For the month of October, in Revive our focus series will be “Being the Body of Christ!” At the traditional worship, the focus will be “Acting Like a Christian.” Some may look at these two topics and see them as vastly different, but that is not the case. They are actually two sides of the same coin. Think about it like this: you cannot be the body of Christ if you’re not acting like a Christian, because ultimately your desires will get in the way of the community.
The same is true the other way around. You cannot act like a Christian if you are not part of a community. This is because the community is central to your Christian endeavor. For people of my generation (those who are now roughly 35-50), one of the most common statements made is that they are “spiritual,” but not religious. In other words, they believe in a God, but “church” is just not that important. Moreover, many feel the hypocritical nature of the church community might very well be an impediment to gaining a deeper understanding of God.
This is very interesting, because in many places in the New Testament, there are stern warnings against seeking faith alone. In fact, doing anything alone can create real problems, because often something is missed or misinterpreted. One of the greatest examples of why you cannot pursue faith alone is not even in the scriptures, but in the way the Bible is created. There are a lot of redundant stories. In the Old Testament, you have Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, all of which are covered in a slightly different way in the book of Deuteronomy, which literally means “second law.” In the New Testament, we have four gospels, which all tell the same story of Christ, yet with very different emphases and perspectives. Think how vastly different Mark is from John¾not just in the way it reads, but when you get to the theology and what is emphasized, the distinction is rather remarkable! Mark does not even touch the Resurrection, and everything in John is pointing to it.
Now, when you get to the point that you study scriptures, you really understand. As I have seen with so many people who have attempted the “year with the Bible” reading, where you try to read the Bible in a year, many times you will encounter things that just plain don’t make sense until you talk them out with someone.
The real kicker is once you get into the scriptures. Just look to 2 Peter 1:20-21: “First of all, you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit who spoke from God.” And that is only one of the passages that brings out that point!
All of this is to help us as individuals and as a congregation to come to a deeper understanding of our faith and the reasons why we do the things we do. For Presbyterians, this is one of those core understandings that we have. Mind you, I did not say theology or doctrine, because this is not something about God. It is, however, a real understanding of our human predicament, and how we can come to understand our faith better! Moreover, we cannot do that alone. We need the full perspective to be the body, and, ultimately, to act as God calls us to act. We need to be earnest in our witness, and open in our hearing. When we do that, we are opened to a deeper faith.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen