I have been recently reading Marcus Borg’s new book, Days of Awe and Wonder, although it is not really a book. Rather it is a collection of his writings, some from books, some from sermons, or blog posts, one is an interview, which date from 1987 to 2014. The collection was put together by his wife Marianne, after his death in 2015. It reflects quite a journey for him, as a New Testament scholar and as a Christian. While the journey would have had its up and downs, and there are differences in some of the content and understanding as he moves along, the essence of his belief and trust is there from the beginning to the end. The book provides a guide to being a Christian in the 21st century, but also provided me with a starting point for this blog.
But this blog is not about the book. It’s about me and it’s about you. It’s about how we are to track a path through life, with all of our ups and downs, and trust and honour what we believe and sense and know about this life. Even if sometimes it seems very dark and cloudy.
I always start with a title for my blogs, but couldn’t really decide with this one. I had a few including the one below –
“How to be a Christian one day, an Atheist the next, and survive”
I borrowed the idea from Frank Schaeffer, the son of Francis Schaeffer, a televangelist in America in the 60s who has taken a different path out of the evangelical movement into a space of less certainty and feels that’s okay. In fact, more than okay.
So as you see, the title suddenly picked itself!
When I sat down to think and write this blog, about faith and belief, and God and life, I realised that sometimes our tradition and ancestors show us things that are beautiful and guiding and sometimes things that distract us or lead us down a garden path. Just ask Frank.
So maybe we have to start with what we know gives us life, what we believe and hold as central to who we are.
Or in other words what we find in our own hearts, that place the ancient hebrews tell us is the centre of everything, all our hopes, our dreams, our beliefs, our truths. So I have started with me, and have made a list …
What do I believe in my heart, when no one else is around…?
I believe in –
Music – the power to comfort, to strengthen, to inspire, to relax
Poetry – especially by Mary Oliver
Awe and Wonder – the world is an amazing place, we are amazing creatures
Death and resurrection – there is always a new day
Ideas and debating them, with enthusiasm
Science – how we make things, build things, think things, feel things, do things, it tells us how the world might work, and then surprises us, tells us where we have come from, who are our brothers and sisters (which is everyone by the way).
Action – small and big
Universe – see awe and wonder
Our planet – see awe and wonder
Exercise – makes me feel alive
Air – the breath of life
Water, and occasionally something stronger
Food – shared with friends
Shelter – a home that is welcoming
Companions for the journey –
Those who do amazing things, those that do little things with love
Those who go to rallies for refugees, write letters of protest
Those who make new compassionate laws, who set up projects that empower others
Those that just get on with it, being the best they can be with what they have
Just a few of my hidden secrets!
What about God, you might ask, since I work both as a pastor and as a scientist?
Well, I trust…
The feeling that there is something underneath what we can see, that nudges us toward each other, toward goodness and truth, rather that the opposite,
That keeps the world going, and holds all things together,
That speaks to us at our most vulnerable, at our most passionate, when we are most lonely,
That tells us we belong, we are part of something bigger, more profound, that we are of worth and are beautiful,
That sometimes seems as close as my own breath but at others could be as far away as the sun.
And what about being a Christian……
I believe in Jesus as a revelation of God and God’s presence – for me Jesus of Nazareth was a human being, truly human, which means we are also of God and are capable of great things.
I believe Jesus came to show us the way, a transforming way to live, not to save us from our sin and take us somewhere else.
I believe in the essential goodness of humans and our evolving pathway over millions of years. And we are still evolving.
I believe Jesus calls us to love one another, and seek justice and peace for everyone, not just some. To stand beside those who are hurting and afraid. No one is to be excluded.
I believe it is a very difficult assignment to keep focussed on this way, alone, and we all need an ongoing connection to God, mentioned previously, plus others on the road with us.
Sometimes, both God and Jesus seem a long way away. As Frank Schaeffer says, sometimes he’s a Christian and sometimes he’s an Atheist, and that’s okay. Doubt means that while we take what we trust and believe seriously, life can often cloud things, and we can forget so easily what is in our heart. Yet amazingly it often rises to the surface, particularly if we take a time to rest and be still, and check our list. Suddenly we remember how to live in and with God. We find that much of the things that give our life meaning reveal the divine presence and deep sense of connection, unseen but ever present, nudging us along.
So Marcus Borg, who was the catalyst for this blog, has left an incredible legacy. Because he asks us to think about what we believe, what do we know of our own life, and what we trust in. And then he asks us to take our passion out into the world for the sake of others. And he asks us to see God and Jesus in all of that.
So there are plenty more things to add to my list, this is just a start, but I won’t bore you with mine. Write your own, and see that life, with all its ups and downs is still a beautiful life. And maybe just maybe within that list you will see glimpses of the spirit of God, working in the world and in you and me. For all things are holy. Maybe you will see the spirit of Jesus there. Sometimes we will, and others times we won’t.
And that’s okay! Its a journey and we are all on it. Even Marcus Borg.
Here is a beautiful song by Carrie Newcomer – “I Believe”, to finish.