Looking lost, sincere, and sincerely lost a young man asked me: “what is your favorite scripture?” I confessed that I don’t have one. I’ve never had one. I recoil at the very idea. One verse might be more apt today, another tomorrow. 1 Sam 4:18 – he fell over and died because he was old and very fat – says: keep the weight off! As my hair falls out, I get a longer laugh out of the bears backing up old baldhead Elisha against taunting Cub Scouts (2 Kings 2:23-24). But no, no favorite.
Others have favorites. I was once told of a priest who always preached on the Good Samaritan. A lesson on the Exodus? “Reminds me of the Good Samaritan.” Creation? “Reminds me of the Good Samaritan.” An exhilarating prophecy, Paul’s most maddening prose, or a head scratcher from Obadiah? “The Good Samaritan.” That’s a “favorite scripture!” But as great as the story is, that’s a one-note faith.
My “favorite theology” is equally elusive. My theological center shifts and spirals this way and that and back again. One key word? One key thought? One crux? The Cross? The resurrection? The incarnation? I don’t think that way. I don’t live that way. I don’t think life’s meanings cluster around the gravitational pull a single truth.
The centuries have blessed us with multiple theological grids to try to make sense of the amorphous mysteries of faith. To make sense of the senselessness of life, there are historiographies and philosophies, psychological, political and economic theories, each useful in its own way. I use theories and grids, but I don’t fully believe in them. As a pastor, I don’t believe that one truth can cover two tragedies. As a preacher, I can’t return to the same biblical one-liner as if it encapsulates all knowledge.
What I believe is that the wonders and horrors and glories and tragedies of life touch and are touched by the collective wisdom of our faith. In any and every circumstance, something in our faith speaks to something in our life. There are touch points. The trick, of course, is to try to find one that unearths the height, depth, breadth, and length dormant in each event.
I look for those touch points.