Living Questions of Faith

Living Questions of Faith

We ALL have questions! In this blog, questions of faith that have been submitted by the congregation at Trinity Church will be addressed (not answered). Hopefully, the posts will guide you to discerning a way to live with the questions. All questions are presented exactly the way they were asked.

Please submit questions to rector@trinitychurchtowson.org or place them in the question box in the back of the nave at the church. ALL questions will be addressed here on this blog!

Q: How do we address Romans 1:24 while still being a loving, accepting Christian community?

When contemplating how I was going to respond to this, I wanted to make sure that I was able to teach in the midst of giving a source of reflection. Scripture is a struggle sometimes, as we search for meaning and application to our own lives and situations. I don’t feel that any one verse in any book of scripture is meant to stand alone. Indexing and versing is only a convenient means that we use to find our place. Therefore, I took the verse before the verse in question and the verse after and compared three different translations. Here they are: (I put verse 24 in italics so that it would be identifiable.)


Romans 1:22-25 (KJV)

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.


Romans 1:22-25 (NRSV)

Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.


Romans 1:22-25 (The Message)

They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!


If you isolate verse 24, I can instantly see why one would consider it to be problematic. Especially in the King James version. Read by itself, it seems that God has given up on those who lust in uncleanness and dishonor their bodies. It’s pretty condemning to those who may not fit conveniently in a conservative biological anatomical description, specifically our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Which may be the underlying reason for this question in the first place. 


Put into context, one can see that the Romans passage referenced is not necessarily about lust and sex at all. In context, the passage seems to address the larger issue of right relationship with God. We must understand that God is always more about how we live in relationship and less about how our biological parts fit together. The people of Rome were being exhorted by the Apostle Paul for failing to get their priorities right. They were not putting the ONE true living God first.

We should remember that Christianity, at the time of the letter to the Romans, was a new way and most of the Romans that Paul was writing to were once pagan and followed many gods, usually formed in some likeness of an animal or humanoid figure. These "fake" gods were often associated with public orgy festivals, and other acts of debauchery. If the people of Rome were now professing to believe and follow the ONE true God of Israel in the way of Jesus, then those other “fake” gods needed to be given up, as well as the practices that are degrading to good healthy relationships.


The correct priority would be to honor and acknowledge the way of Jesus Christ that Paul is trying to teach. Those who “profess to be wise” or “know it all” will often end up thinking that they have it all figured out by themselves and can save themselves. They think that there is no need for Jesus, let alone church, spiritual development, Christian education, sacraments, etc… Unfortunately, even today society is full of those who “profess to be wise” and therefore don’t need Jesus. If we choose to live in our "filth" and not put God before "fake idols," then God will surely let us.


God commands us to love one another, and to love God. However, God never forces us to love. We will always have free-will to do as we please. But when we do as we please, we end up acting like the “know it all” and straying from the ways of Christ and following too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. If we turned away from God, it's guaranteed that we are going to mess it up, and God’s not going to keep us from messing it up. We make other things in our life idols and end up worshiping them, because we pay attention to them more than we are nurturing our relationship with God.

To me, Romans 1:24 does not get in the way of being a loving, accepting Christian community. It does call us into making sure that we continue to put God first and not rely on ourselves or replace God with a fake. 
Posted: November 25, 2016, 6:10 am
Q: The traditional churches call the day Christ arose Easter, but the new generation churches call it resurrection day. They claim that Easter is a pagan celebration and should not be associated with Christ. How do you respond?

I searched and searched, but I'm still not sure what a "new generation" church is compared to a "traditional" church. I am assuming that your questions comes from a specific experience with a "new generation" church. If you would contact me, I would love to know if there is a specific situation to which you are referring. I would imagine that the "new generation" church, with its insistence of being called "resurrection day" is trying to get to the root of the practice and weed out a bit of the historical adaptation. With that, I wonder what the "new generation" churches do with other adaptations of pagan celebrations?

I'm not sure of the differences in practice between "traditional" and "new generation" churches, but some of the elements of this question are interesting. The Venerable Bede, a late-seventh-century English historian and scholar from Anglo-Saxon England, says that the name Easter comes from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre (pagan), associated with spring and fertility, that it is celebrated around the vernal equinox. In our christianization of a pagan calendar, we adopted the Germanic/Anglo name Eostre, and called the celebration of Jesus' resurrection Easter. There is a great article HERE that explores the topic of Eostre and Easter. Note of interest: A couple other adaptations of "pagan" holiday celebrations can be found in the festivals of Saturnalia (Christmas) and Samhain (All Hallows Eve / All Saints' Day).

I think it may be splitting hairs to insist it be called one thing over another. To the Christian, whether we call refer to it as "Easter" or "Resurrection Day" it is the same thing - the day we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. Those who keep a celebration of the life of Christ in a calendar year (liturgical church traditions like the Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, & Lutherans) celebrate Easter or the Season of Resurrection as a season for 50 whole days!



Posted: November 24, 2016, 5:37 am
Q: Which saint hold special significance for you, Father Ken and why?


I had to think about this one for a while. I would like to think that all “saints” have a special significance for me because they show us how they kept the faith through the trials and tribulations of their own life. I heard one of my mentors one time say that the reason that they depict saints on the stained glass windows is because they let the light shine through. I’ve also heard saints referred to as keyholes through which we may view the Christian life. I guess those statements and images have always resonated with me.


If I had to pick one, it would be extremely difficult. Because I am drawn to the English mystics overall, I guess I would choose Julian of Norwich. Dame Julian had a very simple way of expressing the majesty and power of God, making it relational and very accessible. Her writings, composed in a work called “Showings” or “Revelations of Divine Love” tell of a time when she was very sick, near death. In the midst of this sickness, she says that she had an encounter with Jesus who revealed to her that she would be ok, that her sickness experienced through the lens of Jesus suffering and the evils of this world were all relative to human understanding.


Julian had a way of expressing God that was different and non-traditional. She took the relational aspects of God to another extreme. God was both father and mother and Jesus was nurturer (often a descriptive reserved for women). Julian often used feminine language to describe the divine. In her time, late 14th century, this was just not done.


I think that I am attracted to Julian for other reasons, too. One is the fact that she could be such an influential figure and introduce us to ways of thinking about God and yet, we’re not even sure that Julian is her real name. Not uncommon for a woman in that age to be “unknown” or not given credit. It was considered unimportant.


All we know (and assume) is that the anchoress at the cathedral of St. Julian in Norwich wrote a work that included sixteen mystical visions and contemplation on universal love and hope. This was all done in a time when England faced the plague, religious reforms, and war. Her work was published in 1395, and it is the first published book in the English language to be written by a woman.


2 of my favorite quotes from Julian of Norwich:


“God, of your goodness, give me yourself; you are enough for me, and anything less that I could ask for would not do you full honor. And if I ask anything that is less, I shall always lack something, but in you alone I have everything'.” ― Julian of Norwich

“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God. In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.” ― Julian of Norwich

Posted: July 1, 2016, 2:42 pm
Q: Does Jesus reward all who repent? No matter the sin or crime?


I am glad you phrased the question this way. You could have asked about “all who ask forgiveness” which is totally different than being penitent or repenting. The word “repent” implies a change or a ‘turning around’ and going in another direction. In scripture, the Greek word μετάνοια(metanoia) is often translated as repentance.  This kind of change is not about regret, guilt or shame; it is a true change of heart. It implies making a conscious decision to turn around, to face a new direction.


It’s also interesting that you said “reward” rather than “forgive.” I feel that the reward to those who repent is restoration. Those who change their heart and turn back to God (repent), rather than away from God are restored to right relationship with God. They pursue a new path of love and community rather than a path of destruction and division.


I would say that repentance also implies making amends or “paying penance.” To me, just because you repent of the sin or crime and start leading a new life doesn’t mean that you get to erase the past. I don’t feel that it works that way. The path to restoration is sometimes a difficult one. It requires intentional hard work and struggle every day to live with a penitent heart.


In scripture, we are assured that those who turn to Jesus are dead in their wrongdoings (Ephesians 2:4-10). We are a “new creation” in Christ… part of the new order in the restoration of the world (2 Corinthians 5:17). The pathway to connection with God is never closed for those that desire it. So, I would say that the only thing that would keep anyone from that relationship is the outright rejection of God.


So, it is my opinion that yes, Jesus rewards and restores to right relationship (with God) those who turn their heart and change their ways, no matter the sin or crime. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t require some amends to others or society for the wrongs they have done.

Posted: May 1, 2016, 2:07 pm
Q: Why do some Episcopal churches ask you to write to your prior church to have your membership moved and others (like Trinity) do not?

I think there may be some confusion here. If you consider Trinity your home, and you are engaging the gathered community here at Trinity to help you with your spiritual needs, and you consider yourself a member of Trinity Church, then please, write your prior church and have the record of your baptism and confirmation moved to Trinity Church. You can use the form HERE.

Baptism makes you a member. If you are baptized (by water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) then you are a "member" of the Christian church, regardless of where (or how) you were baptized. Trinity, however, should have a record of that baptism.

Information on Baptism and Confirmation can be located on our website. (click links)

If you need help with any of these, please contact me or the church office. It would be an honor to add you to Trinity's membership roll.


Posted: April 14, 2016, 7:00 pm
Q: Is it not more important to believe in the teaching of Jesus than that he is the son of God and rose from the dead?

If Jesus was not the son of God and if he did not rise from the dead, then why believe what he taught is any different or better than anything others taught? I hate to sound sarcastic here, but there were many great teachers in history. Gandhi, Mohammad, Gautama Buddha, Socrates, Plato, Confucius, etc... (the list goes on and on) they were all teachers of solid core foundational values. What is it that makes Jesus different?

Jesus is different because he offered a way to be in relationship in this world through his teaching. He offered a relational connection to God the creator that wasn't legalistic or prescriptive. By rising from the grave, he taught that life with our creator is eternal for those that are in that relationship. It gives the believer hope that there is something better for those that strive for righteousness and justice in the world.

So, for me they go hand in hand. If you believe in Jesus' teaching, and want them to make a difference in your relationship to God and all of creation then I would think that you would need to believe that Jesus was the Son of God (the incarnation of God = Jesus is God) and that he rose from the dead. Without a belief in the incarnation and the resurrection, I feel that Jesus is just another great teacher.


Posted: April 14, 2016, 6:05 pm
Q: How long did it take for Jesus to assemble the disciples? Do we have any idea?

All we know about Jesus calling the disciples is what's found in scripture. (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:4-11; and John 1:29-2:2). Reading the accounts individually can be very confusing... reading them together helps us get the whole picture and start to piece together the whole story.

I would gauge the timing as in the first part of the three years Jesus was preaching and teaching. I don't feel that Jesus selected his closest followers randomly in a hurried and instantaneous manner, therefore it took a while to assemble the twelve. I have no idea how long. It might be an excellent study to outline the passages that I referenced above and see if you can put together the pieces.



Posted: April 14, 2016, 5:29 pm
Q: Why don't more people - me included - live Christ's message on days other than Sunday?

Incredible question that needs to be continually asked by every one of the followers of Jesus! I have this incredible feeling that society thinks it doesn't need Christ's message at all, let alone on just on Sunday...  They think that they can somehow save themselves all by themselves. I would say, for lack of a better term or nicer way to put it, that those who live Christ's message ONLY on Sunday are being hypocritical the rest of the week (or not even living Christ's message at all). If we are going to be Christian, then we don't get to pick and choose which days we can be Christian.

If this question is about going or not going to Church, I feel, and will be quick to say, that going to church DOES NOT make you a Christian. (just like being in a garage doesn't make you a car!) Church, for the christian is more of a "training facility" or a "fuel stop" than it is a "place to be a Christian." (like the garage - it's a place to be worked on, fueled up, lifted up, and tuned! And like a garage, it's sometimes messy work! - ok, that's enough of the car analogy) That doesn't mean that we don't have to go to church, on the contrary. We go to church to learn and worship - it is that "fuel stop" that feeds us and that "training facility" that empowers us to get through the rest of life during the week. I helps us deal with the evils of the world, and gives us strength through relationships with other believers.

There is an incredible struggle these days between a society that teaches self sufficiency and salvation through "doing good" and Christ's actual message of truth, equity, justice, and relationship that can be lived out in the world that ultimately teaches a connection to God. The difference is relationship.

As Christians, we should be living our life day to day in relationship to God (through Jesus). It is the source and reason we are in love and charity with our neighbors. It is not the society influencing us, it is us who should be influencing society by the way we live. To me, that's what living Christ's message is about. We also need to remember that society won't always "like" or "accept" the way that we are living. (It even got Jesus nailed to a cross!) 

I feel that Jesus came that we might be learn how to be together in relationship in order to bring forth the Kingdom of God. Living a life (every day) through Jesus... his life, his teaching, and his actions...  all viewed through the lens of his death and resurrection. It's not easy, but for the believer, it becomes the connection to God that the world needs for the Kingdom of God to come. 

From the old camp song that is Based on John 13:35
(I believe the music and lyrics were originally written by Peter Schools)

1. We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.


Refrain
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

2. We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand,
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand,
And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land.

3. We will work with each other, we will work side by side,
We will work with each other, we will work side by side,
And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.

4. All praise to the Father, from whom all things come,
And all praise to Christ Jesus, his only Son,
And all praise to the Spirit, who makes us one.


Posted: April 14, 2016, 3:48 pm
Q: Why must some suffer through disease or cancer to humble us before God?

I don’t feel that God causes suffering, therefore I don’t believe that God inflicts us with diseases or cancer for the purpose of humbling us. I don't blame God for diseases. We should always remember that we are biological creatures.

We are animals that are part of God's creation; part of the eco-system. As part of that system, we are susceptible to contaminates and viruses and sickness. I feel that most of these come from human neglect of being good stewards of the creation. So, I feel that humans are the source of our own suffering. For generations and generations we continue to destroy and take for granted everything in creation that we have been given by God. Disease is a horrible consequence of being a biological creature surviving in an environment that we have polluted and destroyed over generations. It's not  the fault of the person that has the disease.

On a positive note, in the modern era, God has given us so much through the advancement of science about diseases that have been around for years. God loves us and continues to guide skilled medical professionals and healers that work hard to combat disease and cancer through treatments and cures.  We need to pray for and support the researchers and medical professionals. I pray daily for those who are on prayer list because of sickness. I feel that God hears our prayers, and answers us in ways that we don’t always understand. The ultimate cure for disease and human suffering is in the escaton, when the heavens and the earth will be fully restored to perfection in God’s Kingdom - when pain and suffering will be no more.

As far as the humbling part… this makes God sound like a bully. I’m not sure how anyone could think that God acts like this. In the description, I can picture a schoolyard bully twisting another kids arm behind their back to make them get on their knees. That’s not how it works. 

Disease and cancer might cause us to acknowledge, connect or reconnect with God, especially if we have been absent from the relationship for a while, but I don't feel it's the reason for the sickness.


Posted: April 10, 2016, 8:15 pm
Q: Why is it that God seems to have abandoned my heart?

First of all, that is a pretty heavy question and I am sorry you feel that way. It's really difficult to address this in this forum. It would probably be much better in person. So, please don't hesitate to make an appointment with me.

If you are struggling or feeling an absence from God, you're not alone. It's a valid feeling. If you are struggling to find God in your life, and doing everything you can to connect and still feel the absence, you are not alone. Others have had similar feelings since the beginning of time. 

This is where the Bible comes in handy. It helps us realize that we are not alone in our struggles. Scripture is full of the faithful who are "seeking" God who seems absent or to have abandoned us. The Psalms are full of cries out for God in the midst of loneliness or despair. Look at just a couple: Psalm 42 and Psalm 22. Try praying them. Look through the Psalms and parallel your own personal feelings of God's absence, and then look around you again. Look for God to show up in the little things. It doesn't have to be a big display. Has God really abandoned you? 

God loves you! God is there. God sometimes shows up in the smile of a small child or a good friend or family member. Maybe the feelings of abandonment by God are really something else.


Posted: April 10, 2016, 8:15 pm
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