Faith of a mustard seed

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

‘Theos/God’-‘logos/word’— theology: God-word; God-study; God-thinking, as a discipline gives rise to the ‘self examined life’ in order to give understanding to the ways and presence of God both universally and historically.

I believe that there is a grave injustice in the way that we handle each others lives. Clearly seen in the way that disagreements emerge so swiftly, even to the point of ‘madness’ when two or more are gathered. Not just in the secular classrooms and other group dynamic settings, but most pointedly in the Sunday School, Bible Study group where all are there to work out salvation— totally unaware of this single undergirding God given factor: NO TWO ALIKE.

Systematic Theology has identified four major components to the individual theology: 1) scripture, 2) tradition, 3) sources and 4) experience. The order is not definitive and changes with each theologian. Upon further examination of the components, it is clear to me that each individual has the task of developing his/her own theology based upon a fact of genius in the ‘Creating Hand of God’ in making each one uniquely different! Traditionally, we have appointed religious leaders to do our theologies for us. We think what they think, we do what they tell us to do. Subsequently, far to many lives give over their God given powers and spiritual gifts to others without ever having emerged an ‘articulate self’.

As a Teacher, I soon discovered the “I Agree” syndrome to be disturbing to me and identified it as a disruptive force. NO TWO ALIKE! The ability to HEAR and SEE another’s world view and recognize where it differs from your own is not a ‘team building process’. I soon began to say, “Who cares if you Agree?” Articulate YOUR OWN Life existentialism.

First in the order for me is Sources. As a New Testament scholar, the field of Source Criticism in Biblical Studies is most intriguing to me. But, for the self examined life in the articulation of faith process, one must begin by coming to terms with the weighty issue of one’s own sources.

It is no small thing that ‘psyche/mind’ – ‘logos/word’— psychology; psychiatric treatment of the troubled personality generally begins by taking the life back to it’s earliest memories, for mother is the primary source of any life.

While I was in ministry at Salem, the United Methodist Women had a ministry to the crack born babies at Harlem Hospital where they simply went to the Neo-Natal Unit and sat in rocking chairs holding the infant. If you would hold in your hands a new born life whose mother had transmitted a crack cocaine addiction in the womb, you would cry too, as they do— uncontrollably!

Our sources expand to include our father, siblings, extended family; pastors and teachers. Barbara Bush quoted Fulghum in her commencement address at Wellesley in saying “All I really need to know, I learned in Kindergarten”. I thought that I had a good teacher in Edward Landers, 5th grade at Quincy Elementary and Patricia Ackerman, 9th grade at FDR Jr. High. And then I met Lelia McBath in the 10th grade at JFK.

Our sources go beyond the books we read to identify those writers, (for me) like Howard Thurman, James Cone, James Weldon Johnson, Rudolph Bultmann, etc., whose writings you don’t stop until you own and have digested everything that they have written.