same as the first, which really irked the people who worked all day. But the owner reminded them that they got what was agreed to, and essentially it was none of their business if he wanted to be generous.
Honestly, I could feel the same as those who worked all day. Especially being tired and weak. But there is something missing for the workers; their complaint was about fairness in relation to themselves, their hopes, their ideas, etc; it had nothing to do with the landowner or even the other men, but that is whom they blamed.
Jesus says this is an analogy about God; it is in the same vein as the prodigal son. However, here Jesus is driving a point that when it comes to the grace of God it does not matter when you come to faith, only that you do. Moreover, that no matter what works are engaged, each soul is regarded equally. So it does not really matter who is first and who is last; in the end they are all equal.
It is like the line getting onto a plane, no matter how fast you get on, you are still going to all leave at the same time and get where you are going at the same time. With faith, we come to it at different phases of our lives and from different places, but what is important is that we come to it, we live it, and we go forth and spread it, and not the rewards or payment or anything else, but out of the Joy and celebration of being Faithful to God.
One of the most important jobs I have is to struggle with you to go deeper, never accepting your faith to be complete. This is really important because the development of your faith and a deeper relationship with God is central in the call to evangelism. Why? You may ask. Because the more we question, struggle, and seek, the more we can listen, understand, and accept others. All of this helps us to begin to accept that there is something more than what we might understand.
In the Presbyterian Church one of our great difficulties is understanding faith outside of an intellectual experience. For many in the Presbyterian Church faith is often a logical exercise. Unfortunately, we know that this is a narrow way; God cannot be understood if it is exclusively an intellectual endeavor. However, the same is true of emotional or “spiritual” faith. In its own right there is nothing wrong with it, but an exclusively spiritual faith is not a full witness of God since it often lacks other parts and aspects of faithfulness.
A fuller understanding of faith can only come when we embrace and seek not just spiritual and intellectual but other faith understandings as well. When we do this we are then able to challenge ourselves with things that make us uncomfortable. The gift of discomfort, when we allow it, is that often it exposes us to different theologies, or ways of understanding God. Paul might call this “the great mystery;” and I would expand that by saying that no matter how much we think we know, there is always a lot that we don’t. But that is not really a problem.
As Paul says, “This Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, (Message 1 Ti 3:16). This is a foundational statement that recognizes that no matter what we may think or understand there is always something more, a mystery! How we come to understand that mystery depends on our approaches to faith. Obviously, someone who is comfortable with an emotional spirituality is going to have an easier time accepting the Mystery than does the intellectual spirituality.
But Paul in his wisdom does not leave the great mystery alone; he says that while it is a great mystery there are things that all can agree with, specifically that: “He was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory. This becomes very important because it gives that balance. While we can accept the mystery, we also have things that are known, things that are witnessed.
When we seek witness or when we seek mystery, what we are really seeking is understanding. What we call this in the church is Faith Seeking Understanding, which is a simplified definition of Theology. The word Theology means Words about God. So you can see how that fits in with God being so mysterious we have to have some place to begin understanding God. And that is the words we use to describe Him and how we can witness Him.
Soon after I was ordained, I got a call from the pastor of the church where I was baptized. He was called right about the same time my parents moved from Des Moines to Naperville. There is a tradition among some clergy that upon retirement, the bulk of one’s library is bestowed upon a newly ordained pastor. There is no ceremony, but it usually comes with a lunch and a long day of the retiring pastor telling the stories of the books. It was a really neat day.
When I got back to my office and unloaded my new library, I could not help myself and spent hours reading and perusing the books. Some were useless, either copies of what I had or specific to things or programs that no longer existed. One of the most interesting sections, and probably the one that has been the most useful was what I might call “being the church in changing times.”
I began to laugh as I read these books that ranged from the difficulty of re-engaging young adults (20-40) to the changing nature of the pastorate. The funny thing was that according to that retired pastor’s library, there was a crisis going on in the global church where there were cosmic shifts and the church was perceived to be so far out of whack that they were on the verge of closing. For the record, the mainline church was not wiped out; actually, the decreases of the seventies lead to a rise in membership in congregations is the 80’s.
I called my friend and asked about the books and his response was simple, “churches go through cycles; when it is down, you have books that tell you how to regain what you once had and when it is up, they warn of the impending doom.” What you know from being in ministry long enough is that a church, like a person, is resilient. Is it healthy, or is it not.” He said the thing was that all of the books in that section stood as a reminder that people can say a lot of stuff, but the reality is that churches that are viable are able to connect with their communities, and the churches that are dying are unable to make that connection. Moreover, he said one of the most important things, “size does not equal health or viability.” And then he said the most important thing “the church does not exist to keep its doors open, it is here to serve God and to serve the community. When the church stops doing either of those things, it stops being the church and like a brain-dead body, keeps going while the soul has already moved on.”
It sounded harsh when he said it, but since then I have seen this to be true. In fact, as I went back and read all of those books from the “being the church in changing times,” (all copyrighted between 1965 and 1975) all of them said essentially the same thing: forget about size, money, what you did before and even what you want to do, and look at how you are connected with your community and how you are guided by God. Interestingly, 40 years later, the most recent texts on church health and growth say the exact same thing.
Interestingly, I read things like “the crisis of the main line church” and predictions of its demise. Those are always valid to a certain extent, but the problem we face when we let those take over is the question that Christ is perpetually asking, “who do we serve?” The truth is when churches are asking the right questions “who do I serve, how am I serving my community?” churches always seem to grow, though not always in number, they always grow in faith and strength in their community.
Last week I was having a conversation with someone, laughing about how quickly things become standard in the church. In my last congregation, the third Sunday I was there, I changed something slightly in the service. While she was not protesting, my Choir director’s initial response was, “but you always do it the other way.” To which I responded, “I’ve been here three weeks!” We had a good laugh. It is funny how quickly things change and how often we get sucked into following traditions rather than the message or Word of God.
Early in the church people were creating these traditions. On of the biggest, at least through reading Paul’s letters, was the determination of who is in and who is out. Obviously this was important because as a new sect of Judaism, the early Christians were carrying with them an understanding of a very ordered life. Even non-Jewish converts, who were most likely the bulk of Paul’s community, carried with them the systems that predated Christ, since the scriptures and teachers were grounded in Jewish thought and tradition. The problem with a carryover like this is that often it interfered with the message of Christ and instead of sharing and evangelizing; it became overly focused on the way in which people live.
Remember, when Christ came into this world he said that he was bringing with him a new paradigm. This radically changed what it meant to have a faith-filled life. Thus, it had less to do with the prescribed ordering of life, and more to do with constantly asking how we are faithful to God.
This was one of the big issues the church had with monasticism. There is a fun article I read back in seminary about how the reformers denounced the Gregorian Chants. Back in the 90’s Gregorian Chants were a big thing. Anyhow, the issue that the reformers had was not only with the Gregorian chants, but with piety and other ascetic lifestyles, is that, in their internal self-focus they cannot be faithful to God because they are too focused on themselves.
In both readings this coming Sunday, we see the new ordering. For the Romans passage, Paul reminds the church that their job is to welcome people and NOT judge. Continuing on the tradition laid out in the previous section on loving your neighbor, Paul takes this one step further by asking us who is actually served when we judge? The answer, especially when we think about it, is typically ourselves. Whether that be comfort or safety or something else, usually there is a selfish motive to our Judgment.
In the parable of the unforgiving servant, the wealthy king went on a mission of collection to his servants. After a heartfelt plea, the king forgave the servant, only for the servant to turn around and not forgive the debts of those who owed him. While there are many lessons in this story, the standout in this passage is how self-focused the servant was. Instead of living into forgiveness, he lived into himself, his needs, his wants, and so on.
Both passages bring to light the new paradigm that Christ talks about. When we live for Christ, we are constantly looking for how we can connect with God, how we can connect with others and how we can move forward in faith. In Romans, Paul is remarking on how it is impossible to bring people to a relationship with God if judgment is part of the church. In Matthew, Jesus is remarking on how impossible it is to be a faithful person if we cannot forgive one another as God has forgiven us.
Together, both passages are asking how we put God first and not ourselves. I really do not know much about the Gregorian community and even less about monastic life, but I know one of the great struggles that Christianity has today is a cult within the church that places the self over God and an individual’s needs over the community. A cult that can claim that some are “true Christians” and others are not. As a denomination, this is one of those great battles that we fight and interestingly, whether conservative or liberal, consistently we fall on the side of rejecting rules and traditions which force a judgment on one another or accept a graceless reality in our lives.
It is funny, I have a little saying that pops up in my head when times get tough “Why do you doubt that God exists when you know God Exists.” It is a derivation of a line from the movie Dogma where a fallen angel is putting doubts about God into the mind of a nun. I am no angel, but without a doubt I know God exists, but at the same time when things get really tough or I feel very alone, a creeping thought comes into my mind. That “what-if,” which at times scares me, also surprises me. More than that, it is usually a sign that something needs work and I need some grounding.
As we finish this series on faith, we do so with the shortest section of Hebrews 11, and because I cannot help myself we will go into the beginning of Hebrews 12. All of the previous weeks have set up a reality that the perseverance of faith which the forefathers had was all leading and preparing ultimately for something bigger. As you may guess, that “something bigger” is Jesus Christ, famously introduced through the beautiful passage in Hebrews 12, which is often referred to as the cloud of witnesses passage.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”
As with much of the Bible, this passage is pointing to something more than a temporal issue or singular understanding. It is a concept that our faith resides in a continuum from the beginning of time. In other words, we have faith today because of the faith and faithfulness of those who came before. They also become a “cloud of witnesses,” a group that tell us and show us who God is.
Many times people will come up to me seeking and looking for God. Often when people do this I notice that they have cut themselves off from the community and the world around them. This past Sunday I got into a conversation with a friend from the community. As he was relaying how thankful he was for our event Sunday, he said something really interesting (though he used more technical language than I will relay). He said that as we get more involved with connecting online and by other digital means, we are losing a sense of our community and are becoming increasingly individualized, which is destroying the fabric of society.
Granted he was talking about this in a secular sense, but it is not that far off from a faithful expression. We cannot fully realize faith devoid of community. While we can try, if we are honest, self-spirituality and spiritual journeys devoid of community often devolve into narcissism and often will brings us to nihilism. This is because we become blinded to the ways in which God is actively working in our lives since we have removed ourselves from the cloud of witnesses.
As I said last Sunday, our English language limits us when we talk about faith since the word itself has become so broad. But when I talk about faith, I am talking about the singular relationship that we have with God. This is really informed by Hebrews, and has become a cornerstone of how I move forward in my faith. If left to my own devices I could allow myself to believe my way was the only way. I could accept that God exists as some social construct or psychological necessity. But like I said at the outset of this article, I know God exists, and I know God exists because of the cloud of witnesses, the communities I am part of, and the challenges all of these place on my faith.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen