I remember hearing a young person complain that we had used a responsive reading in worship on the previous Sunday. "It's like you're telling me what to say," he noted. I'd rather come up with may own words. Ah, to be young and idealistic again! I'll leave it up to each individual to decide whether you prefer a particular style of worship, but this young person's comments highlight the countercultural nature of the gospel.
Perhaps more than at any previous point in history, we live in a culture that teaches us to make up our own minds. We are encouraged to form our own opinions about everything from politics to entertainment to spirituality. Find what works for you. Create your own identity. Don't just swallow what others tell you. Come up with your own words.
Let me be clear. There is nothing to fear in encouraging people to examine the evidence and ask questions and form opinions. Nothing about the Christian faith requires us to accept blindly what someone says without questioning why. It is in forming our own minds that we come to own the faith for ourselves rather than simply parroting what others tell us.
But on what basis do we "form our minds"? The Gospel is built on a truth that we did not create. It is not up to us to decide who God is and what God has done and what it all means. When we enter into the Christian faith, we are entering into a story that we did not initiate. In writing his Gospel, Luke makes it dear that he is not trying to be original or innovative. He is not trying to invent or craft something that fits a set of prior assumptions. Instead, he is seeking to pass down a set of stories in an orderly way "just as they were handed down to us." Luke is saying, in effect, "I did not create this. This did not start with me. I am simply trying to help you find your place in a story that was already well underway before we ever entered the picture.
Rich Mullins was a Christian singer and songwriter who died in a tragic accident in 1997. He once recorded a song built around the Apostle's Creed, which is perhaps the oldest and most basic creedal statement of the Christian faith. Mullins set the content of the creed to music, and then in the refrain sang these words:
And I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am;
I did not make it, no it is making me.
Rich Mullins and Beaker,
"Creed," Songs, Reunion, 30 July 1996.
I am all for self-discovery and self-expression, but it starts with discovering our place in the story of salvation. God is the author of this story, and what he has to say about us will be far more accurate and truthful than anything we would say on our own. What he says is that in Christ, we are being redeemed.
Holy God, thank you that through Christ you have written me
into the story of what you are doing to redeem this world.
Thank you that the ultimate meaning of my life is not left
to my limited devices or so my own feeble
attempt to create a purpose for myself.
Help me today to find my place in
your ongoing story of salvation.
Through Christ, Amen.
Written by: Chris Cadenhead