One of my favorite table top games to play is Jenga. However I do not recommend playing this game with a 6-yr-old as their frustration with a loss can be a bit intense. For those of you not familiar with Jenga, it is a game with a tower involving multiple layers of 3 small wooden planks. In order to play one must remove a wood plank from the lower sections of the tower and stack that plank on top; forming a new layer. The game gets progressively unsteady as the tower is reshaped and eventually topples over to reveal the person who loses (Now you can see how a 6-yr-old might get upset…but it’s hilarious when daddy loses). I reference Jenga today because sometimes I think we often think of our faith walks in terms of a Jenga tower…but one in which we can’t ever remove any planks for fear of losing the whole construct. And then there are other people who seem to want to remove planks all the time and we wonder how their tower even remains upright. In her book Gilead, Marilynne Robinson’s narrative voice the Rev. John Ames speaks to this a bit when he says, “It seems to me some people go around looking to get their faith unsettled”
I think the issue in this discussion lies with how we think about our faith. For many of us faith is something that must be iron-clad, unwavering and rationalistic proof of what we believe. And so even the slightest chink/change in the construct of what we believe could bring the whole thing tumbling down. For others of us our faith is a bit more fluid and we allow change to enter into the ebb and flow of what we believe. One might even find comfort in the words of Anne Lamott, “The opposite of faith is not doubt: It is certainty.” But wherever you find yourself on this continuum, the one thing that we must all admit to ourselves is that what we espouse as far as belief is faith. It is hope in the thing we cannot prove upon which we stake our entire lives, will one day come to fruition. And that is difficult to comprehend sometimes.
The writer of the epistle of 1 Peter in the new testament encourages us with the following, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” – 1 Peter 3:15 Sometimes we think about this “answer” as needing to be proof of our faith…some way to rationalize our belief to those we come into contact with. But truly the answer is evidence for our reason to hope. And how is this lived out? By staking our lives on that which we believe. We believe in God the Father almighty. And in Jesus Christ his only Son who made a way for our redemption. We believe in the Holy Spirit that sustains us and gives birth to the Church that is the hope for the world. And we frame our lives around these core beliefs. Perhaps other planks may come and go with our faith walk, but we have staked our life on these essentials with aren’t shaken and create in us hope for tomorrow. Rupertus Meldenius’ quote holds more truth to us today than ever before when it comes to our faith in an ever shifting cultural landscape, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” Faith rests upon the essentials. This is where our hope is realized. And we give our hope to the world with gentleness and respect (love) and we begin see the world transformed.