Our Redeemer's Blog

From the Paster – April 2024

by Pastor Thomas Voelp

“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Have you ever been reading or watching a news story and felt that for hours–days, even–facts are thrown around but no definite conclusion or end ever seems to appear? This is often very intentional. To keep our attention, mass media relies on maintaining our stress-response. Keeping us in a state of fear, questioning, and needing more information is a way of keeping us dependent on those sources informing us. It keeps us watching. But the thing about stress and anxiety is that there is only so long the mind can keep up with it. After a while, naturally, the mind tries to find a way to close the loop or move on–in extreme situations by sleep, fainting, or “black out,” experiences. The mind is constantly seeking safety among the options. 

Stress and anxiety are not always straightforward in how they form us and rewire our minds in the long run, but there are certain patterns that mark thought cycles and responses to stress. And frankly, we know too well that constant stress can cause a multiplicity of health and psychological problems. At some point, the mind may determine that few situations are safe and trust is not easily maintained. Distrust is operative in stress as a biological means of self-preservation.

During the height of the pandemic, we saw that some Christians would not give in to “fear” but instead, by “faith,” refute medical findings and flout precautions. And it may have seemed ludicrous, but, in fact, it may be a pattern of stress-response. In a world where lack of information is utilized to maintain stress responses and reactivity, trust in those even giving reliable information becomes a commodity. Reliance on self seems good. However, it often is a reaction of self-preservation, a preparation to fight, flight, or freeze. 

Of course, to say faith in God and trust of neighbors (in that case, medical researchers) are isolated is in fact ludicrous. Faith in God is not opposed to trust. For Christians, to understand that God can be active in us allows us to build trusting communities and relationships with strangers and even those the world imagines ought to be our enemies. It helps us form relationships and accountability in good faith.

We are formed in faith, as a way of being informed. One side of the debate maintains that humans are incapable of anything good or reliable, while a more centered focus is to understand that even the revelations of the almighty can be spoken on the tongues of sinners. God works through creation, even if sin holds it back from being what God intended it to be, and what God is raising it to become. Faith is not opposed to reason, but can be a way of reading rationality. We are formed in faith, which understands, as the Apostle, Paul offered, is a matter of putting self-preservation aside. It seems ludicrous in an anxiety-prone circumstance. But the thing about humility is that it recognizes we may not have all the answers or the information we need to make full decisions and judge our surroundings.

It is very apparent that these next months will kick start a new partnership around formation for Our Redeemer’s. Together, we’ll tackle how we can best be increasingly informed in the faith of Christ and how this will prepare us to respond to the information we gather and receive in our daily lives. We’ll do this through classes and discussion, in developing our ways of learning and growth as a cohesive whole, through reading and writing, in acts of service and faithful witness and reflection on those works, and of course when we receive the gifts of God through worship and divine service.

Because formation is about how we process and store information, and how that spurs us to respond in ways that cohere with that information. Generally speaking, to be better and more widely informed allows us to be more likely formed for new or similar situations. Formation, at its core, relies on our capacity to make informed decisions. And when there isn’t enough information–we use what information we do have to infer how we can read a situation and respond to it.

Faith is not removed from this pattern. Faith offers an insight and inference, which can be as basic as “God only knows” or  “God has told us,” to as complex as “God is revealing something to/for us” or “God is calling us to see/hear/do something.” The thing about faith is that it largely grasps and grapples with not only what is known, but what we can know given what we can infer. It gives us an ethic or a space to admit our own limitations and respond not in panic or fear, but utilize the world and the senses we’ve been given, and the communities God has given us to help us and partner in our formation. Because in trusting that God is forming us, we can trust that God is present even in the times, places, and people related to our stress. And in so doing, the Christ that is present in us will form our growth, perspective, and of course, our ever-growing faith.


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