~ Dr. Amy-Jill Levine*
What does it mean to be a prisoner of unexamined faith? Have you ever asked yourself, "What exactly do I believe about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and/or the Bible, the rules and expectations of my particular religious affiliation and practice, and, perhaps more importantly, why do I believe or accept it? What or who has influenced you in your beliefs? Maybe you do have questions but aren’t sure who or how to ask. Sometimes it is just easier to go with the flow, follow the crowd, and just believe what an authority figure tells you is correct, especially if they’re ordained and/or extremely persuasive. But Lent is a time to begin to look more closely. There are no easy answers but within a trusting community, there are great opportunities to examine your absolutes, your maybes, your confusions, your questions. Maybe you’re curious about other denominations and even other faiths and practices, how they are different and similar yet not certain where to look for dependable and trustworthy information. Ask a librarian, search online, read several articles or books on the same subject by different authors with different backgrounds and credentials to think about. Perhaps you've examined your faith in the past and are confident in all that you believe, great! Yet now and then it is useful to review as in the grocery or hardware store list updates; some things retained, some things crossed off, some new things added. Think about finding or beginning a reading group to discuss, agreeing first that agreement on content isn’t necessary and will not be forced. Lent is the perfect time to check in with yourself again for some self-examination and discovery of what it means to oneself to be "faith-full" even with certainties, doubts, questions, and uncertainties that linger and change.
We have heard with our own ears, O God,
our ancestors have told us,
What deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old ~ **
And those stories are so important in our faith journey and yet, there seems to be so much conflicting information, differing opinions ~ go this way, that's right, that's wrong, don't ask...I get confused. She said/he said/they say, and I like all of them, how can they think so differently? I think I know what I believe about all the important things but I'm not always sure why or if what I believe is the right thing given all the shouting and controversies. Another moment for a long, slow, deep, breath... Today I will give up going through the motions of believing that I completely understand my faith. I will take on asking people I trust how to begin to sort out what I really believe and why. I will pray for an open mind and for the opening of the gates of my heart and soul to allow for changes in thought if they should appear; and also for the patience to accept that the journey of examined faith will ebb and flow with doubt and certainty and be as long as my earthly life. amen.
*Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University School of Divinity. She self-describes as a "Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Protestant divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt," Levine "combines historical-critical rigor, literary-critical sensitivity, and a frequent dash of humor with a commitment to eliminating antisemitic, sexist, and homophobic theologies."
**Psalm 44:1 NRSV