Welcome to the Faith, Fully project. If you’re new to the project, you can read more about it and join us if it strikes your fancy. And you can follow us here or on the Faith, Fully Facebook page. You can read every Letter 1, or follow all the letters.

Brad,

Let me start my letter with an illustration.

I need some help seeing. I cannot remember exactly what my doctors have said, but I am one of the many in our world who need help seeing, who need glasses and lenses to function.

So many look through lenses it seems an apt metaphor.

Lenses, they help us see on the journey…

In my life, I wear many lenses:

My first faith lens: I am a Christian. I spend time dwelling in and with the Holy Scriptures of Christian faith and tradition. I believe in, as my faith tradition puts it, “A Triune God.” I also believe God broke into our world in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus died and was raised so that God could bring reconciliation. I believe that work is continued in the Church (even if our human structures and institutions hey in the way at times).

My second faith lens: I am a Lutheran. I am a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We do not believe that one’s gender, gender identity or sexual orientation create a valid reason to keep one out of ministry (though our politics allow for diversity of opinion on this matters). Among many things, my Lutheran lenses have instilled in me a love of paradox. What some may balk at as cognitive (or theological) dissonance I view as a blessed and beautiful part of life. As one example, I don’t believe there are varying levels of sinnerhood and sainthood within us, I believe that each of us is fully sinner and fully saint. Another: We don’t value 50% diversity and 50% unity, we fully value both.

My Lutheran-Christian faith lenses have also taught me the intrinsic value of all people (period, end of sentence). This statement is not followed by a “because” our an “in spite of” but it simply is the way it is.

As an American pastor, I follow a German monk’s view of a Roman tradition (fed by Greek philosophy) of looking to a Jewish carpenter who followed a Law Giver who led a slave population out of Africa to claim lands promised to their ancestors in the Middle East..

My lenses help me see the path, sometimes more clearly than others that we walk.

My journey has taken me that; physically, socially, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I’ve seen God in the bible belt, the rust belt and the corn belt. I’ve seen God in tradition and innovation.

My journey has led me to see things differently than I once did. I no longer see some as chosen and some as damned, I see all as beloved by God. My journey had led me to see that the Good I’ve always loved does not discriminate, but lives is intro better and fuller versions who we’ve been created to be. My journey has led me to see that God delights in the “continuum of diversity”: All diversity (racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, religious, theological, and the list goes on).

I look forward to this journey continuing, and I look forward to continuing to learn and change and grow.

Thank you for including me in these steps of this journey.

The Reverend John Thomas Sipf
ELCA Pastor and Hospice Chaplain in Illinois

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