A Faith Statement
Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch, Pastor
Whenever pastors go to be examined by a presbytery, they have to present a faith statement . I’ve been before presbyteries many times over the years — as a candidate for ministry and as a candidate to be a pastor serving a church in that presbytery — so I’ve written a number of faith statements over the years. Here at St.
Stephen, we also ask our confirmands, the kids who are about to complete confirmation and become full members, to present a faith statement. It occurs to me that you all might be interested in seeing what it is that I, as a pastor, believe! So here is my faith statement. I’d love to talk to you about it!
I believe that in Jesus Christ, we learn everything we need to know about God and being human.
In Jesus, God loves us with self-giving love.
In Jesus, God values the material world as well as the material by taking human form. All physical matters are spiritual, and vice versa: there is no distinction. God physically and spiritually recreated God’s self in the human image. To be human is to be “little lower than the stars, yet crowned with glory and honor.”
In Jesus we find God’s redemptive answer to the human predicament, and the practical way we ourselves participate in God’s redemption: by practicing forgiveness.
In Jesus, God addresses the problem of human suffering not with an explanation, but with empathy. Jesus suffers with us and for us and uses suffering to redeem humanity in the cross and resurrection.
In Jesus, God’s Lordship is established. Jesus brings the Kingdom of God, making it present in the world. He is proven Lord of all things because He defeats death. He will return again and God’s shalom, peace and healing, will reign forever.
In Jesus’ life and teachings, we are shown how to live and what is worth dying for. In Jesus’ resurrection, we discover that resurrection awaits us after death, and that the healing of the world, what the Jews call tikkun olam, has begun.
Jesus was a Jew. In Him we see that God has made Christians and Jews together his unique family and ambassadors on earth. Jesus accepted, and provided blessings to, those who did not share His faith, often saying their faith was an example to His disciples. As God’s people, we are called to be a blessing to those of different faiths, and to hear what God says to us through them.
Jesus lives in us. His Spirit lives in us. Forgiveness, reconciliation, and love do not have natural power in this world. By God’s grace, they have supernatural power. We participate in God’s tikkun olam when we practice them, even when they seem ineffective and dangerous.
Christians often have turned to violence, prejudice, anger and fear to enforce our faith. That means we don’t believe what Jesus taught; rather we believe the false values of the world. The Spirit gives us the power to forgive, reconcile and love, and empowers those acts to heal the world by God’s grace through our actions. The Spirit gives us our acts of forgiveness the power of God’s forgiveness.
By grace, when we practice those qualities, God heals the world through us. Even when those qualities fail in the short run, through the Spirit they win in the long run. When we turn to other solutions, we do not believe that Jesus lives in us.
Jesus will return to rule the world. He will welcome whom He wants to, out of infinite love; but He will also welcome those whom we forgive and welcome in His name. Our power to forgive must never be taken lightly or practiced arrogantly or vengefully. Practiced graciously and with faith, it heals the world and prepares it for its Lord.