Monday, April 11, 2005

Once again on my journey of faith and being a pastor

I was correct in my sense that Tripp's sermon would shed some light on the issue surrounding my journey of faith and it's having lead to this place of being a pastor. At one point in his sermon he said "I did not need to be convinced, I was not convinced. I was converted." Conversion he went on to say was/is about sitting with (in the case of his life the Resurrection of Jesus) the faith and the Gospel. It seems that we often want to make Christianity convincing to people.
In the years following the confferal of my M. Div. have been a time of conversion for me. Not that I was not a Christian before. I am coming to think that the Christian life is a series of conversions. Yes, some may have that big moment of conversion like St. Paul on the road to Damascuss, but for me as one growing up in the faith, having been baptized as an infant, is about living into the reality that simply has been the environment of my life. I have not had to turn away from the world, but continually chose the church and Christ as my life.
Crossan, Borg, and Spong et al. have given me an understanding of the intellectual and historical problems of Christianity and thus have shown me the difficulty of being convinced of the truth of Christianity. If I have to be convinced of the Virgin Birth to accept it as true, or the resurrection or the entire Creed, then they represent the way to go. For I am convinced of very little of the faith. If however, the goal is to be converted, for my life and orientation and thinking to be transformed, then Crossan, Borg, and Spong are of little aid. They are arguing with the Fundametalists who say that conversion means being convinced.
Where conversion is more like the Road to Emmaus: The two disciples were not convinced by Jesus' interpretation of the Scriptures, they were converted when they sat with Jesus and what he had said, and found him in the breaking of the bread. In sitting with Christ and encountering him in the breaking of the Bread their view of the world was transformed, and they saw him. In that moment they were converted and then they understood what had been said.
I know this sitting with of the path of conversion. While I was a student and reading Bultmann, and Borg, etc. and questioning the virgin birth of Jesus, I was also, accoasionaly sitting in Orthodox worship services, and with them speaking the creed, and singing praises to the Virgin Mary, the Theotochos. In the worship of the Orthodox you can't escape the virgin birth, and it was with the Orthodox that I coud see the truth of the virgin birth, and somehow in those services all my historical arguments simply had no power. No one argued for the virgin birth. I know of no Orthodox appology for the virgin birth or the Resurrection of Christ, it simply is always affirmed, there is no question for the Orthodox that this is the faith. The gift the Orthodox have given me is that they alowed me to come and sit with them, to learn from them the faith I have always known. I owe my current conversion to Orthodoxy. I suspect that without the experience of Orthodox liturgy, of simply sitting being unable to go forward for communion even, kept me from the conclusions of a Spong. My judgments and arguments, all the academic discussions (as iluminating and invigorating as they are), will not lead to conversion and faith. At some point we must just sit with the faith and the Gospel, and the claims of the Church and of Christianity. Conversion doesn't allow picking and chosing, it also doesn't demand instantaneous assent. That is the Church and Christ does not ask that I be convinced, it presents me with my need for conversion.
I am now in a position where I need to clear the way for conversion. Not that I can convert anyone, but all my work is oriented towards baptism, either the journey towards or the Journey from.
Come and sit with the faith, this is Christianity, you may never be convinced but are you converted? Am I converted, am I allowing God to transform me, am I as a leader in the church clearing the ground so that people can come and sit, and at some point be converted by an encounter with God.
I have my doubts that such clearing comes from telling people "Well you can pick an choose what to believe about Christ and the Faith. The virgin birth unimportant and Resurrection that's just metaphor, you don't actually have to believe that." No clearing the way is to say this is the Faith, and no you don't have to be convinced of it all right now. Come anyway with your questions and doubts. Its alright to have questions and doubts we all have had them, and we continue to have them. But come experience the transforming power of Christ, come and sit, you must be converted not convinced. This is Chrsitianity: virgin birth, the God/human Jesus, Resurrection, stories of walking on water, of miraculous healing, Scriptures that are difficult to swallow and understand. Sit with it and with us as we are converted.