What I Believe

What I Believe

by The Rev. Ernest Cockrell

Sermon Preached on Advent 3, 12/12/99, St. Andrew's, Saratoga, California

It occurred to me that this is the last Sunday sermon I will preach in the 1900's. I don't know why it's such a big deal, but somehow it is. Maybe because it marks more dramatically the passing of time, our own mortality. As we enter the year 2000, this is what I believe, both in fact and faith, belief meaning trust.

First, I BELIEVE that life is a mystery, that I don't have all the answers; that each of you is called to carve out your own faith; and that our mutuality of trust and respect, learning and love are more important than our agreement.

I BELIEVE in a continually Creative, Living GOD.

And I BELIEVE in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds as theological affirmations of the 4th century, with only seeds of historical fact. So you can un-cross your fingers when you say the creed this morning. I don't believe it literally, either.

I BELIEVE in evolution, and that the amazing spark of DNA in all living things is of God; yet God is more, and beyond imagination.

I BELIEVE in an all-pervading order of biology and physics on this planet and throughout the universe, which allows life to exist, a process which God does not, cannot, disrupt without destroying the entire system; that the biology and physics of life are totally impersonal, even as our Creator is intimately personal and loving.

I BELIEVE that from the beginning of human awareness people have experienced God in nature, history, relationships, and in the meaning of what has happened around them.

I BELIEVE that Holy Scripture is a record of the development of peoples' understanding of God over thousands of years, experiences expressed through their own world-views, making use of many kinds of literature: mythology, history, wisdom, and ethical pronouncements we call prophecy, communicating moments when people have discovered meaning in life and authentic relationships with God. Read in their historical, cultural contexts, I believe these experiences from the Bible can guide us into the future, not mire us in the limitations of world-views and prejudices of their past.

I BELIEVE the Bible is an inspired and inspiring combination of history and theology, and we confuse the two at our peril. By discerning the difference between culture and spirit, I believe that the Spirit is visible through and in spite of those ancient writings.

I BELIEVE that Jesus of Nazareth was a real human being with limited and fallible human consciousness, and that Mary and Joseph were his biological parents.

I BELIEVE that Jesus' own faith journey is our teaching;* that in his life and death I see the Christ, the meaning and purpose of what it means to be fully "human."

I BELIEVE his death was not pre-ordained, nor was it a sacrifice to placate an angry God, but the outcome of his own integrity - and so it is a viable model for our lives.

I BELIEVE the gospels don't end with the resurrection; they start with it.*

I BELIEVE that Jesus' attitude toward life can be translated into our own day, giving us a way to live so our lives are full of meaning. I believe that we can live in his Spirit, that we can pass it on, and that is the continuity of Easter.

I BELIEVE that the love of God made visible in Jesus is the energizing power of the Holy Spirit.

I BELIEVE that Jesus' manner of life was composed of compassion, acceptance, forgiveness and self-giving love; and that following his Way can lead to fulfillment in spite of failure or death, and may sometimes lead to both.

I BELIEVE his way of life does not allow for tolerance of intolerance in any form, for any reason; that his spirit is inclusive and not divisive.

I BELIEVE that the historical Jesus did not found a church.

And I BELIEVE that Joshua the Messiah, whom we call "Jesus Christ," gives a vision that opens our eyes to see and affirm that same spirit of Christ in people of all faiths - and those without any.

I BELIEVE that human beings have limited free choice within the givens of heritage: biological, geographical and time; and that with vision, encouragement and determination people can rise above the economic, intellectual and social circumstances into which they were born.

I BELIEVE that not everything makes sense and that not everything happens for a reason. I believe there is not a purpose for everything that happens and that not everything that happens is the will of God.

I BELIEVE in the power of prayer, not as an attempt to change the mind or will of God, but as a focus of spiritual imagination and energy that can make a difference in peoples' lives and in our own.

I BELIEVE that giving of yourself: intellect and energy, resources and time, is part of God's process for bringing health and wholeness and peace within yourself, the Church, and the world, and without it we are incomplete.

I BELIEVE that science and religion are not in conflict, but two search engines performing different tasks, asking different questions of fact and meaning.

I BELIEVE that neither God nor nature has a Y2K bug.

I BELIEVE the future is open, not pre-determined, and that God doesn't know what's going to happen, either.

I BELIEVE in eternal life as a quality of life now on earth, not just when you die;

and I BELIEVE in heaven as an existence where we will somehow know God's presence, meet those we love, and see a lot of people we didn't expect to be there - and that is God's problem and not mine or yours.

I BELIEVE that God loves you with complete acceptance, good will, and hope. As a gift of the centuries and of the closing days of the 1900's, I BELIEVE that you can have an intelligent faith that allows you to look at reality without blinking, survive death without fear, and find meaning and hope in the most difficult and joyful of times. I believe this is good news - an extension of the Good News we call Gospel.

By its equal respect for scripture, tradition and reason, I BELIEVE that our Anglican tradition brings a crucial balance to religion.

I BELIEVE that Silicon Valley and the central coast and all ages in this emerging, connected world, are open to that kind of integration, in need of its liberation, and starving for its honesty and values. I believe that Saint Andrew's - Parish and School together - is making a significant contribution to the life of this valley and beyond with that liberating, integrating, joyful message.

Even as I continue to learn from my experience of life with you, living and growing together, open to the reality of God and to the renewing Spirit of Christ, that is - to date - what I believe, and I am honored to serve as your rector and to walk with you into the next century.

© 2002 by Ernest W. Cockrell

12/12/99

* from The Good News According to Luke, Spiritual Reflections by Richard Rohr The Crossword Publishing Company, NY 1997


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