Hey SPV fam!
This week’s all-church email is from Jessica Throop who posted these shortly after a bullet was shot through a preschool classroom window last week in St Pete that her son Henson was in.
I think when faith is a big part of your life, it’s natural to want to thank God for keeping you safe if you’ve ever averted some sort of crisis. And I think gratitude is an important posture.
I’ve had a lot of folks thank God for keeping Henson safe yesterday. They are thanking God for protecting him and his classmates from that bullet someone fired into their classroom. And I know it comes from a place of great love and for that I’m incredibly grateful.
I struggle though to believe in a god that keeps my baby safe but doesn’t keep the other child (or adult) victims of gun violence safe. I don’t think I can reckon with a god who protects my baby but doesn’t keep brown babies out of cages at our southern border.
I do, however, believe in a God of love. And love allows for free will. Love does not impose control over people. And because of that, some babies are murdered and others are separated from their moms and dads because of the violence we humans cling to.
I believe in a God who wholly grieves with families mourning loved ones who’ve been murdered in their classrooms, their places of worship, grocery stores, entertainment spaces...
I believe in a God who is present with terrified mothers and fathers and children who’ve been ripped apart and forced into cages for legally seeking asylum from a lifetime of violence.
And I believe in the God who is showing up for me and my kids these last two days, as we process, in the form of the bodies of family members who sit with me and listen to me and feed me and love my kids while I take a hot shower.
A God who is showing up in the form of free chocolate chip cookies for my boys at coffee shops just because.
A God who is showing up in the encouraging and supportive phone calls and messages from those humans I’m so unbelievably blessed to be loved by.
I believe in a God who promises that life is stronger than death and love is stronger than hate and calls us to partner in fulfilling those promises by dedicating our lives to restoration, liberation, love, and justice for ALL their beloved creation.
Hey SPV fam!
I grew up Methodist & part of my confirmation as a kid was to memorize the Apostles’ Creed. I didn’t mind it because memorizing stuff like that wasn’t terribly difficult for me but if I’m being honest, I questioned the use of such an endeavor, chalking it up to mostly rote repetition & an empty religious exercise. A few years later my family started attending a charismatic church & a strong emphasis was placed on things like a “positive confession of faith” & the “words of our mouth”. Critics would & still do refer to this as “name it & claim it” or “blab it & grab it” theology & after awhile my faith & theology moved beyond such formulas & into something much deeper & more meaningful (for me anyway).
The news & social media has been littered recently with stories of prominent Christian leaders experiencing a “faith crisis” & in some cases even stepping away from the Christian faith altogether. I obviously never like hearing of such stories but I believe in some cases such a journey is necessary to strip away all the junk that religion (& yes, that even means the church itself in many cases) has saddled them with & I pray they come out free on the other side; free to see Jesus for who he truly is & fall in love with him & follow him afresh.
So if you’re in that space, it’s ok, God is gracious, he will never leave you, he will complete the work he began in you, you cannot hide from his presence & nothing can separate you from his love. And if you’re not in that space, you probably know someone who is, so be gracious & please offer love rather than judgment, condemnation & accusation (literally “the satan”).
Fast forward several years later & one might argue that my faith has come full circle & I’m thankful for the foundational elements that were instilled in me as a child. And I’m thankful that I was given the freedom (by the Lord, my family, friends...) to explore & experience Christianity in a variety of different contexts & perspectives, although I must say, I too was met with extreme judgment & condemnation by some. So while I don’t necessarily land in some of those spaces any longer (theologically or in practice), I’m appreciative of my time there & all that I’ve learned. So today, in 2019, I LOVE the Apostles Creed & not only do I love it (& the Nicene Creed as well), I often find myself reciting it as a “positive confession of faith” so to speak. It has been an effective anchor for my soul when the doubts & disillusionment roll in. I’ve included it below & I’d encourage you to read it & not just today but regularly & see if it anchors & encourages you like it has for me. Much love, Chris.
I believe in God, the Father almighty
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.