I could never have imagined that this late in my life I would be on a journey of discovery into our Christian faith that would bring startling new insights. I would have thought that after decades of study, teaching and preaching, I would have things pretty well nailed down, but the nails are popping up and the floorboards are loose.
Maybe it’s the result of being untethered to a congregation, where resorting to time-honored perspectives on the faith is reassuring to both speaker and hearer. Maybe it comes from ample time to read and study scholars outside my traditional frame of reference. Maybe it’s a backlog of questions that I now have the freedom to pursue, no matter where that pursuit may lead.
Whatever the reasons, it feels like I am in a major period of faith formation, which is odd for someone who just turned 65 and has finished a long pastoral career. The timing is all off. How can this be right, that we finally figure things out when we’re past the time when we can do much about it?
I have done very little preaching since retirement, but in April I preached four weeks straight at a nearby church. The sermons gave me an opportunity to see if all this study has brought only deconstruction. “If the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?”
One of my texts was Acts 9, where Saul, after what he thought was a long obedience in the same direction, experienced profound disorientation through his encounter with the living Christ. Like Saul after his conversion, I am drawing on the old material, but it reads differently now. What a fascinating journey.