…the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money … Matthew 25: 18
We hear people say “my faith is private” or “I have my own beliefs” “It’s between my higher power and me” etc. Of course to some degree this is true, for all of us. In the deepest recess of our individual hearts there might be nothing at all, no spiritual furniture, or there might be a combination of these or other things: doubt, self-centered ambition, defiance of conventional systems of thought, sympathy for and attraction to secular ways of thinking, attraction to non-Christian philosophies and spiritual thought, such as Buddhism and Hinduism (which have always appealed to American individualists), confusion, weariness, impatience with institutions, feelings of inadequacy.
In this church we do not deny these feelings–or any other “deep” feelings that one might have–and we don’t necessarily view them as mistakes or errors to be fixed or corrected. Each in its own way may be a gift from God and a beginning point for service, learning and growth. However, the lonely idea that faith is only and merely a personal and private matter is a distortion of Protestantism and a fantasy.
Faith and doubt are community matters. We need one another and we need religious communities in which great, unifying, universal human messages are proclaimed to a diverse gathering of more or less interested people. The Christian life is a path of growth and change in response to the inherited faith mixing with the local assembly in a given time and place. Come as you are–inwardly–and offer yourself to the stream of life that you hear every week in the word, and receive every week in the wonderful mystery of the sacrament of the altar. When we take the risk of entering into a community–giving of ourselves for an hour or so a week, looking for ways to get involved, taking leadership and supportive roles–we do this for the sake of others as much as for self-satisfaction. I can’t say this enough: your presence is the essential thing. Your presence is the respectful, reverent, strong and loving thing. Absence is ambiguity. Presence is power.