Headlines from the New York Times for Wednesday, March 28, 2018
The Agony of Faith
(Below are excerpts from an editorial by Jennifer Finney Boylan. It is a story of how God loves us and draws us to himself.)
The five of us — Link, John, Mark, Kenny and me — had met in seventh grade, in 1970, and over the ensuing years we had gathered many times at this vacation house in Ventnor, N.J. Now, as we face our 60th birthdays, we had come together again, to celebrate our long friendships, and to look back.
The first night, the conversation unexpectedly turned to faith. I noted that it had been the story in Numbers 22 that had first shattered my nascent Christianity. This is the story in which Balaam beats his donkey, and the donkey, exasperated, turns to him and says, “What did I ever do to you?” And Balaam replies, “You’ve made a fool of me!”
“That’s not what anyone would say in that situation!” I complained.
“No? What would you have said?” asked Link.
“I’d have said, ‘Whoa! I have a talking donkey! I’m going to be rich!’”
Back then, I thought that doubt (also known as “common sense”) was my roadblock to a spiritual life. Now, these many years later, I have come to believe that doubt is, in fact, the drive wheel of faith, not its obstacle.
One Sunday morning a few years ago, I wandered out of my apartment in New York without having a clear sense of where I was going. The next thing I knew I had pulled into a nearby church, where I looked around suspiciously, and thought, “Please, God, don’t make me do it.” I sat in a pew.
The sermon that day was not about talking donkeys. It was about feeding the hungry. It was about working for equality. It was about justice for minorities, and gay and lesbian and bisexual and trans people. It was about giving refuge to people — including immigrants and refugees — who do not have a home.
It was, in the end, about only one thing: the necessity of loving one another.
Well, Jesus, I thought. I could get behind that.
Later, on the way out of church, I saw that same old painting of Christ in the garden, hanging in a small chapel. And I suddenly realized what I had been looking at, even while I was a child in the Lutheran church.
It was a portrait of a man thinking, “Please God, don’t make me do it.” And yet he did it anyway, in spite of his doubt.
Readings from the Gospel of John for Wednesday, March 28, 2018
How do I know that the Bible is true? My first and best answer is to see lives transformed by interaction with God, as he meets them while reading the Bible.
My second answer is what the Bible has to say about its heroes. Ancient literature presented heroes as bigger than life. Their failures were glossed over and their achievements were magnified. Not so the Bible.
John 7 is an example of how Jesus’ brothers did not believe. Ultimately, they became leaders in the early church, but they were not early followers. The sinful woman who was of an outcast ethnic group (see John 4) had more faith than did Jesus’ brothers at this point in their lives.
The Bible tells the story of real people, who had real problems with faith and other serious character issues. It also tells the story of God’s love that reaches people and takes them to the fullest life God has for them.
Prayers for Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Dear God, thank you for continuing to reach out to us in the midst of our doubts.