(EDITOR'S NOTE: Faith Matters is a column written by the social concerns committee of the United Churches of Lycoming County. The monthly feature will include local faith-based comment on significant social issues facing us today. Letters reacting to the columns should be brief and clear and may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in the columns are those of the writers and the social concerns committee, not necessarily the Sun-Gazette.)
Life in the universe, in nature, in people is so immense and beyond understanding. It's a gigantic mystery. Where did it come from? "What immortal hand or eye shaped your perfect symmetry?" It's way too much for one human mind to explain or accept!
Except by faith - in my case, a provisional faith. In the absence of a better explanation, I believe in a prime mover we call God. He or She has to have created and sustained life. His or Her essence has to be love, and all creation has to have its origin in that primal love.
My faith is a leap in the dark that I choose to take because life would be hopeless without that leap. I'm sure the faith of my loved ones has set me up for that leap, but the love I recognize in others and in my own feelings for my "loved ones" reinforces my feeble search for life's origin and meaning. "I believe. Lord, help my unbelief."
I've never had a "moment of truth" or "conversion," and I really don't want one. I'm familiar with the Bible, but I never argue with passages from it because I don't consider it the end-all and be-all of revelation. I look within my heart and within my life for clues to the nature of God. When my parents and my husband died, there was no way I could accept the permanence of death. We will see one another again - that's part of my "leap" of faith. Love never dies.
I have issues with the teaching of "the church" on Hell. I don't believe in it. There is no conceivable situation that would make me ever give up on my children and condemn them to eternal punishment. If my love can be that forgiving, my God's love must be even more so.
Philip Gulley, in his book If Grace is True, Why God Will Save Every Person, says he pictures a scene from the next life of Hitler washing the feet of Mary Magdalene-an extreme flight of faith-inspired imagination. My faith has room for it.
When we pray for "the Church," my faith includes all people of every faith or non-faith. I believe the people are the church (whether they like it or not). I believe there was/is a human/god we call Jesus. His life blows fire on the coals of my faith. I expect I'll meet him on the other side and we will meld our love for all. In the meantime I look for him in the lives of those I know and serve. And I call on him in times of danger or need.
I am patient with my developing faith and the developing faith of others. God will not forsake us, even if it seems like it at times. In fact, I believe the tougher life gets for us, the closer He holds us in his love. And that's why I believe faith matters.
Rider is the owner of Otto's Bookstore in Williamsport.