Across the Pastor’s Desk: Starting to come back together
Across the Pastor’s Desk by Matt Griggs
“Jesus answered them, ‘You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you?’” Mark 9:19a (NRSV)
The churches I serve are starting to come back together physically after our months of quarantine. Although we have always gathered online and many by television, there is something about seeing one another and being in their presence. Jesus also promises to bless such gatherings, “for where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18: 20)
Because of this new beginning, we are studying from the book of Genesis this summer. Genesis, whose name means beginning, is the story of God forming a new nation from a 70- and 65-year-old couple. The miraculous birth of Isaac, the contentious yet chosen life of Jacob and Joseph are entertaining, inspiring and a little troubling. With all the faith and formation of a new nation, dedicated to God and mission, are stories of very human and very sinful people. Many times, these people are the main characters; the so-called people of faith.
Now, these examples of faith and faithlessness do not get by unpunished. Just like Jacob, who wrestles with God in Genesis 32, these patriarchs and matriarchs show both humility and pride, love and hatred, faith and doubt. This is just the beginning of troubling history in the Bible, the people called by God not acting as they should be. Culminating in the cries of Jesus, training his successor disciples and apostles, calling them a faithless generation in our passage above. The disappointments of the people of God are not unfortunately confined to the Bible.
While the church and the people of God have done many good and great works (John 14:12), there is always in the background the many times people simply ignored the commandments and calls of Jesus.
In this new beginning, one may ask if there is anything to learn from these bad actors. A dear friend almost lost her faith when she was reading through the center of the Old Testament and had trouble finding one inspiring person who was not so compromised by sin.
“What’s the purpose of these stories in the Bible?” This was her cry and sometimes ours from these present days. Is there something or someone to hold on to? Who can we trust who is without sin?
When I ask these questions, the right answer to my friend’s dilemma becomes crystal clear: God. Our present time is like this. We will have people that inspire and disappoint. We find that our history and elevated leaders have a tarnished history. Yet Jesus is also here with the promise of a new beginning. He forgave and forgives your sins, he is challenging yet fills us with the promised Holy Spirit.
How long must he be among us? Forever. Wherever two or three are gathered. It’s a new beginning!
Matt Griggs is the pastor of Central Freeborn Lutheran Church.