Fri Scripture - Luke 7:9 - “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”
Fri Quote - N.T. Wright - “Because the early Christians believed that resurrection had begun with Jesus and would be completed in the great final resurrection on the last day, they believed that God had called them to work with him, in the power of the Spirit, to implement the achievement of Jesus and thereby to anticipate the final resurrection, in personal and political life, in mission and holiness.”
Fri Thought -
What is faith?
Perhaps that seems like far too basic a question for us to ask. But I would suggest that from time to time it is good for us to pause and prayerful consider what faith is. Predominantly because faith is a word referring to a concept that gets used so much, in popular culture as much as in religious communities, it is good for us to stop and think about what WE mean by faith.
Faith can be used as a shorthand way of referring to the collection of doctrines that people of faith believe. For instance we believe in God and that God exists in Trinity. We believe that Jesus is the incarnation of God. We believe that Jesus was crucified, buried and raised on the third day. These, among other summations of Christian doctrines can be referred to as faith. Faith in popular culture seems connected to optimism. We are often told to have faith in ourselves, especially in challenging times and when facing obstacles. We are to believe in our strength, our talent, our ability. In one sense, that is not such a bad thing. Many peoples lives are filled with such negativity that positive affirmation is a good and healthy thing. But this isn't quite what Christians mean by faith. Yes we are loved by God. But our faith isn't in our own strength, will or ability. Christian and Cultural thought about faith has also produced a hybrid idea. This is a belief in a benign, helpful power beyond ourselves. When times are tough, when life is unfair, when we face tragedy, many American's report having faith. By that they believe that there is some higher power that offers assistance. Again, this is not so bad. But it isn't quite what Christians mean by faith. So what do we mean?
We have been thinking about it all week without saying in explicitely. The Centurion has an exemplary faith, according to Jesus. We notice a couple of things about the Centurion. In this weeks story he goes on a bit of a speech about authority. When he is given an order by his commanding officer, he obeys without question. When we gives an order to his subordinates, he expects obedience. This is a metaphor for the authority of Jesus. If he commands the disease that plagues the slave to leave, it will obey his order and leave. Faith, in the Christian tradition is a bit more, well, demanding than faith the hybrid Christian-Culture faith. Jesus is not just God's presence supporting and comforting, but also demanding and commanding the reign of God that resists and undoes the powers of fear and death in the world. To have faith is not simply to trust that God will help us when times are tough. Faith is to trust that when we are called to risky acts on behalf of the kingdom of God, we can obey with confidence. We are doing the right thing for the right reasons, regardless of the outcome. Faith is demanding. But faith is also imaginative. While faith often functions as the optimism that we can get what we want, Faith in the Bible promises that we will get what seems impossible. The Centurion believes despite evidence to the contrary, that life is possible for his slave because of the authority of Jesus. 'Faith is evidence of things not seen,' Paul would one day write. Faith is that imaginative inspiration that tells us to risk obeying the command of Christ, to forgive, give generously, serve, sacrifice, welcome, pray even when those actions seems futile or hopeless. We do not have faith simply in what we want to happen, but that the promised reign of God might come, even in the moment when we risk obedience to God. So Faith demands our response and inspires our hope. This is one way for us to think about faith.
Friday Study - Hebrews 11
Fri Prayer - Help me to start my day with the faith that you will guard and guide me. But don't let my faith stop at optimism. Help me to go through my day prayerfully asking for what I need to get through each challenge. But don't let my faith stop at self-service. Help me to go through my day knowing that I am your beloved but don't let my faith halt with positive affirmation. Give me the gift of faith which takes risks, accepts a call beyond what I feel I am able to achieve on my own, imagines hopefully what does not yet exist. Give me the gift of a demanding & challenging faith that lifts me beyond what I have previously imagined possible for myself and for others. And even if I fail, give me the faith to trust that failure is not the end of my story. Give me the gift of resurrection faith that seems even failure as an opportunity for you to act decisively in my life and in the world.