Faith is a tough idea for us to get a handle on some times.
In attempting to explain to someone how to "have Faith" it seems the
conversation always comes around to some thing like "...and so you
just have to believe..." or "...you just have to trust..." or "....you
just have to have Faith...". (Oooh - or more
of our favorite bumper sticker theology - Faith Happens)
And we were always told that you should not use a word to define itself.
So what is Faith? How do you get it? How do you identify it? Can
you share it?
In the stories we find in our readings this week we are offered a
couple of different perspectives on Faith.
In the passage from Genesis we see a seminal moment in the life of the
first followers of Yahweh. Abram (an old old old man) was told he and
his wife (an old old old woman) were brought in to a covenant with God
where they were promised to be the mother and father of generations
and kings and multitudes. If Abram had not become Abraham and Sarai
had not become Sarah and Isaac had not become, the story of the Jewish
people and the Muslim people and the Christian people would most
certainly be quite different today. Abram / Abraham, Sarai / Sarah,
and God / Yahweh all had a lot of Faith in one another in this
Another day a writer would call this "the assurance of things hoped
for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11.1)
In Psalm 22 we see Faith show up in a different way. We see a
writer / believer / follower that has complete Faith in his God and is
willing to tell everyone about it. This psalm almost reads like a
song of a Patriot or the hymns sung about a hero that saved a small
In Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome he gives them a bit
of a history lesson on their family / faith genealogy. He gives his
understanding of the Faith of Abraham, and then he ties that to how he
understands / projects Faith might operate in each of his readers. It
seems that as Paul sees it through his formerly Jewish lens, the Law
created a radically different dynamic between the people and God.
Paul believes that with Faith, people experience God's Grace - a
little different than wrath. It makes us wonder if Saul was someone
who felt tormented because he had difficulty keeping the law while
Paul felt liberated having accepted God's grace through his conversion
And then in Mark we see a different version of Faith in the breath and
words of Jesus. Peter kind of steps into an argument when Jesus
declares that he is going to suffer and be rejected by his society.
In response, Jesus is sharing what feels to us to be a more
aggressive, commanding, demanding push toward Faith. With Abraham it
almost feels as if God was using Abraham to enact history, but Jesus
is making a call on the lives of his hearers. Abraham was being
called to be the father of nations, and Jesus is making an individual
call on individual lives and souls of individual people.
What does Faith mean to you?
Do you have Faith? In what?
"FAITH is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a
delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good
works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak
and hear much about faith. "Faith is not enough,'' they say, "You must
do good works, you must be pious to be saved.'' They think that, when
you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength
a thankful heart which says, "I believe.'' That is what they think
true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart
never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn't
come from this 'faith' either.
Instead, faith is God's work in us, that changes us and gives new
birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us
completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our
thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes,
it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith
cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn't stop to ask if
good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has
done them and continues to do them without ceasing."
Martin Luther on Faith, 1522