Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection August 21, 2016
Some of What I Believe
Rev. Dr. Thomas P. Aldworth
God is the source of my life and all life. I would like to relate a story from my childhood which continues to give me comfort and inspiration. I had just finished serving the midnight Christmas service at our church on the southside of Chicago. I was walking home alone. I was twelve years old and my father had died a few months previously. I was thinking of my father and thinking about God as I made my way home. There was a light snow falling. All was quiet. I began to sense a feeling of peace which held me in its embrace and made me oblivious to the cold. I knew at that moment that God loved me and that my father was with God. I knew that God loved me with a love that would never end. I knew that God as Father had given me/us the greatest gift in the incarnation of his Son.
God has a great plan for all of us – to bring us to ultimate intimacy with God and for us to spend eternity sharing in the grace/gifts of God. This plan has been unfolding throughout salvation history – throughout the two great outpourings of God’s favor – creation itself and the incarnation of Jesus – the Son and second persona of the Trinity. God’s love bathes every nook and cranny of creation. The farthest planet in the farthest galaxy is swept up in his love.
God’s love allowed the Israelites to be freed from the slavery of Egypt. When Moses experienced the call to lead his people from slavery, he asked God for his name. The name which God gave is: “Yahweh,” which means, “I am who I am.” In other words, when Moses asked God for his name, God answered that God doesn’t have a name; God is nameless. Moses wished to pin God down by naming God. God doesn’t allow that to happen. With words we can only come to a partial picture of God. God is best experienced not in the head, but in the heart.
I love God with all my heart. I wish to do God’s will wherever it may lead me. Just as God lead me to ordination in the Catholic Church, so God lead me to marriage with my beloved Beth and to my new life as a happy American Baptist pastor. God continues to lead me – to guide me. I am eternally grateful for all God’s blessings!
Jesus was and is the Son of God, the human face of God, sent to lead us away from our addiction to death and the things of darkness. Jesus achieved our salvation through his life, death and resurrection. Jesus will come again and bring about the Kingdom of Peace – where every tear will be wiped away. There will then be a new heaven and a new earth.
I believe the Bible is the Word of God – as spoken through the people who wrote the Bible under the inspiration of God. I read the Bible daily. The words of Scripture continue to sustain me – to comfort me – to challenge me. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel notes: “Scripture continues to scatter seeds of justice and compassion, to echo God’s cry to the world and to pierce man’s armor of callousness.”
But I am not a literalist regarding Scripture. I believe certain passages in Scripture, especially in the beginning of the Old Testament, are more symbolic than historical. I believe the Bible presents truth, but this truth is sometimes presented allegorically. I believe all of Scripture was inspired by God – in other words, the very breath of God. I visualize inspiration as God “breathing” upon the authors of Scripture, helping them like sailboats to voyage further than they otherwise could. Some of the biblical writers were able to catch a great deal of breath in their sails, traveling great distances. Others, however, had sails which couldn’t “catch” as much breath, so they didn’t travel as far.
I believe in believer’s baptism and that infants should not have baptism imposed on them. I believe in the fellowship of Christian community, gathered together in the power of God’s Spirit. I believe in our church community, our beloved Morgan Park Baptist Church. I believe God continues to bless our small but faithful congregation. I believe we bring joy to God in how we worship and especially in how we treat one another.