Over the weekend, I presided at my father’s funeral. My father’s name was Tom, and he was a unique character. He never met a stranger. He would talk to anyone anywhere any time about anything. One of the most embarrassing moments of my childhood was when my father struck up a conversation at a urinal with a complete stranger at the Indiana State Fair. I don’t remember what they talked about – probably because I got out of there as quickly as I could.
He would eat anything, too. My brother loved to share a sandwich with him that consisted of bologna, peanut butter, ketchup, and Miracle Whip on white bread. The Thanksgiving he decided to try peanut butter on some leftover turkey will live forever in our memories.
I could tell you a lot of similar stories about my dad, and none of them would embarrass him if he heard me do it. What I would want to tell you about him with those stories is that he was never afraid to be himself. It’s a quality that mortified me as a teenager, but I appreciate now, because I think it was a reflection of his faith.
One theologian says, “Faith is relaxing in the presence of someone you’re certain is fond of you.” Maybe this isn’t the only definition of faith we need, but I really like it. It gets to the idea that faith is more about trusting God than affirming a specific set of belief statements. It also helps us imagine what a life of faith can really look like.
We can only truly relax in the company of those whom we trust, and, when we’re with those folks, you and I really do behave differently than we do with those who are not safe – those who are likely to hold it against us if we make a mistake or do something silly. This means a life of faith isn’t just about having a certain set of answers to theological questions. More than knowledge, a life of faith should be characterized by joy, risk-taking, and probably more than a little silliness.
I hope each one of you has the regular pleasure of spending time with at least one person whom you know is fond of you. And, I hope the church is a place where you feel like you can relax and be yourself.
–Ryan Bailey, director of faith formation