A father came to Jesus and asked Jesus to help his son: “’If you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief.’” Mark 9:22-24
One month from now we will be entering into the Season of Lent. March 5th marks the beginning of that season with Ash Wednesday, where Scripture reminds us that we came from the dust of the earth, and to it we shall return.
Lent is also a time, at Calvary, where we take up the study of a particular theme in our faith. This year we continue our walk through Luther’s Small Catechism, exploring the Apostles’ Creed. Now, wait! Before you yawn and set down this article, consider this: How many things do you believe? What do you have real convictions about? Think about it: About life, about family, about work, about education, about friendship, about suffering, about happiness, about God. Our beliefs shape how we approach life every single day. They influence what we think about when we wake up in the morning. They affect how we raise our children, interact with the world, and whether we can sleep at night.
Beliefs shape us. But we seldom articulate those beliefs. We rarely write them down. Or commit them to a mental file labeled, “This I Believe.” And too often we simply react to our life situations, not realizing how our beliefs have precipitated those reactions.
That said, it’s time for us to do some thinking in Lent: What do we believe? What do we believe as a Christian community? What do we believe as individuals? But also, what do we believe about life, about humanity, and about whether the world is a good or an evil place? All of these beliefs have an impact on how we live, and they inform the practice of our faith.
The story from Mark’s Gospel that is quoted above is one of my go-to passages in Scripture. In part because it’s such a poignant story of a father grasping desperately for whatever help he can get, and finding that help in Jesus. But more I love this passage because it is such a profound confession about faith and life. It’s not just that I admire this guy for his determination and honesty. It’s that I am this guy: I believe, and I wrestle with believing. I love Jesus, and believe he can do more for me than anyone else, but I need Jesus to help me with my unbelief. I believe that Jesus profoundly changes who I am, and how I perceive God and life, but I am still a sober enough Christian to see that there are lots of things that don’t make sense to me in the world.
So, what do you believe? Think about it now, please, because we are going to ask you to share your wisdom about life in Lent. Do you have a passionate belief about the impact that music can have on one’s life? What do you believe about money—is it a means or an end? What do you think about whether wealthy nations have an obligation to third world countries? Are possessions important to you, or has your life experience changed your perspective on stuff?
“This I Believe,” is the name for our 2014 Lenten Series. We shamelessly borrow this title from a series that is produced by National Public Radio and continues to be a popular venue for statements of belief. Listeners record their essays about how life experience has informed their choices; how their talents have opened up new worlds to them; how past adverse circumstances have shaped their present and future life pursuits and goals.
So, think about it. If you were asked to choose to make a single statement about something that you believe passionately, what would you say? Write down your thoughts. You likely have more than one idea that you believe passionately, so write down more. Then, be ready to share those beliefs with your fellow Calvary members. I think we will discover that exploring our personal beliefs alongside our corporate beliefs teaches us a whole lot about who we are as individuals, and how that shapes us when we come together as a congregation.
Looking forward to the journey.
Pastor Lori A. Cornell