A Season of Thanksgiving

I was born with faith; I think we all are. I was lucky to be brought into this world by parents and family who lived their lives in faith, hope, and love, sharing with me these gifts to experience, to enjoy, and to express. My father was an astronomer, and I can still remember as a very young child standing with him in the darkest place we could find and looking up at the night sky. In the comfort and safety of holding his hand, it was like seeing the face of God reflected in creation. When we are given the capacity for awe, to look, to learn, to find and feel the source of love, we know we didn’t create it, but we want to pass it on. We believe in it, and wanting to share it makes us who we are, as individuals, and as a species. My childhood was filled with travel, with learning, and with a sense of trust: a trust in each other, as well as a trust in God’s concern for our lives, and a desire to be united in that love. As a child in the 1950’s and early 60’s I knew that love, hoped it would always be there, and had faith that it would.

After childhood, there was a time when I questioned everything, but being an adolescent and coming of age during the cultural changes of the late 1960’s and 70’s made that seem perfectly natural. While traditional institutions, including religious ones, were being questioned, the lessons of faith that I had learned as a child were being reinforced by growing public concerns for one another, the awareness of our impact on the environment, a focus on spiritual fulfillment, and a connection with the sacred in our lives. I came to believe that we are a species in motion, changing through time, not only compelled to make sense of our universe but to change our environment to meet our needs and desires, both physically and spiritually. Over the course of time, we have developed technologies with the potential to overwhelm the natural home that we were given, created religions to explain the history of things both seen and unseen, and built a hope that we can use both to continue to exist and to survive ourselves. Though I was not a member of any congregation, the many years I spent conducting archeological investigations, especially those in Israel, reinforced my belief that we must ask questions in order to find answers, that we can only find truth- scientific or sacred- if we are willing to question the answers we already hold. My “years in the wilderness” were a time of learning, and an affirmation that there has never been a better time, due to the advances in both science and religion, to understand the nature of scripture, the historic context of our beliefs, and the potential to put those convictions into our daily lives.

I returned to organized religion nearly 30 years ago on a date. It wasn’t long after I met Julie Lind (now Julie Lind Northrip!) that she invited me to her Sunday School class at First Presbyterian in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, which was led by a mutual friend. I was delighted, and somewhat amazed, to be with people from a wide variety of background and opinion who could sit around a table and help each other discover the purpose God had for each of us. We were members of that church and grew as a family in it for nearly 10 years before moving to Ballwin and discovering St. Mark. Being a member of St. Mark, the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) has been a great joy and blessing for me. To be with others who share the Love of God, who work for better understanding of how to share that love with the rest of the world, who work to alleviate suffering and need, and to find justice for all of God’s children gives meaning and purpose to my faith, hope to my vision of the future, faith that God is love, and that love is our salvation. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

John Northrip
DRAWP Member
St. Mark Presbyterian Church

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