Thinking the Faith, Praying the Faith, Living the Faith is written by the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship.
Thinking, praying, and living the faith is at the core of ministry in the Office of Theology and Worship. In the following videos, learn more about what thinking, praying, and living the faith means to the leadership of the Office of Theology and Worship. Discover why it matters and what difference it makes in our lives, work, and worship.
We have daily prayer here at the Center. At noon, we gather, catch up on prayer concerns we know about, consider the requests before us on our prayer request board. Then we start. It’s nothing elaborate. We pray or sing the morning psalm, read one of the lections, talk about the scripture’s insights, enter into intercessory prayer.
Sometimes it’s just two of us who are gathered. Such was this day. Someone looking in on the two of us there in the chapel who knew both of us might have assumed that each of us comes from a different theological place. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t. I don’t know. What I do know is that in the presence of the Holy, when we’re open to the Spirit of Christ moving between, among, and even through one another’s perceptions, amazing things happen despite our differences, indeed, because of our differences—provided that we are open to the o/Other.
We read the day’s lection from Judges 8:22-35, the end of Gideon’s story when instead of leading the people as requested, Gideon asks them to submit a piece of gold from their booty. These pieces of gold are combined with the royal camels’ necklaces (yes, really!) to make an ephod, which they start worshiping. This is seriously odd, since an ephod was usually part of the priestly vestments. A breastplate was attached to the ephod, which was like a kind of jumper or apron worn over other garments. The breastplate served as a place where the urim and thummin were cast. The urim and thummin were some kind of divination devices cast to determine innocence or guilt or God’s will in a given situation. Basically, Gideon makes an ephod to function without a human being devoted to God within it, something which could give definite easy answers. Something which became an idol the people of God “prostituted themselves” to.
Let’s be honest: on the face of it, it didn’t seem to be a propitious text. But then our conversation began. We lamented that without knowing the whole story of the Bible that this text wouldn’t make sense. My brother pointed out that Gideon’s denial of leadership, while pointing the people toward God alone as leader, actually led them astray. All the while, Gideon is living the good life in his own house. I doubt I’d have seen this on my own. Since this is Judges, Gideon was asked to be a judge, to sit at the gate of the community and discern the way of God in particular circumstances of the community’s interactions using Torah—The Way, the Law. How much easier it is to say, “No! God is our leader!” and then build a kind of mechanical way to know God’s will—like . . . church polity? . . . where we can automatically know the answer. How much harder it is to sit in the midst of the messiness of people who may or may not be overtly seeking God’s Way and continue to point them toward God, whom they cannot touch and rarely glimpse, let alone get a clear answer from—especially when all the people wanted was to get a ruling in their favor when their neighbor’s stray goat ate their dish towel.
But then the Word continued, as the Word does. I was expressing gratitude for my brother’s insight to a friend with whom I work. “Yes,” she said. “That’s what I love about being Presbyterian. It’s our commitment to being together and discerning God’s Way in the midst of our different viewpoints that I find so much more faithful than joining a group of theologically likeminded folks who are thus sure they know God’s will for everybody.” Precisely.
Different perspectives broaden our own perspective. Real difference forces us to dig the well deeper to be in touch with the source of our many springs flowing from the fountainhead of Christ. And the Living Water found when we dig deep is so much sweeter than the run-off of my narrow stream alone.
The prayer of my brother and I is this: that we listen for and point people to the Word and not the exigencies of goats and dish towels. May we listen deeply for this Word that comes to us through scripture and the ongoing messiness of the church bearing witness in delight to the Word that continues to happen among, between, and through the likes of the most unlikeliest of people like Gideon and even like us.