About a week ago, I picked up a little book that’s been on my shelf for months now. To be honest, I don’t even know where I got it, although I suspect it came from the wonderful library of Bishop Montgomery. The book is called Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief; it’s a print version of a series of talks the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, gave at Canterbury Cathedral during Holy Week of 2005. Williams’s premise is simple: “Basic to everything…is the idea that Christian belief is really about knowing who and what to trust.” We confess in our creeds that we trust – “we believe” – in God. But do we, really? And if we do, why do we, and why does it matter?
I can hardly imagine a more important question for our age. In a time when the trustworthiness of all things is under intense scrutiny, including those things the credibility of which we used to take for granted, we can feel at times like we are stumbling about in the dark. And so it is a good time for us, as followers of Jesus of Nazareth, to reflect on what is trustworthy in our lives, to pay attention to our true foundation, to sing, in the words of the old hymn, “On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”
Tokens of Trust is a thoughtful, direct, faithful, and (dare I say) friendly examination of the touchpoints of Christian trust – trust in God as loving Creator, trust in Jesus Christ as the person who reveals that love to us, trust in the Holy Spirit who connects us to that love and helps it move us into action. But there was one passage that struck me as being particularly timely. Williams was exploring where belief in God comes from – not usually, he argues, from a persuasive academic argument, but from the encounter with faithful people. “We have confidence in the way they live; the way they live is a way I want to live…. The world they inhabit is one I’d like to live in.” Our faith, our trust, is born and then reinforced by the witness of those around us whose lives reveal something of their own trust in God. Williams talks about this as “taking responsibility for God,” a phrase he borrows from the diaries of Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish woman imprisoned by the Nazis in Auschwitz who wrote about her desire to “bear witness to the fact that God lived, even in [those] times.”
Two weeks ago, I preached about the need for us to be increasingly bold in our witness to the God of love and mercy made known in the person of Jesus Christ. The times in which we live call for the fearless proclamation of the Gospel truth that the kingdom of God has come and the time for repentance and trust is at hand. These times call for us to take responsibility for God – not in a brittle or self-righteous way, but humbly, openly, invitingly, and honestly. These times call us to ask ourselves: What if our prayer each day is that we might live in such a way that others will be attracted to our life, drawn into our world and the God who reigns there? What if we pray that our lives will, in the words of Hillesum, “clear the path towards [God]" for others?
We do not need to be particularly righteous, or particularly eloquent, or particularly holy. But we do need to be willing to claim the possibility that our lives can reveal God’s righteousness. We do need to be willing to try to bear this kind of responsibility. Now, more than ever, we need to plant our souls upon the solid rock of the living Christ and let our lives reveal a living trust in the God who loves and saves us, a trust the world is hungry for.