Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
In the summer of 1997, two months after Tiger Woods had won the Masters golf tournament by a record 12 strokes, Tiger made a rare and unusual decision. He decided to change his swing. The change wasn’t a random idea or an attempt to bring attention. While others saw perfection, Tiger saw a flaw in his swing that needed a radical correction.
The social effects of COVID 19 has me rethinking my “swing” of faith and theology. I have fresh questions around what it means to be created in God’s image, the tension between repentance and confession, divine punishment and divine love, and the responsibility of freedom that God has given to each of us. Part of me feels as though I am resetting what I believe, and it affects everything from determining who my neighbor is to what it means to show love for my community during a pandemic.
This unwanted time allows me to reflect on my journey from Pentecostal to Presbyterian. It has been a journey of connecting bridges and opening doors. It has been an experience of wading deeper and deeper into an ocean of faith that knows no boundaries. And it has come down to one word: Grace.
The experience of God’s grace through the life of Martin Luther is what cast me on the journey from my Pentecostal world to this Presbyterian path. I have love and respect for my Pentecostal faith tradition. But God’s grace struck me in such a powerful and meaningful way that it plunged me in the direction of God’s “yes”: Yes to humanity; yes to diversity; yes to unconditional love; yes to showing responsibility, respect, and inclusion of my neighbor; yes to giving people another chance, and another, and another, and again another.
With this “yes” comes the freedom to love and share the reconciliation of Christ with others. I shelter in place because I’m protecting my neighbor too. I wear a mask so my neighbor will not get ill. I extend help to others because I am not afraid of illness and have the freedom in Christ to love them.
To change my swing of faith means I embrace God as an authentic expression of my faith in the world and humanity. To me, God is grace and freedom to love. That is all I know for sure. That is all I have at the core. I can wrap all of my theology, ethics, liturgy, biblical hermeneutics, and understanding around this middle. But the freedom to question, wonder, wander, and simply not be sure is another gift of God’s “yes” to us. We don’t have to get it right. But we need to get it honest. We need to make sure our swing is a reflection of our hearts that seek to worship God in spirit and in truth. Amen.
Rev. Craig M. Howard