Modelling faith in our community, one conversation at a time

When I first put together the website for our two congregations,

I needed what they call a “tagline” –

something that briefly describes the work of the organization behind the website.

Almost eight years have passed since I put the site together,

and I’m still certain it was just the right phrase.

Modelling faith in our community, one conversation at a time.

Experience tells me that this is how it happens –

our faith is on display when we are talking, in small groups, or one on one,

about the things that worry us, or make us proud, or frustrate us, or give us hope.

When two or three are gathered in my name, Jesus said,

I am there among them – and he was talking about more than just worship.

This is a very hard thing to accept, especially for us –

two thousand years removed from Jesus ‘in the flesh’

but we know that, in certain company –

among people who have worshipped together and who share pride in a congregation, for example,

the conversations more easily turn to matters of faith.

the unseen presence of Christ – the silent encouragement of the Holy Spirit –

the bond of trust formed by the community of the Baptized;

all of these things allow us to be honest in faith in the course of ordinary conversation.

The conversations that occupy this morning’s readings

are important evidence of God’s constant desire

to remain engaged with us (and keep us engaged with God)

Think of the whole of Job –

a conversation among friends about God…

except that God reserves the right to be a partner in every human conversation,

and in the end, exercises that right.

“Brace yourself and stand up like a man: I will ask questions and you shall answer…”

God is serious about the dialogue; and that dialogue is life and death to us…

Life and death was very much on the disciples’ minds as they set out across the lake.

Storms – especially storms on the open water –

are a fearful and wonderful thing,

even for people used to making a living on the water.

They are badly frightened, yet Jesus sleeps in the back of the boat –

seemingly unconcerned.

The conversation is short and heated.

“Don’t you care?” they complain.

“Why are you afraid?” is Jesus reply.

“Who is this, that even the wind and the waves obey…?”

There seems to be no resolution – nothing explicitly faithful about this exchange –

They are left expressing awe that sounds like doubt (“who IS this…?”)

and wondering about God whose intention and activity

simmer just below the surface of everyday events.

When we wonder about the place of the church in a changing world,

we would do well to widen the audience for our conversations.

People are desperate to talk about the state of things –

you need only go to a coffee shop, or linger near the benches in the mall,

or the bleachers at a ball field,

The topics are vast: politics, racism, the economy, the royal family, the Blue Jays

People are mad & scared & confused by what’s going on in the world.

We talk about everything and nothing – stuff that matters, and stuff that doesn’t

and the voice of faith is not always heard, partly because we’ve decided

that people don’t want to hear what we have to say and partly because we’ve the wrong idea

about how to talk faith into these ordinary conversations.

The model is before us in Mark’s gospel.

they expressed their fear; real fear.  they expressed their deep disappointment.

They were left with a sense of awe – and more questions,

which, I assure you, they asked (once they got to dry land).

It was a conversation that opened the door to the possibility that God really does care,

and most of the time, that’s all that is necessary.

Now, we’ve been told that the art of conversation is dead – that technology (of every kind)

is going to rob us of the need to talk together.

I don’t believe that, but I’m also sure that the way we present our ideas through technology

can have the same effect as a face to face chat.

Questions are raised – doubts and fears expressed –

and the notion of wonder does enter the equation when an online article

leaves room for expressions of awe that leave the question open;

(Who/why/how is this possible?)

No matter how we manage it, the conversation will continue – must continue;

our fears, our doubts, our hopes, our dreams – all these must find expression,

and when we trust our “audience” with these things, we will be rewarded.

Job and his friends were confronted by an awesome truth –

that God was far larger than their largest complaint.

Jesus disciples were forced to consider that there was more to Jesus that met the eye.

We are witnesses to all this and more,

and so are challenged to “model our faith …one conversation at a time” –

Conversation is our best weapon in the battle against hatred and ignorance

(as we have recently witnessed with the families of victims of the Charleston shootings)

Honest dialogue can calm the wind and still the seas;

in such conversations we find our faith strengthened, and our spirits lifted;

we may even find a way into the future.  Amen

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