These days trust is so hard to come by. Watching the news each day, we wonder if we can trust the validity of its many and various claims. As public figures stoke our fears and anxieties, we question the trustworthiness of our neighbor. With reports of corruption and deception, our trust in particular institutions and organizations is shaken. Every time we are faced with a crisis, our trust in God is put to the test. Some days, trusting loved ones, let alone ourselves, can be a task all in itself. Trust can no longer be assumed, if it ever was in the first hand. The inability to trust what cannot be seen has become sharpened to the painfully dangerous point of unwillingness to trust what is not fully agreed upon. Like credentials required for relationship, we treat trust as if it must be laboriously earned and regularly renewed. If ever elapsing or expiring, it can be nearly impossible to regain. We struggle to trust those who look and live differently than us. To trust anyone who thinks or expresses themselves adversely from us is unfathomable. More and more, opinions and beliefs are deemed the enemies of trust. One run-in with someone of opposing views/ways—Fool me once, shame on you. I will not be fooled again!—and immediately we become the frightful disciples following Jesus’s death, hiding behind locked doors and fearful hearts. How can we trust this one who passes through walls, calls us by name, and shows his scars to be touched? That’s not enough for me to trust him! When trust is lost, tribalism and isolation seep into the vacuous void pried open by despair. We wonder if and how much we can trust those around us—colleagues and classmates, family or friends. The neighbor—no matter who they are—is a stranger, guilty until proven trustworthy. Even when I’m clearly in the wrong, the temptation is still there to discredit and distrust the other. Without trust, we are relationally-reclusive and spiritually-suicidal—unable to live life as God intends for us with those whom we are given as companions along the journey.
All that we say and do as the church is built upon trust. Without it, our message is less than good news and we become just another institution alongside countless others. This foundation distinguishes (not to be confused with separating or elevating) us, as a community, from all others. Each time we gather together—whether for worship, service, study, or fellowship—we do so trusting that it is God’s Spirit who draws and binds us into community with one another. The sacraments, baptism and communion, are means of grace we receive in faith—trusting that Christ is present in that very place and time, freely giving us God’s gifts of love, forgiveness, and new life. The various parts of worship we participate in are engaged with trust that God hears our prayers of both praise and petition, we are valued members of the body, and the Spirit empowers us to take all that we have received to share out into the world. At a fundamental level, each time the congregation corporately confesses its sins and hears the presiding minister’s response of speaking God’s full forgiveness, we are trusting this word of comfort and hope to be efficacious. We trust our leaders to lead and guide us into faithful discipleship, just as we trust our fellow sisters and brothers of the faith to love and support us throughout the entirety (highs and lows) of life’s journey. The gifts we give in thankfulness we trust will be stewarded appropriately. The ministries we invest ourselves in we do so trusting that—no matter how great or small—they are helping in part to bring the kingdom of God into the world, here and now. We trust what we hear and learn to be no less true than the practices of compassion and empathy we instill in each generation and seek to model daily. Whenever we profess our faith—either publicly or privately—it is spoken and demonstrated out of a personal trust in the message itself. All of this is grounded upon what God has first done for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith to trust this scandalous event has significant meaning and purpose for us—in the present and future. To remove trust from the picture would leave it cold, coarse, and calloused.
With trust waning in this time—causing us to question where we can find it, if any place—it’s tempting to make it the equivalent of a super secret handshake checked at the church door before admittance. To do so, however, removes grace—upon which trust stands. Forced trust is nothing more than coercion in sheep’s wool. One simply cannot invest, much less experience, the fullness of congregational life without trust. Its absence, in either giving or reciprocating, makes a burden of the church upon a person. So, how do we invite others into this alternative community of trust, respecting that trust is neither easy nor immediate? Many of us have probably experienced church(es) in such a manner where trust feels wanting. If our trust is guarded, perhaps it is because of an encounter in/with the church that left us dismayed and distanced, hurting and hopeless. For those whose trust has been battered and broken—either by individuals or the church itself—how do we meet them where they are and speak resurrection towards what has died? By what means do we nurture trust for people along different points of the faith journey—new and just beginning, timidly recovering, continually questioning? Unfortunately, too often we just try to respond with the pre-packaged: “You just gotta have faith (trust).” Such a declaration can miss the mark on empathy or explanation with regards to the complexity of trust in the life and community of faith. And still we wonder: Can we trust those whom we worship alongside who likely differ from us in one way or another? Is the church, with all its sin and brokenness, trustworthy? These are questions, I believe, that we people of faith (trust) must wrestle and sit with—individually and congregationally. If we are to truly live into Christ’s call to be an alternative community of trust in the world, we must hold trust up as core to who we are, what we do, and why. Do we trust God to give us the words to speak hope amidst such contagious fear and anxiety overwhelming us? How do we communicate a message of trust in Christ worth trusting amidst its apparent death today? I believe the world around us is looking and listening, watching and waiting, to see how we will respond to these critical questions in this crucial time. I trust the Spirit will continue to stir our hearts and minds on what it means and looks like to be an alternative community of trust.
– Pastor Andrew