“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all. But whatever I have placed in God’s hands that I still possess.” — Martin Luther
“But in your hearts revere Christ above all. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
I mentioned last month that my grandfather is going to turn 95 in a few weeks. He recently called me to tell me of a new book that he is reading and said he wanted to do a book study with me. When your 95-year-old grandfather asks you to do a book study, you do a book study! He explained to me the family reason for never having any formal Christian education and, not wanting to put things off to the last second, he thought a bit of reading in spiritual formation would be worthwhile. So, he suggested we read Jimmy Carter’s Faith: A Journey for Everyone and, in doing so, consider where this book fell in the spectrum of the Christian faith.
Before we get too far, there may be good reason why we are never to talk religion or politics in polite company. Perhaps, that is because there is no way to truly separate the two. My hope is that your faith informs your political views and then you use your sacred agency to make the world a more loving, caring place.
With all this being said, I want to share with you Jimmy Carter’s book, in which I have taken interest, even though it is written by a former president. I ask you to do yourself the favor of setting aside political history for a bit and read the book with and open mind. I think it is well worth doing so. I find it even- handed, which means, depending on if you are a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty person, there is something in it to both offend and endear everyone who reads it. It provides a concise summary of what a great deal of mainline protestant denominations are trying to say and do. It is worth your time wherever it lands in your own expression of faith and politics. Perhaps we, individually and culturally, slip ever closer to narcissism when we al-low only our own beliefs, opinions, and politics to be reflected in what we listen to and read. Learning to listen for truth and shared values I feel is an important part the humility of our spiritual tradition.
Our Confirmation class has just returned from a weekend retreat to Minneapolis/St. Paul. There they sampled from the varied palette of cuisine, creation, and Christian expression. As they wind up the church year, they are being asked to write for you, the congregation, a statement of faith, which will be short enough to read during worship. To some extent that is what Carter’s book is, a statement of faith. The best attempt of a noted person of faith to “revere in his heart Christ above all” and “to give the reason for the hope that he has.”
Grace and Peace,
Rev. James F. Deters