We seem to be always beginning. Or at least we have a tendency to speak about how we start our journey of faith. To some, that seems redundant. “We began long ago,” they might think. And that could be true. Yet, each day is a new beginning, a reaffirmation of the desire to be a disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. So, once again, the journey begins.
Even though there are those of us who are more seasoned travelers on the journey of faith, we are constantly met with new disciples. Rather than being slowed down by this, we are rejuvenated by the zeal that new converts often bring with them. “The journey begins” then is a time of celebration and of hopefulness. We are looking forward to becoming the community that we long to be and are described as being by the very one we follow.
So, here in the late summer and beginning of fall, when some things are winding down and other things are starting up, it is time for us to remember who we are and to whom we pledge our ultimate allegiance. Let’s go back to our first love and embrace our God with passion and with joy.
We are also on the brink of the Season of Creation, which means that creation and ecology will be a consideration in this series (and the next, as the Season of Creation goes from September 1 through October 4). It is up to you, of course, to determine how this will feature in the worship in your local context. But this is an opportunity to lift up the themes of creation care in a particular way throughout this series. It is a reminder that God works through the world as it is and that our call to be stewards and to care for creation is still with us and guides our worship and our work.
Out of nowhere, it seemed, as they traveled along, Jesus asked his disciples a question of identity. “Who do you say that I am?” It’s a question we must answer again and again as we seek to become disciples of Jesus Christ.
We want to know God, as we begin our journey of faith. We want to be able to call God’s name, to know something about God’s nature, to be able to trust in God’s presence as we seek to follow. Our worship this week can be full of names for and images of God, including the incarnated face of God that is Jesus the Christ. If you aren’t in the habit of reciting a creed or affirmation of faith, this would be a good week to do so. Pick one that provides an image of God that speaks to you and your congregation. What aspect of God most resonates with the mission and ministry of your church?
If it fits in with the confirmation cycle in your church, ask the young people who are wrestling with these questions of faith and tradition to share their images of God. If they’ve written creeds or statements of faith, bring them into the worship of the church this week. Let them write the liturgy for the whole congregation to declare. Ask the children’s department to invite the little ones to draw a picture of God at work in their lives and use these pictures to decorate the sanctuary and to guide the prayer and meditation time in worship. How do those who are truly beginning their journey of faith speak about or envision the God we all worship together?
Pay attention to the language of the songs you sing this week. How is God described? What metaphors are offered as a way to begin to comprehend something of the awesomeness of God? Let our music enlarge our understanding, rather than attempt to shrink God down into our comfortable ideas. Let’s be risky in our language as we acknowledge both the immanence and the transcendence of God, both what can be known and what is unknown about the God we worship.
“Who do you say that I am?” Let there be an invitation to declare, even when there isn’t a single answer, even when there is still sorting out to do. Even when individuals and maybe the whole congregation realize that words are sometimes inadequate to answer that question fully. Maybe the best answer is the silence of contemplation and prayer. Our faith declares that God will make God’s self be known. Trust in that as you worship today.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.