catch and release — it’s all about the ocean

strip me, o god, then clothe me in curiosity and courage. — cynthia kirk

when i was younger, i would’ve said god calls us to faith in order to believe; but now i am thinking, sometimes god calls us to unbelief in order for faith to grow. — christian wimon

Years ago in seminary, I took an introduction to theology class with Dr. Glenn Routt, a professor who was to have a profound effect on my faith journey. Having spent much of my adolescence and early young adulthood in the more conservative, fundamentalist spaces of the Bible Church and Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, I entered seminary with a pretty static, and organized, idea of what it meant to be a Christian. I also was pretty confident in knowing who was a Christian and who wasn’t and just where God and Jesus and good and bad ideas all fit in my experience of faith.

Once, after my seminary class, I asked Dr. Routt about his own faith and how he came to understand his relationship with God. He smiled and told me this story:

A class of students went to their master and said, ‘Help us to find God.’

The monk replied, ‘I cannot do that.’

‘Why not? Isn’t that why we are here?’ They asked.

‘I hope not,’ he smiled. ‘Helping you find God would be like trying to help a fish find the ocean.”

Then Dr. Routt added, “So, maybe doing theology is more about teasing ideas enough to get us out of the coral spaces we’ve been hiding in, so we can see just how big the ocean is and maybe remember how to swim.”

This Sunday, we continue our Lenten series, This Is Us. And I want to explore with you this idea of how we grow in faith, teasing out ideas and seeing the small spaces we live within in order to come out and discover the ocean which sustains us.

As we find ourselves right now exploring, defending or maybe questioning the idea of what it means to be Methodist, Dr. Routt’s story reminds me of something I read in Diana Butler Bass’s book, “Grounded: Finding God in the World as a Spiritual Revolution.” She speaks of the importance of the Commons — that reality of all this country’s diversity honored and shared and co-existing in some messy, but altogether celebrated, way. She says that the fundamental unit of “the commons” is not the individual. The fundamental unit is the commons itself.

In the same way, diversity, as one of the four future initiatives our church wide Focus First process identified over a year ago, turns out not to be about any one aspect of being diverse — in terms of age or ethnicity or theological interpretation or sexual affiliation or worship style. Diversity itself is the fundamental drive and goal and purpose — the ocean of God’s presence, the Kin-dom of God’s love. It’s deep and it’s wide.

The bad news is that sometimes we have to leave the comfort and security of our coral hideaways in order to see the beauty of the colorful reef and discovery the freedom in the breadth and depth of the ocean.

The good news is . . . the enormous, colorful reef; and that life and faith and love and God are so much bigger than all our hiding places. And, in the end, there’s no escaping the fundamental reality — it’s all about “the ocean.”

Sunday, March 17, in eleven:eleven

“catch and release – finding a bigger faith”

rev. tom mcdermott

with Brad Thompson, the Revolution band, and the music of

Peter Mayer, Matt Simons, and Susan Tedeschi

Hope to see you Sunday!


Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven

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