Faith journey as story: an invitation for self reflection
The sixth and final piece in The Emmaus Road Experience, the series from Baptist ministers John Weaver and John Rackley, highlights the great value on the story of each person’s faith. As such, they offer questions to help you explore your own story of faith
This piece is co-authored by both Johns
These articles have tried to explain the relationship between our faith in Jesus and what happens in our life. We stressed the importance of scripture, the tradition of our being Baptists and Christians, and in particular one Easter story, the Emmaus Road, which has shaped and re-shaped our talk. We asked others to share this project and we were pleased to receive their response. We are quoting two of them here.
There needs to be a dialogue between our personal experience and the shared experience of those who have lived the Faith in the past and present, so that our own experience (contemporary and limited) is best interpreted, evaluated and corrected by the cumulative, historic, corporate experience of the Christian community. We are never free to be the sole arbiters of truth for the conversation is unending (Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-19).
We have also wished to place great value on the story of each person’s faith. For it is in that story that we can discern the movement of God’s Spirit and also the dimensions of our beliefs. This is graphically described by Gale Richards who told us:
One of the key ways I can chart the shifts in how I see God is through the differences between the key song I chose at my baptism in the year 2000 – Faithful One, and the key song I chose for my induction as a minister in 2016 – You are the God of this City. The trajectory of living out of my comfort zone over a period of time can perhaps be seen through the contrast between the songs Faithful One and You are the God of this City. The latter focuses on God’s relationship with the world and being at work in the world. It is a song that reminds us of God’s desire to work in partnership with the church so there is a foretaste of heaven on earth:
You're the God of this city,
You're the King of these people,
You're the Lord of this nation.
There is a powerful testimony in the story of every Christian which needs releasing for the mission of God in the world.
If you are interested in exploring your own story of faith here are some questions that may help you.
What are the significant episodes of your life?
What was going on in society at those times?
Who were the influential people in your life and why was that?
How did they shape your faith and values?
How did you think of God during those different periods of your life?
How would you describe the impact of God on your life?
What place, if any, did a church have at the various times in your life?
Does the church offer you a safe place to express both certainties and doubts?
If you could select one story or verse from Scripture which describes what your faith means to you; what would it be and why?
6. Daily Life
What differences have your faith/values/spirituality made to you in the workplace?
What difference has the workplace made to your faith/values/spirituality and your allegiance to Christ?
7. Jesus Christ
When did Jesus start becoming an influence in your life?
What does he mean to you now?
You might find this far too prescriptive so we remind you that we just started talking to each other about what our faith meant to us.
This is why the Emmaus Road story became so influential. It took time to let go a self-protective attitude. We are part of a generation which doesn’t find it easy to be open about what lies at the heart of our life. In fact, more often than not we have been discouraged from doing this, especially from the pulpit.
Times have changed. We live in a confessional society. Personal experience speaks volumes. It is risky yet it invites a response.
We used to sing a hymn which began Just as I am without one plea. It was about submission to the will of God, yet it’s opening line is equally a description of what we offer of our Faith to the life of our community and society. It is just as we are.
Rosa Hunt currently co-principal of our South Wales College explains:
As I look back on my spiritual journey, it seems to me that one overall hermeneutical key for understanding it could be as a journey towards receiving and giving of unconditional love.
Since a key moment in 1985 when I experienced the overwhelming love of God, my life has fallen into two phases. First, I have been exploring what it means to be loved unconditionally. I have had key travelling companions on this journey, notably my husband Francis and our four children. They have demonstrated to me what unconditional love looks like in practice.
But, increasingly, I have understood that there is a flip side to being loved unconditionally. It comes with the compulsion to tell others that they are loved unconditionally too. Christ’s love compels us, says Paul. This has meant that often I have ploughed a lonely furrow in very correct evangelical circles where frighteningly articulate people accuse me of not preaching the whole gospel. And yet I cannot in all honesty preach another message. Perhaps others have a different burden, but my conviction is that of Mother Julian - all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. Sometimes, I get a terrifying worry that I might be wrong. But I can’t risk betraying my most fundamental conviction. So I have gambled, and continue to gamble, my whole life on the bet that God is Love and Mercy all the way down and up and sideways, and nothing exists outside of His love.
But words are not enough. So I am beginning to understand that I need to live as someone who is unconditionally loved - someone who is loved and secure enough to break the idols of productivity, conformity and living according to the expectations of others.
We have likened ourselves to two old men sitting in deckchairs telling each other stories. We don’t think what we are doing is original, but we do wonder what will bring Christians out of their shells and present a more self-aware and God-centred face to the world.
We are also aware that we have been preparing these thoughts in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. This has rightly brought out the pastoral care in our churches and society – but in due course it will be a time of the prophetic church. A church which thinks with the mind of Christ and wonders out loud what has been going on through this time of disorder.
Baptist ministers John Rackley and John Weaver have been working for four years on a project entitled 'Faith Journey as Theology', exploring how their lived Christian lives shape their theology. They first presented this at Theology Live at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in January 2019. From this meeting others have joined them in reflecting on faith journey as theology.
They are now at the stage of putting these discussions together. The six part series includes:
Jesus the Emmaus Road Companion
Faith, God and Story - the principles of faith as story
Travelling together - the story of our conversations
The unending conversation
The Emmaus story as a model for ministry
Faith Journey as Story: an invitation for self reflection
You can contact them about any aspect of the series:
John Rackley: firstname.lastname@example.org
John Weaver: email@example.com
Image | Randy Jacob | Unsplash
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