Free To Think…Bound to Serve
Christianity is more Doing than Doctrine:
Half of every relationship with God is the individual. God, who is timeless and constant, is known “as in a mirror dimly” while we live. We, who change and die, find our knowledge of God change throughout our lives. And we not only differ from our younger selves or who we shall become. We differ from each other. Temperament, experience, inclination give our approach to life different emphases. We each have our own perspective.
Some Christian traditions address this fact by establishing doctrine as definitive. Individuals subscribe to set teachings, by an act of will, and forgive themselves privately for being puzzled or unpersuaded by some of the formulations. Personal conviction is in the authority of the church which has decreed dogma.
Our tradition takes a different approach. We urge that for religion to be real, it must be based on a person’s honest beliefs. This means that each individual trusts himself or herself as a reader of scripture and a thinker about what is revealed there about God. We know we shall each understand God a bit differently from each other, and that the inevitable limitation of our understanding will carry through all the concepts which are part of our religious life. We trust God’s grace and the Spirit’s work to keep us in community, and to keep us ministering to the world.
We are required, as followers of Jesus Christ, to love others. Feeding, healing, forgiving, clothing, and paying attention to those with needs is the way Jesus embodied God’s approach to life. We must do the same. The twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew’s gospel states that it is caring for other people, and not profession of religious views, which counts with God.
The church long has aimed to make its Christianity a matter of active service, and long has accepted open, earnest inquiry as part of its character. For twenty years we’ve summed up this approach to discipleship with the credo “Free to Think, Bound to Serve.”
THIS MONTH’S ESSAY FROM THE PASTOR
Banks are erupting in Lewisburg like spores on old bread. The last few years saw a former oral surgeon’s transformed into a bank, and now the building opposite Dunkin’ Donuts has been razed to make way for another. Yet another cleared lot boasts a placard promising yet another bank. Some years back I wondered about the population density of lawyers in the borough. Someone explained to me that it’s because we’re the county seat. The courtrooms are here. That makes sense. I suppose it’s because money is here that we’re replacing so many other buildings with banks. It’s a place where cash is changing hands. The car dealership by the Legion Post has replaced its old showroom with a slick new one. The former chair factory site is being reworked into a grocery store and shopping center. The school district will be putting up a new high school. Stores which have stood empty for years are being reworked into new facilities. Two existing CVS drug stores in town are consolidating in a new building at the shopping center, where they can have a drive-through window for prescriptions. That will leave the big store at the corner of Market and Third empty for a while. The residents of Heritage House won’t be able to get their medications and sundries by walking or wheeling down to the corner, unless another drug chain comes in. Someone is calculating opportunity. Months ago–years ago–those with experience in these things digested reports on trends and recognized hints of nascent prosperity, and began to lay the groundwork for what’s happening now. Lewisburg looked like a good place to do business. What do the changes underway mean for the Christian church? What about our church, a block down from the business district? What opportunities for service and persuasion will be part of the new dispensation? What role can Christ’s followers play in a place likely to become a microcosm, like a rural Manhattan, of an America where people increasingly are either very prosperous or lead humble lives? As the world changes, even quaint heartland communities shift. What can we do as believers to preserve the best features of local culture–friendliness, concern for neighbors, a sense of civic duty? In what new initiatives will we recognize aims which resonate with the vision of the gospel, which we can support and encourage? How will we be able to register dismay and disapproval with changes– always presented as inevitable responses to market forces, or liability concerns, or efforts to be “realistic”–which undermine generous attitudes? Old stone churches are massive, not easily displaced by new cultural currents. The church also needs to be nimble, to know how to use its place for influence as the world streams by. People are raised differently, and work differently, and divert themselves differently. The world they engage is rewiring everyone. Yet human beings still are made for the things of heaven, and we have good news for everyone. Pray that God help us discover, along the way, alongside the evolving community in which we live, ways to promote and provide understanding, mercy, compassion, responsibility, and Peace, Mac