The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sometimes you gotta roll the dice on faith

It was an earnest question that came through my e-mail: “What do you say to someone who is looking for advice on religion, but is unable to accept on faith?”

The person is in great company, for the question of faith and belief predates Christendom.

One story that comes to mind is that of the man in the crowd who brought his demoniac son to Jesus. This story is found in the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, with great similarities. In Mark 9:21-24, there is more conversation between the father and Jesus than in the other gospels, and in the New International Version it reads like this:

Jesus asked the boy's father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“‘If you can?’ said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

For many of us, a kernel of faith is about all we carry on this Christian journey and in our honesty we cry to God, “Lord, I believe; help me in my unbelief.”

In explanatory notes on this Scripture, John Wesley writes: “Although my faith be so small, that it might rather be termed unbelief, yet help me.”

In every Christian, there is a measure of unbelief, the roots of which are in the fantastic nature of the story — not to mention modernism, empiricism and postmodernism.

For those who stand on the precipice of faith, teetering between belief and unbelief and afraid to step into the unknown — much like the lead character in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” — consider the 17th century French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal and his wager from the 1670 apologetic “Pensees”:

“Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us consider the two possibilities. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Hesitate not, then, to wager that He is.”

For some of us, Pascal’s wager is a good place to start when we find the initial steps of faith too daunting. One who is seeking can step forward with the understanding of, “In the end, even if turns out to be nothing more than myth, I have still lived a better life for having believed it.”

Faith may sometimes seem like a roll of the dice, nothing more than a cosmic crap shoot. But when I rolled the dice 22 years ago, I never imagined such a great payoff — in the here and the now, not just in the hereafter!

And while the here and now is great, you can be assured that in the end it's no gamble.

Grace and peace ...