Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why I Am ...

The following is a response I wrote several years ago in answer to a call from "Presbyterians Today" about why I'm a Presbyterian.  The magazine asked its readers to write a brief reason why they choose to be Presbyterian versus some other denomination or no denomination at all.

              For me it is all about our worship.  Growing up in a conservative, Southern denomination, I knew nothing about liturgy, Advent candles, Easter vigils or longing for signs of the Spirit at Pentecost.  But after years of pushing God away, God broke through my brick-lined resistance and guided me to an old friend’s Presbyterian Church.  My tentative steps across the threshold were like a baby’s first teetering steps into an uncertain world, but once I was in, I knew I had come home. 

            Saints and other perfect beings do not inhabit our denomination.  We posture, denounce and oppose one another, further widening the chasms between us.  But I still believe in God’s potent power found in our shared worship.  What divides us seems smaller as we sing, pray and offer thanks.  Our worship gives expression to joy and allows us to be the people God created us to be.   

And now for the update.  

It's not that I don't still believe what I wrote about being Presbyterian.  I do.  But since this is my blog and I'm not necessarily limited by word count, I feel like I can say a little more.  And I think that my answer to this question can't be limited to being a Presbyterian, but it must include why I'm a Christian as well.

When I was interviewing for my new call here in Shawnee, one of the members of the pastor nominating committee asked me why I continue to answer the call to be a pastor?  In other words, what makes me get out of bed in the morning and serve as a pastor instead of working at the local grocery store?

I had to be honest.  There are days when I'm so frustrated with being not just Presbyterian, but Christian. that I don't want to get out of bed in the morning.  All I have to do is spend some time catching up on both local and world news, and I begin to feel despair creeping into my soul.  It's not that I blame God for allowing terrible things to happen around the world.  I just can not think of God as One who steps back, hands up in defeat, saying, "Well, I tried to warn em'!"  

It's that I blame people.  We never seem to get it, do we?  We never seem to learn the lessons of violence.  Guess what?  I don't believe it cures anything in the long run; not even in the short run.  We never fully believe that most people who are poor don't choose that life.  We just don't treat other people all that well, and I find myself thinking, "Yikes! Why bother?"

But the thing about being a Christian, and a Presbyterian Christian at that, is that we claim HOPE.  To give up on hope is to give up on God and I'm just not prepared to do that.  When I reread my argument for why I'm a Presbyterian, I have to reaffirm that it is our worship that keeps me hopeful.  Sure, as a preacher and worship leader, I cannot deny that worship often falls short of our expectations.  There are plenty of times when I want to tap on the pulpit mic and make the old joke, "Is this thing on?"  But I think in worship we get a glimpse of what it means to be in relationship with one another, the kind of relationship that we read about in scripture.  Worship does have the power to overcome what divides us.  We see each other as unique members of the human family rather than by the labels we stick on one another like post-it notes of the damned.  And when it works, and even when it doesn't, worship reminds us that we are not alone, that we live for more than just ourselves.  It has the power to lift us out of our narrow world view and see the really, really big picture.

So that's why I'm a Presbyterian.  That's why I'm a Christian.  I claim my faith.  My faith has claimed me.  And even though there are times when I'd like to tell my cosmic waiter to take it back, faith really is my foundation.  

What about you?

P.S.  Presbyterians Today printed my response in their online publication, but not the actual magazine.  Published is published, right?

No comments:

Post a Comment