'His office let another take.' (Acts 1: 20)
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Today we remember the 'calling' of the apostle Matthias, who took Judas' place with the eleven following the Ascension. Normally, I would not reckon that drawing lots was a good way to choose a church leader. How do we know it was the Spirit choosing? How do we know?
I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about that question. My theology students ask it, often, and in a variety of different ways. I wonder about it myself: I have a daughter with Down Syndrome and have walked a pretty crooked and uneven road. How do I know that God has anything to do with any of this muddle? I wonder how what I believe is of any real help--how does Jesus help the mother who lost a son a couple of weeks ago in a cold, swollen, and muddy river? How do we know that Jesus is still around? How do we know that the Spirit still works through actions as random as drawing lots?
Sometimes it doesn't seem to make a lot of difference. And today I don't have any answers. I just have this bizarre story about the apostles drawing lots. All my teaching about God doesn't seem to have gotten me very far: I still don't get it. At the end of the day I am just as short of theodicy as anyone else.
I guess some days are like that. Might as well just say so.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
'The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;
I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life;
they will never be lost
and no one will ever steal them from me.
The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone,
and no one can steal from the Father.
The Father and I are one.’
It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.
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Today I read and shared two different articles (thanks to friends who posted them on facebook). The first described a minister's 'loss of faith.' The second commemorated the 79th anniversary of the founding of the Catholic Worker Movement. I posted them consecutively on my wall, as the two items seemed to me to be related, and also to offer an example of the way in which the profession of the faith and the practice of the faith sometimes miss each other. The abstract questions about God, the puzzle of evil, and the like do not admit of answers. The best 'answer' I can find to the philosophical problems is not a philosophical one: it is Dorothy Day and countless examples of faithfulness like hers. We may not grasp God--as the despair of the former minister shows--but we do see Jesus. He continues to bring light and life through the work of his disciples.
I know that doesn't convince those who doubt. I have taught enough seminary students with these same questions (even in the relatively few years I have been teaching) to know that doesn't 'answer' the question. There was a time when I would have interpreted the spiritual journey of the former minister as a 'loss of faith.' But I don't think of faith as something to be lost: faith (as I commented on the original post) is something the church holds, and God gives. For that reason, and that reason only, I live in the hope that I 'will never be lost'--not because I am strong enough to hold onto God. Certainly not. It is because God is strong enough to hold onto me.