When I graduated seminary, one lesson stuck with me more deeply than any other:
There is so much I don’t know.
I entered grad school with the assumption that when I left, I would feel more confident in my ability to read and teach from God’s Word. But in reality, I left feeling more inadequate than when I entered, filled with the knowledge that the Bible is much more complicated than I ever imagined.
Which is actually quite a wonderful thought. It frees us to always approach the Bible as a learner.
How many other books can we say that about? That we could read and wrestle with their texts for the rest of our lives, and never reach the end of what we can learn?
Gregory the Great, a pope from the late 6th century, said, “Scripture is like a river . . . broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim.”
Scripture may be the light by which we can see our paths, but that does not mean it’s static. The Bible is more of a torch than a flashlight. Its words are alive, sometimes causing us to back away from their heat and danger, sometimes frustrating us when they seem to be too dim, but all the while bringing us something we need desperately: the life that comes through illumination.
At The Table, we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and that we are called to engage with it in our lives and in our teaching. We think Scripture provides truth and direction and insight into the God we serve.
That is why we claim “Scriptural” as a value.
Which is not to say we think the Bible is always clear or simple. Far from it, actually. The Bible is critically important, but it is not easy. We want to approach God’s Word together, with the humble spirit of learners, wrestling together about what the Bible says it looks like to follow Christ.
The dreamy star Christian Slater may have influenced me watching it in the first place (am I dating myself here?!). However, that was not the reason I could repeat entire scenes verbatim.
I desperately wanted the story to be about me.
The plotline revolves around Robin Hood’s love for Maid Marian, who is being unfairly detained by the Sheriff of Nottingham. As Robin Hood gets into a catapult to be launched over the wall of the castle, his companion asks, “Is she worth it?” Robin Hood replies, “Worth dying for?,” nods, and rockets through the air to rescue her.
I needed to know I was worth that much to somebody. Things were not easy for me then: I was trying to cope with my parent’s divorce, struggling with friendships, and living with an eating disorder. I watched that movie and fantasized that someday, someone, somewhere, would say those words about me.
I will resist writing the Christian cliché line that comes next. But still, I want to talk about the significance we find in Christ.
We spend so much time seeking value and worth in the world around us. We look for it in what people say about us, in what promotions we get, in what we look like, in how much money we have, in how smart we are, and in a million other things.
How would we be changed if each of us anchored our identity in the worth God placed on our lives when He placed His son on the cross for us? How would others be changed if we anchored their worth in the same place?
When Greg Boyd spoke at The Table on October 27, he said, “I have the right to make only one judgment of all people I come across: Christ died for them.” In theory, every church that calls itself Christian is centered on Christ. However, that is not always lived out in the way church people talk and live.
Inspiring people to follow Christ is already at the heart of CPC’s mission. And we don’t want to stop there. Our vision does not just say, “moving in creativity and community.” We move and create and spend time with one another not as ends but as means. What we do and how we do it must be centered on Christ. We aspire to be moving in Christ’s love through creativity and community.
In our values, “Christ-Centered” is at the top of the list. We want everything we do to flow from our identity as loved, valued, and forgiven children of God.
Christ loves us. He died for us. We believe that changes everything.
When Lauren and I first got married, we wanted to buy a house while the market was affordable. After perusing our target neighborhoods for less than a month, we made an offer that—to our shock—somehow went through.
Despite the anxiety that came with a commitment of such size, we laid down the comfort of certainty and embraced this mystery: We found peace knowing that despite the sacrifice of confidence and finances, we were capable of growing a family and being immersed in community in this home.
We’ve been in our yellow split-level home for two years, tucked beneath trees that breed boxelder bugs. We have grown gardens and built moments that we are much better because of.
One of my favorite moments came about a year ago. The afternoon sun was shy and the clouds were dreary. I was at the kitchen table when Lauren came out of the bedroom to tell me I was going to be a dad. I’ll never forget how bright her eyes were that day—or how scared I was.
Over the next nine months, Lauren gave her body away for the betterment of our son. She sacrificed full nights of sleep, late nights with Pinot Grigio, clothes that fit, and embraced instead the constant aches and angsts that come with creating a life. She paid a cost, and still is paying said cost, but she has found the price pales in comparison to how much she loves our boy.
I tell you these stories because as The Table continues to grow and move and create and commune, I will vouch publicly for the beauty that comes through sacrifice. We believe on the other side of sacrifice—of our time, money, art, talents, and passions—we will always find significance.
We want to be a community that embraces the cost of following Christ. We want to make Jesus so high a priority that our lives and desires are a distant second. We believe that if we embrace the spirituality of sacrifice and do not cower in the face of it, worlds will change and lives will evolve into hope.
We deem something’s value by what we are willing to sacrifice for it. Together, may we learn to value Christ more and more by holding less and less.
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” –Luke 7:20
Though an unusual candidate, this is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. I love the story behind the question.
From his prison cell, John the Baptist instructed his own disciples to ask Jesus this question — he’d heard what Jesus was doing and saying, and it didn’t fit with John’s expectations of the Messiah.
But if it’s possible to have faith without doubt, is there any candidate more likely than John the Baptist? John was the one the prophets foretold would prepare the way for the Messiah. John baptized Jesus. He heard a voice from heaven say Jesus was His Son in whom he was pleased.
Yet even John questioned whether Jesus was the right guy. He doubted.
Too often, church has not been a safe place to doubt or question. People feel like they have to have it all together, or agree with everything the speaker says in order to connect with God.
We don’t want that to happen at The Table. We want to be a safe place to doubt, question, and seek. We hope that we would dialogue together about the frustrations, challenges, and joys of trying to follow Jesus in this world. As Greg Boyd says, “Biblical faith isn’t about feeling certain, but about a willingness to commit to living for God in the face of uncertainty.”*
Our value of Questioning is the heart behind our occasional Q & A sessions. It’s a space to challenge the speaker if they made faith sound too easy. It’s an opportunity to start a conversation that we can continue as we leave. Our Questioning value also inspired Theology on Tap. This monthly gathering at an outside location focuses on conversations at the intersection of faith and life.
Let’s follow the example of Luke 7. Let’s be open with each other and Jesus about our questions. And let’s encourage and love one another in the midst of them.
* For more on the topic, check out Greg Boyd’s new book, Benefit of the Doubt.