When Rabbi Yehoshua and I were discussing salvation he spoke of how Judaism sees salvation as a little less individualistic than in a Christian understanding. There is of course personal judgement and responsibility, but they together are God’s people and often times together they receive God’s judgment and his compassion.
I wish for an anonymity like that, that I could be born into a people group and have it define my belief. At the end of the day though, I’m walking into eternity alone and I better do my own hard work to understand and to make the right choices. What a relief it would be if I really felt company in my decisions and understanding of God. I could take a deep breath and do my part but relax in the presence of the millions that have come before me who have wrestled and chosen a faith in the same God.
This is meant to be the church. I was in a service last week and we were singing a song that is basically the apostles creed put to music. Although I had heard and sung that song hundreds of times, I stood at the back of the room silently weeping. I usually sing that song in faith that I believe and this time I just let it be sung by a massive choir. I paid attention to the thousands of voices singing “I believe” and I sobbed over the comfort of others, the spiritual linking of arms and solidarity in belief.
Collective faith is so much like a sequoia, it has a girth beyond anything I can grow into in my lifetime. When as a tradition, we are consumed with being original and relevant we can lose touch with our liturgy and thus our roots. The church and its history, theologians and stories are meant to be connected to, and bring comfort and wisdom, so we can tightly cling to the millions who have gone before us and their collective understanding - and then hope we chose the right tree. Our tree's branches split and separate, but its trunk is immovable in the storm of changing culture, made thick and solid with time, layer upon layer its circumference widens and we’re all digging our fingers into the bark, because it’s better then standing alone.