Beginning with this brief article, I will be writing a blog entry at least twice a month for this publication. At times, I will be expressing my thoughts
and opinions on a specific topic. At others, I might present a recent sermon
that I have delivered. In all events, I am hopeful that what I write will become for you a resource for conversation with others-in your homes, your places of work, and perhaps even on these pages!
Before I begin these ongoing entries, I would like to tell you a little bit about myself and my intentions . I am a pastor of a church here in Manchester. I freely identify myself as a follower of Jesus. Having said that, I am also deeply concerned that for so many people, religious faith is a divisive and polarizing reality. It is my hope that this blog will provide an alternative to what I believe to be a sad reality in this world in which we live.
Consequently, even as I state my opinions ( and, trust me...I have opinions), I am going to be asking you to think about yours. At times, I might raise questions that will challenge some of your suppositions. At others, I will ask you to ask me questions in return.
In this opening entry, I simply want to suggest a basis for common understanding. First, I want you to ask yourself: When I think of the word RELIGION, what comes to mind? Moving deeper, I would then ask you to consider, without benefit of a dictionary, constructing your own definition of the word RELIGION. As you read my comments below, please keep those questions stirring inside of you!
Now, I have given myself the same assignment and I want to offer you my own personal definition here. As I see it, one’s religious approach is how one RESPONDS TO THE MYSTERY OF LIFE. The reality is that as we human beings face the world in which we live, we are surrounded by mystery and uncertainty. We confront mysteries of ORIGIN (where did I come from?), DESTINY ( where am I headed?) and MEANING ( how do I make sense of this all?) each and every day of our lives.
Over a long period of time, people have developed different ways in which to approach these MYSTERIES. Yet, even with these often highly developed approaches, many of which we call RELIGIONS, we have to remember that THESE REMAIN MYSTERIOUS.
Consequently, there are inherent dangers lurking when individuals
substitute absolute specific certainty about "religious matters" for what
stands at the very heart of religion, i.e. FAITH. Likewise, danger looms large also when those positions held by people of faith do not hold up well when subjected to the scrutiny of human reason, a gift which a ‘believer’ would assert comes from that spiritual reality in which one places faith, that which usually goes by the name of GOD.
As we move into further explorations of specific topics and issues, several of which I am most sure will be controversial, I am hoping that this reference point I offer here will be most helpful.
As I end this column, I look forward to any comments or questions you might have – and I look forward to meeting you in these pages again.