Jan. 7, 2012
In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
A Midland UMC mom shared this story on Facebook this week. It is just too good not to share with you. The story includes her 2-year-old daughter Rae:
Rae woke up sad this morning, missing Fasa (our cat that died in November) and wanted to hold her. Let Rae know Fasa was in heaven with God and Jesus, to which her eyes got really big and she yelled, “You mean baby Jesus DIED too!” Oh, this is not good, I thought. So, now I’ve upset her even more. 🙁 Trying to explain Easter can be confusing to a 2-year-old!
Have to love it when innocent children force us to make our faith not just something we “believe” but some that we “live.”
This is what is called “practical theology.” Theology is the study of religion and how this influences religious truths. We most often think of theology as what someone studies at a seminary or university.
Personally, I think there is much more to theology than this. Each person, ultimately, decides what his or her personal theology is: what is at the core of your faith, what negotiable tenants of your faith are and what are non-negotiable.
In the end, theology must be practical. If we can’t actually live our theology, then theology fails us. If what we believe does not fit situations in our daily lives, then it’s probably time to re-examine our theology.
And so, we go back to Rae. Her mom and I would both like to know where Rae thought Jesus was before she discovered that he too, like Fasa, died. When death happens, we’re forced to ponder if there is something beyond this earthly life. Do we have souls and do they live beyond our physical bodies? Where do our souls go? Is there more than one option?
Of course, these topics are way too complicated to discuss with a 2-year-old. Rae’s mom used the wonderful approach of getting out a kid-friendly Bible and using this as a learning tool with Rae. Her little story forces me … and hopefully you … to ponder the underlying lessons from Rae’s experience.
- I’ve frequently been asked, “Just tell me the basics of what I need to know.” Too many folks want a 2-year-old understanding of God and do not want to move any further than this. We want the basics. We want the dumbed down version. This may work OK for awhile, until we have a “practical” experience like Rae that no longer fits our 2-year-old theology.
- Your personal beliefs, your personal theology, will be highly influenced by the practical things that happen in your life. I use experiences from my life as examples for how faith does and does not work. When something challenging happens in our lives, does what we’ve been “told” or “believed” helps us? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. When clichés like “Faith can fix anything” or “Everything happens for a reason” no longer fit your personal experience of God, people hit spiritual roadblocks. This is quite often when people give up on God.
- As discerning, smart and educated people, somehow we must bridge the gap between personal life and a theological understanding of God. Our beliefs must be influenced by the long-standing beliefs and traditions of the church. Our beliefs must also be fit into our daily lives. There is a tension between the two that is real and must be lived. Without this tension, there are no appropriate answers for 2-year-olds who just discovered that the baby in the manger whose birthday we celebrated on Christmas really did die.
- Finally, this little story shows the importance of connecting the whole life of Jesus together. The Christmas story ultimately cannot be separated from the Easter story. Without both stories, we loose the value, the importance, the symbolism of how and why Jesus came into this world with what happened at the end of his life. What started out in a manger ended up on a cross, which then became an empty tomb.
Within the Christian church we celebrate Christmas and Easter annually to help us connect the two events. I cannot imagine only celebrating one of those events each year. Doing so would not give us “the rest of the story.”
Like Rae, we are going to and have had little faith crisis’s throughout our lives. Where do we go back and get information to help us sort through this? I pray we challenge the Bible and a good Christian mentor to help us make our faith practical, livable and reality driven.
Let us pray: God sent his Son, they called him Jesus; he came to love, heal and forgive; he lived and died to buy my pardon, an empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives. Because he lives, I can face tomorrow; because he lives, all fear is gone; because I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living just because he lives. Amen.
PS — So, I added one post beyond Epiphany; I just wanted to incorporate Rae’s story. At this point, I’m thinking I’ll continue to post something once or twice a week. I hope you’ll continue to check for posts and/or share posts with others you think might enjoy them. Thanks for going along on this Advent/Christmas devotional adventure. I pray these simple words of faith have brought a little joy to your life, as well as maybe even a little pondering on your part. Happy New Year!