My 10-year-old daughter surprised me with a simple question. We were driving to church when she asked why we celebrate Easter year after year. It wasn't a rebellious question, rather a curious one. "It's the same story every year. If we know it already, why do we do it again and again?"
It seems a simple and practical inquiry. Why keep doing something if we seem to "get it already?" In our school systems, after you master one lesson, you move on to the next. This could be applied to Christmas as well. Or for that matter, weekly worship.
Why do we keep gathering around the same old story again and again? I've heard:
"I know all about God. I don't need to be there."
"I went to a Christian school growing up. That's where I got my religion. I'm good."
"I've heard all this before."
"I don't get anything out of church. Why go?"
There is a distinct difference between faith as knowledge and faith as relationship. In theological talk this is expressed in Latin terms.
Fides quae is "the faith which is believed." This is the content, doctrine, information. An example is the Apostles Creed.
Then there is the fides qua, "the faith which believes." This is the heart that trusts, clings, and believes God. It's the woman reaching out just to touch the hem of Jesus' robe (Mark 5:27,28). We need both, but we often preoccupy ourselves with the former.
Faith means you trust someone, not simply that you know something.
Of course, trust requires that you know things about a person - their history, character, etc. But if faith was only about knowledge we could treat it like school. "I get it. I mastered the info so now I can move on." And eventually, you graduate.
Different than academic comprehension or subject mastery, faith is about a relationship with a living Lord. In Deuteronomy, Moses repeats the word "remember" (Deut. 8:2). More than recalling facts and statistics, remembering was a matter of the heart.
"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart" (Deut. 6:5,6). As the Holy Spirit labors within us we grow not just in knowledge but in heart, soul, and might. God works in us to deepen intangible but essential qualities.
This only happens by proximity to his word, his meal, and the community of God's people. No book, class, or online resource can fully do what the church does as we walk through the story year by year. With each season, God stretches our capacity. He shapes, nurtures, and forms you. He fosters an ever-deepening relationship in which you are schooled by the Holy Spirit over years and through the difficulties of life.
In this spirit, the patterns and practices of the Christian life are vital. If life expectancy is around 80, you are shaped by 80 Easters. Each Easter, we see him anew, know him better, and trust him more deeply.
In the end, we never fully grasp the information. We find that we never master it; but Jesus masters us. Our faith remains an astounding surprise.
A dead man is alive.
First century gallows are a symbol of love and life.
A king presently rules this daunting, chaotic world.
An 80 year life expectancy becomes eternity.
"I get it," Bella said. "We keep doing this story because it's the most important one there is."
"Yeah," I replied. "That's it."
God bless you in your Holy Week and Easter worship. May you see Jesus anew this Easter.