I’m so, so afraid of appearing to be pillaging tragedy for traffic that I’ll keep this short
Most of the regular traffic on this blog aren’t (my) church folk, but many are members of my church and my community.
Those unfortunate enough to be in the latter already know that Hannah Graham, the abducted UVA student whose remains were discovered late last week, was a member of our community.
Pastors will know what I mean when I say she’s one of those faces you know and have seen many times before: in church, introduced by a friend, out and about, at something like a baccalaureate…how do I know her?
I’ve since communicated with her friends many times and to her family just a few. Both those many and the few lead to this often on my mind: ‘Please, don’t make me do her service…’
The downside of being in one church for so long is that I’ve (and, let’s give credit where its due, my church) caught more than my fair share of shitty funerals. The car load of girls who die on graduation day. The 6th grade confirmand who haunts my dreams. The too-young addict Dad who dies, leaving his family in the lurch. The older folks I’ve grown to love (no hyperbole) in 10 years and don’t want to see gone.
But with Hannah this feels different. It is different. I knew it when we held a vigil for her and I found myself unable to participate in the very liturgy I’d composed. It’s different because…why?
Because Hannah inserts a giant ‘WTF are you talking about?’ comment into all my theology. I’ve got nice, tidy Thomistic (see: Aquinas, Thomas) definitions for evil and sin.
I’ve got scripture at the ready to buttress my argument. And I’m versed in all the competing views too.
Here’s the THING- I still think the Thomistic view of evil to be right.
But ‘right’ and sufficient are hardly the same thing.
So I received it as good news this past week when reading over 1 Corinthians 12 to prepare for my sermon. I’ve read over Paul’s list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and his analogy to the parts of the body for the members of the Church so many times it barely registers anymore. ‘Boring’ doesn’t begin to describe my knee-jerk reaction to this text.
But with Hannah on mind and the giant ‘WTF?’ looming over my mind, I noticed something on Paul’s list 1 Corinthians 12 I’ve never noticed before:
Right there alongside wisdom and interpretation and the other gifts the Spirit brings to believers whenever they gather together in worship, Paul lists ‘faith.’
That is, these aren’t permanent, personality-trait gifts Paul lists. They’re ways the Spirit temporarily manifests among Christians during worship. In other words, on any given Sunday, in any given worship setting, the Spirit only gives ‘faith’ to some of those gathered to confess that Jesus is Lord.
So often we make faith the amorphous pre-req to count as a Christian and then we beat ourselves up when we (often rightly) feel like we don’t have enough of it.
But Paul doesn’t expect all of us to have it all of the time.
Paul, I think we can wager, expects us those other times to have more than our fair share of doubt and second-guessing and just raw, righteous anger at the God we may or may not believe in.
Faith is a gift, every time we have it, because every time we gather the gift is only given to ‘some.’
Admittedly, most days and weeks that may sound like bad news to me. But not lately. Not at all.