of through all and in all
Years ago, when I began both
Education for Ministry (EfM) and writing for the Episcopal Café, I customarily
wrote “We” in sentences and paragraphs in the first person plural form. I know
that preachers, priests, and clergy use “We” in prayers and sermons, and even
our BCP uses the plural form in liturgies and collects.
Wrestling with this ownership thing, I have concluded (at least for now) that when I use the word “Faith,” I must break it down into parts. “FA” is like family – the Trinity, The Holy Family, my EfM group, church congregation, close friends, and neighborhood. “TH” is like theology – a system of beliefs and traditions, some of which go back hundreds if not thousands of years and sometimes change for me as I learn more about it. That leaves the letter “i” in the middle, which is where I see myself, balancing the two, trying to be fair and just to both, and being willing to learn with an open mind which is subject to change, sometimes without notice. The “I” I would use, though, is a lowercase letter, as I do not see myself worthy of a capital letter, especially when speaking about (and certainly not for) God.
Jesus used a lot of “I” statements, particularly in the Gospel of John. “I am the vine…” (14:5), “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (14:6), and “I am the light of the world…” (8:12), among others. I believe he used them to convey his message; he stated his job and news, often metaphorically or allegorically, which took egotism out of the equation. Had he come out and flatly said that he was the Son of God, his life would have been much shorter than it was since to make such a claim was not only blasphemy to the Jews but high treason to the Romans. Still, we understand what his “I” statements mean, just as the crowds who heard him teach recognized him in such metaphors as the story of the good shepherd or the good Samaritan.
Using “I” statements in speech or
writing has made my faith stronger by forcing me to come to grips with pretty
much exactly what I mean and be able to enunciate it when the opportunity
presents itself. It leaves room for others to disagree to one degree or another
but without an outright argument or disagreement. It allows me to recognize the
right of others to have their own beliefs without arguing them into agreeing
with mine. Hopefully, they will also respect my right, but if they do not, then
it is their choice.
Amen. God bless you all.