Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Essentials

(Conversations With Bob! Essentially Speaking. Bob's turn!)

That’s right! We have children! It’s interesting how our stories intersect and wander away from each other. My son went off to an Art Institute and studied beer, for which, unfortunately there is no degree. He worked for a while in a pizza shop, moved home, but now is on his own and on the management track in a grocery store. You want seafood; he sells it to you and can tell you ten ways to cook it.

Our daughter is a different story. She went through her wild phase in high school and by the time she got to college was serious about studying. She graduated cum laude with honors in 2005 with a degree, curiously enough, in psychology. She moved home and immediately got a job with a community counseling agency, which is always looking for counselors. If you daughter wants a job in the big city have her send me a resume! My daughter will soon be looking for a 3rd roommate. She moved out and now is working on her Master’s in Psychology so she can get licensed. She is a member of the church here and plans to go on a presbytery sponsored work trip to Pearlington, MS in October.

I do make lists because if I didn’t I would never remember what I’m supposed to do each day. In fact, techno geek that I am, I put my lists into a PDA/phone. On the other hand I avoid the grocery store like the plague. Debby does the shopping and doesn’t take me to the grocery store because I can’t find anything.

I don’t see the essentials of faith as a list. I see them more like a quilt, all interwoven. I find it difficult to pull one aspect out and look at it by itself because they all interrelate. So if I talk about the Trinity that interrelates with the divinity and humanity of Jesus, and creation. The love of the person’s of the trinity for each other spills over into creation and redemption and creating humans in the image of God. Pulling doctrines out of the quilt of faith is dangerous. It’s like, to mix my metaphors, pulling a thread on a sweater. You never know if pulling that one thread will make the sweater fall apart.

I like the aspect of faith that you raised: gratitude. I think it’s important to remember that theology and human response to God and human life have to interrelate. One thing I learned in seminary is that if doctrine does not intersect life, it is useless. So gratitude for family and friends and church and bugs is vitally connected for me to the doctrines of creation and providence. When I walk the dog at night and she has to sniff around find exactly the right place to do her business I laugh and am grateful to God for the gift of dog’s noses. I wonder at the gift God has given her to find a world of smells that I can’t sense that seem to give her so much delight and purpose as we walk and then stop so she can check out a particularly interesting smell. I suspect she knows the smell of every dog in the neighborhood.

But I’m also grateful to God for what God has done in Jesus, the incarnation, God becoming human, the perfect life of Jesus, the wonderful teaching of Jesus, and yes, the death and resurrection of Jesus that give forgiveness and new life. Human emotion and behavior are inseparably linked to belief. If we could live perfect lives our emotions and our behavior would perfectly show our belief.

One of the traditional tasks of the Church is to put our faith into words, to remember and relate what God has done, to describe what we see of God in the things that God has done. That is one of the vital tasks of the pastor, to tell the story of faith in such a way that we tell the story of what God has done and remind people of the meaning so that we all can live out the faith. Doctrine is shorthand for the story.

So in my quilt there are many essentials. I can talk about different parts of the quilt but remember they are all part of one quilt.

Grace and Peace



  1. :-) ... I make lists too!! I like your post. It really lives up to your blog name -- a little this, a little that!

    I like that you talk about your children. Check out my post when you get a chance, called Teenagers will alienate. I think you'll like it.

  2. I like the quilt image, Bob. I have never made a quilt, but I have slept under one on occasion. It is all part of a whole.

    Another image might be painting or in a sense that we are biblical folks, saga.

    Walter Brueggeman says that Christians have mistranslated Torah as Law. It should be in his word "instruction" which includes story and laws or ethical principles.

  3. Bob,

    Thanks for the stories about your kids. We do have many similarities. Girl is headed for graduate school at some point as well.

    I remember your son at your church when we visited. He is a musician, right? I recall that he had wild hair at that time (kind of like his old man) and played in the church band?

    BTW, I don't know if you knew Dennis Dewey that well, but I always liked his approach to scripture and theology through Story.