Wow, where did the summer go! The kids have been back in school for a couple of weeks, and here we are in September! What a summer it has been at the church. We had some great highs, and some lows in the loss of a dear member of our congregation, but boy has this place been hopping with preparation for the fall, and other activities that happened over the summer. It is interesting how even as a pastor it can be easy to lose track of God in the midst of life.
Recently, I read an article that talked about Pastafarians and their self-proclaimed made-up religion that worships the flying spaghetti monster. As an atheist attempt at humor towards religions like Christianity, it is supposed to should how organized religion and faith in God is “as silly as worshiping a flying spaghetti monster.” For the atheist, logic and reason says and stands as proof that there is not God.
For me, I always thought that it took a lot more faith and trust to be an atheist than to believe in God. Though, on the other hand, as people of faith, we do not always help our own cause. I have three friends who are rather strong Atheists. Two of the three grew up in faithful families. One Muslim, one Christian, the other grew up in an Atheist home. The one that grew up in the atheist home was very curious about faith, telling me that there are times when he struggles to make sense out of things, but never goes so far to suggest that there might be a higher power.
The other two, my Muslim and Christian friends are a militant about their atheism as a fundamentalist Christian or a radical Muslim. Once in a conversation I asked them why they saw organized religion as such evil. Their response was interesting and felt like a punch to the stomach. “Christians and Muslims don’t even believe what they preach. Christians go around talking about love, but treat people like @#$% and Muslims are supposed to honor God through family and community yet they send their youth off to get killed.” This conversation lasted for over an hour with similar platitudes going on.
The thing is, where they were right was striking; at the end of the conversation they asked, “In your church, how many times are decisions made because of logic, or legalities, and how many times are they done because you honestly believe that they are the right thing to do, the thing that God is calling you to do?”
I think in some ways that was the most painful, since I know how often judgment and correctness guide ministry far more than faithfulness and compassion. I think having been so busy and taken back by my Shingles and one crazy summer, I got into a routine and lost my purpose for a moment. However, on Sunday, after the service a man came up to me, Jonathan, a Captain traveling in a special envoy. Of all the services to attend, he showed up to the one on calling and thanked me for the words, which gave him strength to go forward. He also asked for our prayers.
After church at lunch and when I got home, I could not help but marvel at God’s ways and also feel a bit embarrassed about how easy it is to lose sight of God only to let reason and logic be my guide. It is easy to find the right answer to always be right, but it is more important to be faithful and recognize that God is with us. I think that for all three of my atheist friends, if they saw a church that really followed a Christian life, they would see that God is not a silly made up monster, but an active vibrant being that calls us all into a faithful community of love.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen