Tuesday, April 7, 2009

April 6, 2009 "Following in the faith"

Phiippians 3:16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.

The old picture is my great grandfather, the Rev. Louis E. Ripley. He was a Methodist Minister, who served in Iowa in from about 1900 to 1943 when he passed away.

I've got a few of his old sermons. They are not bad. I also have his old Hymnal and Service book. It's kind of fun to look at his notes, and sometimes I am deeply moved to hold a book that has passed down several generations.

When I look at the religious history in my family, I have a family tree that has been Christian for a long time, was Roman Catholic, became Protestant and Puritan, with folks who attended and served Congregationalist and Presbyterian Churches, then some became Methodist.

Then my grandmother on my mother's side, (Mr. Ripley's daughter), became a Roman Catholic when she married, and an Episcopalian after she divorced!

On my father's side they seem to have been Episcopalian for a good while, and we're not sure exactly how far back.

But regardless of denomination, all of them were Christians. When my great-grandfather passed away, his wife continued to serve as a lay preacher in the congregations they were serving.

These ancestors on both sides were hardy people. They crossed the continent, (and like their contemporaries probably stealing land from the Native people), and founded what is now this country. They were flawed, and probably shared many of the prejudices and societal sins of their day.

Yet I do not judge them. From a distance I am grateful to them for persevering in the faith. I don't doubt that many of them had serious sins, problems, doubts, trials, and crisis's of faith. But they persevered and tried to pass the gospel message down to their children.

Yesterday I mused about what it means to be the church in the 21st century. I don't have all the answers, but I do know that one part means to continue to pass on what we have received. And another part is to see the church as much larger than any one denomination or "brand". And a third is to listen carefully to the Holy Spirit for wisdom to be faithful in our own day and time.

As we move through this Holy Week, may we seek charity with all those who share our faith, and seek to love those who do not with the love of the one who commands love.

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