The Norman Transcript

October 10, 2013

This river of faith always changes

By Warren Jensen
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Several years ago my son and his wife purchased a parcel of ground in the mountains of the state of Washington, hoping to one day build a summer cabin.

The land was a quarter of a mile from a small river, close enough to enjoy but not to be advertised as “riverfront property.” Two winters ago, the little river couldn’t contain the snow melt, left its banks and formed a new channel. Now my son and his wife are thrilled to actually have their “riverfront property.” I’m nervous about the next flood.

I think this “river of faith” trip we’re on is often similar. Beginning some 2,000 years ago, Christianity began its own journey through history. This Christian faith stream began after the death of Jesus and along the way soon found itself being fed by many tributaries of faith stories that merged together, causing changes in the main channel. Sometimes new ideas and thoughts powered the message to even leave its banks and form new channels, leaving in its place many dry beds and sand bars.

Today most of us would probably say that the destination of this River is found in our sacred spaces. We also would probably agree there are different channels of thought still flowing into our churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other places of worship. I believe these commonly identified channels of thought have now resulted in our being labeled, the most common labels being liberals / progressives and fundamentalists / evangelicals.

Most of us are very aware of the differences implied in these labels and wonder if the one real river of faith can ever again find a common channel in which to flow. One chief cause of the problem among Christians always seems to be the different ways we understand the Bible. The Rev. Jim Burkle says “Liberals believe the Bible is a human book about man’s experience of God, and Evangelicals believe the Bible is a divine book for humans.” How we answer that question has determined and defined divisions in Christendom and certainly still permeates our local religious communities.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians writes: “Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit, and so be at peace with one another.” (Ephesians 4: 2 – 3).

The world right now is filled with major threats from the population explosion, environmental pollution, unprotected nuclear arms, food shortages and pending water crises, to name but a few. I really believe that solving any of them will require a unified effort from the human race. The message I’m drawing from this River of Faith concept is that people of all faiths seem called upon now, and with urgency, to become gentler, more humble, and kinder towards one another. This River of Faith, the one that carries all people along through time, seems to be calling us to accept one another (and our faith differences) as equals, not identifying ourselves by who we oppose or to whom we are superior, but instead demanding a willingness to gather together with all people in the world around themes of justice, peace, acceptance and even a radical welcoming of all people into the stream of faith.

The currents of a river always change. Our “faith river” has changed its channels many times over the course of time and will continue to do so. Each change challenges us to find new understandings and grow in love and in our tolerance for all people. God is good.