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And Amen

We, who have undertaken God, can never hope to finish . . .

I stumbled across these words today quite back accident. I was thumbing through a book, looking for something else, when a scrap piece of paper floated down through the dust particles illumined in the morning light. It was the back of some receipt, a purchase of $2.06, yet it contained these words which instantly struck me as far more valuable. They were in my handwriting – clearly my chicken scratch that possibly only I could read. But I don’t remember writing them. I did, however, remember something else . . .

In My Bright Abyss, Christian Wiman writes that “Christ is contingency” which could mean that God is always a future event, always possible yet never predictable. Such contingency could also relate to the present situation of a believer. Christ comes to us in our greatest need, which changes from year-to-year, even day-to-day. Christ is not static, not merely this way or that. So then, we, who have undertaken God, can never hope to finish.

Wiman realizes this contingency idea is not the most pastoral statement one could make to someone in crisis. It is common to speak of “having” faith, as a possession – something to pocket and pull out in case of emergency.

The deeper truth, I think Wiman is getting at, is that God is somehow one step ahead of us, even while walking with us.

How could we ever “finish” God if Love is never finished with us?

I recently learned of a woman, lying on white hospital sheets in her living room. She had come home to die. A pastor visited and, like we do, read a psalm. He thought she was asleep, as he finished his prayer and whispered, “Amen.” I bet he assumed to have the last word. Yet, from the bed came a faint yet distinct reply, “Amen, and, amen.” Even there, on her death bed, even then, on the last day of her life, she was not finished. Let those who have ears, hear!

And let us keep thumbing through the books in search and writing down our thoughts in faith, so that they might one day surprise us by evoking something in us. Something sacred, something weirdly relevant, something profoundly inspiring. Something like “and, amen.”

About Andrew Taylor-Troutman

I am a pastor and a preacher, a writer, a husband and a father. My professional and personal lives are deeply involved with story-telling: stories that are silly and poignant or profound and commonplace. Stories that are tear-jerkers and belly-shakers. Stories about my son, Sam, and the congregation I serve, New Dublin Presbyterian Church. Each in its own way, these personal narratives shed light on the great story that God is writing with humankind and all of creation.

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