Musings – Animating Faith

In getting ready for my Sunday school class this past week, I ran across an interesting quote in a commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The writer says,

In each generation, communities are called to interpret Scripture with the courage to affirm what they believe and what they refuse to believe, the courage to pose questions that animate faith.[1]

I was rather fascinated with the quote in general (given that everyone who engages the bible is interpreting, affirming, refusing things) but the part I was most intrigued with was the part about the courage to pose questions that animate faith. When I read these words (and any others for that matter), I find myself doing a bit of translative, interpretive work to find what might be the deepest meaning of this. I see it as the heart to ask about what brings our Way of Being to life.

Yeah, I know, that’s a mouthful. Maybe his way was easier to say (probably) but I think my way makes for a challenge as well. The challenge comes from seeing faith as a way of being (internal relationship with God) and way of life (external relationship with others) and asking deep, heartfelt questions about what that means, questions that are dangerous, uncomfortable, maybe even heretical (meaning that they go against the normally held but not always correct conventions). It is digging into those two ways to find the things that animate or breathe life into them.

Thinking about this reminds me of what artists do to bring animated images to life. Characters are created from still sketches and drawings. These characters are then redrawn over and over either by hand or by digital means to give them movement, one frame at a time. By slightly changing the position of the character from one frame to the next, they move, are animated – or better put, broght to life.

Incidentally, that is exactly what the Holy Spirit – literally the divine wind – does within us, it brings us into life: new life, new being through the Way of Jesus. It is the animating power behind the work of the church and the people that make up the church. When we are animated to do the work, we are filled with the Holy Spirit and given life for that purpose.

But what happens when we refuse to ask those questions? What happens when we don’t seek to be animated in order to live into the Way? We stagnate, we become inactive and dull, lifeless. We begin to defend ideas about faith rather than live lives in the Way of it. We become as Jesus said of the Pharisees, “beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones.” We, and by extension our churches, become tombs. This is something that is happening all too often in the world we live in. So, what should we do about it?

Live animated! Ask the questions without fear of the answers. Try the ministries that may seem a bit nuts, farfetched, out there. Reach out to the people that make others uncomfortable. Live full of the divine wind, the Holy Spirit! Live! And let others see the life in you!

[1] Conversations with Scripture: Romans. Jay Sidebotham. Morehouse Publishing. New York. 2015