Evolving Faith

Sunday March 22, 2020 The Fourth Sunday of Lent (Cycle A)

The tie in between today’s readings: Unity in the Flock

Psalm 23:1-6, 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41

Probably the most familiar and loved section of scripture is our reading today in Psalm 23, The Lord is My Shepherd. In it, God promises His provisions and protection with a happily ever after thrown in. After further examination of this Psalm, I discovered one more reason for its popularity: this Psalm is all about me! Every line of verse has a “me”, “my”, or an “I” in it. How could you not love it? The reality is that the church is not just Jesus and me. I am part of a flock, a flock as diverse as a Whitman Sampler. Some of the other sheep make me uncomfortable with their different ideas of worship and doctrine to the point where I conclude that the Lord may be my shepherd, but I’m not so sure that He’s yours. Each sheep believes that he is right and, when right peoples’ truths collide, there is trouble. Jesus said, “Where two or more are gathered in My name, I am in their midst.”… sometimes to break up the fights. Our readings today deal with some principles that separate us from our neighbor in the pew, not to mention the different denominations. With this understanding, maybe we could grow a little closer together toward a more unified flock.

Our first aspect in our reading in 1 Samuel 16:1-13 is appearances influence our thinking.  The first king of Israel, Saul, is tall, strong, and handsome, the whole regal package wrapped up in one guy. He is quickly accepted by the people as their monarch with high hopes for his dynasty. However, after he fails to follow the Almighty’s specific orders concerning the Amalekites, the Lord rejects him as king. God sends the prophet Samuel to a man named Jesse who lives in the little town of Bethlehem to find a replacement. Samuel tells Jesse that God will pick one of his boys to be the next king. The proud father sets them in line. The first one up is Eliab, a fine specimen, and Samuel thinks that he is a shoe in for the job, but the Lord stops him. “Forget appearances,” says God, “I’m looking at hearts and his isn’t right…next.” Jesse presents six other sons: all fail. In frustration, they send for the last and youngest boy, who was out in the fields and not even considered as a serious applicant. When he arrives the Lord says, “This is the one. Anoint him king.” Samuel obeys and begins the story of King David, a man after God’s own heart. So, Conservative or Pentecostal, pipe organ, electric guitar, or whatever the other forms of worship that grate against our personal norm, let’s not judge. Let’s give them room in our hearts and assume that in their hearts they are doing it unto the Lord.

Doctrinal understanding is another reason for divisions between us. It forms our understanding of the Lord and we defend it tooth and nail because we believe in the rightness of our truth. Doctrine is important, but we can get so far in it that we can’t see the forest for the trees. Our gospel reading in John 9:1-41 demonstrates the Pharisees entrenchment in their own doctrine about God that they couldn’t even see God (Jesus) when He was standing right in front of them. They were blind. So, in divine irony, Jesus uses a blind man to confront them on His favorite theme: the Sabbath. You’ll have to read the forty-one verses for yourself to discover the lengths the Pharisee go through to discredit the blindman, the miracle, and the Lord, for the sake of their own beliefs. It’s comical. The point I want to make is that we need to bear with each other, love each other, and at least get outside ourselves to consider where the other person is coming from. They may not be right, but I may be wrong in my understanding too. Our faith needs to evolve with the framework of scripture, whether we are Fundamentalist, Liberals, or Cafeteria Catholics. The truth is that there is only one foundational doctrine that is a must for all believers and it’s the one doctrine that unites us all: faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.

Our epistle in Ephesians tells us in verse 14 to wake up and arise from the dead! This is the new life in Christ that comes from faith in the forgiveness of God through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. He is our Savior! It goes on to tell us to reject the darkness of sin and live as children of the Light in Christ. We must pursue holiness and please God in goodness, righteousness, and truth. He is our Lord and Master! You are free in your expression on how to do it. Let’s not focus on each other and be diverted by appearances or doctrines which then become the seedbed of divisions. Let us get the bigger picture by making room for each other in our hearts. Even if we don’t agree on everything, let’s be united in our faith in Christ. After all He is our Shepherd and we are His flock.   

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