Common Sense and the Life of Faith in times of Disruption
Updated: Sep 8
I suspect that, from time to time, we all over-spiritualise our faith, we think of it as some ideal, something other than life in our world, the one we experience, the realities of our daily life: our work, our body, our friendship, our family, our surroundings.
All the while, God is only ever with us, known to us, in this world of ours.
The Christian point of view (and Faiths more generally) is that there is no other way of knowing and experiencing God except in our world, this world in which ‘we live and move and are,’ as St Paul says in Acts 17.28. Having said that, it might seem strange that our tradition commemorates Saint’s days – the holy men and women of past times. Does not their remembrance suggest some ideal beyond what is possible for us in our lives? Well no! To remember the Saints is to remember frail women and men who were empowered by faith. Last week I wrote of St John and a wisdom learned as a follower of Jesus through heart wrenching times, into times of resurrection. Today (14 May) we observe St Matthias. Ever heard of him? He’s the one who was voted in to be an Apostle to replace Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. How did they choose Matthias? They held an all-night prayer meeting, they fasted for days and nights, they argued on parish council… No! ‘They cast lots over [Joseph bar-Sabbas and Matthias], and the lot fell to Matthias, and he was reckoned together with the eleven Apostles.’ (Acts 1.26) Funny thing is we do not hear of Matthias again. But that is also true of some of the other disciples. Most likely, Matthias just got on with the job of being an Apostle, a Sent One. He got about his ministry, his life, faithfully but without much fanfare.
On the other hand, what if the remaining Apostles were simply following tradition and that to bring in Matthias was simply to complete ‘the Twelve.’ What if this was not the leading of the Spirit? Risky! I would also like to think that Judas Iscariot, the betrayer remains – though awkwardly - one of the Twelve. He us a reminder to the church about its faithfulness and unfaithfulness to their Lord. It is who we are, still loved, still redeemed, as I believe Judas is (Remember Jesus, the Creed and I Peter tells us, goes ‘to Hell’ to the lost on Holy Saturday). We too are people who are often broken and needy, longing to have our plans approved, possibly even sold others out! Our churches have done so from time to time, and yet we live on in God, by God’s grace. Thus our necessary repentance, our turning to God, remains a lifestyle. Like the Apostles, we are all experiencing disruption to our community life during this Coronavirus slow down or added busyness and stress. But life is like that. It is full of disruptions to our plans and hopes.Perhaps this time of disruption reminds us that this is always how we practice faith – we have to use what is at hand, accessible resources found in our situation. But, for now, we have lost some of our props. We have been thrown back on our own resources to a great extent – even though we can access worship and study groups on-line from across the globe or by newsletter. Times of disruption help us consider new ways. Even the process of evolution suggests this to us. Disruption, change, new possibilities, growth.
So, I wonder, in this COVID time: Have you gone along the same old way? Have you just drifted? Have you tried and experimented with new ways of being and doing, of exploring your faith, done different things – even mundane ‘non-spiritual’ things, to connect with people, God, your faith? Read a spiritual book, a novel? Asked for guidance about some reading, some music? Remember, just as the saying goes about Parish Council meetings, or any meeting, ‘Not to Decide is to Decide!’ Not to do anything, try something different, ask, risk … still has consequences, consequences that can diminish or enhance me and my relationships.
The choice of St Matthias – and I think we can see this as the leading of the Spirit - reminds me that common sense needs to remain a core spiritual virtue. Casting lots, seems rather mundane! We have to risk doing something, being mundane (5 minutes of prayer, call someone, listen to music, read that book, walk!) even if it seems odd, or perhaps practicing an old ‘tradition’ (reading up about St Mathias or other Saints on their holy days!). Again, Thomas Merton points the way, as does the quiet witness of St Matthias. A life-giving Christian faith arises out of simple respect ‘for the concrete realities of everyday life, for nature, for the body, for one’s work, one’s friends, one’s surroundings’, just getting on with life from the point of view of faith. It is in the quotidian – the ordinary everyday– that we ‘live and move and are’ – but it is a conscious choice to seek strength in the presence of God, one day at a time. Fr Don